Sola Scriptura Redux: Matthew Barrett, Tradition, and Authority

Nov 7th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

I recently happened to read a post at the Gospel Coalition site titled “‘Sola Scriptura’ Radicalized and Abandoned” written by Matthew Barrett. Matthew received a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is presently an assistant professor of Christian studies at California Baptist University, (and apparently a Lakers fan). In his post Matthew seeks to distinguish sola scriptura from “solo scriptura,” by recovering the authority of tradition, and thereby pulling evangelicals back from what he refers to as the “radicalization” of sola scriptura. The Protestant affirmation that Scripture alone is infallible, he claims, does not mean or entail that Scripture alone is authoritative. Tradition, he claims, ought to be recognized as a subordinate authority under Scripture. This role of tradition is what he refers to as a ‘healthy’ use of tradition between “solo scriptura” on the one hand, and the Catholic conception of tradition on the other hand.

DietofWorms
Luther at the Diet of Worms
Anton von Werner (1877)

What I’ve done below is merely interject some thoughts and observations regarding Matthew’s remarks, with the hope of stimulating some mutual ecumenical reflection and better mutual understanding on the topic.

Matthew writes:

The reformers may have rejected Rome’s understanding of tradition and upheld the supremacy and final authority of Scripture over tradition. But we would be mistaken to think the reformers did not value tradition or see it as a subordinate authority in some sense.

The problem with that position, as I pointed out just over two years ago when Peter Leithart made a very similar claim, is that without a Magisterium to provide an authoritative judgment concerning what is and is not authoritative tradition, what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. And when what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then tradition has no authority at all, because of the more general principle that “when I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me,” as Neal and I have explained in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”1

Matthew continues:

Therefore, the reformers became frustrated when certain radicals sought to discard tradition altogether. These radicals did not defend and practice sola scriptura, but instead turned to nuda scriptura or solo scriptura.

That’s because there is no principled difference between sola scriptura on the one hand, and “solo scriptura” on the other, for the reason explained in the link just cited. The ‘radicals’ were simply taking the reformers’ position to its logical end.

Matthew continues:

Consequently, some evangelicals, intentionally or unintentionally, have followed in the footsteps of Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) who said, “I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me, and I am as much on my guard against reading them today, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.”

Ironically, such a view cannot preserve sola scriptura. Sure, tradition is not being elevated to the level of Scripture. But the individual is! As Keith Mathison laments, in this view everything is “evaluated according to the final standard of the individual’s opinion of what is and is not scriptural.” To be sure, such a view lends itself more in the direction of individual autonomy than scriptural accountability.

Matthew thinks that if the individual attempts to approach Scripture without the guidance of tradition, the individual elevates himself to the level of Scripture. However, as I have just explained above, that is exactly what Matthew does when he decides what counts as authoritative tradition on the basis of its agreement (or disagreement) with his own interpretation of Scripture. This is why for Matthew, Nicea is in, and Trent is out. By using one’s own interpretation of Scripture as the standard by which to determine what does and does not belong to ‘authoritative’ tradition, one is not avoiding the problem Matthew describes with “solo scriptura;” one is merely covering it up with the illusion of authority, by putting the ‘authority’ label on things chosen on the basis of their agreement with one’s own interpretation, and subsequently removing that label whenever they no longer conform to one’s own interpretation of Scripture. The problem Matthew’s position faces with regard to tradition is the very same problem Neal and I laid out in our “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” article with regard to ecclesial authority.

Matthew continues:

So how do we correct such a mistake? First, we must guard ourselves from an individualistic mindset that prides itself on what “I think” rather than listening to the past. In order to do so, we must acknowledge, as Mathison points out, that “Scripture alone” doesn’t mean “me alone.”

Of course I agree that Scripture should not be interpreted in a vacuum. But if who counts as the “others” with whom I am supposed to agree when I interpret Scripture is based on their agreement (or disagreement) with my own interpretation of Scripture, then the attempt to distinguish oneself from those ‘nuda scripturists‘ is ultimately an exercise in self-deception.

Second, tradition is not a second infallible source of divine revelation alongside Scripture; nevertheless, where it is consistent with Scripture it can and does act as a ministerial authority.

This claim amounts to the notion that whatever agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is authoritative ‘tradition,’ and whatever does not agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is not ‘tradition.’ So again, we put the ‘authoritative’ label on that which agrees with our interpretation, and then claim to be under the “subordinate” authority of those labeled things. Anything that does not conform to our interpretation of Scripture is not included in ‘tradition,’ so we never have to submit to anything that does not already conform to our interpretation of Scripture. In other words, we never have to submit at all.

Therefore, it should trouble us, to say the least, should we find ourselves disagreeing with orthodox creeds that have stood the test of time.


Matthew Barrett

No more than it doesn’t trouble Matthew not to be in conformity with Trent, or Florence, or Nicea II. All you do is declare them “unorthodox,” by saying that they are unbiblical. There is no principled difference between doing what Piper and Grudem do to the Apostles Creed (see here), or what Robert Reymond, Gerry Breshears, and Mark Driscoll do in rejecting the Nicene Creed’s teaching that Christ is “eternally begotten” (and Cornelius Plantinga Jr.’s embrace of the social trinitarianism that follows from that denial), R.C Sproul’s denial of the claim that “It was the second person of the Trinity Who died,” or Wes White’s rejection of “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” and Matthew denying Trent, Florence, or Nicea II. These men each claim that what they are denying is unbiblical. If Matthew can do this with Trent, Florence or Nicea II, then he has no basis for claiming that Piper, Grudem, Reymond, Breshears, and Driscoll can’t do it for the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Just as Matthew rejects Trent but claims to be under the subordinate authority of Nicea, so Driscoll can reject “eternally begotten” and claim to be under the subordinate authority of the rest of the Nicene Creed.

Furthermore, what counts as having “stood the test of time” depends entirely on the judgment one makes concerning the identity of the community. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not think the Nicene Creed has “stood the test of time,” because they do not consider its Christology ever to have been properly orthodox. So the “stood the test of time” criterion presupposes a judgment concerning which community has preserved orthodoxy. And without a sacramental magisterial authority identified in relation to a principium unitatis, this judgment is based on agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture. So here too, the “stood the test of time” criterion, along with the orthodox community criterion, both collapse into the “solo scriptura” criterion, because they reduce ultimately to agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, as I showed in the case of Christianity Today’s Mark Galli here, and in the case of Carl Trueman’s response to Brad Gregory, which I discussed in comment #89 in “Brantly Millegan reviews Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.”

Matthew continues:

Remember, innovation is often the first indication of heresy. Hence, as Timothy George explains, the reformers sought to tie their “Reformation exegesis to patristic tradition” in order to provide a “counterweight to the charge that the reformers were purveyors of novelty in religion,” though at the end of the day the fathers’ “writings should always be judged by the touchstone of Scripture, a standard the fathers themselves heartily approved.”

And there goes the whole proposal, right back to “solo scriptura.” If everything must be tested against my own interpretation of Scripture, then there is no other authority to which my interpretation must be subject or subordinate. For that reason, the claim that tradition is ‘authoritative’ turns out to be merely semantic. That’s because under this paradigm tradition does not function as authoritative, because one never need submit to it. And that in turn is because what counts as tradition is identified as ‘authoritative’ and retains its ‘authority’ precisely on the basis of its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

Abandoning solo scriptura does not require us to go to the other extreme, namely, elevating tradition to the level of Scripture. But it does require the humility to realize that we are always standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.

If there is no principled difference between “solo scriptura” and sola scriptura, then it is impossible to abandon “solo scriptura” while clinging to sola scriptura. I agree that it requires humility to subordinate one’s own interpretation of Scripture to that of other persons, all other things being equal. But if I pick out the persons to whom I must “subordinate” my interpretation, on the basis of their agreement with my own interpretation, then it requires no humility at all, because it requires no submission at all. Rather, what requires humility, in such a case, is to acknowledge that picking out ‘authorities’ on the basis of their agreement with one’s own interpretation is constructing an illusion of authority that hides from oneself the absence of actual interpretive authority or authoritative tradition to which one must submit or conform one’s interpretation.

Matthew concludes:

For the reformers, the early church fathers were valuable (though not infallible) guides in biblical interpretation. In that light, we would be wise to listen to Luther this Reformation Day: “Now if anyone of the saintly fathers can show that his interpretation is based on Scripture, and if Scripture proves that this is the way it should be interpreted, then the interpretation is right. If this is not the case, I must not believe him”.

That takes us right back to “solo scriptura.” It makes the Church Fathers non-authoritative and superfluous, because if one must test each patristic claim on the basis of its agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, this entails that one has already reached that ‘authoritative’ interpretation of Scripture without the aid or ‘authority’ of the Church Fathers. And if one’s own interpretation is the standard by which to judge whether any patristic claim is ‘authoritative,’ the interpretive authority is oneself, not the Church Fathers.

  1. This principle is parallel to St. Augustine’s “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” []
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  1. Why couldn’t one have a non infallible tradition, where one does not simply pick and choose ones tradition based only on its agreement with oneself. Since the tradition is not infallible, one can accept a tradition that goes against ones position.

    One could distinguish between this position and solo scriptura, by taking history/tradition seriously. Something along the lines of what happens in science. One can deeply respect Einstein or Newton, but also hold a position opposing them by arguing against their positions and their justifications of such positions. If one is going to reject tradition, then one will need to argue for the position, and not simply assume that everyone before was an idiot. One simply cannot read the Bible as if no one else has ever read the Bible before.

  2. Hermonta,

    One could do exactly as you describe. But in that case, either one would not be acknowledging the authority of tradition, or tradition would have no authority. The points in question are whether tradition has authority, and whether, if tradition does have authority, whether identifying the authoritative tradition on the basis of its agreement with oneself allows it to function as authoritative or merely allows one to seem to be submitting to an authoritative tradition. The position you are advocating is what we might call learned biblicism. The “solo” in “solo scriptura,” however, is not about whether one is either anti-intellectual in one’s approach to Scripture or merely epistemically aware of how others have interpreted Scripture, but about whether tradition is authoritative.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. […] down on the thesis today. But I wanted to point you in the direction of an incisive new post by Bryan Cross, relevant to what we’ve been talking about recently, over at Called to […]

  4. Bryan,
    Doesn’t your position imply that there is no authority where there is no infallibility?

  5. Hermonta (re: #4),

    No, it does not. I addressed that objection most recently toward the end of comment #271 of the “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church” thread, and more specifically in the link therein to the relevant section of the “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. Hi Bryan,

    Thank you for this post. I have been following this site for a while now and actually knew Jeremy T. for a short time in college while we were involved in the same campus ministry.

    Something I do not understand and am hoping you can help with is this seeming mental dilemma….how do I decide that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus founded without using my personal interpretation of scripture?

    For example, say someone convinces me that the verses about Peter’s supremacy, apostolic succession, etc all mean that the Catholic Church is the one true Church by arguing from the scriptures. If I agree with them, then that is my new personal interpretation, is it not?

    Am I not then, at that point, using my “new” personal interpretation of scripture to decide that the claim is true?

    Seems like the only way out of this conundrum is to internally disagree with that interpretation yet still submit to the Catholic Church?

  7. I’m intrigued by the various positions held by various high profile Evangelical and Reformed pastors and theologians. Above you cite how Piper, Grudem, Reymond, Breshears, and Driscoll come to different conclusions about the creeds. I’d love to see a broader list of where popular Protestant theologians line up on main issues. I’ve been out of Evangelicalism for a while now, but from conversations with my Protestant friends, I get the impression that this diversity would be a surprise to many of them. I think they see their respective Protestant heroes largely in agreement.

    I’d love to see a chart of popular Protestant authors, pastors and theologians alongside their respective agreements and disagreements with “the majors/minors” (baptism, justification, election, liturgy, gifts, creation/evolution, inerrancy/inspiration, etc.), councils and creeds.

    If it doesn’t already exist, I’d love to help put it together. Maybe someone who knows about this can get a framework setup as a Google Spreadsheet up or something so we can start looking up quotes for each position. I suggest the following Protestant Leaders for consideration: Michael Horton, James White, Douglas Wilson, D.A. Carson, Carl Trueman, John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Tim Keller, Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, J.I. Packer, David Jeremiah, Chuck Colson, Bill Hybels, John Ortberg, John Stott, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, T.D. Jakes, Brian McLaren, Mark Noll, Jim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, Andy Stanley, Joel Osteen, Greg Laurie, Justin Taylor, Francis Chan, Alistair Begg, John Ankerberg, Hank Hanegraaff, etc.. And even some older examples like John Calvin, C.H. Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody would be great.

    Is anyone aware of a basic comparison chart between where folks like these stand on any number of theological issues?

  8. Bryan,
    Since you believe authority can exist where there is fallibility, then your claim that “But in that case, either one would not be acknowledging the authority of tradition, or tradition would have no authority.” is just not accurate. I plainly give tradition authority without giving it infallible authority; something akin to a civil magistrate or a husband over his wife.

    Now you believe that such authority is not sufficient to properly run/maintain the Church, but to say such does not give authority to tradition is an abuse of language.

    Given such a system, I have no problem with picking and choosing the tradition that already agrees with me. I can do justice to all of tradition.

  9. Ryan, (re: #6)

    Welcome to CTC, and thanks for your comment and question. You asked:

    how do I decide that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus founded without using my personal interpretation of scripture?

    Here’s the short answer: you use the motives of credibility. More on that soon.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. Hermonta (re: #8)

    Since you believe authority can exist where there is fallibility, then your claim that “But in that case, either one would not be acknowledging the authority of tradition, or tradition would have no authority.” is just not accurate.

    That’s a non sequitur. Just because there can be (and are) fallible authorities, it does not follow that it is false that when I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me. Submitting only when one agrees is not the same thing as authority being fallible.

    Now you believe that such authority is not sufficient to properly run/maintain the Church, but to say such does not give authority to tradition is an abuse of language.

    No, that’s not what I’ve said. My claim is much stronger. My claim is that if a person claims that x is his authority, but he picks out x as his ‘authority,’ and retains x as his ‘authority,’ on the basis of x’s agreement with his own judgment, then performatively x has only semantic authority (i.e. is his ‘authority’ in name only), and is not functioning as his authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Here is a FTs First Thought’s post, Evangelical Maximalism, which touches on our topic. It is probably worthy of another post all together.

  12. Bryan,

    You clearly admit, here and elsewhere, that there are fallible authorities. Given that – from post #2 – ” But in that case, either one would not be acknowledging the authority of tradition, or tradition would have no authority.” – then that quote is simply not exhaustive of all the options. A third option, is that I acknowledge the fallible authority of tradition and act accordingly. I can see the authority of tradition and still reject it, under various conditions. This is akin to my acknowledging the fallible authority of a civil magistrate but still rejecting it under various conditions.

    Next, there are areas where I will submit to a fallible authority (my pastor, civil magistrate, etc.) even when I disagree. If it was the case, that I only obey/submit when I agree with the fallible authority, then it would be the case that I am only submitting to myself. The difference between a fallible authority and an infallible authority, is that an infallible authority has no limits to submission, while a fallible one has limits.

    Lastly, are you saying that a fallible authority only has authority over someone only if that someone is never able to say, “No, I will not do that”, to that fallible authority?

  13. Hermonta, (re: #12)

    then that quote is simply not exhaustive of all the options. A third option, is that I acknowledge the fallible authority of tradition and act accordingly. I can see the authority of tradition and still reject it, under various conditions. This is akin to my acknowledging the fallible authority of a civil magistrate but still rejecting it under various conditions.

    That would be a third option only under a condition in which what got to count as authoritative tradition was based on something other than its agreement with one own interpretation of Scripture. Under the condition in which its identity as authoritative is determined by its agreement with oneself, it has *no* functional authority.

    Next, there are areas where I will submit to a fallible authority (my pastor, civil magistrate, etc.) even when I disagree. If it was the case, that I only obey/submit when I agree with the fallible authority, then it would be the case that I am only submitting to myself.

    Right. The problem here is deeper. Let’s say, for example, that my pastor makes a decision that congregational Bible study will be on Tuesday nights, and I submit to his decision rather than try to get the Bible study to be held on Thursday nights instead, but the primary reason I have chosen him for my pastor, and why he remains my pastor, is that his interpretation of Scripture comes closest to my own. Then I say, “See, I’m submitting to him even when I disagree, therefore, I’m not in a “when I submit only when I agree …” situation, and therefore he can be (and is) an actual, though fallible authority.” Clearly in such a case the authority problem remains. Submitting regarding what night of the week to hold Bible study does not change the fact that the one to whom I am submitting has been designated and identified as an authority, and continues to retain that ‘authority,’ ultimately on the basis of his agreement with my own interpretation of Scripture, even though on matters I consider subordinate I submit to his judgment. The authority he has (functionally), in such a case, is a derivative authority from me. So long as he continues to conform to my interpretation on all the things I think are important, I’ll ‘submit’ to him in matters I consider unimportant. And this ‘subordinate submission’ makes the illusion of authority more difficult to perceive. But so long as the person I refer to as my authority is picked out as ‘authoritative’ on the basis of his agreement with myself, and retains his ‘authority’ on the basis of his agreement with myself, then even if I submit to him in subordinate matters where I do not agree, I am still in a condition in which I am the authority, because in such a case his ‘authority’ is derived from me, from my selecting and retaining him as my ‘authority’ on the basis of his agreement with me, and is contingent upon his conforming to my opinion in areas I deem important.

    In short, the problem of illusory authority arises when a person is picked out and retained as ‘authoritative’ on the basis of his agreement with oneself. That problem is not resolved by acts of submission to that person in matters one judges to be subordinate, because the person is still picked out and retained as ‘authoritative’ on the basis of his agreement with oneself.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  14. Bryan,

    If we assume, as you do, the idea that Scripture lacks perspicuity, your conclusion probably follows: If “Scripture” is really just “my interpretation of Scripture” which is really just “whatever ideas I’ve made up in my head and imposed on an unclear text,” then I am the ultimate authority. My pastor is a subordinate authority, but all his authority comes from me, and so my submission to him is ultimately submission to myself.

    However, I think your argument here begs the question, because it is not an assumed point of agreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants that Scripture lacks perspicuity. If Scripture is sufficiently perspicuous (by which I mean “clear enough so that people can come to an objective conclusion about what it is saying”), then “Scripture” is not synonymous ultimately with “ideas I’ve made up in my head.” Therefore, to say that Scripture is an ultimate authority is fundamentally different from saying I am an ultimate authority.

    Once that’s cleared up, we can talk about ultimate authorities with subordinate fallible authorities, just as Roman Catholics do. Roman Catholics understand the idea of fallible but true authorities, and so do we Protestants. Scripture is the ultimate authority, and we submit to pastors who are appropriately-appointed subordinate authorities according to its standards, but we refuse submission when they go against Scripture–just as Roman Catholics submit to fallible authorities (bishops, etc.), but refuse submission when they go against the Pope, etc.

    In short, I think the real bite in your argument is the assumption that Scripture is not sufficiently perspicuous to distinguish it from my own imagination as a real authority, and that without this assumption your argument loses all of its force. But since this assumption is not an actual part of your argument (that is, it is not argued for in your argument), and since it is not agreed upon between Roman Catholics and Protestants, your argument begs the question.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  15. Hello Mark, (re: #14)

    If “Scripture” is really just “my interpretation of Scripture” …

    I’ve never claimed that Scripture is just someone’s interpretation of Scripture. So that would be a straw man of my position. Rather, I’ve claimed that interpretations of Scripture should not be conflated with Scripture itself. If you want to claim that your position is what Scripture itself teaches, and is not based on an interpretation of Scripture, then I’ll direct you to the last paragraph of comment #271 in “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church;” the offer to test your claim still stands.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Mark, (re: #14)

    You wrote:

    I think your argument here begs the question, because it is not an assumed point of agreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants that Scripture lacks perspicuity….by which I mean “clear enough so that people can come to an objective conclusion about what it is saying”

    I don’t know how strong you intend your claim (and how precisely you’re distinguishing between what the text “says” and what it “means”) but, at the very least, I think the WCF evinces some common ground with Catholics with respect to Scriptural perspecuity. WCF VII says:

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (citations omitted)

    Confessional Reformed are, I think, then committed to the thesis that some doctrines in Scripture are not “plain in themselves” – but whatever things which must be known for salvation are sufficiently clear that all rational persons may come to a sufficient understanding of them.

    Of course, the clarity of texts is not a binary relationship: If 0 represents a completely unclear passage of Scripture and 1 represents a perfectly clear passage of Scripture, Catholics and Protestants both agree that some passages are closer to 0 and others are closer to 1. But Catholics aren’t committed to the thesis that the whole Bible is 0, and (per the above WCF text), Confessional Reformed aren’t committed to the thesis that the whole Bible is 1. Confessional Reformed are, I think, committed to the thesis that all doctrines necessary for salvation are propounded in Scriptural passages whose value is 1, but at least as far as I can tell the WCF is silent on the perspecuity of texts concerning essential matters but not those necessary for salvation. (An example might be sacramentology: No Confessional Reformed believe that all persons with a deficient sacramentology cannot be saved. Nonetheless Confessional Reformed believe that correct sacramentology is essential (i.e., whether there are 2 or 7 sacraments isn’t audiaphora for Confessional Reformed).

    Just thought it might be helpful point out that the WCF’s thesis about Scriptural perspicuity seems weaker than your own – and of course whatever propositions are contained in the WCF are ones which cannot beg the question if they’re shared by Catholics too.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  17. Hermonta (#8)

    Given such a system, I have no problem with picking and choosing the tradition that already agrees with me. I can do justice to all of tradition.

    But then the tradition is no authority over you. It’s just raw material. You are the authority.

    (I think the next time a cop stops me for speeding I’ll tell him I have no problem picking and choosing the speed laws that agree with me and consider only them authoritative :-))

    jj

  18. Bryan (re: #15),

    I’ve never claimed that Scripture is just someone’s interpretation of Scripture.

    Of course.

    Rather, I’ve claimed that interpretations of Scripture should not be conflated with Scripture itself.

    Yes, of course. And I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. My point, though, was that if Scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, then Scripture itself can function as a true authority distinct from “me,” thus showing a flaw in your overall argument that submission to authorities only when they agree with Scripture is the same as submitting to authorities only when they agree with me.

    Benjamin (re: #16),

    Yes, there are some disagreements among Reformed people on some of these things. I think many modern Reformed people are more latitudinarian in their way of thinking than the writers of the WCF–by “latitudinarian,” I mean that they want more tolerance in the church for disagreements over Scriptural teaching that is deemed non-essential or less essential. I rather think the WCF is simply saying that whatever God has wanted to make known in the Scriptures is clear in them. We need to know what God thinks we need to know, and we can tell what that is by seeing what he has actually made clearly knowable. However, resolving this is not essential to the main argument I was making.

    But, in response to both of you (Bryan and Benjamin): You aren’t dealing with the main argument I made in #14, which is that to the extent that Scripture is perspicuous, Scripture can function as an objective authority distinct from myself. When I submit to church authorities only when they don’t oppose Scripture, I am not just submitting to myself; I am submitting to Scripture. I don’t now want to debate whether or not I am right in thinking that Scripture is perspicuous or that my interpretations are correct. That is irrelevant to the main point I am making here. (Though I’m happy to continue the broader conversation elsewhere as time goes by.)

    Thanks!

    Mark

  19. I should clarify: My argument in #14 was that Protestants believe that Scripture is perspicuous in such a way that there is a distinction between “Scripture” and “me” as an ultimate authority. Therefore, the argument that submitting to Scripture is the same as submitting to myself begs the question because it assumes a non-Protestant view of the perspicuity of Scripture.

  20. Mark, (re: #18)

    My point, though, was that if Scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, then Scripture itself can function as a true authority distinct from “me,” thus showing a flaw in your overall argument that submission to authorities only when they agree with Scripture is the same as submitting to authorities only when they agree with me.

    Again, I’ve never claimed that “submission to authorities only when they agree with Scripture is the same as submitting to authorities only when they agree with me.” Nor is that my position. My position is that picking out and retaining a person as one’s ecclesial ‘authority’ (or a tradition as ‘authoritative’) on the basis of his (or its) agreement with one’s own interpretation of Scripture, is a way of retaining authority to oneself while having an appearance of being under ecclesial authority. Your response is that, at least in your case, it is not your interpretation of Scripture that identifies the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (your denomination) as the Church Christ founded, and to which all Christians should be in submission, but Scripture itself. And I recognize that it is very easy to make that claim, as it is easy to make any claim. The problem with your claim [that it is not your interpretation, but Scripture itself, that is contradicted by Catholic doctrine], however, is that it is easily falsified, and on two occasions now I’ve offered you (see comment #15) the opportunity to show how your perspicuity thesis does not fail that test. So far, you’ve avoided submitting your perspicuity thesis to this test, and it is hard to see any other reason for your avoiding this except that you too know that it will be shown that it is not the verses themselves with which Catholic doctrine is opposed, but rather your interpretation of those verses.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. John (re: #17)

    Let us go with the cop scenario/example: Is it your position, that if one does not do anything and everything the cop tells you to do when they pull you over, then the cop has no authority over you and you are simply obeying yourself? I could past various links to articles on cops demanding various things/acts from people who they have encountered. If you believe that saying no to such, is simply obeying oneself and improper, then please state clearly that position.

  22. Hermonta (#21

    Let us go with the cop scenario/example: Is it your position, that if one does not do anything and everything the cop tells you to do when they pull you over, then the cop has no authority over you and you are simply obeying yourself? I could past various links to articles on cops demanding various things/acts from people who they have encountered. If you believe that saying no to such, is simply obeying oneself and improper, then please state clearly that position.

    Certainly not. If a policeman tells me I’m not allowed to drive because he doesn’t like the colour of my eyes, I not only will not obey him, I will try to see that he gets in trouble for it.

    And if my priest tells me that the Church is wrong when it says that women cannot be ordained, I will not accept it – will, if I think he is seriously misleading the faithful, talk to the bishop about it.

    And the reason is the same in both cases. The policeman’s authority comes from the law of the land. It is real authority. It does not matter whether I agree that the speed limit on the motorway is 100 Km/hour or not.

    And my priest’s authority comes from the Church – ultimately from Christ. If Christ has established a Church on earth that is His mouthpiece – that, of course, is a question to be proved, I am only saying that if that is true – then when my priest contradicts that authority, the priest is himself no authority.

    But you see it is not because I agree with the authority that has established both authorities – the policeman’s and the Church’s. I am bound by the policeman’s authority insofar as he is himself acting within the law of the land because I am a New Zealand citizen and New Zealand citizens are subject to the law of the land. And I am bound by the Church’s authority because I am a Catholic.

    Naturally the analogy breaks down in that I could choose to leave New Zealand. I could choose to cease being a Catholic, but the Catholic Church’s authority – if it is real – is from God and is for all men, not just Catholics.

    My point is that it is not my agreement that makes me subject to both authorities; it is the source of those authorities and my relationship to them.

    jj

  23. John (re: #22)
    I think we are getting somewhere, thanks for the conversation thus far.

    Now, let us imagine, that the cop in my above scenario, has the law behind him in his demands. It is farfetched to belief that all possible wrongdoing is done in opposition to the laws of a land. In your view, what is the proper response to this hypothetical cop, and why?

  24. Hermonta (#23

    Now, let us imagine, that the cop in my above scenario, has the law behind him in his demands. It is farfetched to belief that all possible wrongdoing is done in opposition to the laws of a land. In your view, what is the proper response to this hypothetical cop, and why?

    I’m not sure I see what you ask. Let me re-phrase it for you to see if this is what you mean:

    A policeman does me for doing 120 in a 100 zone, gives me the ticket. Are there any circumstances in which I am justified in (having accepted the ticket, of course; I don’t want him to take more drastic measures :-)), once he has gone on, zooming backup to 120?

    In other words, do civil laws cover everything?

    No, they do not. I am rushing to join my wife who is in labour and getting close to delivery. The motorway is practically empty. There is no real danger. Of course I am justified.

    But you see, by sticking with the analogy (which I, of course, brought up – that’ll teach me :-)), we are in danger of pushing it too far.

    God’s laws are comprehensive, and just; the laws of the land are neither. Indeed, for Christians today there will be many circumstances in which “we must obey God rather than man.”

    Now the Church is not God. It is, ex hypothesi, the Voice of God. Thus I can trust the Church.

    But I cannot necessarily trust every representative of the Church – not even the Pope in most circumstances. If the Pope himself were to command me – which God forbid! – to take some action which was manifestly sinful – steal something, say – I would not and must not do it.

    These things are not that complex, though. My only point is that my submission to authority is submission. Perhaps I misunderstood your original comment about having no problem with obeying tradition only when it agreed with you. In that case, the tradition is not authoritative over you.

    We are, perhaps, merely talking about what we mean by authority. I mean the word of another which I must accept on his say-so. Now man’s authority – that of the State, for example – is limited. It is limited not only to the proper scope of the State – totalitarianism is an example of the abuse of the limits of civil authority – but also limited in that the State is neither all-wise nor all-benevolent.

    If the Church is what it claims, then it is the mouthpiece of God – Who is all-wise and all-benevolent. To be sure, there can always be problem knowing when something required is required by “the Church” and when it is just required by these particular men. But it is not really very difficult in most cases to know what is Catholic and what not.

    And my submission to what really is Catholic is precisely because it is Catholic. I am not a Catholic because one day I saw that the Catholic Church taught X, Y, and Z, and – hey, see! – I know (by some other means) that X, Y, and Z are true. Thus I will be a Catholic. In that case I have not submitted to the Church at all. I have become a Catholic because the Church agreed with me (even if I claim to have other grounds for the things I think true – e.g. the Bible).

    When I was received into the Catholic Church, I made the following statement:

    I believe and hold what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.

    Note the asymmetry. The Church does the teaching; I do the holding.

    That’s what I mean by ‘authority’ and I apologise if that is not what you meant by it.

    jj

  25. John (#24)

    Two questions/issues:
    1)

    But I cannot necessarily trust every representative of the Church – not even the Pope in most circumstances. If the Pope himself were to command me – which God forbid! – to take some action which was manifestly sinful – steal something, say – I would not and must not do it.

    Wouldn’t you have to use your own interpretation of the Bible/natural law/various creeds or councils etc in order to say no to the Pope in such an unlikely situation, and isn’t such a big problem?

    2)

    I believe and hold what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.

    Note the asymmetry. The Church does the teaching; I do the holding.

    Given such, why did you decide to say such and join the Catholic Church versus some other Church?

  26. Hermonta (#25)

    Wouldn’t you have to use your own interpretation of the Bible/natural law/various creeds or councils etc in order to say no to the Pope in such an unlikely situation, and isn’t such a big problem?

    Yes, of course. That’s true about everything. We are at no point made robots. There is, however, a difference for the Catholic from the Protestant in using his interpretation. The Catholic has a living voice with which to dialogue. The Bible-only Protestant has not.

    Given such, why did you decide to say such and join the Catholic Church versus some other Church?

    Because I came to believe that the Catholic Church is what it claims. Indeed, the only other church groups that even make such a claim – the Mormons, for example – seem manifestly to me to fail in plausibility.

    If you are interested in a clear presentation of the ‘motives of credibility’ for the Church, you could read – it’s available on-line – Ronald Knox’s (himself a convert) excellent The Belief of Catholics.

    If you are interested in how I became a Catholic (not much of the ‘why,’ I’m afraid), you might be interested in a story I wrote in 1998, after I had been a Catholic for a few years.

    jj

  27. John (#26)

    How do you differentiate between how a non Catholic holds to their position, unless/until they believe that their position has lost credibility/plausibility and the way that you hold to your Catholic faith?

  28. Hermonta (#27

    How do you differentiate between how a non Catholic holds to their position, unless/until they believe that their position has lost credibility/plausibility and the way that you hold to your Catholic faith?

    Do you mean does my position differ morally from a Protestant who, having done the best that he can to seek the truth, believes the Protestant position is true based on its motives of credibility? If that is what you mean, there is no moral difference. We are each seeking to follow the truth where it leads.

    Naturally I think my position is in reality superior since I believe the Catholic faith to be true, and the various forms of Protestantism – insofar as they deviate from that – not to be true.

    jj

  29. John (#28)

    If there is no moral difference, then what was it that Bryan has been going on and on about being one’s own authority etc.? At the end of the day, each follows the motives of credibility that they find most credible.

  30. Hermonta (#29)

    If there is no moral difference, then what was it that Bryan has been going on and on about being one’s own authority etc.? At the end of the day, each follows the motives of credibility that they find most credible.

    By ‘no moral difference’ I mean that each person is (we are assuming) doing his best to find the truth. The point is that objectively the Protestant has not yet submitted to an authority, since his Bible-only view means he is the one to decide what the Bible means in a particular case. The Catholic has believed that there is an authority – I mean an authority whose judgements do not boil down to his own reasoning. That authority is the Church.

    Take a frequently-mentioned question: does the Bible allow infant Baptism? The Protestant must finally make up his own mind about what the Scriptures teach. The Catholic can ask the Church.

    Now new such issues arise. Is artificial contraception immoral? Until 1930 all churches agreed it was. But the question then began to be challenged officially by the Anglicans. Well, the Catholic church can then deal with it. It has authority.

    This last is an important case in point, for it shows the difference between authority and submission to authority. It is notorious that many – a majority, I am sure – Catholics do not believe artificial contraception to be immoral. But the no one can doubt what the Church’s position is. The Church has real authority, even when many do not submit to it.

    What the Protestant can do in such a case is simply to consider the arguments and make up his mind. There is, in fact, a real movement amongst certain Protestants today against artificial contraception. It bases itself on, amongst other things, the Bible’s clear praise for large families. Yet the arguments are less than crystalline, and Protestants in good conscious may disagree.

    No Catholic can claim in good conscience that the Church does not forbid artificial contraception. The Catholic may claim the Church is wrong about this – but he knows what the Church teaches.

    It comes down, again, to whether the Church really is what it claims: Christ’s mouthpiece on earth. If it is, then it has the authority to pronounce on matters of faith and morals. That is authority.

    jj

  31. Hermonta (re: #27)

    How do you differentiate between how a non Catholic holds to their position, unless/until they believe that their position has lost credibility/plausibility and the way that you hold to your Catholic faith?

    The Protestant remains his or her own highest interpretive authority. The Catholic does not. The Catholic must submit to what the Magisterium teaches. What John is pointing out is that what a particular priest, or particular bishop, even the bishop of Rome might happen to say, not speaking as the Magisterium, can possibly depart from the Church’s teaching, and in such case should not be followed. But even in such cases the Catholic remains subordinate to the Magisterium, whereas the Protestant is not under any authority, except ‘under’ a person picked out on the basis of that person’s agreement with his own interpretation of Scripture — and that, as I have explained above, is only an illusion of authority. By contrast, the Catholic identifies the Magisterium as the Magisterium Christ established and authorized, not by agreement with his own interpretation of Scripture, but by the motives of credibility.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. Hermonta (re: #27):

    Allow me to be an example in the only way I’m likely to serve as an example: Through my weakness and inability!

    There are teachings of the Church which seem plausible enough, but for which the evidence and arguments I personally am aware of seem insufficient to provide certainty.

    Nevertheless, because I believe Jesus gave me the Magisterium precisely for this benefit, I believe these teachings and assent to them. I try to live the way I think I would live if I had come to those conclusions by being adequately convinced by the evidence.

    If I were my final interpretative authority, I would not try to change how I lived or thought until after I, myself, personally, had been adequately convinced by the evidence. (And with three kids and a full-time job, when would I even have the time to study some such topics?)

    But because I am convinced that Jesus founded one church, gave it a visible and hierarchical authority structure with offices-of-succession, established it as the pillar and bullwark of truth in the world, and gave authority to the church to pronounce authoritatively in His name on matters of faith and morals so as to make obligatory full obedience from any Christ-follower…because I am convinced of that, I am willing to take the Church’s word on topic XYZ when I would not take anyone else’s, and would not entirely trust my own.

    In one sense, when I heed the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, I am very much like many newbie Protestant Christians are when listening to their pastor preach his opinion on some disputed topic (when/if remarriage after divorce is permissible; for example, or dispensational eschatology; or how exactly the atonement works). They haven’t been Christians long enough to know these are debatable. They just assume whatever their pastor is telling them is uniform belief for all Christians; or else that the few who disagree “don’t know their Bible” or something. In this fashion many new Christians unthinkingly absorb the denominational distinctives or even the personal hobby-horses of whichever Christians they meet first. They can’t prove it for themselves, so they just trust what they’re hearing to be the final word. For them, their first pastor is “the pope.”

    But my position is different from theirs in other ways. They will eventually learn these are debatable topics. They will eventually find themselves saying, “Y’know, I like what he says about ABC, but I don’t think he’s right about XYZ.” They’ll learn to cite their own favorite scriptures in support of their contrary view. From that point forward, their original pastor ceases to be “the pope”; instead, each person becomes his or her personal pope.

    This sounds like it might be a good thing; it certainly incentivizes a lot of Bible-study from the individual believer. But one pays a heavy price: One does not have the option of knowing that one is correct. All opinion must be hedged with the qualifier, “so far as I can figure out, this is what Jesus wants.” And one’s view can later change. How many Christians used to be dispensational pre-millenialists, and later changed their mind when they became better acquainted with Scripture?

    My position is different because I have an official Magisterium, an official body of Church dogma that’s rock-solid, set in stone, unreformable, not gonna be tinkered with, fugheddaboudit. So rather than becoming a doctrinal authority of one, I will always retain the ability to know what is true from an authoritative source which Jesus promised will not mislead me. Not being my own pope, I need not fear that further study will cause me to reverse my view on some critical point, so long as I start from the Catechism and work outward.

    Previously, I belonged to a church which was nigh-on-fundamentalist NOW, but for all I know will be conducting gay marriages by the year 2100, if it still exists. As a Catholic, I know that in the year 21,000, contraception will be prohibited, divorce from a valid sacramental marriage considered impossible (and remarriage, adulterous), priests will all be males, and gay marriage will be considered a contradiction in terms. The “head steward of the household of God” is a secure tent-peg, driven into a firm place, holding the whole household together: A rock, and the house built upon it will not be moved.

    So, I’m not smart enough to know why certain Church teachings are what they are.

    But I can listen, obey, and hope that comprehension dawns sometime later, in this life or the next. The Church’s teaching becomes my position, prior to me understanding why.

  33. Bryan (re: #20),

    So far, you’ve avoided submitting your perspicuity thesis to this test, and it is hard to see any other reason for your avoiding this except that you too know that it will be shown that it is not the verses themselves with which Catholic doctrine is opposed, but rather your interpretation of those verses.

    I haven’t been avoiding putting my claims to the test. We’ve been having a discussion on libertarian free will over at the other thread. In order to examine my overall position on Sola Scriptura and perspicuity, I’ve chosen to focus for now on a couple of issues that are key to why I’ve taken the position I have–libertarian free will and whether there are positive reasons to believe in any infallible authority outside of Scripture. We did a little bit of looking at Scriptural passages, but I’ve focused on other issues thus far because I think it will be difficult to discuss particular biblical passages until we deal with the larger issue of what our interpretative authorities are. If I point out biblical passages which seem to oppose Roman Catholic teaching, you will simply say that I am interpreting them wrong and the RCC gets to the be the one to provide the infallible interpretation. I suspect we will end up going in circles here, so I’ve focused on more underlying issues first. But we can talk about whatever you want. Just don’t mistake a difference in our approaches to the discussion with a refusal to put my claims to the test.

    To conversation participants in general: I still think that what I said back in #14 is not being adequately dealt with, and that it is crucial to this overall conversation. As a Reformed Protestant, I am not my own highest authority in the sense that is the concern in this conversation. Scripture is my highest authority, as the Word of God. If Scripture is unclear to such a degree that there is no way to know what it is objectively saying, then submission to Scripture would be impossible and any pretended submission to Scripture would really be submission to myself. But we Protestants do not hold that Scripture is unclear in this way. We hold, rather, that it is sufficiently clear so that whatever God wishes to communicate to us through it can be known through it without any other infallible authority. If this position is correct, then Scripture can truly function as an authority distinct from myself. In this case, the idea of infallible Scripture as an ultimate authority distinct from myself is no different in principle than the idea of the infallible magisterium of the church as an ultimate authority distinct from myself. So we really are in the same boat on this point. The only way this can be countered is by asserting that, for some reason or other, Scripture cannot speak for itself as an objective voice, and this must be based on the idea that it is not perspicuous in the Protestant sense of that idea.

    Therefore, while it makes sense to discuss whether or not Scripture is really perspicuous in the Protestant sense, any argument that assumes that Scripture cannot function as an objective authority distinct from myself without an infallible magisterium helping it along without first showing that Protestant perspicuity is false begs the question because it assumes a non-Protestant view of the perspicuity of Scripture.

    In short: From a Protestant point of view, I myself am not my ultimate authority. God is, as he speaks through the Scriptures. Submitting to Scripture is not the same as submitting to me, so the entire basis of this overall RC argument fails–unless it is first proved that perspicuity in the Protestant sense is not true.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  34. Mark,

    I’m not sure I’m following your claim in #14. So I’ll try to rephrase it in my own words and you tell me if I’ve understood you accurately or not, okay?

    Suppose textual clarity exists on a continuum from 0 to 1, where 0 = completely unclear (such that all rational persons who read the text come away with different interpretations of that text), and 1 = completely clear (such that all rational persons who read the text come away with the exact same single interpretation of that text).

    Are you asking if the Bible’s value were 1, then would we not need a Church to authoritatively interpret the Scripture? (I assume you’re aware of the obvious, namely that the Bible’s actual value is rather less than 1, so presumably you’re asking what would obtain if its value were 1, yes?)

    In other words, is the argument you’re giving something like the following: If the Bible’s value were 1, then the Bible (not the Church) would be the highest Christian authority?

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  35. Mark,

    any argument that assumes that Scripture cannot function as an objective authority distinct from myself without an infallible magisterium helping it along without first showing that Protestant perspicuity is false begs the question because it assumes a non-Protestant view of the perspicuity of Scripture.

    The only way to test this premise, is to show me some place where you think the Catholic Church’s doctrine not only does not conform to your interpretation of Scripture, but fails to conform to Scripture itself. Are you willing to test your perspicuity thesis? If not, I don’t see any point in [your] continuing the conversation. This forum is for those who want the truth.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Benjamin (re: #34),

    Not exactly (meaning, that is not exactly the argument I was making). I don’t know exactly how to label Scripture’s perspicuity on your scale. Different parts would no doubt need to be assigned a separate value. All that is necessary is that it is possible for those who put in sufficient effort, etc., to be able to understand what the Scriptures are saying without there being an infallible magisterium or infallible oral tradition.

    If such sufficient perspicuity exists, then the Scriptures can function as an objective authority distinct from myself. So my argument in #14 is that it begs the question to assert that submitting to Scripture (in the Protestant sense) is the same as submitting to myself, unless one first proves that the Scriptures are not sufficiently perspicuous.

    Bryan (re: #35),

    The only way to test this premise, is to show me some place where you think the Catholic Church’s doctrine not only does not conform to your interpretation of Scripture, but fails to conform to Scripture itself.

    No, that is not necessary to test the premise under consideration. #14 quite sufficiently demonstrates this premise.

    Are you willing to test your perspicuity thesis?

    Yes, but it needs to be noted that that is a distinct line of argumentation from the one involved in this conversation and to which my #14 was responding to.

    As I stated in #33, we have been testing my perspicuity thesis in that other thread. That’s why I brought up libertarian free will over there, and also why I asked you about positive evidence that the church has an infallible teaching authority in our one-on-one conversation the other day. As I said in #33, I have avoided spending much time providing specific biblical quotations which I think contradict RC doctrine because I suspect that doing so would not be productive considering the fundamental differences between our two positions regarding what infallible authorities exist for us to consult. Our method of interpreting Scripture is going to depend on what other infallible authorities we think exist. From your point of view, there is an infallible teaching authority in the RCC. It would, from that point of view, be foolish for you to take my biblical interpretations over the RCCs unless there was no other even remotely plausible option. On the other hand, from my point of view (which holds there is no infallible teaching authority), I’m not going to put nearly as much stock in a biblical interpretation merely on the grounds that it is asserted by the RCC. So I’ve tried to focus on the broader question of how we know what authorities are available rather than simply throwing Bible quotations at you.

    If, however, you want me to put forward some specific Bible passages, I can do that (I did that a little bit over on #299 in the other thread). But I think I’d better do it later, as I’ve got some other things that need to get done this afternoon. So I’ll return before too long with some specific passages to look at.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  37. Mark (#36

    All that is necessary is that it is possible for those who put in sufficient effort, etc., to be able to understand what the Scriptures are saying without there being an infallible magisterium or infallible oral tradition.

    It seems to me, though, that this must mean that the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians and claim to understand the Bible – Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses – must simply fail to put in the ‘sufficient effort’ – or perhaps the ‘etc’ Do you think that’s why hardly any Bible-reader would agree with you understanding of it?

    jj

  38. PS – or are you meaning only that it is possible for all who put in sufficient effort (and etc :-)) to understand the Bible – but that even if they put in sufficient effort and etc, there is no certainty they will do so?

    But in that case, considering, again, the vast numbers who disagree with your understanding of the Bible, it would seem that the perspicuity of the Bible isn’t of a lot of practical use.

    jj

  39. Though I’m sympathetic to the argument that Mark is making, shouldn’t the burden be on him to prove that the scriptures are perspicuous since he’s the one making the claim? I realize he’s actually saying that you are making a claim by rejecting a position as a base assumption to your argument, but that’s a cop out in my opinion.

    The claim that the scriptures are perspicuous seems all well and good in theory but in practice it’s a total train wreck. Every heretic, every denominational splintering, and every theological dispute claims the side of “the clear meaning of scripture”. There just is no such thing, it seems to me to be a fantasy invented by those who would reject the authority of another over them.

  40. Mark, and Bryan, and Ryan, and John Thayer,

    When Jesus quotes Moses, His words – about Scripture – show that He believed the Scripture perspicuous.

    “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'” (Mat 4:4)

    In comparing Scripture to bread, Jesus teaches a daily relationship of man to Scripture. As bread sustains physical life, the words of God in Scripture are enough to sustain a man in all of life, as the word “alone” shows.

    Don’t miss the point – bread is a metaphor for all foods that may be physically consumed, and that by the design of God are necessary and capable to sustain physical life. Man doesn’t need more than bread to sustain it, iow.

    So too, the words of God in Scripture are, by the design of God, necessary and capable of sustaining all of life. Man doesn’t need more to sustain it, such as an infallible interpreter, iow.

    In teaching that “man” is to live by Scripture, Jesus refers to all humanity, not just some men. Therefore the words of God must be understandable to all men: hence they must be perspicuous.

    Therefore, all the words of God are so perspicuous that all men everywhere and at all times may have all of life sustained by them.

    Thus in declaring that every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is to be lived on, Jesus declares all words of God are not optional, but necessary.

    And in judging the words of God superior to “bread alone,” Jesus places the full focus of men on the words of God as superior to all things, including the words of tradition.

    As well, Jesus taught that the words of Moses and the prophets were perspicuous enough to produce repentance that would alter a man’s eternal destiny out of fire and into blessedness, but that men wish not to listen to it, no matter how powerfully it is put forward:

    “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:29-31)

    Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ makes perspicuous that the reason men don’t believe in the sufficiency of His word for all things is not because it isn’t designed by God to be understandable and lived on by all men, but that men refuse it, especially in the matters of repentance, consigning them to sophistry and foolishness, and a certain eternal death.

  41. Ted (re: #40)

    You and Mark Hausam both have two things in common: you both believe in the Protestant conception of the perspicuity of Scripture, and you both believe deeply that schism is wrong and are committed sincerely to visible unity. Here’s the problem. Mark, on the basis of Scripture, thinks you’re in schism from what he believes to be the Church Christ founded, namely, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. (See comment #213 in the “Why Protestantism has no visible catholic Church” thread.) You, however, do not believe that, as you explain here. So Scripture is apparently not sufficiently perspicuous to get you both on the same page regarding ecclesiology and schism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Ted & Ryan;
    Can we put this perspicuity thesis to a real world test? Who (among perspicuity adherents) is not following the perspicuous teaching of Scripture on the status of children of Christians and what the parents ought to do with them (baptize or not)? Is it the Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, others, all, some? How would an average Christian parent be able to tell? What test can they reliably apply? Prayer and searching the Scriptures has been tried by many over the centuries and yielded only greater diversity, not unity, on this and other matters.

    This matter of children is a basic family life question. The family is so basic, I take it as a given that no tradition or paradigm worth it’s salt can fail to give a clear answer to everyday Christian parents who want to know about this. Yet, in many places we find serious, devout, honest, and even highly educated perspicuity believing folks believing and acting very differently on this matter.

    Jesus said go make disciples and baptize. But, who is baptism for, what does it do, who is qualified to give it, who is qualified to receive it? It appears to me the perspicuity camp can’t give a consistent answer nor can it provide a reliable test to the average believer. Even average Joes like me can see that. It’s not hard to notice that all these guys telling me the Scriptures are clear believe vastly different things on this and other matters.

    Best,
    Mark

  43. Ryan,
    I hope my comment in 42 doesn’t come across as challenging what you said in 39. I mostly agree with what you had to say and think the concrete example of baptism illustrates your main point.
    Best,
    Mark

  44. Mark H (re: 36);

    So my argument in #14 is that it begs the question to assert that submitting to Scripture (in the Protestant sense) is the same as submitting to myself, unless one first proves that the Scriptures are not sufficiently perspicuous.

    Well sure, such an assertion would beg the question, but I don’t think Bryan or anyone else at CTC has simply assumed or asserted and not provided evidence for the lack of perspicuity (in the Protestant sense). If you’ve been around CTC for any extended period of time, you’ve seen lots of evidence presented. (See also Ryan’s 39 & my 42.)

    Obviously it cannot be scientifically proven that the Scriptures are not sufficiently perspicuous. After all, it could be true that only you and those who agree with you are seeing the clear truth. But, what evidence is there for that? I’d bet you’re a great guy who would be fun to have a beverage and some conversation with, but do you and your tradition have greater motives of credibility for your positions than do those traditions that disagree and are in separation from you? If not, and since many great men who believe in perspicuity have given their entire lives to studying these questions without ever overcoming disagreements, why don’t you think these are reason enough to cause one to question the Protestant perspicuity paradigm?

    Don’t you think any paradigm worth following ought to give clear teaching to average Christian parents on the status of their children and what to do with them (baptize or not)? Why believe the perspicuity paradigm when it can’t do this?

    thanks,
    Mark

  45. Bryan (41),

    My point was not to assert a Protestant view of the perspicuity of Scripture, but to assert that Jesus Christ asserted the perspicuity of Scripture.

    On that, your argument is not with me, but with Him.

  46. Mark S (42),

    Can we put this perspicuity thesis to a real world test?

    Your real world test is not the test of Jesus Christ. The Rabbis of his day were famous for compromising and obscuring the plain teachings of Scripture with their oral traditions: “You have heard…. But I say to you….” (Mat. 5:21-48). “Have you never read….?”

    Jesus went back to the original intent of the writer of Scripture (Moses), and affirmed that what was written was not only clear as since the moment it was penned, but binding to each man’s eternal judgment.

    Never did He imply that what was written was unclear because the Rabbis held opposing interpretations.

    Never did He imply men were less accountable to God because the Rabbis sinned against the men of their day by making it appear Scripture was too difficult for the untrained person to understand.

    Instead, He made it clear that Rabbis and followers alike suppress the clear teaching of Scripture in order men to do the very things that disobey God. “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (Mar 7:9 ).

    And they did all this – the claiming Scripture in itself wasn’t perspicuous in order to make their traditions necessary, so that wouldn’t have to repent and obey what God commands.

    God is clear, and tells us frail and fallen persons what to believe and what to do in both Precept and Example

  47. “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (Mat 4:4)

    No Christian can have a problem with the statement of Mat 4:4, however the trouble begins with the question of how do we understand/interpret “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

  48. Ted, (re: #40)

    In comparing Scripture to bread, Jesus teaches a daily relationship of man to Scripture. As bread sustains physical life, the words of God in Scripture are enough to sustain a man in all of life, as the word “alone” shows. Don’t miss the point – bread is a metaphor for all foods that may be physically consumed, and that by the design of God are necessary and capable to sustain physical life. Man doesn’t need more than bread to sustain it, iow. So too, the words of God in Scripture are, by the design of God, necessary and capable of sustaining all of life. Man doesn’t need more to sustain it, such as an infallible interpreter, iow.

    You are assuming your conclusion on the basis of assumptions you are bringing to the text, because the need for an authoritative interpreter is fully compatible with the verse (Mt. 4:4). So therefore you are not deriving your conclusion only from the text, but from the text in combination with assumptions you are bringing to the text. And that begs the question, because those assumptions you are bringing to the text are the assumptions *in* question.

    Also, might I request that you please do not use all caps. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  49. Bryan (48),

    You are assuming your conclusion on the basis of assumptions you are bringing to the text

    But for me to take any other assumption is to suppress what Jesus claims.

    The caps are from the BibleWorks program, and reflect that Jesus was quoting the OT in Mat. 4:4. In other words, in claiming Scripture is clear and sufficient for all men, Jesus quoted Scripture itself, a question begging argument.

  50. To all:

    The main argument that seems to be coming up here against the perspicuity of the Bible is that people who rely on the Bible tend to disagree about a lot of things. We discussed this over at the other thread for quite a while. It is, of course, true. But I don’t think the fact of disagreement is as relevant as people often make it out to be. I posted an article on this in the other thread, and here is another one which is similar. These articles attack the underlying reasoning of this argument against perspicuity.

    Though I’m sympathetic to the argument that Mark is making, shouldn’t the burden be on him to prove that the scriptures are perspicuous since he’s the one making the claim? I realize he’s actually saying that you are making a claim by rejecting a position as a base assumption to your argument, but that’s a cop out in my opinion.

    Well, at least part of the burden is on me. You’re absolutely right that if I am going to assert perspicuity, I need to defend it. I’ve never said otherwise. But that is not what I was trying to do in #14. All I was trying to do there was to show that the assumption that the Bible is not perspicuous is an assumption in the “submission to Scripture in a Protestant sense is really just submission to myself” argument, and that because that assumption is not brought out and argued for in the argument, the argument begs the question against Protestants.

    Well sure, such an assertion would beg the question, but I don’t think Bryan or anyone else at CTC has simply assumed or asserted and not provided evidence for the lack of perspicuity (in the Protestant sense).

    Sure, but such an argument against perspicuity is not made in the specific argument under discussion. That argument is put forward as if it has force in itself without having to argue against perspicuity as well, and that was what I was pointing out as begging the question.

    More later . . .

    Thanks!

    Mark

  51. Mark,

    It seems that the fundamental argument against perspicuity is not that disagreement over interpretation exists, but that the perspicuity paradigm provides no authoritative means of defining heretical versus orthodox interpretations for the body of Christ as a whole. How do you address this?

    Burton

  52. Ted (#45)

    My point was not to assert a Protestant view of the perspicuity of Scripture, but to assert that Jesus Christ asserted the perspicuity of Scripture.

    On that, your argument is not with me, but with Him.

    Say what?? I saw your argument that He must have intended perspicuity of Scripture, but the only quote from the Lord that you gave (a quote on His part from the Old Testament) was:

    “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (Mat 4:4)

    You argued that that implies that He intended the perspicuity of Scripture. I saw nothing that says He asserted the perspicuity of Scripture!

    jj

  53. Hello all,

    I think that Ted has made some good points regarding the biblical teaching on perspicuity. Jesus’s conversation with Pharisees is, I think, enlightening in this regard. It is clear that although the Pharisees sat in Moses’s seat (that is, they were the authoritative leaders of God’s people), they were not granted infallible authority. And yet God expected the Scriptures to be understood and to function as an ultimate authority, even to the point of judging the views of the religious leaders. If this could work in the Old Testament, why not in the New? At least this shows that the idea of looking to Scripture as an objective ultimate authority without an infallible guide is not an absurd idea. (I’m referring to Ted in the third person because I want to talk to you non-perspicuity people about what he said. I hope this is not taken as a breach of the rules of format.)

    Burton (re: #51),

    It seems that the fundamental argument against perspicuity is not that disagreement over interpretation exists, but that the perspicuity paradigm provides no authoritative means of defining heretical versus orthodox interpretations for the body of Christ as a whole. How do you address this?

    If Scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, then it is possible for us to know what it objectively says, and what it objectively says can be distinguished from the opinions of men. Therefore, orthodoxy and heresy will be determined by what the Scripture teaches, since it is the Word of God.. The elders/bishops of the church have the role and authority to define for the church what is orthodox and what is heretical, in subordination to the Scriptures, and their teachings are therefore to be followed when they are in accord with Scripture and not followed when they are not in accord with Scripture.

    Thanks!

    Mark

  54. Mark (#53)

    If Scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, then it is possible for us to know what it objectively says, and what it objectively says can be distinguished from the opinions of men. Therefore, orthodoxy and heresy will be determined by what the Scripture teaches, since it is the Word of God.. The elders/bishops of the church have the role and authority to define for the church what is orthodox and what is heretical, in subordination to the Scriptures, and their teachings are therefore to be followed when they are in accord with Scripture and not followed when they are not in accord with Scripture.

    OK, so if I understand you, you mean that Scriptural perspicuity does not necessarily mean that all, or even most, people will in fact understand it correctly. Thus in fact, since most who use the Bible, even if we may assume they are well-intentioned and diligent, do not understand it correctly – at least in some important matters (e.g. not only the Catholics, who, pace many Protestants, misunderstand what salvation by grace means, but those with more serious errors – non-Trinitarians, like Jehovah’s witnesses and semi-pantheists, like Mormons.

    If that is what you mean, it reminds me of what the Catholic Church has said about the undoubted fact that a great deal of what is in the Bible is not, strictly speaking, revelation. All men arguably could know without any message from God that God is real, much of His power and glory (with the implication that He ought to be worshipped), the validity and binding character of the ten commandments, and so forth. But God, knowing that we would not readily do and believe what we ought without His help, has provided the Scriptures to fill the gap.

    If that characterisation of the contents of the Bible – as being there to strengthen the weakness of our sin-affected knowledge – is correct, mightn’t it be that God has supplied the infallibility of the Catholic Magisterium, since most will not get the right answers just from reading Scripture – even although Scripture is, strictly speaking, clear enough that men should be able, by use of ordinary means, to come to the knowledge of the truth – including even the truth that the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is God’s visible Church on earth?

    jj

  55. Mark, I read your second blog post, I’m not following your arguments though.

    You wrote, “Sungenis, by joining the Roman church, is now above the fray, “away from the roiling controversies of Protestantism.” The problem is that the Roman church is not above the fray of disagreeing denominations at all; it is simply one option among many in the fray.”

    You seem to be defining “the fray” as at least those involved in “roiling controversies”, or maybe you just mean “disagreeing denominations”. However when you try to put the Catholic Church into the “fray” it just doesn’t fit. Your points before this line were quoting a Catholic about the protesting protestants who even protest each other, among other things. To be part of that fray, the Catholic church would have to be splintering and splitting with members protesting itself or each other and doing the other things that Mr. Sungenis was referring to. It’s not doing that. Therefore it is most decidedly not part of that fray. I see zero support for your conclusion here. The Catholic Church may have internal disagreements between members but this is a far cry from the disagreements and splitting seen in Protestantism denominations. I think this renders your next argument in the same paragraph, invalid.

    You also say, “Thus, he says, we should just give up listening to the Bible and believe what the Roman church says instead. It’s a shortcut!”. You gave no reference for this, please quote the man or else it just looks like your burning a straw man down.

    You go on with, ” If the existence of differing Protestant denominations implies that my conclusion from the biblical evidence that Presbyterianism is true is unreliable, then why doesn’t the existence of differing religions imply that Sungenis’s conclusion from the evidence that Romanism is true is unreliable as well? ”

    To answer the question:
    1. Since Catholics aren’t claiming that all men should reach the same conclusion given the same evidence, this doesn’t seem like the problem you’re making it out to be for them. It is, however, still a problem for Protestants.

    2. Comparing problems within Christianity where the Holy Spirit is active in convincing people of the truths of the gospel (Protestant vs Catholic) is hardly meaningful when trying to imply that because other world religions exist, then the Catholic Church is unreliable. The Catholic church is not claiming that just because they can put the evidence in front of someone that the spirit will move that person to repentance and faith, therefore the existence of people who don’t believe does nothing to make them unreliable.

    All this to say, I’ve read your material, and I don’t think you’ve adequately dealt with the notorious and painfully obvious inconsistency in Protestantism, namely the seemingly inexhaustible denominational splintering, theological disagreements, and lack of real authority. From reading this blog it seems like you’ve tried to evade and redirect by saying the Catholic church is no different and suffers from the same problems. But they don’t. So I don’t really see the strength of your position. Also, I don’t know of a single protestant who converted to Catholicism because it was easy and a “shortcut”. Hence why I’m here, as a Presbyterian myself trying to learn and wade through the arguments.

  56. Mark, I also have a question for you
    This quote is on your blog, “I believe, to quote W. K. Clifford, that “it is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.””

    You’ve also said, “If Scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, then it is possible for us to know what it objectively says, and what it objectively says can be distinguished from the opinions of men.”

    You clearly believe scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, what is your sufficient evidence for this?

  57. Ryan (#55)

    … I don’t know of a single protestant who converted to Catholicism because it was easy and a “shortcut”.

    In about 1970 or 1971, I was a newly-converted Protestant (I mean converted from nothing, not from being some other sort of Christian) and at the time was a keen reader of Francis Schaeffer. I subscribed to a series of tape lectures he gave (and profited greatly from them, as well as from his excellent books). I recall him saying on a tape – I hasten to add that I may have misunderstood him, so any blame is mine – but I recall his saying that Newman had simply tired of trying to struggle against liberalism. He (these were approximately Schaeffer’s words) “crept into quiet and peace of the [Catholic] Church, and shut the door behind him.”

    At the time I was a brand-new Christian; knew nothing of denominations, including the Catholic Church. I concluded from Schaeffer’s words that Newman’s conversion had been intellectually dishonest – had been a matter of intellectual despair rather than conviction.

    In September of 1993 I finally read Newman’s Apologia and was stunned. I felt I had been lied to. Newman’s conversion took over six years and was of the most agonising sort. If he had not sought truth, no one had.

    I was received, with inexpressible joy, into the Church on 25 December, 1995. I have never ceased to thank God for this astonishing grace.

    jj

  58. This comment from Prof Judisch in 2009 does a great job recounting the history and immediate problems (post-reformation) in the Lutheran and Reformed camps with the perspicuity thesis. It references work from Protestant scholars on the topic. I highly recommend it. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1152

    Mark

  59. Ted (re: 46);
    Please tell me who is suppressing the clear teaching of Scripture on what the status is of children of Christian parents as well as on who baptism is for, what it does, and who can administer it? The Lutheran referred to in this article thinks the Reformed are suppressing it. Keith Mathison disagrees. I believe you are a baptist, so presumably you would disagree with both of them. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/we-believe-bible-and-you-do-not/

    I would also like to know how an average Christian can tell who is suppressing it. I think you are saying that you believe any Christian can tell just by reading the Scriptures because you think that is what Jesus taught. So everyone who disagrees with you and your tradition are suppressing the clear teaching of Scripture? What evidence is there of that besides the fact that they disagree with you?

    thanks,
    Mark

  60. Mark (59),

    Why?

  61. JJ (re: #54),

    mightn’t it be that God has supplied the infallibility of the Catholic Magisterium, since most will not get the right answers just from reading Scripture

    Yes, it might have been so. I just don’t currently think that it is in fact so. But I have no a priori reason to reject an infallible magisterium.

    Hi Ryan (re: #55),

    To be part of that fray, the Catholic church would have to be splintering and splitting with members protesting itself or each other and doing the other things that Mr. Sungenis was referring to.

    My point is that the RCC is not above the disagreements of the differing Christian denominations. It is itself one of those disagreeing denominations, and is in that sense a part of the “fray.” I am a Protestant who believes in infant baptism, but some other Protestants don’t. To Sungenis and many others, this disagreement suggests that the Bible is not adequate to determine which view is true. Well, the RCC has many opinions other Christians disagree with, so why should it be considered to be exempt from the implications of disagreement? Why not say, “Lots of people disagree with the RCC position, and that is evidence that there is a lack of evidence to conclude that the RC faith is true”? Sungenis and others fail to see that the RC position is not exempt from arguments made on the basis of the fact of disagreement.

    Comparing problems within Christianity where the Holy Spirit is active in convincing people of the truths of the gospel (Protestant vs Catholic) is hardly meaningful when trying to imply that because other world religions exist, then the Catholic Church is unreliable. The Catholic church is not claiming that just because they can put the evidence in front of someone that the spirit will move that person to repentance and faith, therefore the existence of people who don’t believe does nothing to make them unreliable.

    I think you have there a good explanation for why people of other religions don’t embrace Christianity. It is not because the evidence for Christianity is inconclusive, but because the Holy Spirit has not moved all people who have heard the gospel to repentance and faith. I would consider this to be a good explanation, or one good explanation among others, of why Christians disagree as well (including disagreements between Roman Catholics and Protestants). Even if people in the different denominations are regenerate, we have not yet been perfected and we are still subject to being fallen people in a fallen world, including being misled into significant error. You must say of me that I am, for some reason, missing evidence for RC that you have, for I am not RC. You don’t take my disagreement as evidence that the RCC is wrong. Similarly, I say of you that you are missing evidence I have for my position (such as, perhaps, for example, having a wrong opinion about libertarian free will–just to give an example from a conversation in another thread), and that is why you don’t see what I see. Your disagreement is not evidence that my views are wrong.

    Hence why I’m here, as a Presbyterian myself trying to learn and wade through the arguments.

    I’ve been talking to you as if you were Roman Catholic, forgetting you had added this at the end of your post. Even so, hopefully my response has been helpful.

    You clearly believe scripture is sufficiently perspicuous, what is your sufficient evidence for this?

    We’ve been discussing this for some time over on that other thread I’ve mentioned. In brief outline, my reasons for believing in the perspicuity of Scripture are these: 1. I know of no sufficient positive evidence to show that it was an established doctrine in the early period of church history (including the Scriptures and the church fathers) that there is an infallible source of authority outside of Scripture, such as an infallible teaching magisterium or an infallible oral tradition. Rather, I think the evidence suggests the opposite. 2. I think there is positive evidence that all the churches which claim to have an infallible teaching authority have committed errors in their teaching in some area or another, which would invalidate their infallibility claims. The conversation about libertarian freedom going on on the other thread is an attempt of mine to provide an example of this sort of thing. 3. Oral traditions supposedly from the apostles held by some in the early church do not seem to be reliable enough to consider an infallible authority. For example, there was a controversy over Easter where both sides claimed to have an apostolic tradition on the subject, but their claims contradicted each other. (Bryan, elsewhere, has argued that these claims were not truly contradictory, but that both positions were actually apostolic. But Eusebius, who reports on the controversy, suggests that the claims were contradictory.) For another example, we have Irenaeus claiming that Jesus lived to be fifty years old, which is highly unlikely. Etc. 4. While the early church came to an eventual consensus on the books in the Protestant canon, the Apocrypha was never the object of such a complete consensus, and even to this day it is not put on exactly the same level as the books of the Protestant canon (such as by the Eastern Orthodox Church). 5. Putting these former points together, I conclude that there is good reason to take the books accepted in the Protestant canon as infallibly authoritative, but not anything else. And this implies logically that we must be able to understand what the Bible is objectively saying, because we have no other infallible source of guidance to tell us what it means. 6. I am aware of no evidence that shows that any of these former points are wrong or unworkable, and therefore I have no reason to reject them. 7. Therefore, I conclude that Scripture is the alone infallible authority and is perspicuous–meaning that its objective meaning can be understand without the guidance of any other infallible authority.

    Of course, much would have to be done to prove each of these points thoroughly. I cannot write a single post doing that, particularly in a forum such as this. So I have tried to focus on individual parts of this and have started conversations on them (hence the conversation on libertarian freedom in the other thread, as well as my joining in conversations such as this one where I defend the workability of the perspicuity thesis and respond to objections such as the “good and intelligent people disagree” argument).

    To all:

    I said earlier (#36) that I would bring up some specific biblical passages that I think contradict RC doctrine. I am hesitant to do this, because I am not sure how helpful it will be. We have here a deeper dispute on how to interpret Scripture, and so bringing up Scripture passages as evidence for the perspicuity of Scripture seems to me to get dangerously close to begging the question. I think that Ted has done a good job of pointing out some biblical arguments that directly support the idea of the perspicuity of Scripture. The difficulty with biblical passages in the context of a conversation like this is that the Bible is the writings of human beings, and there is often not an intrinsic infallible objective certainty involved in interpreting the writings of human beings. On my things, we have to arrive at an interpretation based on the best reading of the evidence, without being able to say that our interpretation is inherently absolutely certain. If Scripture is perspicuous, we can make an argument that the best objective reading of the text must certainly be the right reading, because otherwise God would be misleading. So there is a way to get to objective certainty in interpretation, I think, but it depends on the assumption of perspicuity. If someone doesn’t believe in Protestant perspicuity, but rather holds to belief in an infallible magisterium, he might think that we should always go with the reading the magisterium affirms rather than the reading that would be taken to be best without such a magisterium. So, in short, making biblical arguments in this context is often a very complex matter, and so I have focused on more direct evidences (such as trying to show that libertarian free will is logically absurd).

    Another difficulty with bringing up biblical passages in this context is that I don’t think a clear case can be made for many things simply by putting forward one or two verses from the Bible. Rather, a cumulative biblical case needs to be made, putting together many biblical passages. So I’ve strugged to figure out how to respond to your (Bryan’s) request of me to put forward biblical passages.

    So here’s an attempt at this: I’m going to give you a link to this article, which makes a case for the five points of Calvinism. Elements of these points were condemned by the RCC in the condemnation of the five points of Jansen and at other times. Now, on the other thread, we’ve been running into the complexity of understanding exactly what the RC position is on these topics. So I don’t know how much of what Piper argues in this article will be agreed upon as consistent with RC doctrine, but I’m sure that no RC will agree with all of the fifth point–perseverance of the saints. It is clear to me that the whole Calvinistic system implies the rejection of libertarian free will, which some of you seem to think is required (but where and how?) in RC doctrine. So perhaps this article, and the biblical case it makes, can function as a source of conversation. I think Piper has quite sufficiently proved that the five points are biblical, and it is evident to me that they contradict established RC doctrine (such as exhibited in the condemnations of Jansen).

    Bryan, if your response to my providing this article is to say that it is not acceptable, and that I ought to bring up one or two verses by themselves rather than providing a larger cumulative case, then I will have to respond that such requirements create an impossible task for my position, because biblical cases for doctrines often simply cannot be made in such a simple way. It may be that doing justice to these issues is impossible in a forum such as this. If that is so, so be it. I’m continuing to learn more and more as time goes by what can be expected out of forums such as these and what cannot be. I’m probably still a bit naive on this point, so forgive me if I try to do the impossible sometimes! :-)

    Thanks!

    Mark

  62. Ted (re: 60);
    Why not?

    From 46 I take your view to be that Jesus taught that the teachings of Scripture are clear.

    Therefore, I understand your view to be that all those who disagree with you and your tradition on baptism (or anything else) are suppressing the clear teachings of Scripture.

    Is this an accurate summary of your view?

    If I’m conveying your view accurately, what evidence do you offer that other traditions and not you and your tradition are doing the suppressing?

    I want to know because if I’m doubting the perspicuity view for bad reasons, I want to change.

    I also want to believe and practice correctly when it comes to baptism. I think it’s a big deal since it’s in the Great Commission and all. I just don’t think the sola scriptura/perspicuity paradigm is adequate for reaching clarity on what Jesus wants regarding baptism (among other things).

    thanks,
    Mark

  63. Mark S (62),

    Based on Jesus’ words in Mat. 4:4, the interpretation and obedience to Scripture is perspicuous, in that it is both plain, and simple enough for all men (#40). It is given by God for us to live by.

    He gives a way for all of us, weak as we all are, to believe and obey Scripture. It is called Precept and Example.

    Then apply the simple hermeneutic of precept and example to any doctrinal or practical question you have, and you should be able to come to the same answer John the Baptist came to when he asked, “Are you the coming One, or do we look for another?”

    I hope you read the article.

  64. Mark S (42),

    Yes, since Jesus taught man shall live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mat. 4:4), it would be sin for me to believe that He is asking me to live by something unclear.

    The process by which a person can know what to believe and what to obey is by reading Scripture and observing the hermeneutic of Precept and Example.

    If you will submit to Scripture by this simple process, you will be able to answer all of your questions with the words of God, not the words of men.

  65. Mark S – I don’t know if you’ll get this, but my posts are no longer being accepted here.

  66. Ted, (re: #65)

    Thanks to your most recent comment, I went digging in the spam filter, and found two of your comments in there. So, your comments are still being accepted here. If this happens again, send the moderator (or me) an email and let me know. I don’t have any idea why the spam filter sometimes puts legitimate comments in the spam filter.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  67. Ted,

    I don’t understand. Matthew 4:4 doesn’t say “Scripture is perspicuous. It says:

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

    jj

  68. Bryan,

    Are you able to post up the first of my responses to Mark S?

  69. Ted, that’s everything I’ve received from you. If a comment is missing, please resend it.

  70. Thanks again Bryan, #64 is the one.

  71. JJ (67),

    Does Jesus say “try to live on” or does He command you, “live”?

    Does He say, live by “the words that come from the mouth of God that you can understand” or “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”?

  72. Ted (#71)

    Does He say, live by “the words that come from the mouth of God that you can understand” or “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”?

    Certainly He says ‘live.’ I don’t see how that is the same as saying ‘Scripture is perspicuous.’ It would seem to imply at least the following assumptions – whose truth is not obvious to me:

    1) The ‘words from the Mouth of God’ means ‘the words in the Bible’ and only that – it doesn’t mean ‘words spoken by His Church that are not necessarily written down in the Bible’
    2) Living by them means reading them and understanding them for myself (rather than, for instance, hearing them and being taught them by His Church.

    It seems to me that you would need to demonstrate the truth of these two propositions, at least.

    I think you have covered a lot of ground between ‘live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ to ‘Scripture is perspicuous.’ The two statements are not at all the same, and I do not see that you have shown that the second is entailed by the first.

    jj

  73. Solo Scriptura fail:

    What Matthew Barrett needs to avoids this, is Tradition. But as I’ve explained in the article above, without a Magisterium there is no way to determine what does and does not belong to authoritative Tradition.

  74. “Solo Scriptura” fail: “Barton & Copeland: The Bible Says Soldiers Should Not Suffer From Guilt Or PTSD”

  75. Solo Scriptura fail:

  76. Bryan,

    In the original article, you said:

    This claim amounts to the notion that whatever agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is authoritative ‘tradition,’ and whatever does not agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture is not ‘tradition.’ So again, we put the ‘authoritative’ label on that which agrees with our interpretation, and then claim to be under the “subordinate” authority of those labeled things. Anything that does not conform to our interpretation of Scripture is not included in ‘tradition,’ so we never have to submit to anything that does not already conform to our interpretation of Scripture. In other words, we never have to submit at all.

    If a Protestant is raised in a particular domination such as the OPC, which holds the WCF to be authoritative, wouldn’t that count as authoritative tradition for them? That is, they could not in good conscience disregard sections of the confession even if they had a private opinion about a particular verse that ran contrary to the confession.

    Also, in another thread, voiced criticism about Catholics who openly disagree with the Catechism as if it’s no big deal. But, the words of the Catechism are not infallible (unless they quote prior infallible teaching), so wouldn’t that qualify as an authoritative non-infallible source for the Catholic? And if the Catholic can have that, then why can’t a Protestant have that?

    Peace,
    John D.

  77. JohnD (re: #76)

    See section IV. C. The Delusion of Derivative Authority in our article titled “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  78. The following question is probably answered in an article or the comments section (if so, I’d appreciate if someone point me in the right direction); there’s a lot of talk about authority but what is meant by it?

  79. Andrew (re #78):

    It seems nobody has gotten back directly with you, so allow me to speak to your question.

    First, I would check out Jeremy Tate’s excellent article found here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-authority-of-divine-love/

    Second, I would check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church here:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a2.htm

    And I would check this out, too:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a3.htm

    Hopefully that gives you something to sink your teeth into.

    Blessings!

  80. Herbert

    Thanks for taking the time to post these. I’ll read them and see what I think.

    Andrew

  81. I am a first time poster, and reader of Called To Communion. A Catholic friend that I debate with told me about this site, so I thought I might post something. There are so many comments that I will simply provide my thoughts on this post.

    As a “reformed” christian I agree that there is a difference between solo and sola scriptura. I believe that the bible is not the Word of God, but simply the words of God in which one can find the Word of God. This Word can come through Scripture, the church, the Holy Spirit, and God’s creation (nature). The problem with Nature is that it might tell you that there is a God, but not much about him. The problem with the Holy Spirit is that his guidance is difficult to quantify and unanimously identify. I consider the “church” to be the “Body of Believers” with God as its Head. I consider this church more abstract, or a superset, that contains the RC Church and other denominations. This may be semantically different than what RCs believe. This church can provide a foundation for interpreting the scriptures. Ultimately it is up to the individual to find truth. You can attempt to find this truth by reading only the scriptures by yourself, with the churches guidance, or strictly as your denomination dictates… but that is ultimately your choice (although it may not be a wise one).

    I disagree on many points Bryan made, especially when he said:

    what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture

    Tradition is historical. Yes, I may be able to point to the scriptures to find this history, but I can point to many other sources (and sometimes the lack there of). The main reason why I don’t believe church should claim to have a complete understanding of the scriptures, and ultimately a source that should be believed at all costs, is that of history. At one point every Jew knew and held the Torah, even in the time of Jesus. Yet we find many different denominations, one of which didn’t even believe in an afterlife, but all thinking they had the correct understanding. NONE of them did. There were councils, high priests… yet they still all deviated from the true Word. The Torah didn’t change, but the people’s understanding did. That is why I focus on the scriptures as a superior source for God’s Word. Since the church is made of men, and men are fallible, I believe that Tradition is fallible and has been proven so before. It is not difficult to back-propagate a belief and say it was always held. What is infallible is God’s Word. My primary sources for this Word are the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and the church; in that order. If others believe like I do and talk about Sola Scriptura… it is much more than simply the scriptures alone.

  82. Brandon P (re: #81)

    Welcome to CTC. You said that you disagreed with my claim that [given sola scriptura] “what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.” You claim instead that history tells us what is and isn’t Tradition. There is a sense in which I agree with you, but I wonder if you accept the consequences of your claim. For example, do you accept baptismal regeneration?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  83. Thank you Bryan for that welcome. I do believe that baptismal regeneration is a very key element of accepting God’s saving grace. I may define the term ‘baptism’ differently, however. For me, baptism is more than a submersion or sprinkling of water. In my understanding of baptism, it is an outward symbol of an inner change. This change is a change in direction; from your will to God’s will. You have died in sin and have been risen to a new life, cleansed by the saving grace of God. The water is a symbol of this change, but the acceptance of God’s grace is the true baptism that washes the soul.

    I see infant baptism as a dedication by the parents and church analogous to circumcision in the Abrahamic covenant. I do not believe it posses the same qualities as “believer’s baptism”. Since I see baptism not as a literal sprinkling that is required for salvation, I am not worried about infants that die without this baptism. I believe that God is a merciful, loving, God that knows the heart and spirit of his people. That is why I do not see “limbo” as part of his plan.

    I like this quote from Origen:

    We next remark in passing that the baptism of John was inferior to the baptism of Jesus which was given through His disciples.

    John came baptizing with water, but Jesus came baptizing with the Spirit. Water does not clean a man’s soul, but it is the Spirit of God.

    I may have been a little verbose… I hope that in this attempt I actually answered your question. What are the consequences of my claim that I need to accept?

  84. Brandon P (re: #83),

    Would you find cause for concern if your understanding of baptismal regeneration did not align with the historical understanding of the doctrine?

    If what you describe as baptismal regeneration in your comment above differs with what the early Church wrote and taught on the subject, then aren’t you violating your own rule that history tells us what is and isn’t Tradition?

    Peace,
    John D.

  85. JohnD (re: #84),

    Would you find cause for concern if your understanding of baptismal regeneration did not align with the historical understanding of the doctrine?

    Yes, I would be concerned receiving any respectable opposing viewpoint, on any matter I believed to be true regarding God. I do, however, always look for truth.

    If what you describe as baptismal regeneration in your comment above differs with what the early Church wrote and taught on the subject, then aren’t you violating your own rule that history tells us what is and isn’t Tradition?

    No, I would not be violating it… it simply would not be a Traditional view point.

    As to your hypothetical what-if, I assume that you believe my view point is not traditional. I never said it was. If I had made that claim, what Early Church sources can you quote that would prove otherwise. History is interesting. There were a lot of people back then… somehow I bet you will not find the ones that agree with me. The problem with us throwing ancient quotes around is that ultimately they have to be interpreted. If there is one thing that I have learned from debating my Catholic friends it is that for them, everything is interpreted through the guise of Tradition (especially tradition). I’d like to see your sources, I can show you mine… but the simple fact that I even have sources makes the point moot (assuming that I know exactly what the disagreement is over).

  86. Brandon P (re: #85),

    No, I would not be violating it… it simply would not be a Traditional view point.

    Gotcha. When I asked my question I did not have your statement from your original comment in mind that: Since the church is made of men, and men are fallible, I believe that Tradition is fallible and has been proven so before. In light of that, your comment makes more sense. Also, (as you may be aware) when Catholics say Tradition (capital T), they refer to “divinely revealed Truths handed down by Christ and the Apostles that are part of the deposit of faith”. So, by definition, a Catholic would say Tradition (capital T) is infallible, but tradition (lower case t, i.e. any custom, practice, or belief transmitted from one generation to another) is not known or claimed to be infallible.

    If I had made that claim, what Early Church sources can you quote that would prove otherwise. History is interesting.

    In #82, Bryan links to an article of early sources pertaining to baptismal regeneration.

    Peace,
    John D.

  87. Hello Brandon,

    I’m still trying to understand your position. I used the baptism example not to take us into the topic of baptism, but as an example to think through how you determine what counts as Tradition. In comment #85 you wrote:

    No, I would not be violating it… it simply would not be a Traditional view point.

    And in comment #81, you wrote:

    As a “reformed” christian I agree that there is a difference between solo and sola scriptura.

    What exactly do you think that difference is? (Neal and I have addressed this in our article “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”)

    It sounds like you are saying that if your position on baptism differs from that of the Church Fathers, then even if on this point their position is part of the Tradition, then in this case Tradition is wrong. If that’s what you’re saying, then I don’t see how your position differs in principle from “solo scriptura,” because then you are treating Tradition as ‘authoritative’ [notice the single quotes] only where it agrees with your interpretation of Scripture, which seems no different in principle from my statement which you took issue with in comment #81, that, [given sola scriptura] “what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  88. I am a little confused, I think there might have been a few assumptions that were made.

    Bryan, it sounds like you were assuming that everything I believe in has to be traditional, like my views on baptism. This is not aways so.

    As for the difference between “solo” and “sola” scriptura, I thought I answered that in #81.

    I am also confused because John D. seems to imply that my views on baptismal regeneration are not historical. I am still not sure exactly which part of my view he feels is not historical and who is opposing that view. It seems like we are in agreement.

    A Justin Martyr quote from the provided link above:

    testify that that very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented; and this is the water of life. But the cisterns which you have dug for yourselves are broken and profitless to you. For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses the flesh and body alone?

    You see, there is repentance… a notion that echos exactly what I stated above. He goes on to state exactly what I was saying. What is the use of a baptism that cleans the flesh and body alone? Baptism is more than water. It is difficult to clarify my position if I am not told which aspect needs clarification. I can only assume you both agree with me and the Early Church and feel my views are both historical and correct since no one has said otherwise.

    It sounds like you are saying that if your position on baptism differs from that of the Church Fathers, then even if on this point their position is part of the Tradition, then in this case Tradition is wrong.

    I am not saying that at all. I am not sure where you are getting that idea, or how you are making that conclusion. I think there are assumptions being made, but I am not sure what they are. I am still a little confused. I think maybe you asked a question hoping for it to go somewhere it didn’t go. I am not sure what you were expecting me to say, but for some reason we are talking baptism in a sola scripture discussion.

  89. Brandon (re: #88)

    Ok, let’s back up then. Would you explain carefully why exactly you disagree with “what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture”? I don’t yet see why you disagree with that, and how you decide what gets to count as Tradition. Thanks very much for your patience.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  90. Would you explain carefully why exactly you disagree with “what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture”?

    It seems common sense, there is no real theology in my answer at all:

    1. Tradition is historical. Tradition does not have to be based around the Scriptures, thus it may not be interpretable.

    I guess I will stop there. The simple fact that tradition can be outside of scripture I think makes this point. Just because scripture does not disagree with it, does not mean that it agrees with it. Tradition can be true, or it can be false. Tradition can change or be understood differently over time. Baptizing by submersion; that is a tradition. It happens to be old and biblical. Sprinkling is a tradition; it is also old but not found in the Bible (afaik). The only way I can interpret the Scriptures to form an opinion on sprinkling is if I eisegete the text.

    I am concerned as to why you think I should not be able to disagree with that statement. You don’t agree with it, correct? What is compelling me to agree, in your opinion? It seems like more a problem with logic than theology.

  91. Brandon, (re: #90)

    Thanks for your reply. That helps me understand your position. Your statement, ” Tradition can be true, or it can be false” is especially helpful, because it shows that your conception of the term ‘Tradition’ is different from my (and the Catholic) conception of the term. In the Catholic conception of the term ‘Tradition,’ it is not true that “Tradition can be false.” For a fuller explanation of the Catholic conception of the term ‘Tradition,’ see “VIII. Scripture and Tradition” in my follow-up to the Michael Horton interview in Modern Reformation. Given your conception of the term, it makes sense why you would disagree with my statement, “what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s own interpretation of Scripture.”

    But now that I understand your conception of the term “Tradition,” I don’t see why you think (as you wrote in comment #81) that there is a difference between solo and sola scriptura. That’s because if, as you believe, “Tradition” did not come from the Apostles, and thus has no authority, it cannot provide any authoritative norm regarding the interpretation of Scripture. So, please help me understand why you think there is a difference between solo and sola scriptura. Just so you know, Neal and I have argued in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” that there is no principled difference between “solo scriptura” and “sola scriptura.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  92. Bryan C (re: 91),

    All of this was laid out in #81 where I specifically went over my views on infallibility, with reason.

    That’s because if, as you believe, “Tradition” did not come from the Apostles, and thus has no authority, it cannot provide any authoritative norm regarding the interpretation of Scripture.

    Brian, you appear to read the bible believing your understanding is correct, hung on the hat of relinquished responsibility to an authority you believe to be infallible. There is an assumption that you can not have authority without infallibility. I will leave with these points of authority:

    1. The Scripture is authority, outside of how I understand it. I can not make it say anything it does not say without eisegeting the text. Thus, in my opinion, everything needed to be obtained from Scripture can be plainly read.
    2. The church can act as authority for helping guide readers through Scripture.

    Now there are 5 churches, all of them different. Which one do you go with to receive this understanding?

    3. Prayer and Holy Spirit authority. I believe that the only Spirit can guide God’s people.
    4. History. You can look back and see what early church writers had to say about these topics. The earlier they are, the closer you could get. They may not agree with you.

    The problem with Tradition is that, in my opinion, a lot of it did not come from the time of the Apostles and was thus not passed down. That is why I made the earlier comment about back-propagating beliefs. That is to say, you have a more “modern” idea and claim that it was always held. You tell people that your claim is infallible and that if they want to stay within your body they must believe it, even if they don’t agree or understand it. And so Tradition grows. It is a shame because it then requires someone, or some body, to objectively look at all that mess and try to figure out what might have been a real traditional view point. But it ultimately, again, boils down to infallibility. I have a great reason why I don’t believe in it, detailed in #81. You could claim that Christ changed all that, but I would just argue that he didn’t… at least not in the way you see it. Ultimately you would circle back to your infallible Tradition. Infallibility is a different topic than Sola Scriptura, so I don’t need to bring up its interesting history here.

    I hope that might have shed some light on my views, and how others possibly see Sola Scriptura. You may not agree with it, but that doesn’t mean it is not true (unless it goes against Tradition, of course. poke).

    Thank you for the discussion, God bless.

  93. Brandon (re: #92)

    Thanks for your reply. I read through it carefully, twice, and I don’t see the answer to my question: Why do you think there is a difference between solo and sola scriptura? You’re writing about infallibility, authority, Scripture, etc., but I don’t see any place where you explain why you think (as you stated in #81) that there is a difference between sola scriptura and “solo scriptura.” Again, thanks for your patience.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  94. The problem with Peter Leithart’s most recent response to the growth of an individualistic approach to reading Scripture is that any individualist can fully affirming everything Leithart says there. No “solo scriptura’ individualist denies that the Bible was written by many persons. What is missing from Leithart’s antidote is tracing forward the community of the faithful that continues to exist after the death of the Apostle John and persists up to the present day, and within which Scripture is to be received and understood. Hence “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

  95. Bryan (re:#93)

    I would define Solo Scriptura as simply “my understanding of the scriptures” as the sole authority on Christianity. When I use a blanket term like Sola Scriptura I am meaning the scriptures are my primary authority on Christianity. I detail this in #81 and #92. The Scriptures are not the only authority. The Word of God transcends the written word, so I do not feel bound by it.

  96. Sola Scriptura fail:

    In 1980, Falwell used his unparalleled platform to change all that. Declaring that “[t]he Bible clearly teaches that life begins at conception,” he allied with like-minded evangelicals to disseminate that interpretation across America. Falwell’s assertion that this position was the obvious one in Scripture necessarily implied that the host of intelligent, pious evangelicals who came before him just didn’t read their Bibles closely enough. It also made the Bible say the same thing his Catholic political allies believed (though Catholics believed it for other reasons).

    Although this was politically convenient, Falwell’s interpretations were just as much a product of his time as those of his evangelical predecessors. Late 1960s evangelicals were reacting against Catholics; early 1980s evangelicals were joining them. And as evangelicals moved from one historical context to another, “the biblical view on abortion” followed suit.

    Why does it matter that what evangelical leaders say is “the biblical view on abortion” was not a widespread interpretation until about 30 years ago? For one thing, it’s harder to argue the Bible clearly teaches something when the overwhelming majority of its past interpreters didn’t read the Bible that way. For another, it illustrates that evangelical leaders are happy to defend creative reinterpretations of the Bible when it fits with a socially conservative worldview — even while objecting to new interpretations of the Bible on, say, homosexuality, precisely because they are new. And for another, by looking at the history of how today’s “biblical view on abortion” arose, one can begin to see the worldview that made it possible. In the process, it becomes apparent it is that unacknowledged worldview, and not the Bible, that evangelical opponents of abortion are actually defending.

    How Evangelicals Decided that Life Begins at Conception.”

  97. Brandon P. (re: #95),

    The Scriptures are not the only authority. The Word of God transcends the written word, so I do not feel bound by it.

    What else is an authority for you? And I’m not really sure what you mean by the second sentence.

    Peace,
    John D.

  98. Kevin DeYoung (senior pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, MI) and Greg Gilbert (senior pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY), in their book What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011), write:

    We are often told that creation care is a justice issue, the gap between rich and poor is a justice issue, advocating for a “living wage” is a justice issue. But the examination of the main social justice texts has shown that justice is a much more prosaic category in the Bible. Doing justice means not showing partiality, not stealing, not swindling, not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you. (pp. 176–177)

    This is one more example of “solo scriptura,” because Kevin and Greg here treat the Bible as an ethics textbook that gives us everything we need to know regarding what is and isn’t justice, and hence they attempt to determine what justice is and isn’t by examining all the places justice is discussed in the Bible, as if there is no authoritative Tradition regarding ethics by which the concept of justice is illumined and the interpretation of Scripture is rightly guided and informed. Their approach to the question of justice, therefore, presupposes the non-existence of such an authoritative Tradition, and thus presupposes “solo scriptura.” From a Catholic point of view, Kevin and Greg are attempting to answer a question while wearing blinders.

    That’s also the case because their approach to the justice question presupposes the non-existence of the philosophical discipline of ethics, and thus presupposes either that philosophy doesn’t exist or has nothing to contribute to theology. But that’s a separate problem from presupposing the non-existence of authoritative Tradition.

    (The biblicism of “solo scripture” is not to be confused with “scripturalism,” which is the notion that “all of our knowledge is to be derived from the Bible, which has a systematic monopoly on truth.” (source)

  99. Hi Bryan, (98)

    Right. Although i don’t think they would say the Bible gives “everything we need to know regarding what is and isn’t justice…” Instead, they would want the ethics of the Bible to judge all other ethical concerns expressed by all traditions and philosophies.

    Nor would they agree their approach to the justice question presupposes the non-existence of the philosophical discipline of ethics…” That’s a non-sequitar. They certainly do recognize it, but not as authoritative.

    Your assumption is that the Bible doesn’t provide, alone, and by itself, all the information necessary to judge all human philosophy, including ethics and Roman Catholicism.

    I for one do.

  100. Bryan,

    DeYoung and Gilbert say, “the main social justice texts has shown that justice is a much more prosaic category in the Bible.” You believe that this statement means that,

    Their approach to the question of justice, therefore, presupposes the non-existence of such an authoritative Tradition, and thus presupposes “solo scriptura.”…their approach to the justice question presupposes the non-existence of the philosophical discipline of ethics, and thus presupposes either that philosophy doesn’t exist or has nothing to contribute to theology.

    The writers do not affirm any of the things that you claim they do in the above quote. They are simply making a point that justice in the Bible is conceptually broader and more specific than the other justice issues that are popularly conceived. In no way do they deny the existence of philosophy, ethics, or church tradition.

  101. Great article Bryan. The longer I am Catholic and can more easily distill the difference in my thinking as a Reformed believer vs. a Catholic one, I think the simplest way to describe it, with the least words, is the difference between what vs. who.

    When scripture was percieved as the top authority, I was only focused on what it was suposedly saying.

    Now that I see scripture and its teaching subsumed under the mantle of magisterial authority, the key question is who is the magisterium.

    But oddly, once I came to believe the latter Catholic way, I realized that there was still a (hidden) magisterium in the former Protestant way as well (me or my chosen teachers).

    So it is and was always a “who” for me. It cannot be escaped for us to have a “who” who identifies “what” authentic tradition even is. So for me as a Reformed person to desire “sola” scriptura, where “authentic” tradition is included for study, was obviously just papering over the issue, because there were a dozen Protestant traditions I would not have dreamed of including as authentic… including any Baptist or radical Reformation traditions. So it is and was always WHO decides. And you will run out of fingers really quick counting the Christian groups that even claim to definitively have a “who” that will point the way for you. In fact I can only think of 2 that are trinitarian.

    David

  102. Ted, (re: #99)

    Instead, they would want the ethics of the Bible to judge all other ethical concerns expressed by all traditions and philosophies.

    I agree that this is how they understand what they are doing. But, as I have argued, the notion that Tradition is judged by our Tradition-less interpretation of Scripture, just is a form of “solo scriptura,” because a “tradition” I choose or reject on accounts of its agreement or disagreement with my own interpretation of Scripture is not authoritative.

    Nor would they agree their approach to the justice question presupposes the non-existence of the philosophical discipline of ethics…” That’s a non-sequitar. They certainly do recognize it, but not as authoritative.

    If this discipline has something to say about social justice, then if Scripture does not say something about social justice, it does not follow that there is no such thing as social justice.

    Your assumption is that the Bible doesn’t provide, alone, and by itself, all the information necessary to judge all human philosophy, including ethics and Roman Catholicism.

    That’s not the question in this thread. The question in this thread is whether Tradition actually functions as authoritative in Protestantism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  103. Brandon, (re: #100)

    The writers do not affirm any of the things that you claim they do in the above quote.

    I did not claim that they “affirmed” these things. I claimed that their approach presupposed them.

    They are simply making a point that justice in the Bible is conceptually broader and more specific than the other justice issues that are popularly conceived.

    Actually they are claiming that justice in the Bible is narrower than justice as it is popularly conceived.

    In no way do they deny the existence of philosophy, ethics, or church tradition.

    Actually, they do, for the reasons I explained in #98. Your merely asserting otherwise does not refute the argument I gave in #98. Their biblicist approach to the question of what is justice (and to their claim that what falls under the present category of ‘social justice’ is actually not a justice issue at all) presupposes that there is no authoritative Tradition regarding justice that informs the question, and presupposes that there is no philosophical discipline of ethics that informs this question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  104. David,

    “In fact I can only think of 2 that are trinitarian.”

    Well someone could say you just put the cart before the horse there by subjecting your acceptance of the authority to your interpretation that Scripture teaches the Trinity. The submission to an authority is what guarantees the orthodox interpretation of Scripture and articles of faith like the Trinity to be accepted, not the other way around. You’d have to evaluate the credibility of both Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian proposed infallible/divine authorities such as Rome, EO, Mormons, JWs, and Crazy Dave on the street corner along different lines/criteria. Not saying you didn’t do that of course, just that line jumped out as something that was a bit question begging.

  105. A couple of questions for my Catholic friends:

    In what ways do Catholics separate the function of Scripture and Tradition? For example, Catholics read the Bible in the liturgy, but a papal encyclical wouldn’t be presented in this way. (True, the Nicene Creed is confessed, but even that differs in presentation from Scripture reading.) So they seem to me to differ in function though not in authority. Am I right?

    Also, why do Catholics venerate the divine Scriptures as they venerate the Body of the Lord, and what does this mean?

  106. Manny (re: #105)

    In what ways do Catholics separate the function of Scripture and Tradition? For example, Catholics read the Bible in the liturgy, but a papal encyclical wouldn’t be presented in this way. (True, the Nicene Creed is confessed, but even that differs in presentation from Scripture reading.) So they seem to me to differ in function though not in authority. Am I right?

    Scripture is itself part of the Apostolic Tradition. So the more accurate distinction is between the written Tradition, and the unwritten Tradition. Scripture is the God-breathed words of God, but the wording of the unwritten Tradition is not God-breathed, though it too is divine in origin. For a good explanation of the role of Scripture in the liturgy, see Scott Hahn’s Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy; see also paragraphs 52-71 of Verbum Domini. For a brief overview of the Catholic understanding of the relation of Scripture and Tradition, see “VIII: Scripture and Tradition” in my reply to Michael Horton, and paragraphs 17 and 18 of Verbum Domini.

    Also, why do Catholics venerate the divine Scriptures as they venerate the Body of the Lord, and what does this mean?

    We venerate things that are in some sense sacred or divine. Scripture is the word of God to man (not to be confused with the Eternally Begotten Logos, who is the Second Person of the Trinity). Hence we venerate Scripture. But the Bible is not God Himself. Hence we do not give latria (adoration) to the Bible itself. The Eucharist is the Logos Himself; hence we do give latria to the consecrated Host and Precious Blood. The distinction between latria and veneration is clear in the second-century account titled The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, which includes the following statement,

    For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  107. Solo Scriptura fail: “Central VA congregation worships nude

  108. Now, now, Bryan. No need to get cheeky.

  109. Solo Scriptura fail:

    1) The biblical narrative clearly tells of a God who changes, and any hermeneutic that denies this is tortured.

    2) Any being who changes is necessarily, in part, temporal.

    3) “Eternal” is a totalizing characteristic. It is not possible for a thing to be partly temporal and partly eternal.

    4) Therefore, God is not eternal.

    Tony Jones summarizing Nicholas Wolterstorff. (For the problem with this position, see comment #57 in the “Doug Wilson Weighs in” thread.)

  110. Orthodox deacon Gabe Martini: “Reading Scripture in Tradition: Why Sola Scriptura Doesn’t Work” (Feb 12, 2014)

  111. Regarding #109, without the Tradition by which we know that God is immutable, the “plain” or “natural” reading of many passages of Scripture implies that God changes. So using the “plain” or “natural” sense as a key guiding hermeneutical criterion, without the light of Tradition, leads to something akin to process theology. And if the Tradition is treated as subordinate in authority to [one’s Tradition-less interpretation of] Scripture, then from this point of view, the Tradition can be evaluated and tossed out by the standard of one’s Tradition-less interpretation of the plain reading of Scripture. Thus in order for the Tradition to have authority, it must be the standard by which Scripture is interpreted, not that which is evaluated (and selected or rejected) by one’s Tradition-less interpretation of Scripture.

  112. But Bryan (111),

    Then why do less than 1 in 100,000 serious protestant scholars through the centuries embrace process theology (accept my numbers, citations to come later…).

    No, it’s because Scripture itself teaches “God is not a man, that He should change, nor a son of man, that He should lie.” “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

    Therefore, the passages that speak of God repenting are revelations of Himself to explain things anthropomorphically. You know, like “God made Israel with His hands,” though God is Spirit.

    If tradition worked, it would keep this kind of stuff from happening: http://www.ctr4process.org/publications/Biblio/Thematic/Roman%20Catholic.html

  113. Ted, (re: #112)

    Then why do less than 1 in 100,000 serious protestant scholars through the centuries embrace process theology (accept my numbers, citations to come later…).

    Protestantism is living in large measure on the continued inertia of what it brought with it from Catholicism. But that inertia is largely spent. I’ve mentioned or discussed this in comment #187 in the “Time Magazine” post in early 2009, in comment #17 of the “Branches or Schisms?” post later in 2009, in comment #67 of “The Tu Quoque” post in 2010, in comments #46 and #50 of the Dialogue with Michael Horton post in late 2010, in comment #73 of the Christ Founded a Visible Church post in early 2011, and in comment #22 of the “Catholics are divided too Objection” in 2012.

    If tradition worked, it would keep this kind of stuff from happening

    That conclusion does not follow from that premise. Theology papers written by Catholic thinkers about process thought are not the teaching of the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  114. Hey Bryan,

    Hope all is swell since I last popped in via a comment over here. I’ve got a very general question, and I hope you’ll permit me to ask it here. If not, you can delete this and answer me over email. Or disregard, it’s fine with me.

    My question is this: where do you see Prot/Cath relations headed? Or maybe better said, what is your vision of how these traditions coexist, going forward, should look like, in your view? How do youbfeel things are now, in relation to where they maybe should be?

    I’m looking for your assessment of the landscape, I guess. Feel free to link me to a comment or whatever you think is your response.

    I ask, because your website represents a vast investment of time, in what seems is mostly yours, but also all of the people who have signed on to your mission here at Called to Communion.

    You know, it’s 2014, we will be at 500 years since October 31, 1517 here before we know it. Any of your thoughts on this, my question, are welcome.

    Take care.

  115. Andrew (re: #114)

    My question is this: where do you see Prot/Cath relations headed?

    Generally, toward reconciliation and reunion. There are better relations than there were a hundred years ago, and more dialogues. There is better mutual understanding, and more awareness of common ground, and mutual respect and recognition of shared faith in Christ. There is also a growing awareness in certain Protestant circles of the importance of ecclesiology, the role of second-order questions, bound up in traditions or paradigms. There are still obstacles, and ecumenicism has stalled recently, but that’s because we’ve only scratched the surface, and additional ecumenical progress requires digging deeper. The moral crisis of our culture will only continue to push toward further collaboration and investigation of what still divides us. But the divided state of Christendom (especially in the West) is scandalous, hindering evangelizing and feeding apostasy.

    Or maybe better said, what is your vision of how these traditions coexist, going forward, should look like, in your view? How do youbfeel things are now, in relation to where they maybe should be?

    We should already be reunited. It shouldn’t take 500 years to resolve a disagreement. What concerns me more than the 500 years, however, is the general indifference and apathy among many leaders regarding the state of division. Over the course of a year, the average pastor or priest is doing almost nothing aimed at Protestant-Catholic reconciliation per se. (Just follow the average pastor or priest’s blog, and see how often he writes posts aimed at effecting Protestant-Catholic reconciliation.) But that’s the challenge that (from the Catholic point of view) Catholics have to face and overcome. We can’t sit idling our thumbs waiting for more Protestants (and more Catholics) to beat down the doors pursuing unity at the dialogue table. We have to pray and work in an evangelistic way to raise awareness of the problem of our state of division. Love doesn’t wait for the other to come to oneself; love goes out and reaches out to the other. So Catholics can’t wait for Protestants to reach out over the wall; Catholics should outdo Protestants in love, and thus in reaching out in love to effect reconciliation and reunion.

    Enjoy your evening with your valentine!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  116. Catholics should outdo Protestants in love, and thus in reaching out in love to effect reconciliation and reunion.

    As a prot, I’ll take that as a challenge. Game on.

    Enjoy your evening with your valentine!

    Back at ya. Don’t forget to buy flowers. If your wife is anything like mine, being married to yours truly, she’s earned that, and more.

    Peace, and thanks.

  117. “Solo Scriptura” fail:

    Snake Salvation Pastor Dies from Rattlesnake Bite during Worship Service

    Update: “Kentucky snake handler death doesn’t shake belief

  118. Is this an example of a “Solo Scriptura” fail as well?

    Pastor Peter LaRuffa, Grace Fellowship Church, Newport, KY (via HBO’s Questioning Darwin)

    If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.

  119. “Solo Scriptura” fail:

    “Snake Salvation Pastor Dies from Rattlesnake Bite during Worship Service”

    Catholics should outdo Protestants in love, and thus in reaching out in love to effect reconciliation and reunion.

    Perhaps this man’s death was partially or ultimately caused by an improper interpretive paradigm, and perhaps pointing that fact out is more loving than withholding correction. But, Jesus loved him and died for him, he has a name (Jamie) and a family. I have enjoyed and learned from the stories labeled “Solo Scriptura fail” above, but the phrase is too short and general to convey any accompanying emotions (whether sympathy or gloating). As it relates to this story in particular, as a recent Catholic convert with friends and experiences on both sides, I hope to clarify and convey sadness at both this man’s death and the fractured theological landscape that may have negatively influenced him.

  120. Mark, (re: #118)

    It should go without saying that Jesus loves Jamie and died for him, since He loves and died for everyone, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere here. But there is no “perhaps” about whether bad theology contributed to Jamie’s death. And the reason the phrase “is too short and general to convey any accompanying emotions” is that it is not intended to communicate any particular emotion, but only to provide an example (among many) of the failure of the “solo scriptura” paradigm. In no way is it intended to trivialize Jamie’s death, or gloat over this event, or anything of that sort. One reason we write here is precisely because we care about people who are negatively affected in many ways by bad theology, and we seek, among other things, to expose such theology for what it is. But criticism of bad theology is not the same as criticism of (or disregard for) persons deceived by or unwittingly promoting such theology. Our prayer is not only for the eternal rest of Jamie’s soul, and for the comfort and healing of his family and community, but also that all those trapped in bad theology would come to the truth. Bad theology has bad consequences, and it is precisely love, both for God and for persons, that calls us to expose error and hold up the truth in its place.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  121. Bryan, (re #119)

    I agree completely, and thanks for your words. I certainly wasn’t accusing you of ill will — I just hoped to comment on that particularly personal example in hopes that readers less familiar with the heart of CTC would be clear about its intention, with no room for misunderstanding.

    Peace,

    -Mark

  122. Here’s another example of the failure of “solo scriptura,” and everything I said in #119 about Jamie’s case applies to this case as well:

    Time Magazine: “Faith-Healing Parents Jailed After Second Child’s Death” (Feb. 19, 2014)

  123. Here’s another “solo scriptura” fail. Denny Burke, whose recent response to Donald Miller I discussed here, attempts to argue (contra Catholic doctrine) that temptation, as all of us (except Christ) experience it, is sin. He writes:

    The only time epithumia is good is when it is directed toward something morally praiseworthy. Epithumia is always evil when it is directed toward something morally blameworthy. Thus, “desire” is not neutral anywhere in this text. It’s a “desire” that “lures” and “entices.” In short, it’s a desire that is directed toward evil. Thus the desires themselves are sinful.

    He reasons that since desire directed toward something immoral is evil, thus these “desires themselves are sinful.” Such a conclusion would follow only if sin is the only kind of evil. (Hence his argument is a non sequitur, because he hasn’t established that sin is the only kind of evil.) But the underlying problem is not merely deficiency in logic. The underlying problem, as in the case with Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert discussed in comment #98 above, is that Denny attempts to answer the question as if the Church Fathers don’t exist, as if Tradition has nothing at all to say about the matter. He approaches the question as if it is to be solved by ‘me-and-my-lexicon.’ And that’s “solo scriptura.”

    When Neal and I argued that “sola scriptura” reduces to “solo scriptura,” a good portion of the Protestant response was indignation at the very suggestion. But Denny Burke is an associate professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He isn’t on the fringes of Protestantism, or an idiosyncratic case; he is just what one finds throughout that part of Protestantism that still believes in and is committed to the Bible.

  124. Here’s another example of “solo scriptura” fail. On account of social media, memes of this sort (here and here) are highly influential among younger Americans, and especially young evangelicals, regarding the issue of homosexual ‘marriage.’ Why are they so influential? Because of the widespread “solo scriptura” presupposition by which it is simply assumed that there is no authoritative Tradition according to which Scripture must be interpreted. If all Christians knew that there is an authoritative Tradition by which Scripture is to be interpreted, these memes could have no effect.

    When all the weight is put on “exegesis,” then the hermeneutical underdetermination of exegesis as a methodology allows memes like these to serve as “two can play that game,” and unmask the implicit use of imposed power by Protestant leaders who, having at best only an ad hoc relation to Tradition as described in the post at the top of this page, draw on their own personal beliefs to fill up what exegesis cannot do in order to arrive at interpretations presented as “thus saith the Lord.” Having sowed a denial of Tradition’s authority, they reap as a consequence the loss of Scripture’s authority, as stated in the Pontifacator’s second law.

    Update: “Stop Twisting the Bible: There is no message against same-sex marriage.” (April, 2014, Salon)

    What Does the The Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage.” (Lee Jefferson)

    Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality,” by Walter Wink (1979).

    Matthew Vines likewise demonstrates the failure of “solo scriptura” in the following video:

    See also Vicky Beeching’sLGBT Theology: What does the Bible say?

    Some Evangelicals Take New Look at Bible’s Stance on Gays” (NYT, June 8, 2015)

    Update: See the video by Occupy Democrats’ titled “How to silence Kim Davis supporters who cherry-pick the Bible ….”

  125. Bryan,

    Would you say Jews are in a “fail” position, as you like to put it, because they don’t have a magisterial authority to interpret tradition? Do Eastern Orthodox likewise “fail”? What about Protestants who adhere to prima scriptura instead of sola?

    I assert that your uncharitable reductio ad absurdums are “fails” in regard to profitable ecumenical dialogue. I know, I know, I can assert anything and that doesn’t make it true. Since your paradigm is assumed correct, the burden of proof always falls on your opponents. I am happy, though, that the Catholics I know in real life actually respect what I say, give me the benefit of the doubt in the Christian faith I profess, and don’t lump me in with snakehandlers, liturgical nudists, and anti-medical faith healers.

  126. Manny, (re: #124)

    Would you say Jews are in a “fail” position, as you like to put it, because they don’t have a magisterial authority to interpret tradition? Do Eastern Orthodox likewise “fail”?

    My focus here in this thread is only on the default “solo scriptura” resulting from denying the authority of Apostolic Tradition. Orthodox Jews are in a different position because not only do they not recognize the Apostolic Tradition, they also do not recognize the New Testament. The Eastern Orthodox position is obviously not “solo scriptura,” and hence its theology is not due to “solo scriptura.”

    What about Protestants who adhere to prima scriptura instead of sola?

    Prima scriptura is subject to the critique I’ve provided at the top of this page.

    I assert that your uncharitable reductio ad absurdums are “fails” in regard to profitable ecumenical dialogue. I know, I know, I can assert anything and that doesn’t make it true. Since your paradigm is assumed correct, the burden of proof always falls on your opponents. I am happy, though, that the Catholics I know in real life actually respect what I say, give me the benefit of the doubt in the Christian faith I profess, and don’t lump me in with snakehandlers, liturgical nudists, and anti-medical faith healers.

    Let’s start with the last statement first. If you think I am lumping you in with anyone, then you’ve misunderstood me, because I’ve not lumped you in with anyone, nor could I do so, because I don’t know what is your position. I’m merely providing examples of failures of “solo scriptura,” which, from your not wanting to be lumped in with them, you also seem to recognize as failures. So, apparently we are agreed on that.

    As for respecting what you say, I have no idea where you would get the idea that I don’t “respect what you say,” since I’ve never had a chance (prior to this) to read or hear what you say, and thus I’ve never been able to demonstrate respect or disrespect for what you say. Mostly I avoid the phrase “respect what you say,” because I believe that what it is more important is respecting *persons.* If what they say is true, I embrace it; if what they is false, I don’t accept it, nor do I respect it. But I strive nonetheless always to respect the person, even when he or she speaks falsehood.

    As for the burden of proof, I don’t believe that anyone who disagrees with me has the burden of proof. If I were to criticize your position, for example, I would have the burden of proof. I have argued that if someone is attempting to form and justify a schism from the Church, he has the burden of proof. Maybe that’s what you have in mind. If you disagree me on that, I’d be glad to understand why.

    Finally, your assertion that my “uncharitable reductio ad absurdums are “fails” in regard to profitable ecumenical dialogue is duly noted, though I wish you would explain why you think they are uncharitable. I suppose time will tell whether they will be ecumenically profitable. I’ve been putting them up here for only about three months. But I’m guessing that the reason you predict that they will be unprofitable is precisely because you think that in recording them, I’m lumping you (and all Protestants) together with them. What if, however, instead of lumping anyone with anyone, I was actually demonstrating the failure of a particular second order theological assumption, and thereby showing its inadequacy? If we could agree that this second order theological assumption is inadequate, then we could turn our attention to pursuing agreement concerning that by which this inadequacy is removed and resolved. And that, it seems to me, could potentially be ecumenically profitable.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  127. Here’s another “solo scriptura” fail. According to Rachel Held Evans, because Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you,” therefore [there is no such thing as material cooperation, let alone proximate mediate material cooperation], and Christians should bake cakes for ‘gay weddings’. It is as if the longstanding tradition regarding material cooperation does not even exist; all you need for ethics is a Bible.

    Update: That way of using Scripture is much like this man’s attempt to use Proverbs 31 to argue that women should not pilot airplanes.

  128. I don’t know if the rest of the country can receive the programing from “Real Radio”, that is here in Southern California, but last week I while I was driving around taking care of errands, I was playing with the radio dial, and my former( from the 90’s) Calvary Chapel pastor was on teaching a series called “Living in the Daze of Deception”. I picked up the teaching at about 8 minutes. where he is talking about false prophets and ecumenism, even saying that Protestant union with Roman Catholics is something the bible explicitly warns against. He uses Matt 13 to prove his teaching.

    http://realradioactive.org/pages/audio_popup?id=2137

    I’d like to hear feedback about the verse he is using to support his interpretation, please. thank you!

  129. Susan, (re: #127)

    The speaker assumes that ecumenism means giving up one’s own distinctives and personal convictions, for the sake of unity. That is, the conception of ecumenism he has in mind is one that essentially involves compromise, sacrificing what one believes to be true, for the sake of unity. That’s a false ecumenism, in my opinion. True ecumenism insists that each person pursue unity through committed dialogue while following and sticking to whatever he or she believes to be both true and essential, sacrificing nothing he or she believes to be both true and essential. We don’t have to choose between that false ecumenism, and reverting to the individualism of self-imposed isolation in insulated ecclesial ghettos. I’ve compared these two conceptions of ecumenism in “Two Ecumenicisms.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  130. In the Latin Rite, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Fr. Barron has discussed the three temptations of Jesus upon which we meditate liturgically at the beginning of Lent:

    Fr. Barron has also helpfully described the three practices of Lent:

    And Scott Hahn has situated the practice of Lent in relation to all that the Old Testament prefigured concerning Christ’s forty-day fast:

    Lent is also a test case for the claim that “sola scriptura” acknowledges the authority of Tradition, and thus does not reduce to “solo scriptura.”

    Last year Matthew Smethurst at the Protestant site “The Gospel Coalition” wrote an article titled “Lent Is About Jesus: A Free Devotional Guide,” in which he proposed that Protestants participate in the observance of Lent. This provoked a number of critical responses from other Protestant leaders, such as Darryl Hart’s “Playing with Lenten Fire,” Ref21’s reposting of Jeremy Walker’s “This Lent I am giving up … reticence,” Carl Trueman’s linking to the Reformed Baptist article titled “To Lent or reLent? Some thoughts on a recent post at The Gospel Coalition,” Tom Chantry’s “The Lenten Brouhaha,” and R. Scott Clark’s, “Calvin on Lent.” Anglican Chuck Colson (no, not that Chuck Colson) responded by arguing in support of observing Lent, in an article titled “Why bother with Lent?.”

    In response, Collin Hansen and Mark Mellinger, in a “Gospel Coalition” article titled “Should You Cancel Good Friday?” interviewed Ligon Ducan (whom I have interacted with elsewhere here: see “Ligon Duncan’s “Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?”“) regarding his reasons for not observing Lent, even though Duncan’s congregation observes Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. During the interview Duncan claims to affirm the regulative principle. He also claims, as one of his reasons for rejecting Lent, that Lent arose in the sixth century, and that it is rooted in a theology of merit, which does not fit with Reformed theology. The Reformation began, claims Duncan, when Zwingli’s followers purposely ate sausages on Good Friday, in rejection of the notion of merit. In the 13th minute of the interview, Duncan claims (without any substantiation) that Catholic liturgical observations arose from St. Cyril of Jerusalem comparing Catholic liturgical worship to other religions, and trying to spice things up, eventually turning Jerusalem into a “religious theme park.”

    That Protestant-Protestant debate regarding whether Lent should be observed continues this year, as Michael Horton has noted, between the Lutheran Todd A. Peperkorn and the Reformed Brian Lee. Keith Miller sides with those opposing Lent, in “Young, Restless, and Reformed Homeboys on Lenten Fasting.” Roland Barnes at The Aquila Report writes, “Why I Don’t Observe Lent.” (Update: See also ARP pastor Benjamin Glaser’s “Just Say No to Ash Wednesday; Or How I Learned to Stop Loving the World and Embraced Biblical Expressions of Prayer and Fasting.”)

    There is much to say regarding the early Church practice of Lent, so much so that I cannot include it all in a combox comment. Here are just a few pieces of evidence concerning Lent and the early Church.

    The Nicene Creed was formulated at the first ecumenical council at Nicea in AD 325. Among the canons from that council can be found the following words within the fifth canon:

    And let these synods be held, the one before Lent, (that the pure Gift may be offered to God after all bitterness has been put away), and let the second be held about autumn.

    According to St. Athanasius who attended the council there were 318 bishops from all over the world present at this council. And they do not say anything about establishing Lent; rather they speak of Lent as a given, as a liturgical reference point in relation to which they plan the time of other events. So the whole Church throughout the world takes Lent as a given, at the time of the first ecumenical council, before even the canon of Scripture had been determined, before the divinity of the Holy Spirit had been defined in the second council, and before one-Person-in-two-natures Christology had been defined in the third and fourth ecumenical councils in the fourth and fifth centuries.

    Eusebius, for example, reports that in the late second century there was a difference in practice regarding when to end “the fast.” He writes:

    A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour’s passover. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Saviour.

    Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all, with one consent, through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree, that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other but the Lord’s day, and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on this day only. There is still extant a writing of those who were then assembled in Palestine, over whom Theophilus, bishop of Cæsarea, and Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, presided. And there is also another writing extant of those who were assembled at Rome to consider the same question, which bears the name of Bishop Victor; also of the bishops in Pontus over whom Palmas, as the oldest, presided; and of the parishes in Gaul of which Irenæus was bishop, and of those in Osrhoëne and the cities there; and a personal letter of Bacchylus, bishop of the church at Corinth, and of a great many others, who uttered the same opinion and judgment, and cast the same vote.

    And that which has been given above was their unanimous decision. (Church History 5.23, my emphases)

    This second century dispute was over which day to end the fast and celebrate Christ’s resurrection. There was also dispute regarding what form the fast should take during the Triduum. What was not under dispute was the practice of fasting prior to celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Rather, as Eusebius implies, in the second half of the century, the practice of fasting prior to Easter was already celebrated in all the churches around the world. And according to Eusebius, St. Irenaeus wrote that even these variations in the form of fasting extended back to his ancestors: “And this variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors.” (Church History, 5.24) But because St. Irenaeus’s was an auditor (a hearer) and student of St. Polycarp, who was himself an auditor of the Apostle John, the only “ancestors” to which St. Irenaeus can be referring were either “apostolic fathers” or the Apostles themselves.

    St. Athanasius, bishop of the Church at Alexandria, wrote the following to his Church in AD 330, just five years after the first ecumenical council:

    We begin the fast of forty days on the 13th of the month Phamenoth Mark 9. After we have given ourselves to fasting in continued succession, let us begin the holy Paschal week on the 18th of the month Pharmuthi (April 13). Then resting on the 23rd of the same month Pharmuthi (April 18), and keeping the feast afterwards on the first of the week, on the 24th (April 19), let us add to these the seven weeks of the great Pentecost, wholly rejoicing and exulting in Christ Jesus our Lord, through Whom to the Father be glory and dominion in the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen. (Letter 2)

    In AD 340, in his letter from Rome to Serapion, St. Athanasius wrote:

    But I have further deemed it highly necessary and very urgent, to make known to your modesty— for I have written this to each one— that you should proclaim the fast of forty days to the brethren, and persuade them to fast, lest, while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should be derided, as the only people who do not fast, but take our pleasure in these days. For if, on account of the Letter [not] being yet read, we do not fast, we should take away this pretext, and it should be read before the fast of forty days, so that they may not make this an excuse for neglect or fasting. Also, when it is read, they may be able to learn about the fast. But O, my beloved, whether in this way or any other, persuade and teach them to fast the forty days. For it is a disgrace that when all the world does this, those alone who are in Egypt, instead of fasting, should find their pleasure. For even I being grieved because men deride us for this, have been constrained to write to you.

    Note that concerning Lent he explains that “all the world does this,” and exhorts the presbyter Serapion to make sure the people fast, and read the letter from him (as bishop) to his parishioners so that they have no excuse for not fasting.

    St. Jerome likewise writes:

    We, according to the apostolic tradition (in which the whole world is at one with us), fast through one Lent yearly … I do not mean, of course, that it is unlawful to fast at other times through the year — always excepting Pentecost — only that while in Lent it is a duty of obligation, at other seasons it is a matter of choice.” (Letter 41, To Marcella)

    Notice both that Lent is observed by “the whole [Christian] world,” according to St. Jerome, and that it is an “apostolic” tradition.

    In the fifth century, St. Leo the Great refers to Lent as an apostolic institution, writing, “That the Apostolic institution of forty days might be fulfilled by fasting.” (Serm. ii. v. ix. de Quadragesima) So do St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Isidore of Seville.

    My point

    My point here is not at all to lay out all the patristic evidence for the universal observance of Lent. Nor is my point to challenge Duncan’s claims regarding the allegedly bad theology inherent in the observance of Lent with the following dilemma: either the widespread early observance of Lent indicates that the whole Church from a very early time fell into false theology, which thus presupposes ecclesial deism, or the whole entire Church at some later point prior to the fifth or sixth century abandoned its original theological basis for observing Lent and adopted another theological basis for observing Lent. The problem with that thesis is that there is no evidence for it. Hence if according to Duncan Lent arose out of a theology of merit that does not fit with Reformed theology, then so much the worse for Reformed theology’s claim to apostolicity and catholicity. But that dilemma is not the point I wish to make.

    My point concerns a different dilemma. If there are any practices that can justifiably be said to belong to Tradition, Lent is surely one of them, as even the bit of patristic evidence I’ve provided already makes clear. Hence if even the observance of Lent has no authority, then there is no authoritative Tradition. But in the Protestant/Reformed debate sketched out above regarding whether or not to observe Lent the fundamental question is not whether Lent is authoritative, but whether Lent is biblical and, if ‘biblical,’ then useful. Hence if Lent is part of authoritative Tradition, the nature of the Protestant/Reformed debate regarding whether or not to observe Lent demonstrates precisely the thesis of my post at the top of this page, namely, that sola scriptura entails the non-authoritative character of Tradition, and thus reduces sola scriptura to “solo scriptura” in essence, even when and where some adherents of sola scriptura retain the practice of Lent and practices like Lent. So the dilemma I wish to set forward here is the following: either Lent is not part of Tradition, in which case there is no Tradition, in which case sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura,” or Lent is part of that Tradition, in which case the Protestant debate concerning whether to observe Lent demonstrates that sola scriptura nullifies the authority of Tradition, in which case sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura.” Either way, sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura.”

  131. Eva (#118):

    That is reminiscent of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s remark that if the Church says that white is black, then it’s black. In short I think that just as St. Ignatius injected hyperbole into his remark in order to make a point, so too is the gentleman you have quoted. I wouldn’t read too much into the example he used, personally; I think his point is that if the Bible says something that seems contrary to reason then the Bible wins every time.

    That is true as far as it goes, of course, but opens a can of worms if we assume he means that literally:

    • Who says what the Bible teaches, and why should we believe him/them?
    • Does truth contradict truth? If not, then this example would turn truth on its head. If so, then it is impossible to say that any particular proposition is “true”.
    • The example undermines the ability of man to discover truth entirely, because he cannot trust his own rational faculties at all. That mistrust must extend to his interpretation of the Bible as well.

    In short, if taken literally such statements leave us trapped with a skepticism so radical as to be unlivable.

    But if we stop and think about it a little bit, I think it becomes clear that the gentleman’s view reduces to skepticism even if we allow that he is exaggerating. Once again, who is to say what the Bible teaches, and why should we believe them? He cannot cogently answer that question.

    So…to answer your question, I would call that remark a textbook example not so much of solo scriptura but of the Protestant dilemma: he wants authority but not at the expense of the ultimacy of the individual’s conscience. He cannot have it both ways.

    I hope this helps.

    Peace,

    Fred

  132. Regarding “solo scriptura,” in February of last year I discussed briefly in comment #5 of the “On the Usefulness of Tradition” thread two examples (i.e. women’s ordination, and universalism) of hermeneutical and theological underdetermination entailed by biblicism. A biblicist defense of universalism can also be found here.

  133. World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages.”

    Why is this a “solo scriptura” fail? Because Scripture alone is unable to resolve the disagreements between the denominations concerning the “gay marriage” question, and so “the issue will join divorce/remarriage, baptism, and female pastors among the theological issues that the massive relief and development organization sits out on the sidelines.”

    (Of course “Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us” is not merely sitting on the sidelines, but is taking the position that there is such a thing as “same-sex marriage,” but that’s a separate problem.)

    Rachel Held Evans typifies the failure of solo scriptura even to determine what does and does not belong to the gospel:

    The gospel is at stake only insofar as we make one’s position on same-sex marriage a part of it. The gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the gospel when it’s not.

    Does not the Catholic Church also distinguish ‘law’ and ‘gospel’? Yes, but in the broader sense of the term ‘gospel’ the law is part of the gospel, because following the moral law, in agape informed by truth, is part of what it means to follow Christ.

    On the World Vision decision Reformed pastor Kevin DeYoung writes,

    Of course, it may be argued that homosexuality is not nearly so important as those issues. But given 2,000 years of pretty darn near unanimous consensus on the sinfulness of same-sex intercourse, this is a point that must be proven, not merely sidestepped because that consensus has been fractured in the West.

    That appeal to Tradition would have some authoritative weight if DeYoung, as a Reformed pastor, weren’t part of a denomination that accepts contraception, something also having a nearly “2,000 years of pretty darn near unanimous consensus” concerning its sinfulness. Hence the thesis of the post at the top of this page, namely, that given sola scriptura, when what counts as belonging to “Tradition” is only what conforms to one’s interpretation of Scripture, one is not subjecting oneself to the authority of Tradition, but only picking arbitrarily from Tradition, thus placing a veneer over what is in essence a “solo scriptura” position.

    Darrell Bock comes closer, when he writes:

    It [i.e. World Vision] ignored how unitedly the church has read these texts for centuries despite more recent discussion.

    But because Protestantism does the same with so many doctrines, Bock (writing as a Protestant) undermines his own criticism.

    Update: See David Anders’s post on this subject titled “World Vision and the Quest for Protestant Unity.”

  134. Justin Taylor, quoting approvingly Stephen Wellum, professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes:

    As a result, Christ’s human body is now [between Good Friday and Easter] temporarily separated from him and put in the grave, while he, as the person of the Son, continues to subsist in his human soul and his divine nature. … Is it legitimate then to say that when we enter the tomb, “God is a corpse” or “God is in the tomb”? I would not state it this way. What I would say is that the human body of God the Son is in the tomb even though he, as the Son, continues to live, rule, and sustain the universe. One has to be careful, as noted above, not to give the impression that somehow God is dead (when he is not) nor even that God the Son is now a corpse (which he is not). What is dead is the human body of Christ which has been temporarily separated from his human soul

    I mentioned in the post at the top of this page Sproul’s denial that the Second Person of the Trinity died on the cross. Here Wellum’s claim that between Good Friday and Easter “what is dead is the human body of Christ,” and His denial that during this time period “God the Son is now a corpse,” entail that Christ did not die; only His body died. That’s because if Christ is not dead during this time period, then Christ did not die. And that’s a denial of the line from the Apostles’ Creed: mortuus (“He … died”). And if Christ is not a corpse during this time period, then it is not true that Christ was buried. And that’s a denial of the line of the Nicene Creed “καὶ ταφέντα” (“and He was buried”). Claiming that it was only His body that was dead, is theologically no different from claiming that it was only His body (or human nature) that died on the cross, or that it was only His body (or human nature) that suffered, or that it was only His body (or human nature) that was born of the Virgin Mary. And, once again, that’s Nestorianism, which the third ecumenical council condemned.

    Moreover, claiming that during this time period Christ’s corpse was not Christ entails not only a denial of that line of the Creed, but also that Christ did not die, because it means either that Christ did not take on human nature, but assumed only a soul, or it reduces human nature to the soul alone, making the incarnation and the resurrection superfluous, and thereby falling into gnostic docetism. But souls don’t die; only living organisms die. Nor can souls be crucified. So this entails a denial of another line of the Creed “σταυρωθέντα” (“He was crucified”). And if Christ was not dead, then Christ was not resurrected, which denies another line of the Creed: ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα (and [He] rose again on the third day).

    So here again is a denial of lines of the Creed by persons adhering to sola scriptura, and thus one more piece of evidence that sola scriptura reduces to “solo scriptura.”

    St. Thomas Aquinas, by contrast, is guided by the Creed when answering this very same question, writing:

    But what belongs to the body of Christ after death is predicated of the Son of God–namely, being buried: as is evident from the Creed, in which it is said that the Son of God “was conceived and born of a Virgin, suffered, died, and was buried.” (Summa Theologica III Q.50 a.2)

    What is dead is a Who, and that Who is divine.

  135. Bryan @134,

    You are not being “charitable” with your citation of Sproul. First, if you read the entire post in context, the very beginning of it says that there is a way in fact that we can say God died as long as we maintain that God died as a man. All that Sproul is trying to maintain is that the divine nature did not suffer. He is trying to avoid the confusion that could arise by the bare statement “God died.” Elsewhere he writes that “Jesus, the person, experienced death in his human nature” (Truths We Confess 1:248), which is much clearer and perfectly orthodox. “What is said of the divine nature or of the human nature may be affirmed of the person” (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith 81). In other words, Sproul isn’t saying what you think he’s saying.

    Wellum I’m not sure of, but Sproul is also very clear that the body of Jesus remained united to the person of the Son of God in the tomb. It seems to me that Wellum is trying to affirm that Jesus died a death similar to that of the believer’s in that there is a separation of soul and body until the resurrection, although the way he expresses it is not the best. Again, if you simply say “God’s body is in the tomb,” you open up yourself for misinterpretation, so I understand the motive behind it. But to accuse him or Sproul especially of Nestorianism is to go too far.

  136. Bryan (134),

    If I understand correctly the Catholic position does not agree with Berkof when he says (pg 339):

    …..He was subject not only to physical, but also to eternal death, though He bore this intensively and not extensively, when He agonized in the garden and when He cried out on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me:’ In a short period of time He bore the infinite wrath against sin to the very end and came out victoriously. This was possible for Him only because of His exalted nature.

    How would the Catholic view agree or disagree with Berkof in the following quote (pg 339):

    At this point we should guard against misunderstanding, however. Eternal death in the case of Christ did not consist in an abrogation of the union of the Logos with the human nature, nor in the divine nature’s being forsaken of God, nor in the withdrawal of the Father’s divine love or good pleasure from the person of the Mediator. The Logos remained united with the human nature even when the body was in the grave; the divine nature could not possibly be forsaken of God; and the person of the Mediator was and ever continued to be the object of divine favor. It revealed itself in the human consciousness of the Mediator as a feeling of God-forsakenness. This implies that the human nature for a moment missed the conscious comfort which it might derive from its union with the divine Logos, and the sense of divine love, and was painfully conscious of the fulness of the divine wrath which was bearing down upon it. Yet there was no despair for even in the darkest hour, while He exclaims that He is forsaken, He directs His prayer to God.

    Thanks for your help with this, Kim

  137. Robert, (re: #135)

    Someone else (JeffB) raised that objection in the subsequent comments at that thread, and I responded to it there as well. If you think my responses there to JeffB are inadequate, please continue the conversation on that thread.

    Kim, (re: #136)

    We would deny that Christ experienced “eternal death,” we would deny that the “human nature” was an agent (i.e. “missed” x, “was conscious of” x), and we would deny that “the fulness of the divine wrath” “was bearing down upon” Christ or upon His human nature. But discussion of this topic should go to the “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement” thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  138. Bryan (137),

    Thanks Bryan, I was trying to understand if Berkof’s statements agreed with the Nicene Creed concerning Christ’s death .

    Kim

  139. Another example of “solo scriptura” failure is President Obama’s appeal to the Golden Rule in May of 2012 as justification for the civil law treating same-sex unions as marriage. Subsequently, I saw the Golden Rule used in just that way as support for same-sex marriage. In one case it was worded this way:

    If I don’t want the validity of my marital relationship questioned, then maybe I shouldn’t question the validity of others’ marital relationships.

    Simply plugging in other examples immediately shows that this is not a good argument. A person arguing in support of allowing bestiality could say the same thing: “If I don’t want the validity of my sexual relationship questioned, then maybe I shouldn’t question the validity of others’ sexual relationships.” Rape, child molestation, and female genital mutilation could also be defended via this same use of the Golden Rule. “If I don’t want my parenting decisions questioned, then maybe I shouldn’t question the validity of parents who decide to mutilate their daughter’s genitals.” Bank robbery could also be defended this way: “If I don’t want my financial decisions questioned, then maybe I shouldn’t question the validity of others’ financial decisions.” So could car-jacking: “If I don’t want my auto acquisition decisions questioned, then maybe I shouldn’t question the validity of others’ auto acquisition decisions. So could leaving pets in hot cars: “If I don’t want the validity of my pet treatment decisions questioned, then maybe I shouldn’t question the validity of others’ pet treatment decisions.” Just about any obviously unethical action could be justified by generalizing the action-type, and plugging it into the Golden Rule in this way. So this shows that the Golden Rule cannot be used by itself as a sufficient justification for a particular action, or civil allowance of a particular type of action. Some qualification or ethical framework is missing.

    So what’s the problem here? The problem is that the Golden Rule, as with all Scripture, is rightly interpreted and understood in the light of Tradition, not divorced from Tradition. St. Augustine explains in Chapter 22 of Book II of his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount that the Golden Rule is implicitly qualified, in that it presupposes that the desires in question are good, and thus that the person making use of it is virtuous. A virtuous person does want the validity of his actions (whether toward other persons or other animals, or toward the environment) questioned, to make sure his are good, not only good for him, but good others and for society. Man is a social animal, not a mere individual atom. The “If I don’t want the validity of my x actions questioned” use of the Golden Rule described just above ‘works’ in a society that prizes rugged individualism, and denies our social obligation to the common good. In short, it works in a society that adheres to individual liberalism, where the individual’s freedom to do whatever he or she wants is de facto the highest or only socially recognized good. But the Tradition-provided nuance regarding our obligation to the common good and what it means to have rightly-ordered dispositions in relation to the common good is lost when “solo scriptura” is the default methodological paradigm of approaching and interpreting Scripture.

  140. Daniel Taylor’s list of [alleged] biblical contradictions at BibViz is another example of a consequence of a “solo scriptura” approach to sacred Scripture, much like those discussed above, especially in comment #124. Why do many Protestants not see these as contradictions within the Bible? Because they still to some degree, and by way of a social inertia, retain the benefit and implicit use of Tradition. But when the authority of Tradition is rejected, and instead the sacred Scripture is treated as though it can rightly be approached ‘scientifically,’ apart from Tradition and the Church to which these Scriptures were entrusted, the result is what we see at “BibViz.com,” namely, the divinely-inspired Scripture loses intelligibility, credibility, and is tossed aside as an object of ridicule and disrepute. Its sacredness and truth become invisible. Decoupling Scripture from the Church and Tradition destroys Scripture not only by rejecting the divinely established interpretive authority that saves it from the hermeneutical relativism and proliferating pluralism by which its meaning is lost and portrayed to society as being necessarily either inaccessible or non-existent, but also by undermining its intelligibility and credibility. As the Pontificator’s second law states: “When the Bible alone is our authority, the Bible ceases to be our authority.” The “solo scriptura” notion that Scripture is to be approached and understood apart from Tradition and the Church makes Christians susceptible precisely to objections such as that found at Taylor’s “BibViz.com.”

  141. Hi Bryan,

    This seems more like an athiest site than a protestant site to me….

  142. John (re: #141),

    I’m aware of that. I didn’t claim that Taylor is or was a Protestant. I’m talking about his presupposition that Scripture is to be approached apart from Tradition and apart from the Church. That’s precisely what makes possible the sort of critique he constructs.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  143. @Bryan:

    “I’m aware of that. I didn’t claim that Taylor is or was a Protestant. I’m talking about his presupposition that Scripture is to be approached apart from Tradition and apart from the Church. That’s precisely what makes possible the sort of critique he constructs.”

    This is true, but I still think it’s worth pointing out (explicitly) that necessary conditions are not sufficient conditions, and that adherents of “solo scriptura” most often do not share the poisonous outlook of Taylor and his ilk.

    Ty

  144. In a First Things article titled “Third Schism” published today, Peter Leithart, in response to Andrew G. Walker and Robin Parry’s book Deep Church Rising, writes the following:

    While I have great sympathy with their encouragement to embrace the whole Christian tradition, their discussion left me dissatisfied. A fully Evangelical treatment of tradition has to make plenty of room for Jesus’ sharp assaults on the traditions of the elders. They say that “Holy Scripture is open to all sorts of different interpretations,” and that we need tradition to discover the truth. How tradition escapes the problem of multiple interpretations is unclear, especially now that we are living on the far side of the “third schism.” What now counts as genuine “tradition”? And how do we decide?

    That’s precisely the question I’ve addressed in the post at the top of this page.

  145. I know that your dialogue is primarily with Reformed thought, but a question from an Eastern Orthodox point of view may be pertinant here.

    Reading this and other Catholic sites, you lay much stock in the Magisterium. But who are the Magisterium? Obviously the official catechism is a product of the Magisterium, but besides the Pope, who are these guys? Or if the Magisterium is the collection of Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who collates their varied statements for the present age? You would think that some more specific body of teachers could be identified. You could know when someone dies, is retired or kicked out, and when new blood is inducted into this important group. At least that is what I would expect, the way this “Magisterium” is invoked.

    Or is the Magisterium like the doctrine of Papal infallibility – everyone invokes the concept, but no list of infallible pronouncements exists, to be examined by opponents. Everyone invokes the Magisterium, but no membership list exists?

    When I was undergoing catechesis, I asked my parish priest who is/are the Orthodox counterpart to the Magisterium. He said, “The Holy Spirit”. The Eastern Orthodox concept relies on the Bishop of the local church, who is accountable to the larger synod. This system may be vague to the outsider (and even insiders!). But it seems to be more honest than invoking a supposed body of teachers or gatekeepers that only exists as a theoretical reality. Or am I missing something?

  146. George, (re: #145)

    Good question. The Magisterium is “the living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give an authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition.” That’s the definition from the Catechism. It consists of the bishop of Rome and all the bishops in communion with him, who, as successors of the Apostles, retain and exercise the teaching authority entrusted to them by the Apostles.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  147. I noticed a post on Dale Tuggy’s site in which he embeds a video in which an atheist-turned-Muslim, Dr. Laurence B. Brown, gives ten reasons why we should not believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is true. I’ve embedded the video below. I have pointed out before the same methodological problem with this approach (see comments #641-660 in the “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” thread), but here again, while watching this video I noticed that the reasons Brown gives generally (a) presuppose “solo scriptura,” (b) presuppose an ecclesial deism which disallows/rejects/disbelieves the possibility of genuine development of doctrine (from what is implicit to what is explicit), (c) make use of appeals to mere human authority, and (d) make use of arguments from silence that (in this case) themselves presuppose “solo scriptura.” This is one more example of why and how “solo scriptura” fails.

    A similar argument regarding the Trinity is Sean Finnegan’s “Why the Trinity Doctrine Doesn’t Make Sense: Five Reasons:”

  148. Mark Achtemeier, Ph.D. “has served the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since 1984 as a pastor, writer, and theologian. He taught theology and ethics for 15 years on the faculty of Dubuque Theological Seminary” in Dubuque, Iowa. He just published a book titled The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart (Westminster John Knox Press, June 13, 2014). On July 21, he posted an article titled “The Hidden Error in ‘Biblical’ Arguments Against Gay Marriage” in The Huffington Post. In comment #124 above I talked about the “solo scriptura” assumption underlying the theological methodology leading to this conclusion, as, for example, in Matthew Vines’s work. Evangelicalism’s merely inertial relation to Tradition has left it particularly open to this sort of argument, but Achtemeier’s way of arriving there is rather unique, because he makes use of one of the Church Fathers. Achtemeier writes:

    What I couldn’t understand was how this traditional teaching could be mistaken when it was grounded in quotes from the Bible.

    I found help with this puzzle in the teaching of a second-century church leader, named Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus in his day was struggling to keep his flock from being led astray by false teachers who were proclaiming their own fabricated versions of “Christianity.” These counterfeit faiths bore little resemblance to anything that Jesus and his disciples had taught, but in spite of that the false teachers were still able to back up most of what they said with Scripture quotes. This was very confusing to Irenaeus’ flock, and I discovered that these second-century Christians were asking the same question I was: How could a teaching be mistaken or unfaithful when its proponents could back it up with quotes from the Bible?

    Irenaeus explains how this can happen. Imagine, he says, that a skilled artist has created a mosaic picture made out of colored stones. All these multicolored fragments together form a beautiful portrait of a king. But now suppose that another artist comes along and disassembles the original mosaic, sorting all the stones into little colored piles. This second artist re-assembles the stones into a new mosaic, and he travels around showing off the picture, saying “Behold the King.” Only this time, in place of the original portrait, the new arrangement of stones forms a crudely-drawn picture of a dog. Every single stone in that new mosaic comes from the original portrait. But that does not make it a true picture of the King!

    This, says Irenaeus, is what the false teachers have done with Scripture. Like the individual stones making up a mosaic, they have taken individual quotes from all over the Bible. But the quotes have been pulled out of their original contexts and rearranged in such a way that they no longer form a true picture of the Bible’s message. Individual scripture quotes can lose their connection to the “true portrait” of God’s love in Christ that is the Bible’s overarching focus.

    I myself had learned to support the categorical condemnation of same-sex relationships by appealing to scattered fragments of Scripture. But Irenaeus helped me understand that being able to cite Bible passages in support of a particular teaching is no guarantee that the teaching is either true or faithful.

    Here he describes coming to understand from the second century bishop St. Irenaeus how Scripture can be made to say anything, and then, following this realization, coming to conclude that his [i.e. Achtemeier’s own] proof-texted way of understanding Scripture’s prohibition on homosexual acts was itself the product of such a construction of passages taken from various parts of the Bible, not part of the overall message of the Bible, approached and understood as a whole.

    Then he continues:

    Where does that leave us?

    Fortunately, the church across the centuries has developed guidelines for interpreting Scripture that help keep our use of particular passages in touch with the true portrait of God’s love in Christ. When we apply these guidelines, the Bible’s teaching about gay people and their relationships appears in a whole new light. In my book I show how the application of these time-tested principles of biblical interpretation produces an overwhelmingly positive biblical case in favor of gay marriage. I came to realize how my former reliance on fragmentary, out-of-context quotes from Scripture had led me to lose touch with the “big picture” of God’s love that lies at the heart of the Bible’s witness.

    What is the problem here? If he is appealing to “the church,” isn’t that precisely the solution I’m advocating to the problem discussed at the top of this page? No, because he is defining ‘church’ in the same prooftexted, ahistorical, uncoupled-from-Tradition way he was previously holding his prohibition on homosexual acts. Neal and I explained this in response to Keith Mathison in the following paragraph of our article “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority:”

    But how does he [Mathison] determine what is the Church? Being Reformed, he defines ‘Church’ as wherever the gospel is found, because the early Protestants defined the marks of the Church as including “the gospel,” where the gospel was determined by their own private interpretation of Scripture. So he claims that it is in the Church that the gospel is found, but he defines the Church in terms of the gospel. This is what we call a tautology. It is a form of circular reasoning that allows anyone to claim to be the Church and have the gospel. One can read the Bible and formulate one’s own understanding of the gospel, then make this “gospel” a necessary mark of the Church, and then say that it is in the Church that the gospel is found. Because one has defined the Church in terms of the gospel [as arrived at by one’s own interpretation of Scripture], telling us that the gospel is found “in the Church” tells us nothing other than “people who share my own interpretation of Scripture about what is the gospel are referred to by me as ‘the Church.’” This kind of circular reasoning allows falsehood to remain hidden.

    Achtemeier and Mathison come to different conclusions regarding what is “the gospel,” and therefore where is “the church.” They also therefore come to contrary conclusions regarding what the Bible teaches about “gay marriage.” But fundamentally they are both defining “church” in relation to “the gospel,” where “the gospel” just means their own interpretation of and determination of what is the central or essential (sine qua non) message of the Bible. For Achtemeier the gospel is, most essentially, the revelation that God is love, and from that central truth Achtemeier reinterprets the passages dealing with homosexual acts, through what is just another application of the “analogy of faith.” The result is not only a conclusion that contradicts the Tradition, but necessarily also what Christian Smith calls “pervasive interpretive pluralism.”

  149. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick is pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and An Introduction to God, and host of the “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy” and “Roads from Emmaus” podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio. He is an Orthodox priest whose writing I find myself repeatedly recommending. Once again he has written another insightful article titled “Protestants and a Churchless Tradition: “Sola” vs. “Solo” Scriptura.” It is directly related to the points we have been making here at CTC regarding sola scriptura, “solo scriptura,” and the role and authority of Tradition.

  150. What I said at the top of this page in response to Matthew Barrett’s post applies also to Gerald R. McDermott’s article in Christianity Today titled “Why You Can’t Read Scripture Alone: Studying the Bible in light of the Great Tradition.” Of course Gerald is right that there is a “Great Tradition,” that we should follow it, and that Scripture is not fully intelligible apart from the Tradition. But, again, the basis for determining what is and is not part of Tradition must be principled, not ad hoc, in order for Tradition to be truly authoritative.

  151. On November 6, 2014, Westminster Seminary professor R. Scott Clark posted the following under a post titled “The Reformed are Catholic:”

    THE CREEDS OF FOUR COUNCILS RECEIVED. And, to say many things with a few words, with a sincere heart we believe, and freely confess with open mouth, whatever things are defined from the Holy Scriptures concerning the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are summed up in the Creeds and decrees of the first four most excellent synods convened at Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon — together with the Creed of blessed Athanasius and all similar symbols; and we condemn everything contrary to these.

    THE SECTS. And in this way we retain the Christian, orthodox and catholic faith whole and unimpaired; knowing that nothing is contained in the aforesaid symbols which is not agreeable to the Word of God, and does not altogether make for a sincere exposition of the faith. —From Chapter 11 of The Second Helvetic Confession

    Twenty days later, on November 26, 2014, Clark posted an article titled “Why Did Jesus Suffer The Torment of Hell?” in which he wrote:

    One of the clauses of the [Apostles’] creed that has caused questions is that which reads: “he descended into hell.” It is held in some traditions that by this Christians are confessing that our Lord, after his death, went to the place of the dead. It has been understood figuratively, however, by the Reformed churches to refer to Christ’s suffering. So Calvin and the Heidelberg Catechism interpreted this clause.

    […]

    There is nothing in this passage [1 Pet. 3:18-20] about Jesus going to the place of the dead or to the dead ones. That notion arose because of the influence of pagan ideas and tragically was adopted by Christians. Some have advocated that, since we do not believe that Christ went to the place of the dead, we should remove that clause from the creed. Others have defended retaining it.6 Calvin and the Reformed have retained the clause but have understood it to refer to Christ’s sufferings. We should explain that the original sense was merely “buried.” We might omit the clause on the ground that we would be reverting to an earlier form. Arguably we would not be substantially altering a catholic creed as much as removing early medieval accretions from it thus making it less Roman and more catholic.

    How does Clark justify denying the doctrine of the harrowing of hell specified not only in the Apostles Creed, but also in the Athanasian Creed, less than three weeks after claiming that by affirmation of these creeds, the Reformed are allegedly “catholic”? He does so by writing the following:

    As a matter of history, early on it appears that the “descendit” (he descended) clause was used interchangeably with “sepultus” (buried) and was added in place of “was buried” so that they had the same meaning into as the late 4th century. 3 Thus, “he descended” was another way of saying, “he was buried.”

    And what is his evidence that the two terms were used interchangeably? At that footnote “3” Clark provides only one statement from Rufinus:

    But it should be known that the clause, “He descended into Hell,” is not added in the Creed of the Roman Church, neither is it in that of the Oriental Churches. It seems to be implied, however, when it is said that “He was buried.”

    Because Rufinus says that the descent is implied by “He was buried,” Clark takes this not only as evidence for the interchangeability of the two terms, but as sufficient evidence for the interchangeability of the two terms.

    However, just because y is implied by x, we are not thereby justified in inferring that x and y are interchangeable. For example, just because smoke implies fire, we are not justified in inferring that smoke and fire are the same thing, or are interchangeable. Therefore, this statement by Rufinus is not evidence that the two terms were interchangeable.

    Moreover, Rufinus, who is providing a commentary on the version of the Apostles’ Creed he learned at Aquileia (in northeastern Italy), defers to the authority of the Church at Rome regarding the Creed when, immediately before discussing the first article of the Creed, he writes the following:

    But before I begin to discuss the meaning of the words, I think it well to mention that in different Churches some additions are found in this article. This is not the case, however, in the Church of the city of Rome; the reason being, as I suppose, that, on the one hand, no heresy has had its origin there, and, on the other, that the ancient custom is there kept up, that those who are going to be baptized should rehearse the Creed publicly, that is, in the audience of the people; the consequence of which is that the ears of those who are already believers will not admit the addition of a single word. But in other places, as I understand, additions appear to have been made, on account of certain heretics, by means of which it was hoped that novelty in doctrine would be excluded. We, however, follow that order which we received when we were baptized in the Church of Aquileia.

    Since therefore the Church at Rome did not at this time (c. AD 400) include “descendit ad inferos” (He descended into hell) in the Apostles Creed, but subsequently (within two hundred years) did incorporate this line (along with the lines “Creator of Heaven and earth,” “the communion of saints,” and “life everlasting”), Rufinus here shows, by his deferral to the Church at Rome, that he would have accepted these additions as authoritative as they would come to be understood by the Church at Rome.

    Not only does Clark fail to justify his claim that the terms descendit and sepultus were interchangeable, but in treating them as interchangeable he rejects the entire patristic Tradition concerning the meaning of this line, i.e. that Christ descended into hell after His death, a truth St. Augustine refers to with the following question: “Who, therefore, except an infidel, will deny that Christ was in hell?” (Letter 164.2) On what grounds does Clark reject this Tradition? Simply by stipulating, on the assumption of ecclesial deism, that this Tradition was an accretion from paganism. Clark writes: “That notion arose because of the influence of pagan ideas and tragically was adopted by Christians.”

    So on the one hand he claims to be “catholic” (and not a sect) on the grounds that he accepts the four creeds and condemns everything contrary to them. But wherever the creeds don’t fit his interpretation of Scripture and his theology (e.g. “He descended into hell” or “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” or the meaning of each of the four marks of the Church, or the meaning of “the communion of saints”), he just ascribes the patristic understanding of these articles to a pagan accretion, and makes these articles mean whatever he wants them to mean in order to fit his interpretation of Scripture. But that’s exactly what the sects do.

    Anyone can claim to submit himself to Tradition, but when one starts picking and choosing or altering the Tradition to fit one’s interpretation, then, as I’ve argued at the top of this page, one is in one’s actions denying the authority of Tradition. The creeds cannot be both authoritative and subject to picking and choosing, by rejecting the meaning of the articles as they were understood by those who put them together and developed them. And if in one’s actions one is denying the authority of the creeds (even if with one’s words one is affirming the authority of the creeds), then Clark’s claim as a confessionalist to stand in a position that is principally different from biblicism, is undermined.

    Moreover, Clark has argued against ecclesial deism, claiming that only at Trent did the Church finally depart from the Gospel, and had to be continued outside its institutional structure by the Reformers. But in 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council (Twelfth Ecumenical) taught authoritatively that Christ,

    having suffered on the wood of the Cross and died, descended into hell …. But He descended in soul, and He arose in the flesh, and He ascended equally in both, to come at the end of time ….

    Because this descending is said to take place after His death, it cannot simply be restating His suffering on the Cross. So in teaching that Christ descended into hell (as something distinct from His suffering on the Cross) either the Fourth Lateran departed from the true meaning of the early creeds, and departed from the faith received from the Apostles, or the Fourth Lateran taught the orthodox and universal understanding of “He descended into hell,” and Clark is in [material] heresy for denying this article of the creed. This is one more example, among many, showing that Clark cannot have it both ways. Either the Church preceding the Reformation was the true Church, in which case Clark should submit to her authoritative teachings, and embrace the doctrine of the harrowing of hell, or if the Church in the centuries prior to Trent was not the true Church, then Clark should own up to his ecclesial deism.

    Of course I haven’t even begun to address the problem of claiming to be “catholic” on the ad hoc basis of only the first four centuries, as if the Church ceased to develop and define doctrine after the fourth century, and thus as if the fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. ecumenical councils are of no matter to the question of catholicity.

    Update: John Piper’s solution (i.e. just eliminating that line from the Apostles’ Creed), seems more intellectually honest.

  152. This distinction is untenable, because despite the undeniable influence of the church fathers … on the magisterial Protestant reformers, and not withstanding their acceptance of early conciliar decrees, the magisterial reformers rejected patristic theological claims and interpretations of scripture, just as they rejected medieval exegesis, papal decrees, canon law, conciliar decrees, and ecclesiastical practices, precisely wherever any of these contradicted their own interpretations of the Bible. In no sense therefore was “tradition” for magisterial Protestant reformers an authority to which they deferred relative to their respective readings of scripture, as it was for their Catholic counterparts. This was the whole and part of the power of “scripture alone.” Neither magisterial nor radical Protestant reformers modified their hermeneutical judgments when these were at odds with traditional authorities; instead, they rejected the latter at each point of disagreement. In principle and as a corollary of sola scriptura, tradition thus retained for them no independent authority … . The difference between magisterial and radical reformers was therefore not that the former accepted some patristic writers, conciliar decrees, and ecclesiastical tradition as authoritative and the latter none. Rather, they all rejected every putative “authority” whenever the latter diverged from what each regarded as God’s truth, based on scripture as they respectively and contrarily understood it.

    – Brad Gregory (The Unintended Reformation, pp. 95-96, emphases original)

  153. Rick Phillips, senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., recently wrote an article both explaining and defending why his congregation omits the line “he descended into hell” from the Apostles’ Creed. He writes:

    When I came to my present church, I found that they had abandoned this line in the Creed (which, I understand was a fairly widespread omission among Southern Presbyterians). On studying the matter, I agreed to continue this omission ….

    Why? For three reasons. First, because Phillips recognizes that the line cannot mean what the Reformed tradition takes it to mean, i.e. that Christ suffered hell while on the cross. In this, Phillips disagrees with Clark, who claims that the Reformed tradition is catholic because it affirms the early creeds. (See comment #151 above.) Second, because:

    It seems to me that for an item to make it into a credal summary like the Apostles’ Creed there should be undoubted and clear biblical testimony to it. This is certainly not true when it comes to “he descended into hell.”

    Phillips is here confirming what I wrote in the post at the top of this page. Confessional Protestants want to distinguish themselves from “solo scriptura” biblicists by claiming that tradition has authority. But when what gets to count as tradition is only either what is explicitly stated in Scripture or entailed by one’s interpretation of Scripture, then ‘tradition’ has no authority; it does not govern one’s interpretation of Scripture. Rather, when it does not conform to one’s interpretation of Scripture, it is excised from ‘tradition.’ As a result, what is referred to as ‘tradition’ is only either Scripture itself or a restatement of one’s own interpretation of Scripture. And that is equivalent to “solo scriptura” biblicism wrapped up in the self-deceptive dressings of creeds and confessions.

    His third reason is:

    Not only is there dubious biblical support for the descent line, but most of our people simply do not know what it means. What do our people think they are confessing when, after saying that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, that he then descended into hell? It seems that our people are professing something they either do not likely understand or that they probably understand wrongly. This is hardly a good pastoral practice.

    Instead of making sure that his congregation rightly understands a line from the Creed, he thinks it better to remove that line from the Creed.

    Lastly he writes:

    For these reasons, I content myself gladly with the existing practice of my congregation, namely, to omit the descent line from the Apostles’ Creed. Now that I am used to it this way, it is startling to me when I am in other settings and the credal declaration is made: “he descended into hell.” What an odd thing to have placed in such a clear and vital sequence of events that otherwise is proclaimed about Jesus in the Apostles’ Creed. Here is a case where those who deeply honor the tradition will be warranted in omitting an item from it.

    The last line captures precisely the problem. Phillips thinks one honors the tradition by omitting from it anything that isn’t found explicitly in Scripture or isn’t entailed by one’s interpretation of Scripture. But that’s just honoring either Scripture alone, and/or one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

    Phillips draws also from Nick Batzig’s post explaining Geerhardus Vos’s argument for the Reformed view of this line of the Apostle’s Creed. Vos writes:

    This expression appears to be derived from Ephesians 4:9, “This ‘He ascended,’ what is it other than that He had also descended to the lower parts of the earth (εἰς τὰ κατώτερα μέρη τῆς γῆς)?” To understand what the apostle intends with these words in Ephesians 4, one must compare the immediately preceding citation from Psalm 68:18. …

    Notice Vos’s reasoning. He claims that the line from the Creed “appears to be derived from Eph. 4:9.” Therefore, the meaning of this line from the Creed is governed by [his exegesis of] Eph 4:9. This reasoning presupposes that tradition, including all the content of the Creeds, is derived from Scripture. And once again, that’s “solo scriptura” dressed up as something more.

    Vos also considers 1 Peter 3:18-19 and argues there that

    That the word ζῳοποιηθεὶς does not mean “made alive” but “kept alive,” for the proponents of the local descent must understand it this way. They cannot and will not assume that the soul of Christ also died and then was brought back to life again. Now, it appears that none of these conditions are supported by the text. To begin with the last, ζῳοποιεῖν does not mean “to keep alive,” but always “to bring back to life.” So Christ is brought back to life.

    Here Vos is bound by the lexical paradigm, and so his reasoning begs the question, by presupposing the error of the very paradigm against which he is attempting to argue. Because a human spirit is part of the soul, not naturally functional apart from a body, the functioning of the human spirit apart from the body requires divine aid, which is why being made alive in the spirit does not require that Christ’s spirit first die, but does require unique divine action at the moment of death.

    So while Vos’s arguments against the traditional meaning of this line of the Apostles’s Creed are flawed, he did not advocate its removal from the Creed, as Phillips does. Nevertheless, the Reformed face a dilemma here. Either they can retain this line while acknowledging (with Phillips) that the Reformed construal of the line is not its original meaning, or they can remove it from the Apostles’ Creed (and the Athanasian Creed). Both options, however, undermine the Reformed claim to catholicity (see comment #151 above). And underlying both sides of the dilemma is a “solo scriptura” biblicism that wants to distinguish itself from creedless, self-conscious biblicism, but is merely unconscious biblicism treating itself as something more and other.

  154. Bryan (re: #153),

    First, because Phillips recognizes that the line cannot mean what the Reformed tradition takes it to mean, i.e. that Christ suffered hell while on the cross.

    I have heard people claim that the Reformed tradition holds that Christ suffered the pains of Hell. I have heard others claim that the Reformed tradition holds that Christ’s punishment was in some way equivalent to what all sinners deserved. I have not ever seen this verse adduced in a penal substitution debate, or another context, where the Reformed argue Christ suffered the pains of Hell (or something justly equivalent) on the cross.

    Where do you find the traditionally reformed interpretation of that verse?

    Peace,
    John D.

  155. JohnD (re: #154)

    The “line” in question, in the quotation you excerpted, is the line “he descended into hell” from the Apostles’ Creed, not a verse from the Bible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  156. Bryan (re: #155),

    Sorry, I got confused. Where does the Reformed tradition say this is the meaning of that line in the creed? I checked the Westminster confession and did not find this verse cited regarding in the “Of Christ the Mediator” section. What are the other confessional statements or statements by influential Reformed writers that establish this “traditional” interpretation of “he descended into hell”?

    Peace,
    John D.

  157. JohnD (re: #156)

    My intended audience is, and this forum is for, the informed Reformed reader. So everything I write here presumes that the reader is already very familiar with Reformed theology. The answer to your question can be found at the Batzig link in comment #153, and at the second Clark link in comment #151. As a general courtesy, please read the links before asking a question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  158. Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University, wrote an article titled, “All Christians Rely on Tradition Rather than Scripture Alone.” In other words, no one is a pure biblicist, or “solo scriptura-ist.” In that case, the questions of determining not only what tradition(s) to follow, but also how we are to determine what traditions to follow, become paramount, and subject to the problems explained in the post at the top of this page, apart from a Magisterium having divinely established authority.

  159. Philip Jenkins neglects the role that Scripture has in commenting upon itself. I’ve written upon this here: http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/precept-and-example/ .

    So, for instance, Jesus predicts a time at the end of the world when “those living in Judea [must] flee to the mountains… But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. (Mat 24:20-21).

    This is further commented upon in Rev. 12:

    “And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him…. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” (Rev 12:6-12).

    So while there were many years between the two writings (Matthew and Revelation) yet in the plan of Christ, there is clarity enough for the faithful – especially those who will live during the worst time yet to come upon earth.

    To be specific, Jenkins presupposes that the Bible offers little details on Christ’s incarnation, and so we must rely on tradition. But that’s simply unfair to Athanasius, who labored to produce writings such as as “On the Incarnation” which is largely an exposition of various portions of Scripture that deal with the full range of Christ’s genuine hupostasis. Athanasius didn’t rely on Tradition, but Scripture, and so did those who were convinced by Athanasius.

    Jenkins writes,

    “The New Testament certainly allows us to form ideas of Christ’s divinity, and his becoming human. Relying on those Biblical texts, though, gave early believers huge leeway in how they defined the relationship between human and divine.”

    But that’s exactly the point Athanasius refused to concede. Those who mistook Christ’s hupostasis were not believers for Athanasius, and were later recognized more broadly as failing to hold to the faith taught in the Scriptures. They were not genuine believers – not because they didn’t rely on tradition – but because they refused to submit to the teaching required when the Scripture is read as commentary upon itself.

  160. Ted, (re: #159)

    The truth of Jenkins’s claims is compatible with, and therefore not refuted by, Scripture’s comments about itself. Jenkins does not “presuppose that the Bible offers little details on Christ’s incarnation.” History itself shows that certain Christology questions had to be resolved through ecumenical councils, which would not have been the case if Scripture explicitly addressed these questions, or identified the regulating texts by which the other passages were to be interpreted. The internal narrative of the councils that resolved the Christology questions also reveals the role of tradition, because these are not simply proof-texting sessions, but also appeals to practices and beliefs handed down by all those who came before. These practices and beliefs thereby guided the interpretation of all the relevant texts of Scripture.

    The notion that St. Athanasius “didn’t rely on tradition” is naive. His exposition of Scripture is an exposition of Scripture according to the Apostolic Tradition. This can be shown in many ways, among which is, for example, that in his work “On the Incarnation,” which you referenced, he says, “For He was made man that we might be made God.” This, for St. Athanasius, is the heart of the gospel received from the Apostles. And yet you (a self-described biblicist) reject it, and the other similar claims St. Athanasius makes in his other writings. Hence St. Athanasius wasn’t a biblicist. In his theology and interpretation of Scripture he, like the other Church Fathers, was guided by doctrines and practices handed down within the Church, but not explicitly stated in Scripture. Yes, for St. Athanasius the Arians were failing to hold to the faith taught in the Scriptures, but that’s because for St. Athanasius the faith contained in the Scriptures is the one obtained not through a biblicist approach to Scripture but through a Tradition-guided understanding of Scripture.

    As for our disagreement regarding biblicism, we cannot get past it so long as biblicism is presumed as the means by which the disagreement is to be resolved, as I explained in comments #7, #9, and #12 in the “Clark, Frame, and the Analogy of Painting a Magisterial Target Around One’s Interpretive Arrow” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  161. Another example of a “solo scriptura” failure is Sen. James Inhofe’s appeal to Gen. 8:22 as entailing that the human race cannot possibly change the earth’s climate.

  162. Another “solo scriptura” fail: “Nashville Evangelical Church Comes Out for Marriage Equality

  163. Bryan,
    Would not this be easier to call a natural law fail vs. a Solo Scriptura fail?

  164. Hermonta, (re: #163)

    A “solo scriptura” failure is even more of a failure, not less, when it is also a failure to adhere to the natural law.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  165. Bryan,
    I agree that such is a worse error. My point is that to attempt to tie the error to sol0/sola Scriptura when the proper answer could be arrived at without even having seen a Bible, seems basically to be a smear tactic.

  166. Hermonta, (re: #165)

    My point is that to attempt to tie the error to solo/sola Scriptura when the proper answer could be arrived at without even having seen a Bible, seems basically to be a smear tactic.

    I’m aware that that was your intended claim. The problem with your claim is that it presupposes that if a failure to understand the Bible correctly when approached in a “solo scriptura” fashion happens to go against a precept of the natural law, then the failure is not a failure of “solo scriptura.” Thus your claim presupposes that for any relevant failure, it cannot be both a failure to adhere to the natural law, and a failure of “solo scriptura.” And that’s a presupposition that would require supporting argumentation. A failure of “solo scriptura” is such a failure whether or not it also happens to fail to adhere to natural law.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  167. Bryan,
    The problem with using this against Solo/Sola Scriptura is that many who hold to Solo/Sola dont make this same error and they can avoid such an error without an appeal to church tradition. There is nothing inherent in the solo/Sola Scriptura position that leads to the conclusion in question here.

  168. Hermonta and Bryan,

    The problem with using this against Solo/Sola Scriptura is that many who hold to Solo/Sola dont make this same error and they can avoid such an error without an appeal to church tradition. There is nothing inherent in the solo/Sola Scriptura position that leads to the conclusion in question here.

    Key point. One could equally point to RCs who use tradition and the Magisterium to justify abortion as a failure of the Roman paradigm. Apart from consistent discipline, there’s no “principled means” to judge these people as breaking the RC faith or to judge pro-lifers as keeping it.

  169. Hermonta (re: #167)

    In the comments above (starting in comment #73) I have presented a couple dozen examples of “solo scriptura” failures, as evidence that “solo scriptura” is not adequate for ensuring that all persons who sincerely examine Scripture arrive at agreement concerning what is and is not essential to the faith. After your comment #163, I thought at first that your objection had something to do with natural law. But it turns out that your objection does not have to do with natural law. Rather, you are claiming that because some people operating under “solo scriptura” do come to the correct interpretation of Scripture, and do avoid the errors I’ve pointed out above, therefore the errors I have pointed out above are not evidence of a problem with “solo scriptura.” In reply, I would first ask a question, who are these people, precisely, who by following “solo scriptura” have come to the correct interpretation of Scripture and reached agreement concerning what is and is not essential to the faith? Second, the test of the principle is not whether some people arrive at the correct interpretation of Scripture and agree, but whether all persons of sincerity and good will, and the use of their rational faculty, when following the “solo scriptura” principle arrive at the correct interpretation of Scripture, and agreement amongst themselves concerning what is and is not essential to the faith. Hence pointing to cases where persons of sincerity and good will, and the use of their rational faculty, when following the “solo scriptura” principle do not arrive at the correct interpretation of Scripture, or agreement amongst themselves concerning what is and is not essential to the faith, is a problem for the “solo scriptura” thesis.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  170. Robert (re: #168)

    One could equally point to RCs who use tradition and the Magisterium to justify abortion as a failure of the Roman paradigm. Apart from consistent discipline, there’s no “principled means” to judge these people as breaking the RC faith or to judge pro-lifers as keeping it.

    Except there is.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  171. Bryan (re: #169),
    You seem to be misunderstanding my objections. I am not presenting a full blown defense of solo/sola Scriptura. My simple claim here is to blame this error (supporting same sex marriage) on sola Scriptura is lacking. My objection is in fact based on natural law. Those people who accept natural law and sola Scriptura wont and dont make this error. And since one does not need church tradition in order to get natural law correct, the core problem here is the rejection of natural law and not solo/sola Scriptura. (Also a person will come to the correct position with just natural law even if one has never read a Bible).

    For your claim to hold, it seems that you would either make properly understanding natural law dependent on accepting/knowing church tradition (which undermines natural law itself), or that framing my Scriptural interpretation by natural law as no longer a form of sola/solo Scriptura.

  172. Hermonta (re: #171)

    And since one does not need church tradition in order to get natural law correct, …

    That’s where you are oversimplifying. As the Catechism explains:

    The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known “by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.” (CCC 1960)

    You continued:

    the core problem here is the rejection of natural law and not solo/sola Scriptura. (Also a person will come to the correct position with just natural law even if one has never read a Bible).

    Again, I do not agree. If what you say were the case, there would have been no need for the giving of the Decalogue. Our understanding of the natural law is greatly aided by divine revelation. That does not mean that there is no natural law in all men, or that those who have attained the use of reason have no awareness of its primary precepts. But natural law itself is not only layered, with primary, secondary, and tertiary precepts, such that the latter are less universally known than the former, but our awareness and understanding of these precepts is deeply shaped and formed by the community in which we ourselves are shaped and formed, such that communities without the aid of the supernatural light of divine revelation are less aware of and clear about the content of the natural law, than are communities gifted with the aid of divine revelation, all other things being equal.

    For your claim to hold, it seems that you would either make properly understanding natural law dependent on accepting/knowing church tradition (which undermines natural law itself), …

    The claim that our understanding of natural law is dependent on Church tradition (or, more accurately, divine revelation) “undermines natural law itself” would need supporting argumentation. As I explained above, in the Catholic tradition, our (as a society) dependence on divine revelation for a clear understanding of the requirements of the precepts of natural law does not undermine natural law. So it turns out, apparently, that your objection to my comment #162 is based on a non-Catholic conception of our dependence on divine revelation for fully understanding natural law, and that this non-Catholic conception is not self-evident, and thus would require supporting argumentation.

    I also recommend that we slow down the conversation, to at most one exchange per day. Slower conversations are more careful, thoughtful, and more fruitful.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  173. Bryan,

    Except there is.

    The Magisterium has given me no good reason to prize your reading of itself over the reading of more liberal theologians. All of you are welcome to the Eucharist, ergo, all of you are in good standing if the visibility of the church is so important in your paradigm.

  174. Robert, (re: #173)

    All of you are welcome to the Eucharist, ergo, all of you are in good standing if the visibility of the church is so important in your paradigm.

    I’ve explained the reason why Protestants are susceptible to committing that non sequitur, at the link I provided in #170.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  175. Bryan: (re: #172),
    Since, I am not a Catholic (nor have to be to discuss here), an appeal to the Catholic Catechism is begging the question (or perhaps you assumed that we were on the same page and argumentation was not needed – as I have seemingly done at some points). The Westminster Standards have no such similar passages.

    Next, if that Cathecism answer is correct, then there really is no line between general and special revelation. The normal line has been between that which is known from natural means and equally available to all natural revelation, in contrast to that which can be known only through non natural means (Scripture etc).

    If natural law cannot be known by firm certainty outside of interactions with special revelation, then Romans 1 seems to be simply wrong.

    Now I agree that natural law cannot be known clearly and immediately by everyone but it seems that you wish to go further and say that even given time and effort people cannot know (with firm confidence) what natural law is saying.

    Next, the giving of the Decalogue does nothing to refute or hinder my point. For example, I can decide to write a book and publish it even if my potential readers can and have come to the same conclusions by various means even before I have published the book. Saying that special revelation is easier to interpret in various ways does not attack the clarity of general revelation (Romans 1).

    Next, I agree that natural law is layered, with some things more basic or less basic than other things. Such does not force error upon us without the use of Scripture (Special Revelation). Next, for the sake of this discussion, you would have to not only say that natural law is layered but that the relevant parts of natural law to same sex marriage is a less basic concept of natural law.

    Lastly, I do agree that I do take a non-Catholic conception of natural law, but would simply say that the Catholic conception is not self evident and needs more justification than simply quoting from a Catholic Catechism.

  176. Hermonta, (re: #175)

    All of that (i.e. what you said in comment #175) is compatible with the truth of what I said in #166. And the truth of what I said in #166 is sufficient to show why the objection raised in #163 and #165 fails.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  177. Bryan,
    Going back to 166, so you are in agreement that I can hold to solo/sola Scriptura and natural law and objectively reject support for same sex marriage without any interaction church history/church authority etc. If so, then I suppose we simply disagree over what it means to apply blame to various things.

    Let me attempt to answer is a different way. I would say that rejecting natural law is a more basic error than misinterpreting/rejecting Scripture. Ana analogous situation would be a person who says that 1+1=3 who also fails to understand Calculus. To place blame on solo/sola Scriptura is akin to pointing out that a person is messing up Calculus. It is true that they they are messing such up but the core problem is that they think that 1+1=3. Once that error is fixed, then they can move forward and fix their various other errors.

  178. Bryan,

    Your statement about discipline in the linked article doesn’t address the problem. You all want an infallible church. I get it. But all you end up with is a bunch of infallible statements that you are left to interpret privately. The Magisterial failure to discipline gives you no way to be sure that your reading of document x by the Magisterium is true or not. Being able to “ask” the Magisterium is pointless when the Magisterium won’t do anything to indicate who is right and who is wrong except offer another statement that you must then resort to interpreting privately. And since you aren’t infallible, there goes your “principled means.”

    Unity in “doctrine,” whatever that means, is useless without the “incarnational” reality of discipline. There’s no good reason for any outsider, in considering the Roman Church, to think that the view of RC authority presented here is any more viable or truer to the Magisterium than the view of RC theologians and Bible scholars who hold views that are opposite of yours.

  179. Hermonta, (re: #177)

    If “solo scriptura” is supposed to prevent persons who adhere to it from reaching contrary positions, then when persons following “solo scriptura” arrive at contrary positions, this constitutes a failure of “solo scriptura,” even in those cases where one of the positions reached by those following “solo scriptura” is opposed to natural law. If adhering to “solo scriptura” does not prevent arriving at positions contrary to natural law, then a fortiori its prospects for ensuring truth and unity in theological questions not subject to natural law are even dimmer.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  180. Rob, (re: #178)

    Your statement about discipline in the linked article doesn’t address the problem. You all want an infallible church. I get it. But all you end up with is a bunch of infallible statements that you are left to interpret privately.

    This objection has been addressed in the “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” article.

    The Magisterial failure to discipline gives you no way to be sure that your reading of document x by the Magisterium is true or not.

    That conclusion does not follow from that premise.

    Being able to “ask” the Magisterium is pointless when the Magisterium won’t do anything to indicate who is right and who is wrong except offer another statement that you must then resort to interpreting privately.

    This objection too has been addressed in the “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority” article.

    And since you aren’t infallible, there goes your “principled means.”

    That conclusion does not follow from that premise. Moreover, the inference presumes that my being infallible is the only way for there to be principled difference between dogma and opinion. But I don’t share that presumption.

    Unity in “doctrine,” whatever that means, is useless without the “incarnational” reality of discipline.

    Your mere assertion lacks credibility not only because it is a mere assertion without any supporting argumentation, but also because if you do not understand what unity in doctrine means, you’re in no position to say anything critical about it.

    There’s no good reason for any outsider, in considering the Roman Church, to think that the view of RC authority presented here is any more viable or truer to the Magisterium than the view of RC theologians and Bible scholars who hold views that are opposite of yours.

    Claims like this are easy but unhelpful when you hand-wave from 30,000 feet. If you’re interested in authentic dialogue, and wish to avoid sophistry, then you’ll specify precisely which view of “RC authority” [held by these nameless RC theologians] you have in mind.

    However, none of this has anything to with the post at the top of this page. This thread is for discussing the post at the top of this page, as specified at our comment guideline page.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  181. Michael Allen and Scott Swain, both associate professors of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, have recently published a book titled Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Baker, 2015). The primary thesis of the book is that Christians can simultaneously be both Reformed and [small ‘c’] catholic. In fact their thesis is even stronger: to be truly Reformed, one must embrace catholicity.

    From a Catholic point of view, one praiseworthy aspect of this work is its attempt to separate itself from biblicism, from parochialism, and from a general eschewal of or disregard for the early Church Fathers and for ecclesial authority. Any aspiration toward or embrace of catholicity, even if incomplete or mistaken in certain respects, is a movement toward the third mark of the Church. And thus such a movement provides a common ground with regard to the shared value of catholicity and the shared goal of attaining and/or enjoying catholicity.

    At the same time, the position Allen and Swain present fails to avoid a fundamental and fatal flaw, one we’ve pointed out here before. Here’s an excerpt from pages 18-19 of the text:

    Because the anointing of Christ dwells within the church, the church is the school of Christ. The Spirit of Christ teaches the church in sufficient and unmixed verity such that the church need not seek theological understanding from any other source or principle. Moreover, because the anointing of Christ dwells within the church, the church is the seedbed of theology, the fertile creaturely field within which alone Christ’s teaching has the promise of flourishing in renewed human understanding. By the Spirit’s presence the church has been born of God (1 John 2:29). The church thus possesses the heavenly principle of spiritual life, knowledge, and love (1 John 3:9), which enables it to see and to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3,5). By the Spirit’s presence the church is equipped to discern and receive the truth confessed by the apostles (1 John 4:6; with 1 John 1:1-3) and to test and reject the spirit of false prophecy (1 John 4:1). Because the church alone has received these gifts, we should not expect theological understanding to flourish in any other field: “the world cannot receive” the Spirit of truth “because it neither sees him nor knows him” (John 14:17). (Allen & Swain, pp. 18-19)

    The problem can be seen as soon as one reflects carefully on the following question: who counts as “the church”? Any heretic can define ‘the church’ according to his own beliefs and interpretations, and in this way affirm everything in the excerpted paragraph above as applying to his own [heretical] community, or to the set of communities he counts as sufficiently with the bounds of ‘orthodoxy’ as defined according to his false position. So all this locating of the Spirit in “the church” is worthless if “the church” is defined in an ad hoc way, because the position then reduces to ‘the Spirit speaks through the community of persons picked out by their sufficient agreement with my interpretation of Scripture.’ And that is even more nefarious than simply stating “the Spirit speaks ultimately through me” because it hides from itself its egoism, masking it under the semantics of community, as Neal Judisch and I have explained elsewhere.

    Only the existence of a divinely authorized magisterium allows both ‘heresy’ and ‘schism from the Church’ to be defined in a non ad hoc way. But Allen and Swain do not acknowledge a divinely authorized magisterial authority, and for this reason their position regarding what is “the church” remains ad hoc. (I’ve pointed out this problem before in my reply to Mark Galli and in the last paragraph of comment #89 in the Brad Gregory thread, where I responded to Carl Trueman’s criticism of Brad Gregory’s argument.)

    Moreover, fatal to the Protestant attempt to embrace tradition as in any sense authoritative is the ecclesial deism inherent in Protestantism, according to which necessarily, as shown by the very need for Protestantism in the sixteenth century to the present day, tradition cannot be trusted, and must therefore be subject to one’s own interpretation of Scripture to test its authenticity. But when I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me. Hence, as I’ve shown in the post at the top of this page, when what gets to count as tradition is only that which conforms to one’s own interpretation of Scripture, one is giving only lip-service to the authority of tradition, while hiding from oneself one’s denial of the authority of tradition. In this way Protestant’s justification for its own existence presupposes that tradition is unreliable, and not authoritative.

    Further evidence for this can be found in the confessionalists vs. biblicists debate within the Reformed community, a debate I’ve discussed here. The arguments raised by the Reformed biblicists against the confessionalists apply no less to the ‘catholic’ tradition, given a Protestant ecclesiology. Without a magisterium, there is no principled difference between choosing which Protestant confessions to which to ‘submit’ on the basis of one’s interpretation of Scripture, and choosing which catholic traditions count as ‘catholic tradition’ on the basis of one’s interpretation of Scripture. And if ‘catholic’ tradition is supposed to be more authoritative than the Reformed confessions because the former is not “Reformed,” then this only shows that Reformed theology is not ‘catholic.’

    A second reason lies behind the inherent incompatibility of Protestantism and catholic tradition. The formation of a schism from the Church, in the name of standing with the tradition in the Church Fathers, is not itself part of the tradition of the Fathers, but is itself contrary to the tradition. For the Fathers it was better to die than to form or enter a schism from the Church (i.e. the living community). The tradition does not provide a justification for or affirmation of choosing to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church rather than submit to her authentic Magisterium; the tradition is exactly the opposite. So a belief in the acceptability of forming or entering a schism from the Church for the sake of presumed faithfulness to the tradition is itself a departure from the tradition, as is the embrace of excommunication from the Catholic Church, and of remaining in such a state of excommunication without appeal for reconciliation.

    Protestants attempt to justify this position in two ways. They either claim that Protestantism is the continuation of the Church, and that the [Roman] Catholic Church departed from her through various errors, or they claim that Protestantism formed a branch within the “church catholic,” and was only cut off from a branch (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church), and is thus not in schism from the “church catholic.” The problem with the latter claim is that Protestantism’s ‘branch ecclesiology’ is itself a departure from the tradition. While “schism from” the Church is actually possible according to the tradition, yet because Protestantism’s invisible church ecclesiology makes “schism from” the Church conceptually impossible (see here), it thus does not allow for a non ad hoc distinction between a “branch within” the Church and a “schism from” the Church.

    Likewise, the problem with the former claim is that the ecclesial deism inherent in the claim that the Church Catholic had departed from the faith is itself contrary to the tradition, because according to the tradition, the Church is indefectible. Any heretical group that separates from the Catholic Church can claim to be the continuation of the Church, and can claim that the Catholic Church separated from her. But any such claim can be justified only by way of ad hoc definitions of ‘heresy’ and ‘schism,’ definitions that depart from the respective definitions handed down within the tradition. So both attempted Protestant justifications for separating from the Catholic Church and remaining separated from the Catholic Church run afoul of tradition. And thus again, for these reasons, Protestantism and catholic tradition are inherently incompatible.

    Update: Hear an interview with Allen and Swain here

  182. I addressed briefly, in comment #57 of the “Doug Wilson Weighs in on the Eternal Fate of Faithful Catholics” thread the notion of divine timelessness. Roger Olson brought this question up again last week in “An Example of Unwarranted Theological Speculation: Divine Timelessness.” I’ve criticized Olson’s positions before on other matters (here and here), and Ed Feser has previously criticized his position on this question. Olson’s claim is an example of what it looks like to engage in theological speculation without the guidance of both (a) good philosophy and (b) Holy Mother Church. And the consequences, as I explained in the first link above, are non-trivial. This is another example of the failure of “solo scriptura.”

  183. Another example of “solo scriptura” fail, a pastor in South Africa having his congregation drink fuel he ‘turned into’ pineapple juice, and washing them and himself in detergent and bleach:

    (source)

    (source)

  184. “Solo scriptura” fail: “Preacher’s Wife Works at Local Abortion Clinic, She Says “God’s a Forgiving God”

  185. Bryon,
    Yes indeed! Here is another application of Mark 16:18 , not in Africa but in the U.S.A.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwBVcsWYJd8

  186. “Solo scriptura” fail: “Christian swingers: ‘God uses us to spread his word’

  187. Bryan,

    #186 demonstrates why “‘solo scriptura’ fails” is a failure. Nowhere do these people appeal to Scripture to justify their behavior. Even if they did, you and I would both agree that Scripture does not advocate “swinging.” If you think Scripture is unclear on this I’d be fascinated to hear your argument. I’ll provide just two examples in Scripture particularly referencing “revelry”

    Galatians 5:21- “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings (κῶμοι), and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Romans 13:13 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies (κώμοις) and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality (κοίταις) and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”

    It’s no more valid to critique the Magisterium because Catholic swingers try to harmonize Church teaching with their behavior than it is to critique Protestantism for this kind of drivel. We could also say the same thing about Protestants and Catholic arguing for gay marriage, abortion, contraception, etc., etc., When people do so they are acting against the operative principles they claim to uphold.

  188. Brandon, (re: #187)

    As all the examples I’ve given in this thread show, the problem isn’t solved by pointing to verses, since it is not that such persons cut such passages out of their Bibles but rather that they interpret such passages differently than do you. Nor does simply calling their interpretation of such passages not “valid” solve the problem. That’s because you don’t share agreement concerning what makes interpretations valid or invalid. The problem is therefore deeper, because it cannot be solved without at least the mutual recognition and embrace of a shared interpretive tradition as authoritative. Those persons who deny the authority of any tradition, including any interpretative tradition, and who have not yet fallen into any other theological error, are only living unawares on the inertia of such tradition. Their children, or their children’s children, will no longer even be Christian. (See Michael Spencer’s “The coming evangelical collapse.”) What these failures illustrate is that the text of Scripture itself does not dictate the interpretive paradigm by which the text itself is to be approached and interpreted, and thus that without a recognition of a shared interpretive tradition as authoritative, the interpretive disagreements are inevitable, substantive, and intractable.

    As for your tu quoque objection, Neal and I have explained in the tu quoque section of our “Solo Scriptura” article why that objection fails, and I’ve done so as well in the post titled “The Tu Quoque.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  189. Bryan,

    As all the examples I’ve given in this thread show, the problem isn’t solved by pointing to verses, since it is not that such persons cut such passages out of their Bibles but rather that they interpret such passages differently than do you.

    So I just want to be clear on this–you believe that Scripture is unclear on participation in “swinging?” We can’t resolve this claim by appealing to God’s Word, which is “profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” for a moral issue like sexual promiscuity?

    As for your tu quoque objection, Neal and I have explained in the tu quoque section of our “Solo Scriptura” article why that objection fails, and I’ve done so as well in the post titled “The Tu Quoque.”

    No, I’ve read both articles and those articles do not refute what I said in Comment # 187 because I’m not making the “Tu Quoque” in the sense you intend in those articles. I pointed out individuals can and will distort teaching, but that does not invalidate that the teaching is clear or authoritative. It merely indicates that one is misunderstanding or thumbing their noise at the authority. All you’ve done in your posts is indicate that people are thumbing their noise at Scripture unless you believe one two things:

    1. They are right
    2. They are wrong, but it’s unclear and Magisterium needs to infallibly settle the matter.

    If you think there is another option I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  190. Bryan,
    Would it not be better to call it a Clarity/Perspecuity of Scripture failure instead of Sola Scriptura failure? Next, what makes Spencer’s article/prediction authoritative?

    Next, I agree with the view that Scripture does not dictate a certain interpretative framework but instead simply assumes a certain set of basic beliefs. Or in more contemporary Protestant terms, one brings a worldview to their interpretation of Scripture and depending on which worldview that is, will then determine what one understands Scripture to be saying. Given such, the question before us is whether or not an infallible magisterium is required to come to unity in interpretive frameworks.

    A conference along the lines of this question was just held with the answer being no – http://thelogospapers.com/the-unity-of-the-faith-conference-audio-video/

  191. Brandon, (re: #189)

    So I just want to be clear on this–you believe that Scripture is unclear on participation in “swinging?” We can’t resolve this claim by appealing to God’s Word, which is “profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” for a moral issue like sexual promiscuity?

    Once again you appeal to a passage from Scripture, as if that by itself determines the answer to the question, and as if anyone who does not think that that passage by itself answers the question denies Scripture itself. Such a methodology itself presupposes the very biblicism in question, as I’ve explained in comments #3 through #12 of the “Clark, Frame, …” thread.

    For this reason, the “you believe Scripture is unclear on x?” question is a loaded question, because it presupposes biblicist answers to prior questions. A more preliminary question is whether an interpretive paradigm of some sort is necessary for reasoning justifiably from certain passages to the conclusion that God has supernaturally revealed in Scripture that Christians today should never do x, and operative whenever Christians do draw that conclusion. My answer to that question is affirmative.

    The presence and function of an interpretive paradigm in the mind of the interpreter is what often goes unnoticed. The reader simply assumes that he is deriving his interpretation only from the text itself, and in this way the interpretive paradigm he is using remains invisible to himself, or insofar as he recognizes that he has an interpretive paradigm, he assumes he derived it entirely from Scripture, or that Scripture will always correct a flawed interpretive paradigm and thus lead every devout reader to the very same interpretive paradigm. When one encounters persons operating with a different interpretive paradigm, the presence and role of these interpretive paradigms is more capable of being noticed, especially if the good will, intelligence, and education of the other person is evident. For in that case, the intractable nature of the interpretive disagreement can no longer be ascribed to ignorance, stupidity, or malice on the part of the interlocutor. So then the underdetermined hermeneutical character of the text can itself be detected, and the hidden role of the respective interpretive paradigms can be recognized.

    This can be seen even in your own denial that women need wear head-coverings when they pray, in view of 1 Cor. 11:2-16, or that women will be saved through childbearing (1 Tim 2:15). What is at work in your interpretation of those passages are certain background theological beliefs within an interpretive tradition by which you conclude that contemporary women need not wear head-coverings in church and that present-day women are not saved through bearing children. But in the same way, parallel background theological beliefs within an interpretive tradition are at work in your interpretation of the passages you mentioned above (i.e. Gal 5:21, Rom 13:13), concerning not only the meaning of the term κῶμοι, but also the applicability of that norm to the present-day community of faith, and the normative continuation of the specific sense in which those passages were then understood to be normative as something never to be out-grown through further cultural, spiritual, and theological enlightenment concerning the essence of love, our sexual freedom in Christ’s love, and the implications of the goodness of the body. Give all these beliefs within your interpretive paradigm, of course the passages are “clear.” But your question implicitly denies that such an interpretive paradigm is at work in your interpretation of them, by locating the point of disagreement (between you and those who don’t share your interpretation) in the clarity or unclarity of the passages themselves, rather than in the respective interpretive paradigms brought to the passages.

    No, I’ve read both articles and those articles do not refute what I said in Comment # 187 because I’m not making the “Tu Quoque” in the sense you intend in those articles.

    Even though you’re not making the tu quoque objection in the same sense intended in those articles, what we wrote there applies nonetheless to your tu quoque. See the paragraph in the “Solo” article that begins “The follow-up objection to our argument takes the form of a dilemma” and the immediately following paragraph. It directly addresses your tu quoque. See also “III. Persons and Texts” in my reply to Michael Horton’s last set of comments in our Modern Reformation interview.

    All you’ve done in your posts is indicate that people are thumbing their nose at Scripture unless you believe one two things:

    1. They are right
    2. They are wrong, but it’s unclear and Magisterium needs to infallibly settle the matter.

    This is precisely what allows the interpretive paradigm to go unnoticed, namely, the ability to presume that all those Christians who do not come to one’s own interpretation of Scripture are “thumbing their nose at Scripture.” But what eventually puts the lie to this option is getting out of the denominational bunker, and having actual, careful, long-term, truth-seeking conversations with persons in other traditions, persons who one comes to see as well educated, intelligent, and good-willed, but who do not share one’s interpretation of Scripture, and with whom such conversations are not successful in resolving the interpretive disagreements about which one remains divided. At that point, the “thumbing their nose at Scripture” explanation for the on-going disagreements simply breaks down, and another explanation must be sought. For example, in the discussion between N.T. Wright and James White regarding justification, it does not seem correct to say that [at least] one of these two is “thumbing their nose at Scripture.” And the best available alternative explanation for the existence and intractable character of such disagreements is the presence and operation of distinct interpretive paradigms in the interpretations of the relevant passages of Scripture.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  192. Bryan, (re: #191)

    Even on your view where there are intractable disagreements about various things/concepts in the Bible, does not imply that everything is intractable among intelligent people of good will. Saying that because of disagreement about Justification implies that swinging is also up for grabs, simply does not follow. Unless you can defend that such is the case, then your claim that such is a sola scriptura fail – fails.

  193. Hermonta (re: #192)

    Even on your view where there are intractable disagreements about various things/concepts in the Bible, does not imply that everything is intractable among intelligent people of good will.

    I agree. That’s not an argument I made.

    Saying that because of disagreement about Justification implies that swinging is also up for grabs, simply does not follow.

    Again, I agree. I never made that argument. If you want to criticize what I wrote, I recommend quoting it, so that you are criticizing what I actually wrote, not what you think I wrote.

    Unless you can defend that such is the case, then your claim that such is a sola scriptura fail – fails.

    There’s a conclusion that does not follow from the premise. Moreover, if you look carefully, I did not claim that any of these examples are failures of “sola scriptura.” I claimed rather that they are failures of “solo scriptura.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  194. Bryan, (re: #193)
    If I am reading your response correctly, you seem to be implying that there are Protestants (or at least could be) who reject Roman Catholicism and yet would be able to rationally reject and discount the claims of Christian Swingers?

  195. Bryan,

    A more preliminary question is whether an interpretive paradigm of some sort is necessary for reasoning justifiably from certain passages to the conclusion that God has supernaturally revealed in Scripture that Christians today should never do x, and operative whenever Christians do draw that conclusion.

    Sure. I agree. I just assumed that we agreed there and didn’t need to rehash where we agreed.

    This can be seen even in your own denial that women need wear head-coverings when they pray, in view of 1 Cor. 11:2-16, or that women will be saved through childbearing (1 Tim 2:15).

    I don’t recall ever commenting on this, so I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to comment on this particular examples…

    But your question implicitly denies that such an interpretive paradigm is at work in your interpretation of them, by locating the point of disagreement (between you and those who don’t share your interpretation) in the clarity or unclarity of the passages themselves, rather than in the respective interpretive paradigms brought to the passages.

    No, my question does not implicitly deny interpretive paradigms are at work in interpretation. My question implicitly assumes that texts can be understand despite the (sometimes convoluted) interpretive paradigms we bring to the text.

    See also “III. Persons and Texts” in my reply to Michael Horton’s last set of comments in our Modern Reformation interview.

    The “person/text” distinction is poor, as I argued here: https://hakalonhumas.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/texts-turns-and-the-tiber/

    This is precisely what allows the interpretive paradigm to go unnoticed, namely, the ability to presume that all those Christians who do not come to one’s own interpretation of Scripture are “thumbing their nose at Scripture.”

    No, that’s not what I said. I said, ” It merely indicates that one is misunderstanding or thumbing their noise at the authority.” Misunderstanding is the category that one may attribute to situations like Wright/White. Their conversation about their differences though presupposes that both men *believe* that meaning is accessible even though they believe the other has misunderstood it.

    My next “thumbing their nose” statement assumed that you agreed with me that “swinging” is condemned in Scripture because, well, it’s rather obvious. Therefore those advocating for it are not operating consistently with Sola Scriptura, because they are blatantly violating Scripture. In other words, you are only showing people ignoring or misinterpreting Scripture *if* you believe Scripture condemns “swinging.” That’s not an example of Sola Scriptura failing; it’s an example of people not being conformed to Scripture enough.

  196. Hermonta (re; #194),

    Sure, Brandon is one of them. But that’s fully compatible with everything I said in #188 and #191 being true.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  197. Bryan (re; #196),

    How is such compatible with the claim such as ” Those persons who deny the authority of any tradition, including any interpretative tradition, and who have not yet fallen into any other theological error, are only living unawares on the inertia of such tradition. Their children, or their children’s children, will no longer even be Christian.”

    If such can rationally rejected (or non question beggingly rejected), why should there be any problem passing such on to one’s children?

  198. Brandon (re: #195)

    My next “thumbing their nose” statement assumed that you agreed with me that “swinging” is condemned in Scripture because, well, it’s rather obvious. Therefore those advocating for it are not operating consistently with Sola Scriptura, because they are blatantly violating Scripture.

    As I explained in #191, your interpretation is only “obvious” to those who share the general interpretive paradigm you bring to Scripture, which includes the theological beliefs I laid out in #191. So what follows your “therefore” [i.e. “those advocating …”] is built on the question-begging assumption that your interpretation is obvious regardless of the interpretive paradigm one brings to Scripture. But that’s like the person who still advocates women wearing head-coverings when they pray saying the very same thing to you, namely, that it is “rather obvious” that it is commanded, and that those who do not follow St. Paul here are “blatantly violating Scripture.” (Notice how easy it is to treat one’s own interpretation as if it is Scripture itself.)

    In other words, you are only showing people ignoring or misinterpreting Scripture *if* you believe Scripture condemns “swinging.”

    What I believe about Scripture is irrelevant to what these examples show regarding the capacity of a “solo scriptura” approach to Scripture to ensure orthodoxy and resolve interpretive disagreements.

    That’s not an example of Sola Scriptura failing; it’s an example of people not being conformed to Scripture enough.

    First, I never claimed it was an example of “sola scriptura” failing. All these are examples of a failure of “solo scriptura.” Second, here too you are treating your interpretation of Scripture as if it is Scripture itself, saying that people who do not hold your interpretation of Scripture are “not being conformed to Scripture enough.” But those who hold interpretations other than yours can say the same about you, namely, that you’re “not being conformed to Scripture enough.” That’s why it is important not to conflate Scripture and one’s interpretation of Scripture. To do so is to treat one’s interpretation as no less authoritative than Scripture itself, and therefore as infallible and unable to be corrected by anything, including Scripture itself. When Protestants complain about the doctrine of papal infallibility, and then treat their own [fallible, fallen, human] interpretations as if they are Scripture itself, it seems incoherent.

    The “person/text” distinction is poor, as I argued here

    I don’t see anything there that refutes the distinction, or falsifies even one of the claims I made in the relevant paragraphs about the person/text distinction. Perhaps you can specify which of the statements I made you think is false, and lay out your argument showing why that statement is false.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  199. Brandon,

    I want to share a little about my personal life that has a lot to do with “scripture fail”. My epistemic crisis that led me to the Catholic Church was somewhat fostered by a lifelong uncertainty about the authority of scripture, which was really an uncertainty about the authority of the church. I had gone( without my dad’s permission) to different churches a couple of times in my life, but I never could tell which church was the true one. I wanted so much to obey God by doing the right thing especially in regards to morals but from very early on, I had conflicting ideas about right and wrong. You see, my parents raised my brother and I as nudists and so I was taught that public nudity was a good thing, even though my conscience said something else( especially at the beginning of puberty when the body is changing and the conscience awake). But when your father, who is supposes to be looking out for your welfare, instructs you from a very young age and puts an injunction on you to obey, its really hard to trust that anyone really know what is morally permissible. So I grew up very confused about allegiances to religious organizations because I didn’t know who to trust because my own dad had taught me to be wary of organized religion, but at the same time I deeply desired to know God, although I was afraid of Him because he was in my mind as morally capricious as my dad, and what was worse his authority was more intimidating and absolute.
    My father didn’t set out to be a bad father and raise us wrongly, but that’s what happened when he rejected the interpretive tradition of Baptists because he was wounded by a pastor whose interference caused my father to lose custody of his kids from a first marriage. After that he hated organized religion because it had helped his kids remain with their mother who was physically abusive. My dad was no saint, but he was angry that a religious institution failed to see the danger that his kids were in, and so he didn’t raise my brother and I from his second marriage to have any religious beliefs. He believed in the good book as he called it, but church going was out of the question. He couldn’t escape religious expression altogether for one because we lived in the southern bible belt and it is pretty much imbued with it( or at least was), so when he learned he could escape from the hypocrisy that he met in the churches, and have a Christian identity that was less judgmental, uptight, and sin obsessed, he went for it. Only thing is what was meant to make us respect and enjoy nature, and be salutary by helping us be less inhibited and ashamed ending up being Bacchanal and dangerous for children. He found religion alright the primal Dionysian sort. All of this started for him with an introduction to German Naturism. Here is some information about the Rev. Boone, whose brochures my dad read.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilsley_Boone

    Also, I will spare you the pictures but here is an excerpt from a website of Young Naturists. The young woman uses scripture to prove that public recreational nudism is acceptable Christian behavior. How do you talk someone out of their interpretative paradigm if they find scripture that to them supports what they and others like them believe? This was the failure of solo scriptura; that is, to authoritatively teach and correct, binding consciences to the truth. I would appreciate your thoughts.

    ~Susan

    A Christian Nudist Shares Her Thought:

    “Christian Nudist – This is not exactly a confession in the traditional sense, since I believe what I have to tell is not a sin, although it is controversial. I am a nudist. I have not engaged in unlawful sex, nor have I suddenly become perverted in my desires. I do this because it is neither sexual nor sinful and there are benefits to be gained.

    Some years ago, I was surfing the Web and stumbled upon a Christian nudist website. I was intrigued enough to explore it and read their statement of faith, and was surprised to find that in nearly every particular it matched orthodox Christianity. The one exception was the last section, a brief statement that they believed the naked human being was good and nudity was not forbidden in the Bible.

    Well, I have long believed in studying the Bible for myself rather than blindly accepting the doctrines of any one denomination. So I searched the Scriptures, and was surprised to find what the Bible said about nakedness, or rather, what it didn’t say.

    I restudied Genesis 2 and 3. Of course, Adam and Eve were creaked naked and unashamed in the Garden; but it is usually assumed that God somehow changed His mind after our father and mother ate the Fruit. But the text doesn’t support that assumption. When Adam said, trying to justify himself, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked,” God replied, “Who told thee that thou was naked?” (3:10,11) Then, when it became apparent that they had disobeyed Him and were not repentant, He cursed them and the serpent who tempted them; but clothing was not part of that curse. It is not told why the Lord “made coats of skins” for Adam and Eve (vs. 21).

    The best speculation I have read about this was that it was to protect the humans against a new, harsher environment, and that it was the first blood sacrifice, a foretaste of the ultimate sacrifice of God’s Son. Nowhere in Genesis 1-3 is there even an implication that God declared human bodies shameful.

    Nor is there any subsequent commandment forbidding nudity in all circumstances. The book of Exodus details how priests were to wear linen breeches (ch. 28:42,43) lest their nakedness be seen when they do sacrifices; but I was unable to find any other law regarding this. On the other hand is the story of King Saul, who went down to Samuel’s and David’s hideout to try to capture David.

    “And the Spirit of God was upon him also…And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.” (I Samuel 19:23,24) The ancient author or authors seemed more surprised that Saul prophesied than at his nakedness; apparently it was acceptable, even common, to prophesy in the nude. The saying was not “Is Saul also naked?” but rather, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (vs. 24)

    Perhaps the most interesting passage I found is Isaiah 20. There God commanded the prophet to

    “Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.” (vs. 2)

    Then, after three years, the Lord explained to Israel that this was a symbol of Egypt’s and Ethiopia’s shameful captivity at Assyria’s hands. Now, does God ever command a sinful act?

    I also found that in at least one instance our Lord Jesus was casual about nudity.

    At the Last Supper “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” (John 13:4-5.) Most modern translations specify “outer garments,” but the old King James Version, following the Greek, simply says “garments.”

    Granted, probably only the Twelve were in the room, but any maidservant might have come in. (He would also have been crucified in the nude, but that was not strictly His doing.) Nor was Peter rebuked for fishing in the nude in John 21. (Again, most modern translations don’t indicate complete nudity, but the Greek and KJV do.)

    I was also surprised to learn of the well-documented practice of baptism in the nude. For about the first five centuries A.D., candidates would take off all their garments, be baptized, then receive white robes. It was also common for Christians to visit public baths. If these practices were sinful, why is the New Testament silent about them?

    So I concluded that the Bible does not condemn social nudity, at least not in all circumstances.

    After this, I did more online searching, this time seeking out nudist sites. Now, the most common reason given today against nakedness is that it will lead to all kinds of sexual immorality. But the nudists tell a different tale.

    Nearly without exception, nudists and naturists (the terms are interchangeable) say that their social nudity is neither about sex nor sexual in nature. Story after story tells how quickly one becomes accustomed to the feeling of one’s own nakedness and able to look at other naked bodies without erotic arousal. In fact, several reported healing from addiction to sexual perversions or pornography. (I did find exceptions, but it was obvious that the principals had issues or misconceptions.) And most nudist organizations have strict policies regarding public sex and molestation. Do it once, and you’re out. Many groups even try to maintain a numeric balance between men and women, to make the women more comfortable. (At public nude beaches, these things are much more difficult to enforce, and bad things happen. But the nudist organizations soundly condemn such actions, and many forums discuss how to remove the sex fiends and perverts from these beaches.)

    Yet even after this study, I still had to face the possibility that the nudists were either lying or in denial. The only way I could be sure was to try it myself. So I began to go naked in my own home, and quickly got comfortable with my own nudity. I also looked through photo galleries on nudist websites to accustom my eyes and mind to the sight. Since I was familiar with nudity in the visual arts, it didn’t take long. Then, finally, in August 2003, I attended a nudist gathering.

    It was all I expected. No sex, no erotic movements, no propositions, no lying, no denial. Within seconds I was entirely comfortable with my own nudity and seeing other naked humans in the flesh. The people were as friendly as any of my brothers and sisters in Christ, although by no means all were Christians. All the good things I had read are true. I found, too, that my body was more relaxed than it ever is in clothing.

    So I now consider myself a sometime nudist, while remaining a full-time Christian. If I have erred, and someone can prove it to me from the Bible, I may reconsider. But until I am convinced otherwise, I will continue to accept nudity as “true…honest…just…pure…lovely…of good report.” (Philippians 4:8)

    Scripture References:
    Genesis 1-3
    Genesis 3:10-11
    Genesis 3:21
    Exodus 28:42-43
    I Samuel 19:23-24
    Isaiah 20:2
    John 13:4-5
    John 21
    Phillippians 4:8

  200. Hermonta (re: #197)

    I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. But as for your question about compatibility, if you think two things I said are not compatible, then please show why you think they are incompatible.

    My claim about passing on the faith has to do with the fact that unless tradition is recognized as authoritative, it is eventually (as the inertia fades) either lost or rejected or abandoned.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  201. Bryan (re: #193),
    This swinging issue is not even an example of the failure of solo Scriptura. The only way one could make that claim is to say or imply that there is no such thing as an irrational interpretation of Scripture given the rejection of Roman Catholicism (or perhaps some other claim of an infallible interpreter). It is true that certain doctrines are harder but it is also true that some are easier.

    (re: #199),

    I think this discussion turns on the use of the term “rational/rationality”.

    Next, your claim concerning tradition is simply that a claim. I am not sure what you would want me to do besides counter claim that such is simply false. It seems to rest on the claim that without an authoritative tradition Scripture simply becomes a wax nose. This seems again to return to how we differ on the claim of there being irrational interpretations without an authoritative tradition.

  202. Hermonta, (re: #201)

    The only way one could make that claim is to say or imply that there is no such thing as an irrational interpretation of Scripture given the rejection of Roman Catholicism (or perhaps some other claim of an infallible interpreter).

    This is the sort of claim that would need to be supported with evidence or argumentation. Merely asserting it to be true does not show it to be true.

    Again, I don’t see anything here that shows anything I said in #188 and #191 to be false.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  203. Hermonta, (re: #201),

    If there are irrational claims made about Scripture given the rejection of an infallible interpreter, then on what basis is this swinging claim an example of solo Scriptura fail? Why is this not an example of such an irrational conclusion, and therefore of no concern to myself or anyone holding to sola or solo Scriptura?

  204. Hermonta (re: #203)

    These are two questions, not arguments. And a question cannot do the work of an argument. But in your questions you are attempting to imply that there are only two possibilities apart from an infallible interpreter: an irrational interpretation, or a “solo scriptura” success. In other words, you are claiming that all cases of “solo scriptura” failure are actually only cases of irrationality, and therefore not cases of “solo scriptura” failure. And this is ad hoc. Every case of a person arriving at an interpretation sufficiently different from yours is conveniently ascribed to that person being irrational. You and your interpretation thereby become the standard of rationality, and the greater the deviation from your interpretation, the greater the irrationality.

    As I said in #191 above, the remedy for this is to meet and engage (in person) other people who are reasonable and intelligent, and who hold interpretations different from your own. Then it becomes more difficult to ascribe to irrationality interpretations contrary to one’s own.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  205. Bryan, (re: #204),

    I am making a much simplier claim than you think that I am. Given your claim of sola scriptura fail concerning these swingers, and that there are irrational claims (or at least such are possible) given the a system that rejects Roman Catholicism and an infallible interpreter, it is on you to show that this is not an example of an irrational claim made.

    Even if I granted that justification or head covering could not be resolved within solo Scriptura, does not imply that any/all other disputes cannot be resolved within it. Given such is it on you to demonstrate that this is an example of an issue that it not resolvable within solo Scriptura.

    Next, even if there was no way for reasonable people to resolve the claims of justification or headcovering etc, does not imply that intelligent people of good will cannot resolve anything or any issue.

    Lastly, I am okay with using the term irrationality in this way – “Position X cannot be coherently defended by an intelligent person of good will – therefore it is irrational”.

  206. Hermonta, (re: #205)

    Given your claim of sola scriptura fail concerning these swingers, and that there are irrational claims (or at least such are possible) given the a system that rejects Roman Catholicism and an infallible interpreter, it is on you to show that this is not an example of an irrational claim made.

    In the comments above (starting in comment #73) I’ve listed dozens of examples of “solo scriptura” failure, and in no case have I claimed that the persons involved were rational (or irrational). I don’t have to defend a claim I haven’t made. You’re the one making the claim that in all these cases, the persons involved are irrational, because for you “solo scriptua” can never fail. So the burden of proof is on you to show that in all these cases of seeming “solo scriptura” failure, the persons involved are irrational.

    Even if I granted that justification or head covering could not be resolved within solo Scriptura, does not imply that any/all other disputes cannot be resolved within it.

    I agree. I never made that argument.

    Next, even if there was no way for reasonable people to resolve the claims of justification or headcovering etc, does not imply that intelligent people of good will cannot resolve anything or any issue.

    Again, I agree. I never made that argument. You’re criticizing arguments I did not make. Like I said in #193, if you want to criticize my position, I recommend quoting what I wrote, so that you are criticizing what I actually wrote, not what you think I said or believe.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  207. Hermonta, (re: #206),

    If swinging (and perhaps other issues) can be resolved (in a non question begging fashion) within a solo/sola Scriptura framework, then what do you mean by a solo Scriptura fail?

    Also what do you mean by calling my position adhoc when I have clearly defined what I mean when I use the term irrational etc.

  208. Susan,

    Remarkeble story! Your surname and the surname of the founder of the AANR indicate Dutch ancestors.

    Surrexit Dominus vere.

    Aad Schram

  209. Hermonta (re: #207)

    If swinging (and perhaps other issues) can be resolved (in a non question begging fashion) within a solo/sola Scriptura framework, then what do you mean by a solo Scriptura fail?

    I do not presume that in the “solo scriptura” approach, there is a principled, and non-question-begging way to resolve all interpretive disagreements.

    Also what do you mean by calling my position adhoc when I have clearly defined what I mean when I use the term irrational etc.

    I did so in comment #204. You defined your term, however, in comment #205. But if you stipulate that all persons who arrive at interpretations significantly different from yours satisfy your definition of ‘irrational,’ that’s ad hoc. It makes your interpretation the standard for rationality.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  210. Bryan,

    As I explained in #191, your interpretation is only “obvious” to those who share the general interpretive paradigm you bring to Scripture, which includes the theological beliefs I laid out in #191.

    Right, and as I explained, unless you are arguing that interpretive paradigms are impenetrable, that’s consistent with my argument. The question is not whether or not there are different interpretive paradigms that we bring to Scripture—no one in the modern world rejects that. The question is whether or not those interpretive paradigms accurately represent a text. Your continued insistence that the existence of interpretive paradigms somehow makes the text completely unknowable is, as Dr. Horton mentions, radical skepticism of texts. The person advocating for “swinging” is not making a good faith effort to understand Scripture and an honest examination of Scripture will bear that out. If you want to argue otherwise, then you’ve just done a reduction ad absurdum to your own argument.

    What I believe about Scripture is irrelevant to what these examples show regarding the capacity of a “solo scriptura” approach to Scripture to ensure orthodoxy and resolve interpretive disagreements.

    This is inaccurate. If you acknowledge that someone operating in good faith can understanding the plain meaning of Scripture regarding sexual morality, then using a clear example like this is not the example of Solo Scriptura failure any more than Nancy Pelosi is an example of Magisterium failure. Just because there is dissent (and in this case, irrational dissent) does not mean that the standard is “unprincipled.” The principle is the meaning of the text, which in some cases is not easy to understand, but in this case is quite easy to understand—unless you want to argue that it is not, in which case, I think your argument shows its weaknesses.

    That’s why it is important not to conflate Scripture and one’s interpretation of Scripture. To do so is to treat one’s interpretation as no less authoritative than Scripture itself, and therefore as infallible and unable to be corrected by anything, including Scripture itself.

    Your first sentence is absolutely correct, but why do you believe that one’s interpretive paradigm is “unable to be corrected by anything, including Scripture itself.” Correct me if I am wrong, but this sounds like you believe that it is impossible for the text of Scripture to correct our understanding of Scripture and the world.To turn around and argue for the perspicuity of the motives of credibility such that the Magisterium is infallible appears to be ad hoc.

    I don’t see anything there that refutes the distinction, or falsifies even one of the claims I made in the relevant paragraphs about the person/text distinction. Perhaps you can specify which of the statements I made you think is false, and lay out your argument showing why that statement is false.

    One way to respond would be to respond like this,

    Your [inability to see] what [Brandon] means is not an objection to what [Brandon] has written, just as a student’s being unclear about what a teacher is teaching is not an objection to what the teacher is saying, but rather an indication of the student’s epistemic state. The proper response, on the part of the student, in such a case, is to ask the teacher for clarification, not treat his own confusion as if it is an objection to (let alone refutation of) what the teacher is saying. [http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/03/the-quest-for-the-historical-church-a-protestant-assessment/#comment-107621]

    Such an approach would be demeaning, however, so I will not respond in that manner.

    I’ll point out one thing you say though that points out my perception of your inconsistency. You said,

    One reason why there is no necessary infinite hermeneutical regress is that with a living Magisterium we can continue to ask clarifying questions, even to the point of saying, “I’m understanding you to be saying x. Is x what you are saying? Yes or no?” And the Magisterium can respond by saying “yes” or “no.” And at that point, there is no need for an interpretive authority, so long as a person understands the English language and has adequate hearing. Interpreting “yes” and “no” is quite different from interpreting, say, the book of Romans. We do not need an interpretive authority to explain the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

    How is it possible that we don’t need interpretive authority to explain the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no?’ How do we know that we’ve expressed the question clearly or that the person we have asked understood the question clearly? You say in response to me,

    What I have written does not entail that everyone will understand accurately something the Magisterium says the first time it is published, or that no one will ever misunderstand the pope. Rather, the Magisterium’s unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification allows any remaining confusion to be subsequently addressed, even through repeated iterations if necessary.

    In the first sentence, you underline the point being made by Hermonta and myself in this thread. In the second sentence, I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. Are you simply stating that because it is a “person” that the Magisterium has the potency to respond to questions? Or are you arguing that because it has the potency to respond to questions, it *actually* clarifies its statements?

  211. Hermonta (re: #209),

    I understand that you believe such about solo Scriptura, but as I have stated multiple times, even if one believed that solo Scriptura couldnt resolved everything, it doesnt follow that there is not a principled non question begging approach to resolve a particular interpretive disagreement. You seem to simply assume it without argumentation and then claim that any disagreement is an example of solo Scriptura fail. Why?

  212. Hello Aad,

    Yes, my surname is Dutch( May the Force be with you :) My maiden name , Chisholm is Scottish. My paternal grandmother was German,. Both sides had a long history in the Reformed church, at least way back they did. I don’t know what the heck happened. No one ,that I know of, was ever Catholic. I think I might be the first:)

    Susan

  213. Brandon, (re: #210)

    The question is whether or not those interpretive paradigms accurately represent a text.

    I’m speaking (e.g. in #188, #191, #198) of the interpretive paradigms by which we interpret the text, not the paradigms that follow from our interpretive-paradigm-guided interpretation of the text.

    Your continued insistence that the existence of interpretive paradigms somehow makes the text completely unknowable is …

    Except I’ve never claimed that, let alone “insisted” on it. (By the way, I do not “insist” on anything; that’s loaded language.)

    The person advocating for “swinging” is not making a good faith effort to understand Scripture and an honest examination of Scripture will bear that out.

    This begs the question, for the reasons I’ve pointed out in comments #191, #198. What is needed in order to substantiate such a claim is to show that it is impossible to arrive at such an interpretation without being dishonest about the text, in addition to showing that David Barton cannot arrive at his interpretation in #74 without being dishonest, and that Steven Anderson cannot arrive at his interpretation in #75 about how men should urinate, without being dishonest, and the central Virginia nudist church (in #107) cannot arrive at its interpretation without being dishonest, and that Reformed philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff cannot arrive at his interpretation about God being mutable (#109) without being dishonest, that the snake-handling congregations (#117, #185) cannot arrive at their interpretation without being dishonest, that the parents who believe in faith-healing and whose children died as a result (#122) cannot arrive at their interpretation without being dishonest, that Lee Jefferson, Walter Wink, and Matthew Vines cannot arrive at their interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality (#124) without being dishonest, that David cannot reach his interpretation (#127) that women should not fly planes, without being dishonest, that those who arrive at interpretations allowing women’s ordination and universalism (#132) cannot do so without being dishonest, that Daniel Taylor cannot have reached his interpretations that entail a host of [alleged] biblical contradictions at BibViz (#140) without being dishonest, that Dr. Laurence B. Brown could not have reached his interpretation regarding the denial of the Trinity (#147) without being dishonest, that Presbyterian pastor Dr. Mark Achtemeier could not have reached his interpretation (#148) regarding homosexuality without being dishonest, that Senator James Inhofe cannot have reached his interpretation of Genesis 8:22 regarding the impossibility of the human race affecting the earth’s climate (see comment #161) without being dishonest, that the people at the Nashville evangelical church (#162) couldn’t have reached their interpretation regarding gay marriage without being dishonest, that Baptist theologian Roger Olson could not have reached his conclusion concerning God’s mutability (#182) without being dishonest, that the South African pastor (#183) who drinks petrol and washes his congregation in bleach cannot have reached his interpretation without being dishonest, that Callie Chatman cannot have reached her interpretation about being able to work in an abortion clinic on account of God being a forgiving God (#184) without being dishonest, that N.T. Wright cannot have reached his interpretation regarding the article on which the Church stands or falls (#191) without being dishonest, and that the Rev. Ilsley Boone could not have reached his interpretation (#199) regarding nudism without being dishonest. What is ad hoc is the notion that anyone who comes to an alternative interpretation [from one’s own] is being dishonest, because such a notion arbitrarily makes one’s own interpretation the standard by which honest (and dishonest) interpretations are determined.

    If you acknowledge that someone operating in good faith can understanding the plain meaning of Scripture regarding sexual morality, then using a clear example like this is not the example of Solo Scriptura failure any more than Nancy Pelosi is an example of Magisterium failure.

    Again, this begs the question regarding the role and operation of interpretive paradigms. The reason why someone can come to the correct understanding of Scripture is because of having the correct interpretive paradigm he or she brings to the text. That’s why you happen to arrive at the correct understanding of the two passages you cited, namely, because of the correctness (in that area) of the interpretive paradigm you bring to the text. But it is also why (in my opinion) you fail to come to the correct interpretation of passages related to contraception.

    The principle is the meaning of the text, which in some cases is not easy to understand, but in this case is quite easy to understand …

    What I said above (i.e. #198) about your use of “obvious” applies likewise here to your use of “easy to understand.” You’re glossing over the role and operation of interpretive paradigms, as if the easiness is not contingent upon having the correct interpretive paradigm, but is independent of the interpretive paradigm one brings to the text.

    why do you believe that one’s interpretive paradigm is “unable to be corrected by anything, including Scripture itself.”

    If you read carefully what I wrote, you’ll see that I wasn’t claiming that interpretive paradigms are “unable to be corrected by anything, including Scripture itself.” Rather, I was claiming that if we treat our interpretations as Scripture itself, and thus as infallible, then they cannot be corrected by anything, because what is infallible cannot be corrected.

    One way to respond would be to respond like this,
    Your [inability to see] what [Brandon] means is not an objection to what [Brandon] has written, just as a student’s being unclear about what a teacher is teaching is not an objection to what the teacher is saying, but rather an indication of the student’s epistemic state. The proper response, on the part of the student, in such a case, is to ask the teacher for clarification, not treat his own confusion as if it is an objection to (let alone refutation of) what the teacher is saying.

    Perhaps, but so far as I remember there was nothing in your article that was unclear to me, or that I found confusing. Nor was I treating any failure to understand what you wrote as an objection to what you wrote. So it doesn’t seem to apply to what I wrote.

    I’ll point out one thing you say though that points out my perception of your inconsistency. … How is it possible that we don’t need interpretive authority to explain the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no?’

    A question does not show an inconsistency.

    In the second sentence, I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. Are you simply stating that because it is a “person” that the Magisterium has the potency to respond to questions? Or are you arguing that because it has the potency to respond to questions, it *actually* clarifies its statements?

    Neither. Here’s what I’m stating (namely, what I actually stated): the Magisterium’s unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification allows any remaining confusion to be subsequently addressed, even through repeated iterations if necessary. A hermeneutically underdetermined text does not have this potency, which, without an authoritative tradition (and/or Magisterium), leaves no principled way of resolving the resulting hermeneutical disagreements.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  214. Hello Susan,

    Keep in mind the words of Blessed J.H. Newman: To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. It applies to your ancesters too. God works in mysterious ways.

    Surrexit Dominus vere.

    Aad Schram

  215. Brandon Addison (#210)

    The person advocating for “swinging” is not making a good faith effort to understand Scripture and an honest examination of Scripture will bear that out.

    But this is precisely the point. If one person’s understanding of Scripture differs from yours, you have no choice but to impugn either the person’s understanding or his motives.

    jj

  216. Bryan, you wrote:
    Neither. Here’s what I’m stating (namely, what I actually stated): the Magisterium’s unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification allows any remaining confusion to be subsequently addressed, even through repeated iterations if necessary. A hermeneutically underdetermined text does not have this potency, which, without an authoritative tradition (and/or Magisterium), leaves no principled way of resolving the resulting hermeneutical disagreements.

    Response:
    This confusion isn’t in the Mag, but in the addressee. The Mag., through Self-clarifications, will go beyond the merely misunderstood or disputed content. I mean that the Self in Self-clarification will become content in the clarifications. The Mag. is the Self that knows. It already went from confused to distinct in the order of knowledge. This is why repeated iterations, if necessary, will move away from that content to offer the knower as clarification. No one can disagree with someone who knows. You know that the Mag. knows and that’s enough.

    How can someone know that the Mag. knows ? The Mag. knowledge will terminate in a written form (text).

  217. Eric, (re: #216)

    This confusion isn’t in the Mag, but in the addressee. The Mag., through Self-clarifications, will go beyond the merely misunderstood or disputed content. I mean that the Self in Self-clarification will become content in the clarifications. The Mag. is the Self that knows. It already went from confused to distinct in the order of knowledge. This is why repeated iterations, if necessary, will move away from that content to offer the knower as clarification. No one can disagree with someone who knows. You know that the Mag. knows and that’s enough. How can someone know that the Mag. knows ? The Mag. knowledge will terminate in a written form (text).

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you are saying.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  218. Bryan, you wrote:
    ….leaves no principled way of resolving the resulting hermeneutical disagreements.

    Response:
    You have a principled way. It’s the Magisterium who knows something. When someone doesn’t know or remains confused, they have recourse to Mag. self-clarifications. If confusion persists, then the Mag. simply offers itself as content in the subsequent clarifications. The confused person(s) will at least know that the Mag. knows. How can the confused person(s) know that the Mag. knows ? The Mag. will impart its knowledge in a written form. Examples of this are too numerous to mention. The Mag., with “unlimited intrinsic potency”, always finds its way to ink and paper to impart knowledge.

    How can anyone resist the conclusion that the Mag. prefers “hermeneutically underdetermined text does not have this potency” when it seeks to clarify ? In some sense, the Mag. makes itself necessary by preferring a form of clarification that engender disagreements. They should go from the imperfect to the perfect by refusing to write (text). Do you not boast in the form of teaching used by Jesus ? I mean he didn’t use the written form.

  219. Eric, (re: #218)

    Your objection assumes that because the Magisterium typically gives answers in writing, therefore the Catholic paradigm is in the same epistemic boat as the “solo scriptura” paradigm. But this assumes that persons reduce to texts. However, persons do not reduce to texts. See the links in comment #191 above. Therefore, the paradigms are not epistemically equivalent, and the objection fails. (It is odd, however, that pro-life Protestants who on the abortion question have no trouble distinguishing persons from blobs of tissue have trouble on the Catholic question distinguishing persons from texts, or think it a “poor” distinction.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  220. Bryan, you wrote:
    Your objection assumes that because the Magisterium typically gives answers in writing, therefore the Catholic paradigm is in the same epistemic boat as the “solo scriptura” paradigm.

    Response:
    You are incorrect about what I assume. I wrote: If confusion persists, then the Mag. simply offers itself as content in the subsequent clarifications. The confused person(s) will at least know that the Mag. knows.

    The Magisterium is the author of the clarifications. It’s the one who knows what needs to be known. It will reference itself (offers itself as content) somehow so others know it’s the one clarifying. Just provide one example where the Mag. gives answers that are not “answers in writing”. I’m talking about answers that are trans-generational.

    You may write the answer without affecting the relevant parts of the answer. I say this because you don’t have authority to clarify in a written or unwritten form.
    —————————

    The distinction between persons and texts can be retained. The Magisterium clarifies by the written form for future generations. That’s the only form it uses. This fact doesn’t harm the distinction or place our paradigms in the same epistemic boat.

    I never mistake the non-magisterial Catholics for the Magisterium. Each party may not be in the same epistemic boat. In fact, they are not in the same boat before the Magisterium clarifies. The non-magisterial don’t know that the Magisterium knows until the Magisterium writes it down.

    No appeal can be made to oral teachings falling under “obiter dicta.” They don’t qualify as clarifications of the Magisterium per se.

  221. Eric (re: #220)

    All that is fully compatible with the truth of what I said in the preceding comments and in the post at the top of this page. This forum is for dialogue, so comments need to enter the dialogue.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  222. Bryan,

    You have a strange view of dialogue. I aimed for “fully compatible with the truth.” I tried to show that the “written form” is the only trans-generational means for clarifying. Our paradigms share this. I gave you a good dialogical thing, then you direct me to enter the dialogue.

  223. Eric (re: #222)

    If your point is that both paradigms use writing, then sure, no one disagrees. That’s something we already knew. That’s not the point in question in the preceding dialogue. So if you want to enter into the dialogue, you’ll need to engage the point in question. That’s why merely aiming for what is “fully compatible with the truth” is inadequate, since there are many truths of chemistry, astronomy, biology, and even theology, but they do not belong in this thread, because they are not pertinent to the point in question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  224. JJ,

    so you are suggesting that swingers are interacting with the text in good faith and properly understanding it?

  225. Bryan,

    You said,

    What is ad hoc is the notion that anyone who comes to an alternative interpretation is being dishonest…

    Right—but that’s not under dispute and I’ve explicitly stated that this is not the case. The topic under particular criticism is “swinging” (and the attendant examples, such as drinking Pinesole).

    But it is also why you fail to come to the correct interpretation of passages related to contraception.

    This is another example of you attributing positions to me that I have never publicly commented on. I’m sure its unintentional, but I’d appreciate it if you did not claim I believe X when I’ve never commented on it.

    I was claiming that if we treat our interpretations as Scripture itself, and thus as infallible, then they cannot be corrected by anything, because what is infallible cannot be corrected

    If this is what you’re claiming, then you’ll need to show how even the “solo Scriptura” paradigm believes that one’s interpretation of the Bible is infallible. Even the most fundamentalist Biblicist I know would not affirm that.

    there was nothing in your article that was unclear to me…so it doesn’t seem to apply to what I wrote

    If I wanted to, I could point out that you’ve used subjective language “unclear to me” & “seem to apply” and that this does not touch the truth of what I wrote—but that would be counter-productive and clearly misunderstanding the intent of your words. Just so you know, I was using this precise manner of speech when interacting with Matt’s article.

    Finally, it remains unclear to me what you’re trying to get from the text/person distinction. The only thing I see you affirming is that the Magisterium has the potency to offer self-clarification, which is something that Protestants grant. What I’m unsure of is *how* this potency makes persons inherently better/clearer/more understandable/superior to texts. It appears you may be arguing that texts do not have this potency at all, since you say, “a hermenutically underdetermined text does not have this potency.”

    Yet, if one of the ways in which a person responds can be through “repeated iterations if necessary,” how is this any different coming from a text than from a person? It is true that texts may not have the same medium of answering questions of the reader as a person, but to argue that texts lack this potency completely is false.

  226. Brandon, (re: #225)

    I’m sorry if I’ve attributed positions to you that you don’t hold. (I’ve assumed that you agree with your denomination.) The point I’m making does not depend on whether you agree with the PCA on the acceptability of contraception. My point is that the interpretations upon which you and I agree are contingent upon an overlap in our respective interpretative traditions, and the interpretations upon which we disagree involve a divergence in our respective interpretive traditions. The disagreements are not on account of malice or stupidity or rebellion.

    Also, just to clarify, I’m not claiming that according to the “solo scriptura” paradigm, one’s interpretation of the Bible is infallible. Rather, I claimed that if we treat our interpretations as Scripture itself, and thus as infallible, then they cannot be corrected by anything, because what is infallible cannot be corrected.

    If I wanted to, I could point out that you’ve used subjective language “unclear to me” & “seem to apply” and that this does not touch the truth of what I wrote—but that would be counter-productive and clearly misunderstanding the intent of your words. Just so you know, I was using this precise manner of speech when interacting with Matt’s article.

    I don’t agree. A common fallacious method today is to appeal to one’s own epistemic state as an objection to an article or argument. You began your paragraph responding to Matt’s article by attempting to criticize the article, saying that it contained “problematic assumptions.” Then the third and fourth sentences in that paragraph are attempts to support that criticism, by referring to what is unclear to you, rather than by asking Matt (or me) to clear up what was unclear to you. By contrast, in comment #198 above, I did not appeal to any epistemic state of my own as a criticism of your article. I did not criticize your article at all, let alone appeal to my own lack of clarity as a support for a criticism of your article. Nor did I find anything in it to be unclear. Rather, I stated that I didn’t see anything there that refuted the person/text distinction, and I invited you to specify which statements I made you think are false, and to lay out your argument showing why those statements are false.

    I see from #210 that you took my teacher-student analogy to be “demeaning.” I’m sorry; that was not my intention; I did not mean that the example was analogous in every respect. I should have used a different analogy.

    Finally, it remains unclear to me what you’re trying to get from the text/person distinction. The only thing I see you affirming is that the Magisterium has the potency to offer self-clarification, which is something that Protestants grant. What I’m unsure of is *how* this potency makes persons inherently better/clearer/more understandable/superior to texts. It appears you may be arguing that texts do not have this potency at all, since you say, “a hermenutically underdetermined text does not have this potency.” Yet, if one of the ways in which a person responds can be through “repeated iterations if necessary,” how is this any different coming from a text than from a person? It is true that texts may not have the same medium of answering questions of the reader as a person, but to argue that texts lack this potency completely is false.

    I think this is potentially the most fruitful part of our exchange. I am not claiming that the unlimited potency for self-clarification makes persons “inherently better/clearer/more understandable/superior to texts.” What I’m saying is that because of this unlimited potency for self-clarification, living persons as such are not susceptible to the intractable hermeneutical underdetermination problem to which texts are susceptible. In cases of hermeneutical underdetermination, the text itself does not provide the means of resolving the problem, which, without an authoritative tradition and/or magisterium, leaves the respective interpretive communities without a principled means of resolving the interpretive disagreement. A magisterium is not intrinsically susceptible to this problem, however, because of its unlimited potency for self-clarification.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  227. Bryan,

    Thanks for the response,

    I’ve assumed that you agree with your denomination

    I don’t want to distract from our more meaningful areas of dialogue, but there is nothing in the official teaching of the PCA that prohibits an officer (or a member, like myself) from opposing contraception.

    You said,

    living persons as such are not susceptible to the intractable hermeneutical underdetermination problem to which texts are susceptible. In cases of hermeneutical underdetermination…

    I think we have some area of agreement here, however, I’m uncertain if you are arguing texts are *always* underdetermined or if there are *potentially* (and perhaps even often) “cases of underdetermination.”

    I’ve been taking you to mean that texts are always underdetermined and are therefore inaccessible to the interpreter. The reason I’ve taken you to mean that texts are always underdetermined is because I think you’ve chosen a few radical examples to try and assert that the text is underdetermined without explaining why the text of Scripture is underdetermined on things like swinging or nudism. If I could state this in the form of a question, do you believe that all texts are underdetermined? If not all texts, what is it about those text that allows their meaning to be determined?

    A magisterium is not intrinsically susceptible to this problem, however, because of its unlimited potency for self-clarification.

    Abstractly I grant this, but if we are talking about the RCC, then the identity of the Magisterium is vitally important. Is the Magisterium really the “person” speaking in the text or an imposter (I don’t like the connotation of the word, but even if I am sincerely mistaken, I am still an imposter)? On this point, we’ve documented our disagreement. I think we can both agree, however, that Rome’s power to clarify God’s speech must be proven rather than asserted.

  228. Brandon, (re: #227)

    I think we can both agree, however, that Rome’s power to clarify God’s speech must be proven rather than asserted.

    Of course. That’s why the Church condemns fideism (discussed here), and appeals to the motives of credibility as the rational basis for believing her claim to be divinely authorized.

    As for your question about hermeneutical underdetermination, I have not claimed that all texts are hermeneutically underdetermined. What I’m pointing out are cases in which merely knowing the lexicon does not remove hermeneutical underdetermination; knowing and affirming the [authoritative] tradition and bringing it to the text are also required in order to overcome the hermeneutical underdetermination of the text. (See, for example, Richard Beck’s and Keith DeRose’s choice of ‘regulating texts,’ regarding the questions of women’s ordination and universalism, in comment #5 of “The Usefulness of Tradition” thread.) I could add the question of apostasy vs. once-saved-always-saved to that list as well, as another example of a question determined by the arbitrary choice of regulating texts, when authoritative tradition is not recognized.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  229. Bryan,

    I have not claimed that all texts are hermeneutically underdetermined.

    In this context then, it is incumbent upon you to actually show how texts in Scripture are underdetermined regarding nudism and swinging. If the texts are underdetermined then your point stands. If they aren’t underdetermined, then it’s a bad example.

    knowing and affirming the [authoritative] tradition and bringing it to the text are also required in order to overcome the hermeneutical underdetermination of the text.

    I’m not sure if we’re speaking exclusively of Scripture or if you’re speaking of all texts in general. If we’re talking about Scripture, then this is precisely what the Protestant advocates. Scripture interprets Scripture because God is the author of Scripture. In that sense, the infallible tradition informs our reading of Scripture. Of course, that doesn’t resolve every potential interpretive issue, but it is part and parcel of the Protestant commitment to Scripture.

    We also acknowledge that there are other traditions (philosophical, theological, & ecclesial) that inform our reading of Scripture. Sola Scriptura acknowledges that tradition necessarily forms our interpretation of Scripture, but that’s why we admit that our interpretive framework is fallible. Our interpretive framework is always to be evaluated and challenged by Scripture.

    See, for example, Richard Beck’s and Keith DeRose’s choice of ‘regulating texts,’ regarding the questions of women’s ordination and universalism, in comment #5 of “The Usefulness of Tradition” thread.)

    These examples only show that one’s interpretation is part of the interpretive process and can negatively impact interpretation. I’m curious if your response to Beck and DeRose would be solely appealing to the Magisterium since you’ve already implicitly conceded the texts are underdetermined. Am I right to predict that you would not talk about the texts, but you would try to convince them that they ought to defer to Rome because she is the Church Christ Founded?

  230. Brandon, (re: #229)

    In this context then, it is incumbent upon you to actually show how texts in Scripture are underdetermined regarding nudism and swinging.

    I did this in #191 above.

    I’m not sure if we’re speaking exclusively of Scripture or if you’re speaking of all texts in general. If we’re talking about Scripture, then this is precisely what the Protestant advocates.

    I’m talking about what one first brings to the text, not something derived from the text. Hermeneutical underdetermination is not resolved simply by returning to the text to derive an interpretive tradition, precisely because in such a case the interpretive tradition one ‘derives’ from the text is determined by the interpretive tradition one brings to the text.

    I’m curious if your response to Beck and DeRose would be solely appealing to the Magisterium since you’ve already implicitly conceded the texts are underdetermined. Am I right to predict that you would not talk about the texts, but you would try to convince them that they ought to defer to Rome because she is the Church Christ Founded?

    I wouldn’t attempt to resolve the disagreement by way of proof-texting, nor do I think the solution is by way of exegesis. The root of the disagreement is not fundamentally in an exegetical error, but instead within philosophical and theological assumptions they bring to the text, in ways I explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” The debate hinges on whether there is an authoritative interpretive tradition (as explained at the top of this page), and how that tradition is determined. The latter requires the Magisterium, ultimately, and so all three (Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium) depend on each other to function correctly, as explained in CCC 95.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  231. Bryan,

    I did this in #191 above.

    I don’t see one sentence where you have explained why texts on swinging and/or nudism are underdetermined in #191. If not all texts are underdetermined, you need to explain *how* those texts are underdetermined. Simply because interpretation is involved is inconsistent with your previous admission that not all texts are underdetermined.

    I’m talking about what one first brings to the text, not something derived from the text. Hermeneutical underdetermination is not resolved simply by returning to the text to derive an interpretive tradition, precisely because in such a case the interpretive tradition one ‘derives’ from the text is determined by the interpretive tradition one brings to the text.

    I am speaking about what we bring to the text as well. I believe that texts can change our interpretive tradition, thought this process is not simple.

    The debate hinges on whether there is an authoritative interpretive tradition (as explained at the top of this page), and how that tradition is determined.

    Thanks for answer my question. I’m not so sure this is where the debate hinges. You see the debate hinging there, but I don’t. I believe it is much more an exegetical issue. That doesn’t mean theology and philosophy aren’t contributing factors, but exegesis is the primary issue because their theology is based upon the teaching of text “A” and “B.” If we can show texts “A” and “B” don’t say what they think, then their commitment to Scripture allows Scripture to operate as the principled means of arbitrating between positions.

  232. Bryan:
    Did my post #211, get lost in the shuffle. It does not seem that the straight forward question there was ever addressed?

    Next, can you give an example of a Biblical doctrine that is not hermeneutically underdetermined?

  233. Brandon:

    Not to interrupt your flow with Bryan, but could you clarify something for us eavesdroppers?

    You say, “Scripture interprets Scripture because God is the author of Scripture.”

    Isn’t that like saying, “These 73 (or 66 if you prefer!) C++ source code files can compile themselves because Bjarne Stroustrup (the inventor of C++) wrote them?” Which, of course, isn’t true: Stroustrup’s source code files, just like anyone else’s, won’t anything but sit there, until you compile them, with a compiler. Likewise, it doesn’t seem to me that Scripture is ever going to do anything but sit there uninterpreted, unless someone, y’know, interprets it.

    What is it about the premise that God is the author of Scripture, that leads to the conclusion that Scripture interprets itself…in some distinctive fashion that differs from the way in which a non-inspired text “interprets itself?”

  234. Brandon, (re: #231)

    I don’t see one sentence where you have explained why texts on swinging and/or nudism are underdetermined in #191.

    There are no texts on “swinging” and “nudism” per se. There are terms in Scripture the conceptual extension of which includes such actions. On the hermeneutical underdetermination of Gal 5:21 and Rom 13:13 with regard to present norms for Christian practice, see the paragraph in #191 that begins “This can be seen ….”

    I am speaking about what we bring to the text as well. I believe that texts can change our interpretive tradition, ….

    This should be easy to test empirically. Take any doctrinal issue over which Christians are presently divided. Lay out the exegetical argument from Scripture showing that the interpretive tradition the group [you think is mistaken] brings to Scripture is incorrect. Reconcile the divided Christians. Then go on to the next doctrinal issue over which Christians divided, and do the same. This reconciliatory process would be unsuccessful only if all other Christians than those holding your own set of interpretations are (a) too stupid to understand your sound exegetical arguments, or (b) understand your sound exegetical arguments showing that Scripture truly teaches your particular interpretation but love their own [false] interpretations more than they love adherence to Scripture.

    You see the debate hinging there, but I don’t. I believe it is much more an exegetical issue. That doesn’t mean theology and philosophy aren’t contributing factors, but exegesis is the primary issue because their theology is based upon the teaching of text “A” and “B.” If we can show texts “A” and “B” don’t say what they think, then their commitment to Scripture allows Scripture to operate as the principled means of arbitrating between positions.

    Their interpretation of texts “A” and “B” is, however, determined by the theological and philosophical assumptions they bring to texts “A” and “B.” There is no initial space where the reader brings nothing to the text, and where his interpretation is not contingent on what he brings to the text. Lay out any exegetical argument you think resolves a substantive doctrinal disagreement that presently divides Christians, and I’ll show you the hidden (or not so hidden) theological/philosophical assumption in that argument, an assumption either immediately brought to the text or built on an interpretation that is itself based on a prior theological/philosophical assumption brought to the text.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  235. Hermonta, (re: #232)

    Regarding #211, I think my other comments in this thread addressed it. Regarding your “even if one believed …, it doesn’t follow …” claim in #211, as I said above, I agree. I never made that argument. (See #193 above.) If any of the above alleged “solo scriptura” failures (summarized in #213) is not a “solo scriptura” failure, please show how/why.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  236. Bryan,

    On the hermeneutical underdetermination of Gal 5:21 and Rom 13:13 with regard to present norms for Christian practice, see the paragraph in #191 that begins “This can be seen ….”

    In that paragraph you attribute positions to me that I’ve never commented on and point out you need a lexicon to determine the meaning of the various passages. That’s not showing the text is underdetermined. You’re simply pointing out that there ought to be exegesis of the passage. That doesn’t amount to the text being underdetermined.

    This should be easy to test empirically. Take any doctrinal issue over which Christians are presently divided. Lay out the exegetical argument from Scripture showing that the interpretive tradition the group [you think is mistaken] brings to Scripture is incorrect. Reconcile the divided Christians.

    This is an unfair criterion that the Magisterium couldn’t stand up to either.

    This reconciliatory process would be unsuccessful only if all other Christians than those holding your own set of interpretations are (a) too stupid to understand your sound exegetical arguments, or (b) understand your sound exegetical arguments showing that Scripture truly teaches your particular interpretation but love their own [false] interpretations more than they love adherence to Scripture.

    This does not foster legitimate ecumenical dialogue–it actually poisons the conversation. Sola Scriptura does not entail that disagreement is attributable to stupidity or blatant obstinacy. To assert that it does is to misrepresent it. There are right and wrong interpretations, but the Reformed acknowledge in WCF 1.7,

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them

    Scripture is not always entirely clear. Sometimes it is difficult to come to a full understand of Scripture and attending to the means of grace is an important way to ensure that our hearts are in the proper position to understand. Yet, as Scripture itself explains, “[Paul’s] letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

    Their interpretation of texts “A” and “B” is, however, determined by the theological and philosophical assumptions they bring to texts “A” and “B.” There is no initial space where the reader brings nothing to the text, and where his interpretation is not contingent on what he brings to the text.

    Right, as I’ve conceded numerous times. The fact that you continue to state this indicates that you either don’t believe I really mean this or you’ve overlooked my agreement entirely.

    Lay out any exegetical argument you think resolves a substantive doctrinal disagreement that presently divides Christians, and I’ll show you the hidden (or not so hidden) theological/philosophical assumption in that argument, an assumption either immediately brought to the text or built on an interpretation that is itself based on a prior theological/philosophical assumption brought to the text.

    Right, but you seem to miss the point entirely. No one in the history of Protestantism (of whom I am aware) has ever argued that philosophy and theology don’t impact exegesis. The question is, has our theology and/or philosophy been duly shaped by Scripture?

    Not so fast, you say, Scripture cannot be exegeted without philosophy or theology!

    Exactly, but your philosophy and theology must be built upon something, because philosophy requires theology and theology requires philosophy. And Christian theology requires grappling with God’s self revelation in the natural world and in his supernatural revelation. My point is that for the Christian if Scripture teaches “X” and our theology or philosophy disallow that interpretation, then we ought to reconfigure or abandon our philosophy and/or theology. That’s not a simplistic process, but it is possible and it happens regularly.

    Placing philosophy and theology above exegesis allows fideism to flourish because the text becomes a mirror of my theology and philosophy, regardless of the true meaning of the text.

  237. RC,

    Isn’t that like saying, “These 73 (or 66 if you prefer!) C++ source code files can compile themselves because Bjarne Stroustrup (the inventor of C++) wrote them?” Which, of course, isn’t true: Stroustrup’s source code files, just like anyone else’s, won’t anything but sit there, until you compile them, with a compiler. Likewise, it doesn’t seem to me that Scripture is ever going to do anything but sit there uninterpreted, unless someone, y’know, interprets it.

    Scripture is living and active. It is the Word of the living God speaking through the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure what tension you see, but you can just think of the various passages in the OT and NT that clarify earlier revelation or explain how previous revelation was fulfilled (i.e. the Mosaic Law explained in Galatians, or the telos of the sacrificial system in John).

    What is it about the premise that God is the author of Scripture, that leads to the conclusion that Scripture interprets itself…in some distinctive fashion that differs from the way in which a non-inspired text “interprets itself?”

    The first is that Scripture is a unique text since God is the author and his Word is living and active. But second, there are mounds of philosophical assumptions behind the notion that texts don’t offer self-clarification when the interpreter interacts with the text. Hans Gadamer and Paul Riceour are great places to begin exploring why this implicit assumption is problematic.

  238. Brandon, (re: #236)

    In that paragraph you attribute positions to me that I’ve never commented on and point out you need a lexicon to determine the meaning of the various passages. That’s not showing the text is underdetermined. You’re simply pointing out that there ought to be exegesis of the passage.

    As I explain in that paragraph (in #191), in addition to lexical study, what is needed to reach your interpretation are certain “background theological beliefs.” Without those background theological beliefs, the normative conclusion regarding present practice will not follow from exegesis of the texts alone.

    This is an unfair criterion that the Magisterium couldn’t stand up to either.

    If you think it is “unfair,” then you’ll need to do more than hand-wave by simply asserting it to be unfair; you’ll need to show how it is unfair, and how the Magisterium can’t stand up to it. Moreover, what I said follows from the notion that the text of Scripture alone is able to correct all erroneous interpretive traditions. If Scripture alone (i.e. without Tradition and Magisterium) is able to correct all erroneous interpretive traditions, then you should be able to refute every other interpretive tradition by way of sound exegetical arguments, without relying on Tradition or appeals to the Magisterium. And that has the implication that those Christians who don’t embrace the conclusion of your sound exegetical arguments either do not understand the arguments or understand them but prefer their own [false] interpretation to the truth of Scripture as shown by your sound exegetical arguments.

    This does not foster legitimate ecumenical dialogue–it actually poisons the conversation.

    How so? (Again, hand-waving is just a resort to power, and surely we can agree that merely resorting to power does not foster legitimate ecumenical dialogue)

    Sola Scriptura does not entail that disagreement is attributable to stupidity or blatant obstinacy. To assert that it does is to misrepresent it. There are right and wrong interpretations, but the Reformed acknowledge in WCF 1.7,
    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them
    Scripture is not always entirely clear. Sometimes it is difficult to come to a full understand of Scripture and attending to the means of grace is an important way to ensure that our hearts are in the proper position to understand. Yet, as Scripture itself explains, “[Paul’s] letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

    Pointing to the difficulty of coming to a truthful understanding of the whole of Scripture still falls on the ‘stupidity’ side of the dilemma. It does not show the dilemma to be a false dilemma. Given the notion that Scripture both generates and rightly norms any needed interpretive tradition, then only if Scripture alone does not provide the resources to resolve a doctrinal issue would disagreement among Christians about that doctrinal issue not be attributable to ignorance/stupidity on the one hand, or willful rejection on the other hand (or some combination of the two).

    Right, as I’ve conceded numerous times. The fact that you continue to state this indicates that you either don’t believe I really mean this or you’ve overlooked my agreement entirely.

    See below.

    The question is, has our theology and/or philosophy been duly shaped by Scripture? Not so fast, you say, Scripture cannot be exegeted without philosophy or theology! Exactly, but your philosophy and theology must be built upon something, because philosophy requires theology and theology requires philosophy. And Christian theology requires grappling with God’s self revelation in the natural world and in his supernatural revelation. My point is that for the Christian if Scripture teaches “X” and our theology or philosophy disallow that interpretation, then we ought to reconfigure or abandon our philosophy and/or theology.

    Here’s the dilemma your claim implies: either Scripture teaches “X” and this [i.e. X] forms and shapes our philosophy and theology or Scripture teaches “X” and our theology and philosophy disallows “X.” What this dilemma presupposes is the impossibility that the philosophy and theology one brings to the text is what determines whether one interprets Scripture as teaching X or Y or Z in the first place. In other words, the dilemma your claim implies presupposes that what I said above (in the last paragraph of #234) about the interpretation of “A” and “B” is false.

    Placing philosophy and theology above exegesis allows fideism to flourish because the text becomes a mirror of my theology and philosophy, regardless of the true meaning of the text.

    Again, here’s the dilemma your statement implies: either philosophy and theology are placed above exegesis, in which case the text becomes a mirror of my theology and philosophy regardless of the meaning of the text, or exegesis is placed above philosophy and theology, and thus we allow our theology and philosophy to be conformed to the true meaning of the text. What this dilemma presupposes is the impossibility that the philosophical and theological assumptions one brings to the text in the exegetical/hermeneutical determination of its meaning are what determine in the first place whether one concludes that it means “X” or “Y” or “Z” and thus determine what one concludes are its theological and philosophical implications. In other words, the dilemma your claim implies presupposes that what I said above (in the last paragraph of #234) about the interpretation of “A” and “B” is false.

    Like I said in #234, let’s test this claim (i.e. that exegesis alone, without any reliance on philosophy or theology can first determine the meaning of Scripture, to which we can then subject our philosophical and theological assumptions). Lay out any exegetical argument you think resolves a substantive doctrinal disagreement that presently divides Christians, and I’ll show you the hidden (or not so hidden) theological/philosophical assumption in that argument, an assumption either immediately brought to the text or built on an interpretation that is itself based on a prior theological/philosophical assumption brought to the text.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  239. Bryan,

    Again, here’s the dilemma your statement implies: either philosophy and theology are placed above exegesis, in which case the text becomes a mirror of my theology and philosophy regardless of the meaning of the text, or exegesis is placed above philosophy and theology, and thus we allow our theology and philosophy to be conformed to the true meaning of the text.

    You’re not understanding me. I’ve never said you place exegesis above philosophy and theology. I’ve said that the text ought to regulate all three. You’ve continued to point out that you cannot get to the text without interpretation, and I have in turn agreed with you that texts (and persons) need to be interpreted. This is only tangentially related to the question at hand.

    I’m presupposing that there is in fact meaning in the text that is accessible, but I’m beginning to think (as I’ve suspected for some time)you *do not* believe texts possess meaning–at least meaning that the reader can access. You’ve said that not all texts are underdetermined but you’ve not yet provided an answer to Hermonta’s request for an example of a text that is not underdetermined.

    What this dilemma presupposes is the impossibility that the philosophical and theological assumptions one brings to the text in the exegetical/hermeneutical determination of its meaning are what determine in the first place whether one concludes that it means “X” or “Y” or “Z” and thus determine what one concludes are its theological and philosophical implications.

    My presupposition is that Scripture is perspicuous enough to change our theology and philosophy–even our exegetical methodology. If the various aspects of the hermeneutical process are not interpenetrating then Scripture simply becomes a wax nose for our theology. Scripture cannot correct us, it can only mirror our theology (I’m still unsure in your formula what you base your theology on) *if* the text cannot communicate to us in a way to change our perspective.

    Like I said in #234, let’s test this claim (i.e. that exegesis alone, without any reliance on philosophy or theology can first determine the meaning of Scripture, to which we can then subject our philosophical and theological assumptions).

    Bryan, this is disingenuous. What Protestant theologian, confession, or interlocutor has said exegesis is possible without philosophy or theology? That’s not what is under discussion at all. The point under discussion is whether or not we can know what God’s Word says about promiscuity and sex outside of the bond of marriage.

    I hope for those lurkers that RC mention see what Bryan’s position amounts to. We cannot even deduce marital fidelity from Scripture. This approach is corrosive and I fear that those who consistently follow it will be spiritually harmed.

  240. Brandon, (re: #239)

    I’ve never said you place exegesis above philosophy and theology. I’ve said that the text ought to regulate all three.

    The notion that the text ought to “regulate all three” (i.e. exegesis, philosophy, and theology) presupposes that the philosophy and theology one brings to the text does not determine one’s conclusion concerning what the text means. I’m claiming, however, that the philosophy and theology one brings to the text does determine one’s conclusion concerning what the text means. That’s why I’m inviting you to show even one example of a text of Scripture regulating philosophy and theology, without the interpretation of that text being determined by the philosophy and theology first brought to the text.

    I’m presupposing that there is in fact meaning in the text that is accessible, but I’m beginning to think (as I’ve suspected for some time)you *do not* believe texts possess meaning –at least meaning that the reader can access.

    Then you would be mistaken about what I believe. The text does possess meaning that the reader can access. But as I’ve been explaining throughout this thread, accessing that meaning requires bringing the proper interpretive tradition to the text. The notion that either the text can be known apart from an interpretive tradition, or the text does not possess any meaning, is a false dilemma, because there is a third option, namely, the text possesses meaning that can be known through the proper interpretive tradition brought to the text.

    My presupposition is that Scripture is perspicuous enough to change our theology and philosophy–even our exegetical methodology.

    The capacity of the text as interpreted through one’s theology and philosophy to “change” one’s theology and philosophy is fully compatible with it being the case that the outcome of the philosophy/theology/text dialectic is determined by the philosophy/theology one first brings to the text. That’s why pointing to a change to one’s philosophy/theology during that dialectic is not sufficient to show that Scripture is not hermeneutically underdetermined apart from the proper interpretive tradition one brings to the text.

    Bryan, this is disingenuous. What Protestant theologian, confession, or interlocutor has said exegesis is possible without philosophy or theology? That’s not what is under discussion at all.

    The “disingenuous” charge is an ad hominem, and those are not permitted here at CTC; see our comment guidelines. In order for the text to “regulate” philosophy and theology, as you yourself [a Protestant interlocutor] propose, the interpretation of Scripture must not be determined by the philosophy and theology brought to the text. Hence the claim can be shown to be possibly true by pointing to an example of an interpretation that is not itself determined by philosophical or theological assumptions brought to the text.

    The point under discussion is whether or not we can know what God’s Word says about promiscuity and sex outside of the bond of marriage.

    That’s not the point under dispute, because we both agree that we can know what God’s Word says about promiscuity and sex outside of the bond of marriage.

    I hope for those lurkers that RC mention see what Bryan’s position amounts to. We cannot even deduce marital fidelity from Scripture. This approach is corrosive and I fear that those who consistently follow it will be spiritually harmed.

    Nor is CTC a forum for grandstanding, or speaking of participants in the third-person. (Again, see our comment guidelines.) The question isn’t whether an “approach” is “corrosive” or whether you “fear” it will “spiritually harm” someone. The question is whether what I said is true. If you think it is possible to “deduce” the present prohibition on “swinging” and “nudity” from Scripture alone, without depending on philosophical or theological assumptions brought to the text, then instead of fear-mongering with labels like “corrosive” and “spiritual harm,” simply lay out that demonstration. If, however, you agree that arriving at this interpretation of the text does depend on philosophical/ theological assumptions brought to the text, then my point stands.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  241. Brandon (#240)

    I hope for those lurkers that RC mention see what Bryan’s position amounts to. We cannot even deduce marital fidelity from Scripture. This approach is corrosive and I fear that those who consistently follow it will be spiritually harmed.

    But Brandon, this is a superb example! Many Christians believe in divorce for almost any reason. Is this not marital infidelity? It seems to me that you must either:

    – say that if you divorce your wife – perhaps you would say for some reason other than ‘porneia’ – and remarry, this is not infidelity. But in this case you differ from many Christians – at least from Catholic ones who are faithful to the Magisterium

    – say that this is infidelity, and that those who disagree are ignorant, wicked, or maybe not ‘real’ Christians

    But this is surely a major case where Scripture is underdetermined!

    When I was Reformed, I understood that, as the WCF says, not everything in Scripture was clear, but that enough was for us to be saved. But this just presupposes that we know which things in Scripture are the ones necessary to be saved – and that itself is something that Scripture isn’t clear about.

    Sola or Solo, it seems to me that you have finally to make it that every man is his own Pope.

    I remember when I was asked to be a deacon in my Reformed Church, and showed me the standards I was to uphold. Amongst them were statements about holding that giving honour to images, invoking dead saints, were abominations. I said I wasn’t sure about those and some other things. My personal elder – we had a system in which different elders were assigned to different families as their pastor (a good one, I think) told me that, of course, if I was convinced that anything in the standards was in conflict with Scripture, I was not held to the standard.

    I laughed. That, I said, was a loophole you could take the largest camel through. I signed.

    My point is not whether Scripture does or does not agree with those details of the standards, but that it was up to me to decide whether it does.

    That is the heart of Sola or Solo Scriptura.

    jj ‘lurker’ :-)

  242. Brian, (re: #235),

    If you dont hold to such a position then how exactly are you defining/identifying a solo Scriptura error? It seems that you are identifying something as a solo Scriptura error anytime someone holds to a position that is different from mine. By analogy would you be saying something along the lines of “someone believes that 1+1=3, therefore you should see the need for an infallible math interpreters and solo Mathtura fails”.

  243. Bryan,

    I’m claiming, however, that the philosophy and theology one brings to the text does determine one’s conclusion concerning what the text means.

    This will be my final comment, but its highly illustrative of the disconnect. For you, philosophy and theology *determine* interpretation. The meaning of the text is wholly inaccessible because my philosophy and theology *determine* my conclusions. But where are ones philosophy and theology derived? From interpretation of other persons/texts. If carried out consistently, this line of inquiry would ultimately conclude that our entire view of the world is “determined” by our subjective interpretation of the phenomenal world. Welcome to postmodern skepticism. Attempting to counter-act that you say,

    The notion that either the text can be known apart from an interpretive tradition, or the text does not possess any meaning, is a false dilemma, because there is a third option, namely, the text possesses meaning that can be known through the proper interpretive tradition brought to the text.

    Moving past the fact that you’ve continually (#191, #213, ff.) attributed positions to me that I do not hold, like that the text can be known apart from an interpretive tradition (aren’t straw-man arguments against the posting guidelines?), how does one escape their interpretive tradition if their conclusions are already “determined” by their current interpretive tradition? At some point communicative discourse must become possible. Where and why do you draw the boundaries there and not where God has written by his own hand in the 7th and 10th commandments?

    The “disingenuous” charge is an ad hominem, and those are not permitted here at CTC; see our comment guidelines.

    I didn’t mean to violate the commenting guidelines. I would say that your question, in terms of formal logic, is a red herring. It is possible that you did this intentionally. If it violates the posting guidelines to state that you committed the fallacy intentionally, then I won’t do it again.

  244. John 1, 42 / Matt. 16, 16 19 / Feed my lambs, feed my sheep…. Hermenutically Underdetermined ?

    Vatican I: To this absolutely manifest teaching of the sacred scriptures, as it has always been understood by the catholic church….was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.
    ————————-

    HU and “absolutely manifest teaching” are incompatible. Philosophical / Theological assumptions will not determine when an absolutely manifest teaching is present in a text(s).

  245. Hermonta, (re: #242)

    If you dont hold to such a position then how exactly are you defining/identifying a solo Scriptura error?

    By way of departures from the Tradition.

    By analogy would you be saying something along the lines of “someone believes that 1+1=3, therefore you should see the need for an infallible math interpreters and solo Mathtura fails”.

    No, I wouldn’t be saying something along those lines. In order for the 1+1=3 example to be analogous, there would have to be as many mathematical denominations/communities each committed to a different answer to the 1+1 question as there are Christian denominations/sects presently divided and dividing (for the past 5oo years) over theological disagreements concerning the meaning of Scripture.

    If you think the 1+1 example is analogous, this would mean that anyone who disagrees with your interpretation of Scripture is just as stupid as the person who thinks 1+1=3. That makes it easy to dismiss interpretations other than your own (effectively making your interpretation infallible), and disregard the evidential force arising from widespread and chronic interpretive disagreements against the perspicuity assumption. But all that is beyond the point under discussion in this thread, which is the role and authority of tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  246. Brandon (re: #243)

    For you, philosophy and theology *determine* interpretation. The meaning of the text is wholly inaccessible because my philosophy and theology *determine* my conclusions.

    As I said in comment #240, it is not my position that the meaning of the text is wholly inaccessible. On the contrary, I believe that the text has meaning and that this meaning is accessible. See the paragraph that begins “Then you would be mistaken ….”

    But where are ones philosophy and theology derived? From interpretation of other persons/texts. If carried out consistently, this line of inquiry would ultimately conclude that our entire view of the world is “determined” by our subjective interpretation of the phenomenal world. Welcome to postmodern skepticism.

    Here your argument goes like this: If our interpretation of Scripture is determined by the philosophical and theological assumptions we bring to the text, then since our philosophical and theological assumptions are themselves derived from our interpretation of persons and other texts, then those interpretations too would be determined by prior assumptions we bring to that interpretive process. And this regress would mean that all our ‘knowledge’ is determined by prior assumptions, and thus that we have no knowledge of reality. So in this way, if it were true that our interpretation of Scripture were determined by the philosophical and theological assumptions we bring to the interpretive process, then we would be stuck with full-blown skepticism about all of reality.

    I’ve seen this sort of argument multiple times, or variations on it in which denying the immediate perspicuity of Scripture is said to entail full-blown skepticism. One problem with that argument is that one of its hidden (i.e. implicit) premises is that there is nothing more perspicuous than Scripture. It presumes, for example, that there being a tree behind my house is not something I can know directly by observation. But if some things can be known directly, then the conclusion of the argument does not follow. So the argument smuggles into itself the very skepticism with which it attempts to saddle the position it attempts to criticize.

    how does one escape their interpretive tradition if their conclusions are already “determined” by their current interpretive tradition?

    Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that all of one’s “conclusions” are already determined by one’s prior beliefs. It is possible to encounter other paradigms/traditions, and come to be able to see the same data from the point of view of those other paradigms/traditions. Seeing the data from different paradigms/traditions allows one to see weakness, failures, or problems internal to a paradigm/tradition, and to see explanations for those weaknesses and failures, from the point of view of another paradigm/tradition, according to criteria mutually accessible to the paradigms/traditions in question. This allows one to compare paradigms/traditions in a non-circular way.

    At some point communicative discourse must become possible. Where and why do you draw the boundaries there and not where God has written by his own hand in the 7th and 10th commandments?

    Here you are relying on a philosophical/theological assumption you are bringing to the text: if God wrote something with His own hand, it must be more perspicuous than anything else, and thus no tradition can be needed in order rightly to interpret it. That assumption is what is doing the work in your argument. But you didn’t get that assumption from the text itself. (Nor did you get it from the Tradition.) Yet it serves as a fundamental assumption for you, and it perpetuates a Protestant-Catholic divide, one which we both wish to overcome.

    And it is just this sort of assumption by which thousands of persons are rejecting Christianity because, in part, they see Christians opposing gay marriage on the basis of certain OT passages while at the same time these Christians claim that the same God-breathed text prohibiting the eating of shellfish (in the same context as the prohibition on men lying with men) is no longer binding. (See comment #124 above.) Apart from an authoritative interpretive tradition such a position seems to them ad hoc and thus even hateful, because an arbitrary judgment is then imposed on others as the Word of God. They are wrong about it being ad hoc and hateful, given the ongoing role of the authoritative tradition. But without an authoritative interpretive tradition, what one chooses as the regulating texts here, what counts as “under the law,” what gets to count as still binding and no longer binding, and so on, is arbitrarily chosen (though not recognized by the chooser as arbitrarily chosen), and then imposed on others as the very Word of God. The wax nose problem is an occasion for the imposition of power over others, apart from an authoritative tradition.

    Your question is [presumably] looking from some God’s eye criteria for the “boundary” between which texts do and do not require an interpretive tradition for rightful interpretation. But this presumes that we could possibly bring no interpretive tradition to a text. I’m claiming that we always bring some interpretative tradition with us to a text, even if it is the language tradition handed down in the community in which we learned this language. That language tradition may be adequate for the rightful interpretation of some texts, but it may be inadequate for the rightful interpretation of other texts, texts written in and by a community with a different tradition, one that may continue to develop and deepen in understanding over time. What is most problematic (and I’m not claiming that you do this) is failing to recognize the determinative role of one’s interpretive tradition when interpreting a hermeneutically underdetermined text, and claiming that one is simply reading the meaning right off the page. That’s the hermeneutical equivalent of failing to know oneself.

    I didn’t mean to violate the commenting guidelines. I would say that your question, in terms of formal logic, is a red herring.

    Pointing out a red herring as such is fine. If you do so, just explain why it is red herring.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  247. Eric, (re: #244)

    HU and “absolutely manifest teaching” are incompatible.

    This claim is an example of attempting to construct a criticism of a text from outside the tradition in which the text is written, precisely the point I’m making in this thread. The meaning of “absolutely manifest teaching” is not “absolutely manifest” in the “solo scriptura” paradigm, but in the Catholic paradigm informed by the Tradition. But the HU claim is not “HU as informed by the Tradition.” (See #240 above.) So the two are fully compatible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  248. JJ,

    But Brandon, this is a superb example! Many Christians believe in divorce for almost any reason. Is this not marital infidelity?

    Notice that you’ve now shifted the question from Scriptures perspicuity on sexual morality and marital fidelity to divorce (which is underdetermined in the Catholic Tradition per the impending synod). You’re not talking about the same example and even the example you are using is not a good one in 2015.

    This is an excellent example, however, to show the stark differences between how Protestants and some Catholic apologists approach God’s Word.

  249. Bryan,

    One more comment for clarification and then I will bow out. You said in #240,

    I’m claiming, however, that the philosophy and theology one brings to the text does *determine* one’s conclusion concerning what the text means.

    You then said in #246,

    I believe that the text has meaning and that this meaning is accessible…Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that all of one’s “conclusions” are already determined by one’s prior beliefs

    These statements stand in stark contrast. If our reading text is determined by something outside of the text, how is it possible to access the text? Moreover, all of one’s conclusions are not determined by one’s prior beliefs, then how we understand your statement that one’s philosophy and theology determine the meaning of the text?

    Here you are relying on a philosophical/theological assumption you are bringing to the text: if God wrote something with His own hand, it must be more perspicuous than anything else, and thus no tradition can be needed in order rightly to interpret it.

    No, that’s not the line of reasoning at all. The question, which you have not answered, is why would you allow for communicative discourse to occur at one level (informing philosophy and theology), but “Do not commit adultery,” when penned with the very hand of God, is underdetermined. At no point do I assume that God’s speech *must be* more perspicuous. I simply want you to explain what type of discourse is more perspicuous and how it is more perspicuous in a principled manner.

    This renders your tu quoque response to my accusation of skepticism invalid. Could you provide a response on how your approach to Scripture does not entail postmodern skepticism?

    You then say,

    I’m claiming that we always bring some interpretative tradition with us to a text, even if it is the language tradition handed down in the community in which we learned this language. That language tradition may be adequate for the rightful interpretation of some texts, but it may be inadequate for the rightful interpretation of other texts, texts written in and by a community with a different tradition, one that may continue to develop and deepen in understanding over time. What is most problematic (and I’m not claiming that you do this) is failing to recognize the determinative role of one’s interpretive tradition when interpreting a hermeneutically underdetermined text, and claiming that one is simply reading the meaning right off the page. That’s the hermeneutical equivalent of failing to know oneself.

    This is a much more nuanced statement than what you’ve claimed above. I grew up around Biblicism, and even the most ardent of solo scripura practitioners I know would agree with this statement (even if they didn’t understand it in practice). I think the statement quoted above is different from your other statements about the meaning of texts, but if this is all you’re trying to say, then you’ll get an “Amen” from brothers and sisters from Rome, to Geneva, and to the Bible Church in Mississippi. As a result, I think it’s counter-productive to ecumenism to claim “swingers” are engaged in the same sort of exegetical process as Protestants. I think it’s unnecessarily incendiary.

  250. Brandon, (re: #249)

    In #240 I wrote, “I’m claiming, however, that the philosophy and theology one brings to the text does determine one’s conclusion concerning what the text means.” Then in #246 I wrote, “I believe that the text has meaning and that this meaning is accessible…Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that all of one’s “conclusions” are already determined by one’s prior beliefs.” Regarding these two claims, you wrote:

    These statements stand in stark contrast. If our reading text is determined by something outside of the text, how is it possible to access the text? Moreover, all of one’s conclusions are not determined by one’s prior beliefs, then how we understand your statement that one’s philosophy and theology determine the meaning of the text?

    Let me respond to these one at a time. First, I don’t see why you think the two statements (from #240, and #246) stand in “stark contrast.” There is no contradiction between them. (If you think there is a contradiction between them, please show why.) Regarding your first question, I answered this in comment #240. See the paragraph that begins “Then you would be mistaken ….” The need for the proper interpretive tradition in order to access the text does not mean that we cannot access the text. I’m having difficulty seeing why you would even think that what I’m saying means that we cannot access the text.

    Regarding your second question, I’m not sure why you think this is a problem. It appears that you’re treating my “I’m not claiming that all of one’s conclusions are already determined by one’s prior beliefs” (from #246) as if it means “I’m claiming that all of one’s conclusions are not determined by one’s prior beliefs.” But those two area not logically equivalent. In other words, you re-wording of what I said changes the meaning of what I said.

    The question, which you have not answered, is why would you allow for communicative discourse to occur at one level (informing philosophy and theology), but “Do not commit adultery,” when penned with the very hand of God, is underdetermined.

    The very question presupposes that it is in my power to allow or disallow it. But it is not in my power to allow or disallow it. It is like asking me why I allow there to be a difference between poetry and prose, or between novels and encyclopedias. The difference is not something I “allow,” but is grounded in the difference in the semantic relation between the texts, the tradition in which they were written, and the practice of the community in which the text and tradition had (and my continue to have) their function.

    Could you provide a response on how your approach to Scripture does not entail postmodern skepticism?

    First I would need some initial reason or argument to believe that my “approach” to Scripture implies skepticism. If you think my approach does entail skepticism, please lay out the argument. That would help me understand why you think I need to show how my position does not entail skepticism.

    This is a much more nuanced statement than what you’ve claimed above. I grew up around Biblicism, and even the most ardent of solo scripura practitioners I know would agree with this statement (even if they didn’t understand it in practice). I think the statement quoted above is different from your other statements about the meaning of texts, but if this is all you’re trying to say, then you’ll get an “Amen” from brothers and sisters from Rome, to Geneva, and to the Bible Church in Mississippi.

    I’m glad for the amen, and yes what I said in that immediately preceding quotation is ‘different’ from what I said above, but ‘different’ is not the same as contrary to; it is fully compatible with what I said above. And no this is not all I’m “trying” to say. I did more than try. I actually said those other things as well.

    As a result, I think it’s counter-productive to ecumenism to claim “swingers” are engaged in the same sort of exegetical process as Protestants. I think it’s unnecessarily incendiary.

    That’s good, because I never said that swingers were engaged in the “same sort of exegetical process as Protestants.” I pointed to the “Christian swingers” case (in #186) as one more example (amid scores) of a “solo scriptura” failure, namely, a failure of biblicism. The problem for exegetes who deny an authoritative tradition, however, is that their position collapses into biblicism, for the reasons I’ve explained in the post at the top of this page.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  251. Bryan,

    I made some editing errors. I meant to say the following:

    Moreover, *if* all of one’s conclusions are not *necessarily* determined by one’s prior beliefs, then how *do* we understand your statement that one’s philosophy and theology determine the meaning of the text?

  252. Brandon (re: #251)

    Thanks for those clarifications. I figured that’s what you meant to say. So it doesn’t change what I would have said in #250.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  253. Brandon (#249)

    But Brandon, this is a superb example! Many Christians believe in divorce for almost any reason. Is this not marital infidelity?

    Notice that you’ve now shifted the question from Scriptures perspicuity on sexual morality and marital fidelity to divorce (which is underdetermined in the Catholic Tradition per the impending synod). You’re not talking about the same example and even the example you are using is not a good one in 2015.

    This is an excellent example, however, to show the stark differences between how Protestants and some Catholic apologists approach God’s Word.

    I don’t see how the fact that a synod on the family that hasn’t been held means that somehow the relation between marital fidelity and divorce is underdetermined in the Catholic tradition. But your last statement is precisely the point I thought I was trying to make – that marital fidelity isn’t something that Sola Scriptura has been able to determine. The Catholic Church says that divorce and remarriage constitute infidelity. The coming synod isn’t going to change that.

    jj

  254. Brian (re:247)

    You wrote:
    This claim is an example of attempting to construct a criticism of a text from outside the tradition in which the text is written, precisely the point I’m making in this thread.

    Response:
    I distinguish between tradition in which the text is written and interpretive tradition of a given text. I understood your point to be interpretive tradition.
    ————————-

    You wrote:
    The meaning of “absolutely manifest teaching” is not “absolutely manifest” in the “solo scriptura” paradigm, but in the Catholic paradigm informed by the Tradition.

    Response:
    The phrase “absolutely manifest teaching” is itself a teaching of a teacher. It’s not an interpretation of those Scripture texts. It’s *about* the Scriptures containing teachings, so the Scriptures are teachings from a teacher. Likewise, the Solo paradigm “absolutely manifest teaching” is itself a teaching of a teacher. I will show you.

    Vatican I: We teach and declare…..absolutely manifest teaching of sacred scripture.

    Eric’s Reply at CtC: I teach and declare…..absolutely manifest teaching of sacred scripture.

    If you decide to be taught by Eric, then Eric teaches something about scripture described as “absolutely manifest teaching.” The meaning is the same across paradigms.
    ——————–

    Is it true that if you determine the meaning of “absolutely manifest teaching” then it included the proper interpretive tradition ? If so, then why not teach and declare that interpretation like the “We” at Vatican I ? The Catholic Church never determined, by the proper interpretive tradition, the meaning of “absolutely manifest teaching ” This lack of determination makes your “proper interpretive tradition” very deficient. I conclude that the meaning isn’t absolutely manifest in the Catholic paradigm informed by Tradition.

    Perhaps we can agree that the Vatican I text is HU with or without the proper interpretive tradition ?

  255. Eric (re: #254)

    I’m sorry, but I can’t make sense of what you’re saying in #253, so I’m tabling the discussion for now.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  256. Bryan

    I have several a general questions pertaining to “authority” that I’m hoping you can answer. The RC paradigm is built on the authority of Scripture, the authority of traditions of the Church fathers, and the “keys to the Kingdom” view of the apostolic succession. So…

    1. If the writings of the Church fathers is authoritative, why would they not be included in Scripture? If these words reveal God’s will and word, it seems they would rise to the level of Scriptural doctrine. If they do not, then how can one use tradition alongside of Scripture with equal status?

    2. In early Church history, the early fathers sometimes disputed different interpretations among themselves, and sometimes changed their positions personally over time. How does one know which views are authoritative?

    3. Is the Catholic Catechism authoritative work, or just a synopsis of other authoritative work?

    4. If one wants to know what is the current authoritative view of the Church on a particular subject, where would one find it?

    What I am driving at is this… there is a lot said about what Catholicism believes. Some is true, and some is misconception. When I look at questions pertaining to the Protestant vs Catholic debate, I want to be sure I am considering actual Catholic doctrine, not just someone’s interpretation of it (and I’m not referring to your comments, but the compendium of comments at CTC).

    Thanks for your help

    Curt

    Thanks,
    Curt

  257. Curt, (re: #256)

    1. If the writings of the Church fathers is authoritative, why would they not be included in Scripture? If these words reveal God’s will and word, it seems they would rise to the level of Scriptural doctrine.

    See the first part of comment #106 above.

    2. In early Church history, the early fathers sometimes disputed different interpretations among themselves, and sometimes changed their positions personally over time. How does one know which views are authoritative?

    Regarding the moral consensus of the Church Fathers, see comments #229, #232, #236, and #237 of “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What did Jesus Teach?

    3. Is the Catholic Catechism authoritative work, or just a synopsis of other authoritative work?

    See the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum and the USCCB’s FAQ on the Catechism

    4. If one wants to know what is the current authoritative view of the Church on a particular subject, where would one find it?

    The Catechism is a good place to start.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  258. Another solo scriptura fail:

    Admittedly, the Trinity is an interesting theory and it certainly quelled some of the early Church’s division on the nature of God, but it is just that – a theory.

    A somewhat politically motivated theory at that.

    And it’s a theory that the Bible puts absolutely no energy toward explaining.

    I’m not saying the theory of Trinity is wrong. I’m just not saying it’s definitively right, which is exactly what many of its adherents do when they say that if you don’t believe in the Trinity, you can’t be Christian.

    Here’s the thing, if the Trinity is that important, doesn’t it seem like Jesus or the book of Acts or Paul or James or Peter or John would have talked more directly about it?

    The lack of biblical witness leaves me to believe that either there simply was no understanding of a Trinitarian God at the time books of the Bible were written, or that the concept was so unimportant to their faith that it mostly wasn’t mentioned.

    No Trinity For Me, Please” (by Mark Sandlin, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA)

  259. Another solo scriptura fail:

    It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

    For me, the most important part of that process was answering a more fundamental question: What is the point of marriage in the first place? For some Christians, in a tradition that traces back to St. Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which obviously negates the legitimacy of same-sex unions. Others of us, however, recognize a more spiritual dimension of marriage, which is of supreme importance. We believe that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church. This doesn’t mean that unmarried people cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual actualization – our Savior himself was single, after all – but only that the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth.

    Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

    However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

    – Tony Campolo (“Tony Campolo: For the Record,” June 8, 2015)

  260. Bryan

    Your “solo scriptura fails” are not failures of solo scriptura. They are failures of the interpreter. That Scripture is the only authority does not mean that all readings of Scripture are correct.

    This is not unlike the “magisterium fails”…

    499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin”

    This, even though Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus had brothers and sisters…

    Curt

  261. Curt (#260)

    Your “solo scriptura fails” are not failures of solo scriptura. They are failures of the interpreter. That Scripture is the only authority does not mean that all readings of Scripture are correct.

    I agree, of course, that the thesis that Scripture is the only authority does not mean or entail that all readings (interpretations) of Scripture are correct. But “solo scriptura” is not only the thesis that Scripture is the only authority, but also a thesis about the perspicuity of Scripture. If God was willing to go through the agony of the cross to save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life, and if we need to hear the Gospel in order to believe it in faith, and if part of His salvific purpose is that our resulting unity in faith and love would be so visible that the world would know that the Father sent the Son (John 17), then He wouldn’t leave us only with a book lacking the perspicuity necessary to resolve interpretive disagreements and preserve theological and visible unity of all Christ-loving, truth-seeking, at least minimally intelligent Christians all over the world. But what these “solo scriptura” ‘fails’ show, and what the last 500 years of fragmentation upon fragmentation show under an approach to Scripture in which the authority of a divinely-established Magisterium is rejected, is that apart from the Tradition and Magisterium, Scripture does not fulfill the function of establishing or preserving a unity of faith so visible that the world knows that the Father sent the Son, and thus that Scripture was not divinely intended to fulfill this function apart from the Tradition and Magisterium. In this way, all these “solo scriptura” fails are falsifications of the “solo scriptura” thesis.

    As for the compatibility of the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity with Scripture, that’s a topic for a different thread. But to see why the dogma is fully compatible with Scripture, see the fourth paragraph of comment #48 of the “Holy Church” thread, and see the CA tract on the question. See St. Jerome’s “Against Helvidius. And see also Gambero’s Mary and the Father’s of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought. You are approaching the particular passages of Scripture you cite here as if the interpretation of Scripture is not to be informed, guided, and illuminated by Tradition (expressed perfectly in the Pontificator’s third law). And that simply begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question between the two paradigms, as I’ve explained here before; see “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  262. Bryan (261)

    But “solo scriptura” is not only the thesis that Scripture is the only authority, but also a thesis about the perspicuity of Scripture.

    There are, of course, different understandings of the sola scriptura principle. These may include “Scripture alone”, “Scripture prima facie”, “Scripture as final authority” etc. depending on whose writing we consider. I agree that the thesis of sola scriptura considers the perspicuity of Scripture to be more “open” to the believer than the RC church would.

    If God was willing to go through the agony of the cross to save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life, and if we need to hear the Gospel in order to believe it in faith, and if part of His salvific purpose is that our resulting unity in faith and love would be so visible that the world would know that the Father sent the Son (John 17), then He wouldn’t leave us only with a book lacking the perspicuity necessary to resolve interpretive disagreements and preserve theological and visible unity of all Christ-loving, truth-seeking, at least minimally intelligent Christians all over the world.

    This is an interesting assertion, but it presumes to know what God would or would not do. I could make an equally indefensible assertion that goes something like this: If Christ established the Roman Catholic Church as the one true church that was protected in her purity and reliable for interpreting Scripture for all matters of life and faith, He most certainly would not have allowed the bad Popes to have happened.

    But what these “solo scriptura” ‘fails’ show, and what the last 500 years of fragmentation upon fragmentation show under an approach to Scripture in which the authority of a divinely-established Magisterium is rejected, is that apart from the Tradition and Magisterium, Scripture does not fulfill the function of establishing or preserving a unity of faith so visible that the world knows that the Father sent the Son, and thus that Scripture was not divinely intended to fulfill this function apart from the Tradition and Magisterium. In this way, all these “solo scriptura” fails are falsifications of the “solo scriptura” thesis.

    And what the bad Popes show is the failure of Tradition to protect Church leadership from the sin of man, and a failure of this leadership to point to Christ. In other words, visible unity under corrupt leadership does not let the world know that the Father sent the Son… quite the opposite. The reality is that man is sinful… Protestants and Catholics alike. We each have failures that result from sin. What sola scriptura does that the Catholic tradition does not do is give the faithful follower a way to continue to follow faithfully when the sin of man affects leadership in the church. When Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”, the emphasis is on “follow Me“. It was not “follow some guy who says he knows what Jesus really meant”. Scripture gives us a pretty good understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Confess, believe, love God, love your neighbor, go make disciples. If we do these things, we are doing what Jesus commanded.

    A final thought… you and I know people who are are followers of Christ… some of whom are intellectually astute, and some of whom are intellectually challenged. This is fascinating to me… it says a lot about God and His ability to communicate the gospel to all. Looking back on your assertion, “He wouldn’t leave us only with a book lacking the perspicuity necessary to resolve interpretive disagreements”… I don’t think He has (nor do you). So the question is not “whether” but “how” He gives us the “mind of Christ”. I know an awful lot of faithful followers of Christ who have never visited a Catholic Church. I also know people who became followers of Christ outside of the Catholic Church, and ended up in the Catholic Church (that would be you, I believe, among others). Nonetheless, this makes it clear that the perspicuity of Scripture (and the omnipotence of God, and Church Christ built) is larger than the Catholic Church.

    Blessings,
    Curt

  263. Curt, (re: #262)

    This is an interesting assertion, …

    It is an argument, not an assertion.

    I could make an equally indefensible assertion that goes something like this: If Christ established the Roman Catholic Church as the one true church that was protected in her purity and reliable for interpreting Scripture for all matters of life and faith, He most certainly would not have allowed the bad Popes to have happened.

    The problem with that argument is that the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Your attempted tu quoque fails for two reasons, in conjunction. First, because of the intrinsic ontological difference between persons and texts. See the paragraph in our “Solo Scriptura” article that begins “The follow-up objection to our argument takes the form of a dilemma” and the immediately following paragraph. It directly addresses your tu quoque. See also “III. Persons and Texts” in my reply to Michael Horton’s last set of comments in our Modern Reformation interview. That ontological difference entails that the Catholic paradigm is not saddled with the problem of insoluble interpretive disagreements, and the resulting perpetual and intractable fragmentation as is the case with a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials. Second, because as was made clear by saints such as St. Optatus and St. Augustine during the Donatist schism of the fourth century, the existence and authority of the authentic magisterium of the Church is not eliminated or lost when her leaders sin. See the paragraph that begins “I understand why it might appear that way, but rebellion against a divinely ordained leader is not justified by that leader’s moral failings” in comment #126 of the “Christ Founded a Visible Church” thread, and comment #36 in the “Five Years a Catholic” thread.

    What sola scriptura does that the Catholic tradition does not do is give the faithful follower a way to continue to follow faithfully when the sin of man affects leadership in the church.

    This begs the question (i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question) against the Catholic paradigm, as if the Donatist notion of ecclesial authority were true. See the two links just above.

    He gives us the “mind of Christ”. I know an awful lot of faithful followers of Christ who have never visited a Catholic Church. I also know people who became followers of Christ outside of the Catholic Church, and ended up in the Catholic Church (that would be you, I believe, among others). Nonetheless, this makes it clear that the perspicuity of Scripture (and the omnipotence of God, and Church Christ built) is larger than the Catholic Church.

    The fact that persons can and do come to a sincere faith in and love for Christ outside of full communion with the Church Christ founded is fully compatible with the truth of what I said in comment #261. So is the fact that some Protestants become Catholic.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  264. Bryan

    The problem with that argument is that the conclusion does not follow from the premise.

    First of all, giving you the benefit of the doubt, that is why I called it equally indefensible. However, neither did your “if, then” statement…

    “If God was willing to go through the agony of the cross to save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life, and if we need to hear the Gospel in order to believe it in faith, and if part of His salvific purpose is that our resulting unity in faith and love would be so visible that the world would know that the Father sent the Son (John 17), then He wouldn’t leave us only with a book lacking the perspicuity necessary to resolve interpretive disagreements” etc etc

    I could equally postulate that “”If God was willing to go through the agony of the cross to save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life, and if we need to hear the Gospel in order to believe it in faith, and if part of His salvific purpose is that our resulting unity in faith and love would be so visible that the world would know that the Father sent the Son (John 17), AND if God is sovereign, then He wouldn’t leave us with bad Popes.

    That ontological difference entails that the Catholic paradigm is not saddled with the problem of insoluble interpretive disagreements, and the resulting perpetual and intractable fragmentation as is the case with a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials.

    To lift a page from your playbook, this is a question begging argument. It can be boiled down to this… The Catholic Church is always right, therefore the Catholic Church has no problem determining what is right. The conclusion requires acceptance of the RC paradigm which is the premise on which the conclusion is based.

    I stated, “What sola scriptura does that the Catholic tradition does not do is give the faithful follower a way to continue to follow faithfully when the sin of man affects leadership in the church.”

    You replied

    This begs the question (i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question) against the Catholic paradigm…

    Not at all. That this does not fit the Catholic paradigm does not automatically make it a de facto untruth. If we are bound to argue all points from within the Catholic paradigm, we have an irresolvable disagreement because the fundamental premise is that the catholic Church is always right. Hard to argue an opposing view if that is always the premise.

    The fact that persons can and do come to a sincere faith in and love for Christ outside of full communion with the Church Christ founded is fully compatible with the truth of what I said in comment #261

    Ok. But how does that happen without authoritative discipleship from the only authoritative Church? How does someone who is not in communion with Christ lead someone to Christ?

    Blessings
    Curt

  265. Curt, (re: #264)

    However, neither did your “if, then” statement…

    Yes, it does. The essence of the argument is that if God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love, so that the world knows the Father sent the Son (John 17), then He would not leave us with only a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials, such that we are saddled with perpetual and intractable fragmentation upon fragmentation. That conclusion follows because if God did not provide the means by which we are to be presently united, it would follow that God does not want Christians to be presently united (which contradicts the premise).

    I could equally postulate that “”If God was willing … then He wouldn’t leave us with bad Popes.

    And I already explained above (in comment #263 above) why that conclusion does not follow.

    I had written, “That ontological difference entails that the Catholic paradigm is not saddled with the problem of insoluble interpretive disagreements, and the resulting perpetual and intractable fragmentation as is the case with a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials.” You responded:

    To lift a page from your playbook, this is a question begging argument. It can be boiled down to this… The Catholic Church is always right, therefore the Catholic Church has no problem determining what is right.

    That’s not my argument; that’s some other argument I didn’t make. So here you are criticizing a straw man.

    You had claimed:

    What sola scriptura does that the Catholic tradition does not do is give the faithful follower a way to continue to follow faithfully when the sin of man affects leadership in the church.

    I replied, “This begs the question (i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question) against the Catholic paradigm…” And you replied:

    Not at all. That this does not fit the Catholic paradigm does not automatically make it a de facto untruth.

    I agree that just because a claim does not fit the Catholic paradigm this does not automatically make the claim untrue. That’s not what begging the question means. Begging the question means that your criticism presupposes the very point in question, and is therefore engaged in circular reasoning. As I explained in my previous comment, in the Catholic paradigm, there is a way for the faithful follower of Christ to continue to follow Christ faithfully when the sin of man affects leadership in the church. So you are [simply] asserting as false what in the Catholic paradigm is true, namely, that there is a way (see the last link in #236), without entering into schism, for the faithful follower of Christ to continue to follow Christ faithfully when the sin of man affects leadership in the Church. And that assertion begs the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what is in question.

    If we are bound to argue all points from within the Catholic paradigm, we have an irresolvable disagreement because the fundamental premise is that the catholic Church is always right.

    That’s not a premise in any argument I have made here. So here you are criticizing a straw man of your own making.

    Ok. But how does that happen without authoritative discipleship from the only authoritative Church?

    See the paragraph that begins “Notice that in each of those three excerpts …” in comment #25 of the “Five Years a Catholic” thread.

    How does someone who is not in communion with Christ lead someone to Christ?

    Your question is a loaded question, because it presupposes that from the Catholic perspective, all non-Catholics are “not in communion with Christ.” However, see paragraph 15 of Lumen Gentium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  266. Bryan,

    This whole statement (see below) is circular, and Curt has been right in pointing that out,

    The essence of the argument is that if God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love, so that the world knows the Father sent the Son (John 17), then He would not leave us with only a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials, such that we are saddled with perpetual and intractable fragmentation upon fragmentation. That conclusion follows because if God did not provide the means by which we are to be presently united, it would follow that God does not want Christians to be presently united (which contradicts the premise).

    You are assuming that if God wants unity of faith that he would not leave us a “hermeneutically underdetermined” text. That is, of course, not a precondition listed in John 17–it’s your interpretation of a hermeneutically underdetermined text. There is no way to differentiate your understanding from someone who argues that the unity conceived of by Jesus is sexually sharing spouses.

    Some other assumptions grounding your argument:

    1. Persons are *not* hermeneutically underdetermined.
    2. All texts *are* hermeneutically underdetermined (you’ve argued the contrary earlier, but you’ve yet to provide an example of text that is not underdetermined)
    3. You’ve not shown that the Catholic Church has been successful in preventing fragmentation upon fragmentation (If unity is agreement with me, then it’s easy to claim I maintain unity. Students of history, however, are aware of the fact that there have been several fragmentations in the history of the church.)
    4. A text cannot serve as the uniting principle (contra Torah, American Constitution, etc.)
    5. That Scripture is not sufficient to teach what is essential for the faith.

  267. Brandon, (re: #266)

    You are assuming that if God wants unity of faith that he would not leave us a “hermeneutically underdetermined” text.

    No, that’s not a premise (explicit or implicit) in my argument; so it is not an assumption. Nor is it the conclusion of my argument. The conclusion of my argument is that if God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love, so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son, then He would not leave us with only a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials, such that we are saddled with perpetual and intractable fragmentation upon fragmentation. His not providing us with the means for something He wants us to do would entail that He does not truly want us to do it, because we can’t take the God-contradicts-Himself (or is schizophrenic) option.

    That is, of course, not a precondition listed in John 17–it’s your interpretation of a hermeneutically underdetermined text.

    My argument is aimed at persons who already believe that John 17:21 has this meaning and/or at least believe that Christ wants Christians to be united in faith and love, and not divided into a myriad of competing schisms/sects. If you think John 17:21 has some other meaning, or you think that Christ wants Christians presently to be divided into schisms/sects, then my argument is not addressed to you.

    Some other assumptions grounding your argument: 1. Persons are *not* hermeneutically underdetermined.

    That’s not a claim I have made, nor is it an assumption of my argument, so here you are criticizing a straw man. My argument regarding persons’ unlimited intrinsic potency with respect to interpretive self-clarification, which is much more nuanced than (1), can be found in the first two links in comment #263 above.

    2. All texts *are* hermeneutically underdetermined

    That’s not a premise (explicit or implicit) in my argument. So here you are criticizing a straw man.

    3. You’ve not shown that the Catholic Church has been successful in preventing fragmentation upon fragmentation. (If unity is agreement with me, then it’s easy to claim I maintain unity. Students of history, however, are aware of the fact that there have been several fragmentations in the history of the church.)

    Here too you’re criticizing a straw man. I have nowhere claimed that what Christ has provided “prevents” persons from forming schisms. What I have argued is that if Christ wants Christians to be united in faith and love, such that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son, then He would have provided the necessary means by which to preserve that unity. And in the Magisterium of the Church He has provided just that, a means by which the three bonds of unity (i.e. unity of faith, unity of sacraments, and unity of government) are maintained, as I’ve explained in “The “Catholics Are Divided Too” Objection.” Of course persons are free to rebel against the Church, arrogate authority to themselves like Korah did against Moses, and separate themselves from her and form schisms and choose to believe heresies. But in doing so they separate themselves from the unity Christ gave to His Church, and cut themselves off from the divinely-provided means by which Christians might enter and enjoy that unity.

    4. A text cannot serve as the uniting principle (contra Torah, American Constitution, etc.)

    That’s not an assumption (either explicit or implicit) in my argument. So again, you’re criticizing a straw man. (That’s four straw men in a row.)

    5. That Scripture is not sufficient to teach what is essential for the faith.

    My claim is not that “Scripture is not sufficient to teach what is essential for the faith” but rather that Scripture alone [i.e. apart from the Magisterium and Tradition] is “hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials.” And that’s not a mere assumption, but rather a claim I’ve supported with empirical evidence from the past 500 years, and with many pieces of evidence in the thread above (see #213, #258, #259). But it is easy to test it right here. First, you’ll need to provide a list of all the essentials, and Curt can do the same (without first consulting with you). Then we’ll compare the lists, to see if they are the same. If they are not the same, then you and he can show (from Scripture) how the other person is mistaken, resolve the disagreement, and thereby come to agreement regarding the essentials. If, however, your disagreements (regarding what are and are not the essentials) turn out to be intractable, this will (all other things being equal) support my conclusion that Scripture is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  268. Another “solo scriptura” fail: Ben Witherington (Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky) writes, “Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical.” The problem can’t be that he doesn’t know exegesis or is unintelligent. So the only remaining two options are either that Witherington is maliciously twisting the Scripture, or that Scripture alone is hermeneutically underdetermined on this question, in which case this is evidence against the “solo scriptura” thesis.

  269. Another “solo scriptura” fail: the debate between the “temporary submission” advocates (e.g. Gilbert Bilezikian, Douglas Groothuis, Kevin Giles, Millard Erickson) and the “eternal submission” advocates (e.g. Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, John Starke). The “temporary submission” advocates argue that prior to Christ’s coming to earth, and after He ascended into heaven, but not during His time on earth, “God the Son was equal in authority to God the Father.” The “eternal submission” advocates argue that prior to Christ’s coming to earth, during His time on earth, and after He ascended into heaven, the Son is lesser in authority than the Father, and “that the Son has eternally been subject to the Father’s authority.”

    The “temporary submission” advocates and the “eternal submission” advocates make the very same preliminary mistakes: they assume that (a) three divine Persons means three divine wills, and (b) they conflate Christ’s human will and His divine will. Submission to someone requires a distinction of wills. So the notion that prior to the incarnation the Son (and Spirit) submitted to the Father presupposes that there are three divine wills. But according to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, there is only one divine will. (See comment #2 in the “Social Trinitarianism” thread.) So the “eternal submission” position contradicts the dogma that there is only one divine will. The “temporary submission” position entails the same thing by positing that the Father and Son had equal authority (rather than the very same authority) before the incarnation. Furthermore, the “temporary submission” position that after the Ascension Christ has equal authority to the Father conflates Christ’s human and divine wills (like Eutychianism), because in orthodox Christology Christ’s human will remains perpetually and perfectly submissive to the one divine will. But Grudem’s “eternal submission” argument makes the same mistake, because he treats all the submission passages as referring to Christ’s divine will, when in fact they refer to Christ’s human will.

    So both sides of the debate are already miles away from orthodoxy. They grope about in the dark with scores of appeals to Scripture, but without the guidance of Tradition they do not realize that their debate is of no consequence with respect to orthodoxy, because the wrong turn was taken many miles before, namely, rejecting the authority of the Sixth Ecumenical Council and its elucidation of the Apostolic Tradition on this question.

  270. Bryan,

    The problem can’t be that he doesn’t know exegesis or is unintelligent. So the only remaining two options are either that Witherington is maliciously twisting the Scripture, or that Scripture alone is hermeneutically underdetermined on this question, in which case this is evidence against the “solo scriptura” thesis.

    Or that Witherington is simply wrong. Or that the other side is simply wrong. Or that one side isn’t considering all the evidence. Or that one side is driven more by its presuppositions than the text. Or…

  271. Robert, (re: #270)

    Or that Witherington is simply wrong. Or that the other side is simply wrong.

    The question is the cause of the error, though if you don’t know whether or not he is in error you are making my point regarding the hermeneutically underdetermined character of Scripture on this question.

    Or that one side isn’t considering all the evidence.

    Not considering all the evidence would fall under the insufficiently educated / insufficiently intelligent cause of the error. That seems quite unlikely given Witherington’s education (his dissertation was on this subject), though if you think his argument is flawed on account of failing to include certain evidence, please specify what evidence he has failed to consider (and forward that to him so he can come to the right position).

    Or that one side is driven more by its presuppositions than the text.

    Given “solo scriptura” and a denial of hermeneutical underdetermination, this cause reduces to the intellectually dishonest / malicious cause. I have found no evidence that Witherington is intellectually dishonest or maliciously twisting Scripture.

    So again, either the problem is (a) ignorance/intelligence, (b) malice/dishonesty, or (c) hermeneutical underdetermination. But not only is there no good evidence for (a) or (b), the evidence supports ~(a) and ~(b). That is, all the available evidence we have about Witherington the man is that he is not ignorant in this area or unintelligent, and not intellectually dishonest or malicious. So for these reasons, the evidence points to (c).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  272. Bryan,

    The question is the cause of the error, though if you don’t know whether or not he is in error you are making my point regarding the hermeneutically underdetermined character of Scripture on this question.

    My interest isn’t in arguing the merits of Witherington’s position on this issue or the specific cause of his position. My interest is on your reductionistic argument that the only possible reasons for Witherington’s error is either that He is uneducated or evil.

    Not considering all the evidence would fall under the insufficiently educated / insufficiently intelligent cause of the error.

    Maybe insufficiently educated. Not necessarily insufficiently intelligent.

    Given “solo scriptura” and a denial of hermeneutical underdetermination, this cause reduces to the intellectually dishonest / malicious cause. I have found no evidence that Witherington is intellectually dishonest or maliciously twisting Scripture.

    One side can be driven more by its presuppositions than the text without having a malicious motivation. Which appears to be what you are denying. You’re welcome to clarify.

    It has been my experience that many non-Calvinists are motivated by a desire to preserve God’s goodness in their rejection of Calvinism. So they bring certain presuppositions to the text and have a difficult time seeing the plausibility of Calvinism. They aren’t stupid. They aren’t evil. They aren’t uneducated. They’ve read the arguments. They understand the arguments. They just aren’t convinced.

    So again, either the problem is (a) ignorance/intelligence, (b) malice/dishonesty, or (c) hermeneutical underdetermination. But not only is there no good evidence for (a) or (b), the evidence supports ~(a) and ~(b). That is, all the available evidence we have about Witherington the man is that he is not ignorant in this area or unintelligent, and not intellectually dishonest or malicious. So for these reasons, the evidence points to (c).

    Have you never met anyone who cannot be convinced by all the evidence in the world and yet not out of malicious intent? Because that seems to be what you are saying. Is every well-informed and educated person who rejects the claims of Rome driven by malice and dishonesty? Because that is the position you would have to hold based on what you are saying. But as far as I can tell, Rome doesn’t believe that. And are Rome’s claims for itself therefore hermeneutically undertermined because some well-informed people reject those claims but not out of malicious intent?

    What you appear to be saying is that if the Bible were not hermeneutically undetermined, then all people would agree on it. What isn’t clear is how such a position cannot be applied to Rome.

  273. Robert, (re: #272)

    Maybe insufficiently educated.

    Speculation is easy. If you think there is something he isn’t seeing, please specify it. But if you don’t know what he is missing or whether he is mistaken, then, again, you’re making my point concerning the hermeneutically underdetermined character of Scripture on this question.

    One side can be driven more by its presuppositions than the text without having a malicious motivation. Which appears to be what you are denying. You’re welcome to clarify.

    I’ve already explained in the comments above; you’re jumping into an already-existing conversation. If Scripture is not hermeneutically underdetermined on this question, then Scripture corrects the faulty presuppositions one brings to the text and which would otherwise result in false interpretations, and thus disallows faulty presuppositions to determine the hermeneutical result for persons who are sufficiently intelligent/educated, and of good will. And thus the only remaining explanations [for Witherington’s error], given the thesis that Scripture is not hermeneutically underdetermined on this question, are (a) ignorance/unintelligence or (b) malice / intellectual dishonesty. But I’m simply repeating what I’ve already said above.

    What you appear to be saying is that if the Bible were not hermeneutically undetermined, then all people would agree on it. What isn’t clear is how such a position cannot be applied to Rome.

    See the first two links in comment #263 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  274. Bryan,

    The way I see this is that having Scripture, the Magisterium and Tradition as sources on which one queries what he ought to believe only multiplies the difficulty of knowing what he ought to believe. It’s like expanding the canon of Scripture from 66 to unlimited number of sources. I say unlimited because of the potential clarificatory statements that will be made in the future. For example, Thomas Aquinas believed Mary sinned based on what he knows Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium but later clarificatory statement from the Magisterium proved him wrong.

    Further the person basing his judgment on these sources will have to know which ones of these are infallible teachings. Does each Church Father have the same authority? And if not, which ones are correct? Regarding the Magisterium, what are the corpus of its infallible teachings? How does one know that the Pope is teaching infallibly already?

    The complexities of an ongoing stream of data that one has to judge, I think, all the more prevents the person arriving from a correct conclusion. An example of a person depending on these sources but dailed to arrive at the correct conclusion were Thomas Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception, Jerome and Cardinal Cajetan on the deuterocanonical books. And perhaps looking at the current Roman Catholic population, a lot would have differing opinions on a lot of issues but they all base their judgment on Scripture, Magisterium and Tradition quoting these sources against their opponents who likewise quotes from the same sources.

    It seems to me that, the weakness of this paradigm is it’s unfixed and evolving data. A written and fixed data source seems to provide a more stable source of knowledge. A person approaching a stable source can study the data contextually, historically and exegitically. An unfixed and evolving data source doesn’t have this strength.

    So how does your own system give an answer to the theological query of Wayne and Ben regarding the nature of Christ’s submission prior to and after his incarnation? Can your own system answer their theological query?

    Regards,
    Joey

  275. Bryan (267)

    You wrote:
    The conclusion of my argument is that if God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love….His not providing us with the means for something He wants us to do would entail that He does not truly want us to do it, because we can’t take the God-contradicts-Himself (or is schizophrenic) option.

    Response:
    If we restrict ourselves to unity of faith and love, then a process of composition and division of essentials from non-essentials is discouraged. We reach the largest amount of people through a narrow way. The Protestant resolves all things of faith, materially speaking, in a small part of one verse in Scripture:

    I believe All Scripture. (2Tim. 3:16)

    The Catholic Church itself resolves all things of faith, materially speaking, in this:

    I believe All the Catholic Church teaches.
    —————————-

    You wrote:
    And that’s not a mere assumption, but rather a claim I’ve supported with empirical evidence from the past 500 years, and with many pieces of evidence in the thread above (see #213, #258, #259).

    Response:
    Protestants recognize the formal motive of faith manifest in Scripture. Faith is reserved for Scripture.

    By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein….WCF, Of Saving Faith

    Distinguishing between articles and theological conclusions is a challenge for us, but not every result is put forward as an expression bearing truths to be believed by faith. We do have a hierarchy of truths where qualifications can be made: Articles, by nature, are more proximate to actual Scripture words and phrases. Anything else, due to increasing remoteness, will have a greater tendency towards questions and doubts. We leave the conscience free before God to determine and judge for themselves. Since “All Scripture” constitutes a body of truth, we can search out those “parts” serving as first principles or axioms. In my mind, distinguishing begins here.

  276. Joey, (re: #274)

    The way I see this is that having Scripture, the Magisterium and Tradition as sources on which one queries what he ought to believe only multiplies the difficulty of knowing what he ought to believe.

    That would be the case if each of the three operated independently of the other two. But they each function in dependence on the others, as explained in the last paragraph of Dei Verbum, 10, and in CCC #95.

    Further the person basing his judgment on these sources will have to know which ones of these are infallible teachings.

    Again, this objection is based on a straw man conception of the way these three function, as explained above.

    An example of a person depending on these sources but dailed to arrive at the correct conclusion were Thomas Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception, …

    The doctrine had not yet been defined by the Magisterium, so St. Thomas wasn’t relying on the Magisterium’s teaching on this question, because it had not yet taught on this question. Had the doctrine been defined, he would have embraced the Church’s teachings, as can be shown by, among other things, the statement he made on his deathbed: “Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament [i.e. the Eucharist] or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.” St. Thomas’s relation to this doctrine is explained in more detail in the lecture at “Mary’s Immaculate Conception.”

    It seems to me that, the weakness of this paradigm is it’s unfixed and evolving data.

    This too is a straw man, because it denies the infallibility of the Magisterium under the specified conditions. But in the Catholic paradigm, the Magisterium teaches infallibly under certain specified conditions. And what is infallibly taught can never subsequently be denied, rejected, overturned, reversed, suspended, removed, or contradicted. In the Protestant paradigms, by contrast, no doctrine or creed is fixed or established. Every single article of faith is potentially eliminable and reversible, precisely because of that paradigm’s denial of the infallibility of the Church. So your criticism applies to Protestantism, not to the Catholic paradigm.

    So how does your own system give an answer to the theological query of Wayne and Ben regarding the nature of Christ’s submission prior to and after his incarnation?

    Before the incarnation, Christ could not submit to the Father, because there is only one divine will, not one will submitted to another will, or one divine will equal in authority to another divine will. Submission requires at least two wills, as I explained in comment #269. Regarding Christ’s human will, at the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary and from every moment since then and forever more, Christ’s human will is subordinate to and perfectly submissive to the divine will.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  277. Eric (re: #275)

    My reply is the same as what I wrote to you in #221. Everything that you said (in #275) is fully compatible with everything I said (in #267) being true. If you want to participate here, then you need to enter into the dialogue, a dialogue aimed at resolving the disagreements between Protestants and the Catholic Church. And on this thread, that point of disagreement has to do with the truth of falsity of “solo scriptura.” And the way to enter into the dialogue is to engage the presented arguments for or against. Commentaries that do not address the arguments should be withheld, because that’s not the purpose of this forum.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  278. Bryan (277),

    You wrote:
    Everything that you said (in #275) is fully compatible with everything I said (in #267) being true.

    Response:
    I disagree, so you can add it to the other disagreements. Then why, knowing that God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love, do you continue to press the process of division and composition ? If it’s discouraged, as I wrote, then why hold us to the results when the process shouldn’t continue ? Or begin based on the starting point ?

    The “hermeneutically underdetermined” that you continue to press is some form of excess. You perpetuate the disagreements knowing the Protestant reserves faith for the Scriptures in a binding way. For us it’s the only infallible source manifesting the formal motive of faith.

  279. Eric, (re: #278)

    I disagree, so you can add it to the other disagreements.

    Here’s how to do this. Quote the particular statement of mine (in #267) with which you disagree, and then show why it is false.

    Then why, knowing that God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love, do you continue to press the process of division and composition? If it’s discouraged, as I wrote, then why hold us to the results when the process shouldn’t continue ? Or begin based on the starting point ?

    Just as I said in #217 and #255, I don’t understand these three propositions.

    The “hermeneutically underdetermined” that you continue to press is some form of excess.

    I don’t understand that statement. Nor is this mere assertion of yours (whatever it means) supported by any argumentation.

    You perpetuate the disagreements knowing the Protestant reserves faith for the Scriptures in a binding way. For us it’s the only infallible source manifesting the formal motive of faith.

    I am not “perpetuating” any disagreement. I’m trying, with God’s help, to resolve a set of disagreements that has existed for almost 500 years now. If you think I’m perpetuating a disagreement, then you’re misunderstanding what we’re doing here at CTC.

    Again, if you wish to participate here, your mode of communication needs to change. You need to engage the actual arguments of your interlocutors, and seek to ensure that your communication is intelligible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  280. Speculation is easy. If you think there is something he isn’t seeing, please specify it. But if you don’t know what he is missing or whether he is mistaken, then, again, you’re making my point concerning the hermeneutically underdetermined character of Scripture on this question.

    Like I said, I’m not interested in the specific argument but in your reductionism to say that the three options available to us if the text is not hermeneutically undetermined are that the person is ignorant, stupid, or evil. Highly educated people disagree all the time without being evil. The fact that a person does not find an argument made from Scripture convincing does not mean that the text is underdetermined any more than the fact that a magisterial argument is unconvincing to many.

    Is it impossible for a Protestant to fully understand the RC teaching, know all the facts, and reject it without being evil? What does Rome say on this? If it is possible for a non-RC to reject Rome without being evil, its possible for Scripture.

    If Scripture is not hermeneutically underdetermined on this question, then Scripture corrects the faulty presuppositions one brings to the text and which would otherwise result in false interpretations, and thus disallows faulty presuppositions to determine the hermeneutical result for persons who are sufficiently intelligent/educated, and of good will.

    Ultimately, yes, Scripture corrects faulty presuppositions. But there is no promise that this will be done in one’s lifetime on every single point of doctrine. You are making a claim for Scripture that Scripture does not make for itself and judging the Protestant doctrine for something the Protestant doctrine has never said. Scripture itself teaches that there will be growth in doctrinal understanding, but growth in doctrinal understanding doesn’t mean the source of doctrine is hermeneutically undetermined.

    Unless you are omniscient, then like me, you have all sorts of false beliefs and in all likelihood, they will not all be corrected in your lifetime. Whose fault is that, Rome or yours?

    And thus the only remaining explanations [for Witherington’s error], given the thesis that Scripture is not hermeneutically underdetermined on this question, are (a) ignorance/unintelligence or (b) malice / intellectual dishonesty. But I’m simply repeating what I’ve already said above.

    Yeah, you’re repeating it, but you’re still being reductionistic. Good scholars can be wrong without being evil.

    Now to be fair, all misinterpretation is ultimately a result of sin. So in a broad sense, yeah all disagreement is due to sin. In a narrow sense, that doesn’t mean disagreement on the level of someone like Witherington means he’s driven by malice. It simply means that he’s struggling with the effects of the fall on his mind and heart like everyone else. The degree to which these effects are overcome in an individual depend finally on the good pleasure of the Holy Spirit. The actual Reformation doctrine is Scripture plus the illumination of the Spirit. And the Spirit is sovereign in His illumination. The fault isn’t in “hermeneutical indeterminancy.” The fault is our sin, and God is under no obligation to correct every error due to sin.

  281. Bryan,

    That would be the case if each of the three operated independently of the other two. But they each function in dependence on the others, as explained in the last paragraph of Dei Verbum, 10, and in CCC #95.

    Even if I grant your presupposition that each of these three sources function in dependence on the others, I still don’t see how a person approaching these three sources doesn’t add complexity to his search for truth. He has to consider 72 books then add to that the Traditions found in the writings of Councils and Church Fathers and an unfixed/evolving clarificatory source from past and current Popes. I gave an example with regard to Thomas Aquinas on his belief that Mary sinned. He approached these three sources in his lifetime to form that belief and I am sure he has relative certainty that he arrived at the truth. But we know he didn’t. I understand your point that had he known the later clarificatory statement regarding the doctrine, he might have changed his mind. But my point is that, in your system, because of its unfixed and evolving data source, one can be convinced of a theological position in his lifetime based on the known sources that is considered heresy in the future. Another example would be Jerome or Cardinal Cajetan who both viewed the deuterocannical books as subpar with the core canon based on the sources they knew (Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium) yet they’ve arrived at the wrong conclusion. This was because another set of data (unknown to them) at Trent defined the core canon as including the books they rejected as part of the core canon. If these theologians got it wrong in their lifetime who looked at the sources they knew yet arrived at a wrong conclusion on essential dogmas, how can a Catholic today have certainty that what they’ve believed today are not declared as heresy in the future?

    This too is a straw man, because it denies the infallibility of the Magisterium under the specified conditions. But in the Catholic paradigm, the Magisterium teaches infallibly under certain specified conditions. And what is infallibly taught can never subsequently be denied, rejected, overturned, reversed, suspended, removed, or contradicted. In the Protestant paradigms, by contrast, no doctrine or creed is fixed or established. Every single article of faith is potentially eliminable and reversible, precisely because of that paradigm’s denial of the infallibility of the Church. So your criticism applies to Protestantism, not to the Catholic paradigm.

    Even if I grant that Magisterium can teach infallibly under specified conditions, I still fail to see how this system doesn’t add to the complexity of finding an answer on theological questions by a person. A person can treat all three sources as his infallible rule of faith during his lifetime and he could have relative certainty on his beliefs based on the known data but in the end arrive at the wrong conclusion (e.g. Thomas Aquinas, Jerome and Cardinal Cajetan on certain vital and important dogmas not just non-essentials).

    I agree with you that Protestants see extra biblical data as sub-par to the biblical data and if further study of the biblical data shows that the extra biblical data can not be maintained, then the biblical data wins. But, my point is not about what a person thinks of the extra biblical data. My point is, a person can go to a stable source of data to find answers to his theological query. He is bound to make his conclusion on a data that is already handed down to him and not reformable. He can not add or subtract to his source data. Your paradigm doesn’t have this feature. As I have explained above, to have these three sources to formulate ones belief system is more complex than that of a person studying a stable source. As pointed out, these three sources has no set canon and the best available data today might not be enough to arrive at the core dogmas that one has to believe because of the evolving nature of these sources.

    Before the incarnation, Christ could not submit to the Father, because there is only one divine will, not one will submitted to another will, or one divine will equal in authority to another divine will. Submission requires at least two wills, as I explained in comment #269. Regarding Christ’s human will, at the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary and from every moment since then and forever more, Christ’s human will is subordinate to and perfectly submissive to the divine will.

    If I will function under your paradigm, how do I know that the presupposition you hold to – Submission requires at least two wills – is infallibly taught in these three sources? Correct me if I am wrong, but nothing in the current sources maintain your presupposition as dogma. A person who believes that submission can be part of the Divine Relations prior to the incarnation without dividing the Essence and Will of the the Divine Being is not declared as a heretic. The concept of appropriation in the Trinity as formulated by the West can accommodate specific roles of each person without dividing the Divine Mind and Will. The concept of the Infinite Mind having three self-consciousness owing to the fact that there are three relations within the Trinity provides for the ground of conceiving the Son as submitting to the Father in a relational manner. The concept of the Son being eternally begotten and proceeding from the Father can accommodate the idea of submission as “procession can take place in various ways – by command, counsel or even origination”. The point is that, even in your system, the theological query of Wayne and Ben are left unanswered. Both positions are acceptable pious opinions which have not yet been clarified by your sources. Yet, you seem to dogmatically believe that your interpretation based on your knowledge of these three sources is the official and infallible interpretation. However, your interpretation doesn’t amount to infallibility and so, it seems to me that your own system fail to meet your own standard.

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  282. Bryan (279),

    You wrote:
    Here’s how to do this. Quote the particular statement of mine (in #267) with which you disagree, and then show why it is false.

    Response:
    Thanks for your patience. In #267, you wrote:

    The conclusion of my argument is that if God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love, so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son, then He would not leave us with only a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials, such that we are saddled with perpetual and intractable fragmentation upon fragmentation.
    —————————–

    The argument allows us to qualify the Christians as Interpreters or Christians with potential to perform genuine interpretive acts. What remains open is the interpretive authority among them. Now, since the argument makes no distinctions between them, and only mentions unity common to them, then we are justified to make no distinctions between them regarding interpretive authority.

    Add 1Cor. 1:10 to this lack of distinction and make them coincide with “if God wants Christians to be presently united in faith and love.”

    Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. – 1 Cor. 1:10

    The argument allows this addition because we are talking about texts.
    —————————-

    Please focus on “only a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials, such that we are saddled with perpetual and intractable fragmentation upon fragmentation.”

    Given: (a) no distinctions in interpretive authority (b) Christians perform interpretive acts (c) that you all agree….same mind…same judgment.

    Underdetermination of the text is compatible with A & B. If you disagree, then please explain why. The sorrowful fragmentations and the desired goal to reach agreement with sameness in judgment draw strength from the reality of A & B. If they draw strength from the same reality, and God wants Christians to remain united and reach agreement with sameness in judgment, then it’s possible He would leave us with only a text that is hermeneutically underdetermined regarding at least what are and are not the essentials, such that we are saddled with perpetual and intractable fragmentation upon fragmentation.

    I take the modest position of it being “possible” because nothing more is required from those who disagree with “He would not leave us.”

  283. Robert (re: #280)

    … in your reductionism to say that the three options available to us if the text is not hermeneutically undetermined are that the person is ignorant, stupid, or evil. Highly educated people disagree all the time without being evil.

    A trilemma is not refuted by pointing to a fourth option under different conditions. The specified conditions here are the interpretation of a text that is claimed to be in itself (i.e. apart from Tradition and Magisterium) sufficient to function as the principle of unity in faith and love for all Christians of sufficient education, intelligence, and good will, such that their unity can be so apparent to the world that the world may know that the Father sent the Son. Intractable, perpetual fragmentation is incompatible with such unity. So in the face of intractable interpretive disagreements between highly intelligent persons with PhDs in the very subject in question, a question that cannot be considered merely adiaphora, if hermeneutical underdetermination is not true then there is only one remaining explanation, i.e. intellectual dishonesty.

    The fact that a person does not find an argument made from Scripture convincing does not mean that the text is underdetermined any more than the fact that a magisterial argument is unconvincing to many.

    My argument does not depend on the premise that if someone does not find an argument made from Scripture convincing, then Scripture is hermeneutically underdetermined.

    If it is possible for a non-RC to reject Rome without being evil, its possible for Scripture.

    Sure, but that tu quoque is fully compatible with the soundness of my argument.

    Ultimately, yes, Scripture corrects faulty presuppositions. But there is no promise that this will be done in one’s lifetime on every single point of doctrine. You are making a claim for Scripture that Scripture does not make for itself and judging the Protestant doctrine for something the Protestant doctrine has never said. Scripture itself teaches that there will be growth in doctrinal understanding, but growth in doctrinal understanding doesn’t mean the source of doctrine is hermeneutically undetermined.

    Again, the issue isn’t growth or development. The issue is whether the text is in itself (i.e. apart from Tradition and Magisterium) sufficient to function as the principle of unity in faith and love for all Christians of sufficient education, intelligence, and good will, such that their unity can be so apparent to the world that the world may know that the Father sent the Son. Pointing to presently intractable hermeneutical schism-preserving disagreements 2,000 years later, multiplied, and not diminished over the past 500 years, and saying that Scripture is sufficient to function as that principle of unity because there is no promised time-frame for Scripture’s ability to clear up faulty presuppositions one brings to the text, just makes my point. As for “growth in doctrinal understanding” that’s impossible where nothing is definitively established, because it reduces to putting the label ‘growth’ on whatever interpretations one likes or agrees with. In order to avoid this reduction, there must be a principled (rather than ad hoc) way of distinguishing between authentic development and that which is merely labeled ‘development.’

    The fault isn’t in “hermeneutical indeterminancy.” The fault is our sin,

    Exactly. That’s the only remaining option for the person advocating “solo scriptura.” The only explanation for all the intelligent, highly educated, Christ-loving and Bible-loving people who don’t reach your own interpretation, is sin. And even though the odds that among all those people whose interpretation is misled by sin, you managed to arrive at the correct interpretation is very low, you assume that sin has not deceived you in your affirmation of “solo scriptura,” and you confidently criticize positions/arguments that deny “solo scriptura.”

    The contradiction, however, is between on the one hand the confidence you have in your positions, and on the other hand the defeater for such confidence entailed by your position on the universal noetic effect of sin by which either (a) everyone who doesn’t share your interpretation is mistaken, or (b) you too are one of those holding a false interpretation, and have not yet come to the correct interpretation. You chalk up pervasive interpretive pluralism to the noetic effect of sin, and then confidently (as if unaffected by the noetic effect of sin) deny the falsity of “solo scriptura.” A person who doesn’t even know whether cows can jump over the Moon (see comment #66 in the “Motives of Credibility” thread) isn’t in a position to have confidence about the truth or falsity of any theological claims. Such a person, if he wishes to be consistent, must simply remain silent.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  284. Joey, (re: #281)

    Even if I grant your presupposition that each of these three sources function in dependence on the others, I still don’t see how a person approaching these three sources doesn’t add complexity to his search for truth.

    Complexity, defined merely in terms of numbers (i.e. more authorities, more canonical books) does not translate into “multipl[ying] the difficulty of knowing what [one] ought to believe.” You’re trying to infer from greater complexity in terms of numbers, to more difficulty in terms of knowing what one ought to believe. But that conclusion does not follow from that premise.

    But my point is that, in your system, because of its unfixed and evolving data source, one can be convinced of a theological position in his lifetime based on the known sources that is considered heresy in the future.

    If that is your point, then it is fully compatible with the truth of everything I’ve said above.

    If these theologians got it wrong in their lifetime who looked at the sources they knew yet arrived at a wrong conclusion on essential dogmas, how can a Catholic today have certainty that what they’ve believed today are not declared as heresy in the future?

    Your objection here conflates what is defined, and what is not defined. Just because we can be mistaken about what has not been infallibly taught, it does not follow cannot have certainty about what has been infallibly taught.

    Even if I grant that Magisterium can teach infallibly under specified conditions, I still fail to see how this system doesn’t add to the complexity of finding an answer on theological questions by a person. A person can treat all three sources as his infallible rule of faith during his lifetime and he could have relative certainty on his beliefs based on the known data but in the end arrive at the wrong conclusion (e.g. Thomas Aquinas, Jerome and Cardinal Cajetan on certain vital and important dogmas not just non-essentials).

    Again, your objection conflates what has been infallibly taught and what hasn’t been infallibly taught.

    My point is, a person can go to a stable source of data to find answers to his theological query. He is bound to make his conclusion on a data that is already handed down to him and not reformable. He can not add or subtract to his source data.

    Sure, but this does not take into account the problem of Scripture being hermeneutically underdetermined.

    Your paradigm doesn’t have this feature.

    Except it does. Everything that has been infallibly taught can never be revoked, contradicted, etc., as I already explained in #276. Your objection is built on the straw man in which there is no infallible Church teaching, and that just presupposes what is in question between the two paradigms.

    how do I know that the presupposition you hold to – Submission requires at least two wills – is infallibly taught in these three sources?

    It is not. Nevertheless, it is a truth in Catholic doctrine and a truth of reason. This is why, according to Catholic theology, the Son (in His divine will) cannot merit from the Father.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but nothing in the current sources maintain your presupposition as dogma. A person who believes that submission can be part of the Divine Relations prior to the incarnation without dividing the Essence and Will of the the Divine Being is not declared as a heretic. … The point is that, even in your system, the theological query of Wayne and Ben are left unanswered. Both positions are acceptable pious opinions which have not yet been clarified by your sources.

    Just because a particular theological error is not a heresy, does not mean that it is acceptable within Catholic doctrine, or is a “pious opinion.” In Catholic doctrine, errors come in degrees heresy being the highest. And the notion that the Son in His divine will submits to the Father (and thus merits from the Father) is contrary to Catholic doctrine, not an acceptable position (because either it truly affirms submission in which case it only gives lip service to there being one divine will, and is thus a form of Arianism, or it is incoherent in claiming that there is ‘submission’ where, in actuality, there can be no submission). So it is simply not true that in the Catholic system, the theological query of Wayne and Ben is “left unanswered.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  285. Eric (re: #282)

    My response is the same as that in #217 and #255. I simply do not understand what you are saying. I recommend taking a break.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  286. Brayn,

    You’re trying to infer from greater complexity in terms of numbers, to more difficulty in terms of knowing what one ought to believe. But that conclusion does not follow from that premise.

    I not only infer that the complexity is due to a greater number of data that a person has to interpret to arrive at the answer he is looking for but the unfixed and evolving nature of the data he has to interpret.

    If that is your point, then it is fully compatible with the truth of everything I’ve said above.

    Compatibility is not the issue. The issue is, if a person as intelligent as Thomas Aquinas arrived at a theological position within his lifetime using your sources yet got it wrong, then it is evidence that your sources is also “underdetermined”. Thomas Aquinas did not conclude that his theological query has not yet been defined from the sources that he knew. He did not make a temporary conclusion but he is certain that Scripture, Tradition and the known Magisterial Teachings combined together spoken about the matter clearly in his lifetime.

    Your objection here conflates what is defined, and what is not defined. Just because we can be mistaken about what has not been infallibly taught, it does not follow cannot have certainty about what has been infallibly taught.

    The problem is a person looking at your sources doesn’t have a criteria to know what has been infallibly taught and what has not been infallibly taught. Thomas Aquinas knew his sources spoke about the matter thus he made his theological position. He made his conclusion knowing that the sources were adequate and sufficient to answer his query. But he still fell short of confessing what he ought to confess.

    The evolving nature of your sources, coupled with the difficulty of interpreting it by a person (even a master theologian and master logician such as Thomas Aquinas) is evidence that your sources is more “underdetermined” than a source data that is stable and fixed. It is true that later on, another data has been added and defined the Immaculate Conception for all to believe and a Catholic today must consider this additional data in his search for truth. But then, having this additional data doesn’t stop the inquirer from other theological queries regarding this doctrine which requires him to interpret the data source that he currently has and yet potentially finds himself in the other side of orthodoxy once another data comes in. It seems to me that a data source that has no fixed canon and evolving is not in a better position than a data source that has a canon and defined.

    Except it does. Everything that has been infallibly taught can never be revoked, contradicted, etc., as I already explained in #276. Your objection is built on the straw man in which there is no infallible Church teaching, and that just presupposes what is in question between the two paradigms.

    I understand that your data source is by nature evolving. I agree that once additional data are added to your sources then a person who has knowledge of this additional data has to incorporate and interpret these new data. Since your data has no fixed canon and is evolving in nature, a person who approaches these data source will have no certainty that he got it right. That is, even if he is a master theologian and master logician, he still can find himself outside the realms of orthodoxy simply because there might be additional data in the future that debunks all his interpretations of the the available data he knew.

    Actually I do not agree that my paradigm doesn’t teach that there is no infallible Church teaching. There is. The data source for that infallible teaching is Scripture. It is not an evolving document. It is a fixed data source and a person who asks a question can go to this data source and interpret it. Your paradigm however expands the data source not only to Scripture but to Tradition and to the Magisterium. Since there is no fixed canon on Tradition and Magisterium, a person can only interpret what he currently has in his lifetime and even though he is a master theologian and master logician, he can find himself outside of orthodoxy if another set of data comes in that overturns all his interpretations of the data source he knew and possessed. The intrinsic difficulty of the data he has to interpret including the difficulty of knowing which data is part of the Tradition and Magisterial Teaching (since there is no fixed list anyway of what these data are) added to the difficulty of arriving at the truth. In this case, your system is more subject to “underdetermination” than a fixed canon.

    It is not. Nevertheless, it is a truth in Catholic doctrine and a truth of reason. This is why, according to Catholic theology, the Son (in His divine will) cannot merit from the Father.

    If it is not, then your reasoning is not part of the data source which I have to interpret to form my theological opinion. First, I do not believe that submission between two persons in the Divine Being prior to the incarnation of the Son entails merit. I do not believe from Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium that this presupposition — submission entails merit — is a dogma. This presupposition wasn’t asserted also by Wayne and Ben. Secondly, your assertion that if submission is found in the Divine Life then it requires two wills is also not a dogma and to simply assert that this is a truth of reason is an assertion not an argument. You simply approached analogically, Human Relations of submission and apply it to the Divine Relations thus your reasoning. However, the Divine Relations of the Divine Being does not divide the Divide Mind. Both Wayne and Ben accept this framework. For example, If the Son self-consciously loves the Father as his Father prior to the incarnation, would that entail a division of the Divine Mind? No it doesn’t.

    The point is that you interpreted your sources and you concluded that Ben and Wayne are in error. But even if for a moment I accept your data source as my data source, I am not bound by your conclusion. Ben and Wayne if judged under the current known data sources (Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium) are within its theological framework. They are at liberty to take their position knowing that the data source has NOT spoken definitively on this matter. As I have asserted, I can posit every accepted framework within the data source to prove either side. I can use Scripture, Tradition and even the current Magisterial Teachings on the matter and say that both positions are still within its framework. None of them denied the Divine Mind is divided. They are querying whether in the Divine Relations, a concept of submission can exist. No dogma from the current data source has either confirmed nor denied infallibly their positions.

    It seems to me then that you are functioning like a protestant here. You are interpreting your data sources, formed your theological position and judged others based on your interpretation. But I can also go to your data sources and accept all its framework and form my theological position and based on my interpretation judged you as being wrong on your judgment of Ben and Wayne. Now, tell me, how can this situation be resolved in your system? Should we go to the Magisterium and ask them a “Yes” or “No”? Should we wait until we die on whether the Magisterium will definitively answer both of us?

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  287. Joey (re: #286)

    I not only infer that the complexity is due to a greater number of data that a person has to interpret to arrive at the answer he is looking for but the unfixed and evolving nature of the data he has to interpret.

    Once again your criticism is based on a straw man, because you conflate [“unfixed and evolving”] in the sense in which nothing at all is established, with the development of doctrine in which what is infallibly taught can never been reversed or removed or denied, but rather only that which is implicit can be made explicit.

    Compatibility is not the issue. The issue is, if a person as intelligent as Thomas Aquinas arrived at a theological position within his lifetime using your sources yet got it wrong, then it is evidence that your sources is also “underdetermined”.

    This too is not only a tu quoque, but also a straw man, because, as I explained to you in my previous comment (i.e. #284), you are conflating what is defined, and what is not yet defined. St. Thomas was, at the time, dealing with a question that was not yet defined. But maintaining unity of faith (one of the three bonds of unity mentioned in #267) does not depend on what is not yet defined, or on there being nothing further to define. That’s why the preservation of the three bonds of unity does not depend on what is “not of faith” (cf. “The “Catholics Are Divided Too” Objection.”)

    Thomas Aquinas did not conclude that his theological query has not yet been defined from the sources that he knew. He did not make a temporary conclusion but he is certain that Scripture, Tradition and the known Magisterial Teachings combined together spoken about the matter clearly in his lifetime.

    Actually, that’s simply not historically accurate. The Magisterium had not yet addressed the question. And during his lifetime St. Thomas changed his position on this question, something he could not have done had it already been defined. You’re assuming that if the Magisterium has not spoken, then a person can only arrive at a “temporary” conclusion. But that’s simply not true. A person can come to a tentative conclusion, based on the sources he has, but it need not be temporary unless the Magisterium does provide an answer contrary to the one at which he has arrived.

    The problem is a person looking at your sources doesn’t have a criteria to know what has been infallibly taught and what has not been infallibly taught.

    This is another straw man. Yes, Catholics do have precisely these criteria. These criteria are the specified conditions under which the Magisterial teaching is divinely protected from error. See Lumen Gentium, 25.

    The evolving nature of your sources, coupled with the difficulty of interpreting it by a person (even a master theologian and master logician such as Thomas Aquinas) is evidence that your sources is more “underdetermined” than a source data that is stable and fixed.

    Your criticism is again based on a straw man, because (a) you conflate “evolving” in the sense in which nothing at all is established, with the development of doctrine in which what is infallibly taught can never been reversed or removed or denied, but rather only that which is implicit can be made explicit, and because (b) your use of the example of St. Thomas on the Immaculate Conception conflates what is defined, and what is not yet defined, as if that distinction either does not exist or does not matter. But, as explained above, there being matters that are not yet defined is fully compatible with the truth of everything I’ve said above, and with the truth of Catholicism.

    Since your data has no fixed canon and is evolving in nature, a person who approaches these data source will have no certainty that he got it right. That is, even if he is a master theologian and master logician, he still can find himself outside the realms of orthodoxy simply because there might be additional data in the future that debunks all his interpretations of the the available data he knew.

    This is another straw man, because it conflates the sort of change that takes place in development of doctrine (according to which we can know that what has already been taught infallibly can never be revoked), with change per se, in which nothing is established or settled, and everything is up for grabs.

    … a person can only interpret what he currently has in his lifetime and even though he is a master theologian and master logician, he can find himself outside of orthodoxy if another set of data comes in that overturns all his interpretations of the data source he knew and possessed.

    This is fully compatible with the truth of everything I’ve said above, and with the truth of Catholicism. In short, the whole of your objection here is based on multiple straw men. Before you attempt to criticize Catholicism, you should first learn it.

    First, I do not believe that submission between two persons in the Divine Being prior to the incarnation of the Son entails merit. I do not believe from Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium that this presupposition — submission entails merit — is a dogma.

    These are statements about yourself (i.e. what you don’t believe), and are fully compatible with what I said above being true. What submission is, and what it entails, has a long pedigree in Catholic theology and philosophy.

    Secondly, your assertion that if submission is found in the Divine Life then it requires two wills is also not a dogma and to simply assert that this is a truth of reason is an assertion not an argument.

    Indeed. But any Catholic theologian will tell you the same. Otherwise, the will that submits is the same will not submitting, which is a contradiction. And the only difference between the divine Persons is in the processions, not in the essence, power, or operation (i.e. not in the willing). The power and operation belong to the nature, not to the Persons as such; that’s why God in His divine nature has only one will, and one operation, rather than three wills and three operations. That is the universal belief and teaching of the Church. If you don’t realize that, or believe that, that is your choice. This thread is not for the purpose of showing that submission requires at least two wills.

    Ben and Wayne if judged under the current known data sources (Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium) are within its theological framework.

    No, they are not. As I explained above, just because a particular theological error has not been definitively anathematized does not mean that it is “within the Catholic doctrinal framework.” The notion that the Son in His divine will submits to the Father is entirely incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Grudem denies that Christ in His divine Personhood is equal in authority to God the Father, and claims instead that “God the Father has eternally had … primary authority among the members of the Trinity, and that the Son has eternally been subject to the Father’s authority.” But the Church has condemned the notion that there are grades or inequality in the Trinity. “It condemns also any others whatsoever who place grades or inequality in the Trinity.” (D 705) This can be seen also in the Lateran Council of AD 649, which taught:

    Can. 1. If anyone does not confess properly and truly in accord with the holy Fathers that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit [are a] Trinity in unity, and a unity in Trinity, that is, one God in three subsistences, consubstantial and of equal glory, one and the same Godhead, nature, substance, virtue, power, kingdom, authority, will, operation of the three, uncreated, without beginning, incomprehensible, immutable, creator and protector of all things, let him be condemned. (D 254)

    The three Persons are one not only in nature, but also in “authority.” That could not be true if the Father had greater authority than the Son (in His divine nature) and the Spirit. There is only one divine will, and one divine operation, not three wills, or three operations. But in order for the Son (in His divine nature) and Spirit (in His divine nature) to submit to the Father, there would have to be three wills, and three divine operations, otherwise nothing would differentiate the act of the Son submitting to the Father from the act of the Spirit submitting to the Father and from the act of the Father exercising authority over the Son and the Spirit. This notion, by Grudem, Ware, and Starke, that the Son (in His divine nature) and the Spirit submit to the Father is in its implications a form of tritheism (polytheism) that reduces to the error of monarchianism which makes the Son and Spirit mere creatures). By giving the Son and Spirit separate operations from the Father (i.e. submitting to the Father), it makes them different beings from the Father, and thus makes this position like the position of the sixth century figure Johannes Philophonus, according to whom the three divine Persons had only specific unity, not numerical unity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  288. Bryan,

    I don’t believe that I have engaged in strawman. In fact, I clearly wrote in #286:

    It is true that later on, another data has been added and defined the Immaculate Conception for all to believe and a Catholic today must consider this additional data in his search for truth. But then, having this additional data don’t stop the inquirer from other theological queries regarding this doctrine which requires him to interpret the data source that he currently has and yet potentially finds himself in the other side of orthodoxy once another data comes in. It seems to me that a data source that has no fixed canon and evolving is not in a better position than a data source that has a canon and defined.

    I agree that once additional data are added to your sources then a person who has knowledge of this additional data has to incorporate and interpret these new data. Since your data has no fixed canon and is evolving in nature, a person who approaches these data source will have no certainty that he got it right. That is, even if he is a master theologian and master logician, he still can find himself outside the realms of orthodoxy simply because there might be additional data in the future that debunks all his interpretations of the the available data he knew.

    Responses to your response:

    …you conflate [“unfixed and evolving”] in the sense in which nothing at all is established, with the development of doctrine in which what is infallibly taught can never been reversed or removed or denied, but rather only that which is implicit can be made explicit.

    I don’t understand what you are saying here. I reiterate that I agree that the nature of your data source can add new data. It is evolving and unfixed in that sense that there is no canon of your data source. A person approaches these data source knowing that what he would conclude currently from the known data source might be contrary to orthodoxy in the future if further data is added.

    St. Thomas was, at the time, dealing with a question that was not yet defined

    Did Thomas Aquinas knew that the question is not yet defined in the data source he knew? I don’t think so. The reason he made a theological position on this matter is because he knew the data source then was adequate for him to form the position he held. Otherwise, he could just have said that the data source is silent on the matter. But he didn’t nor did he delay his judgment on what he should believe.

    . But maintaining unity of faith (one of the three bonds of unity mentioned in #267) does not depend on what is not yet defined, or on there being nothing further to define. That’s why the preservation of the three bonds of unity does not depend on what is “not of faith” (cf. “The “Catholics Are Divided Too” Objection.”)

    I am not referring to the concepts of unity. I am engaging you on the topic at hand. Is your data source accessible for interpretation by a person who has a theological query? Would that person have any difficulty in his interpretation such that in the end, even if he has all the capacity to interpret words and ideas, that he would have a wrong conclusion because of the nature of the data source he utilizes? Then I ask myself, “Can a data source with unfixed boundaries (i.e. no canon) and evolving in nature have any advantage of being understood and interpreted sufficiently by a person utilizing the data source as compared to a data source that is fixed (i.e. have a canon)?” I believe there is grave difficulty in interpreting your data sources and I believe it has no advantage than a data source that is fixed. I raised Thomas Aquinas as an example. Your response to this was, Thomas Aquinas didn’t know the “defined” dogmas during his time. Well, that’s exactly my point. Anyone who utilizes your data source might end up like Thomas Aquinas for not having known the future “added data”.

    You’re assuming that if the Magisterium has not spoken, then a person can only arrive at a “temporary” conclusion. But that’s simply not true. A person can come to a tentative conclusion, based on the sources he has, but it need not be temporary unless the Magisterium does provide an answer contrary to the one at which he has arrived.

    A person can come to a tentative conclusion… but it not be temporary? I think this is a confusing statement. Thomas Aquinas arrived at a conclusion and there is no hint that it seems to be not tentative for him.

    Actually, that’s simply not historically accurate. The Magisterium had not yet addressed the question. And during his lifetime St. Thomas changed his position on this question, something he could not have done had it already been defined.

    Some scholars argued that Thomas Aquinas did have an evolution on his beliefs of Mary’s status. But most of the scholars I know, even considering evolution, admit that Thomas still fell short of the later dogmatic pronouncement. Evolving once understanding and interpretation of the data source does not mean that the data source has no answer to the theological question at hand. Thomas Aquinas formed a theological position and refined his position because he understand that the Scripture, Tradition and current Magisterial Teaching available to him at that time are adequate to define the orthodox answer to this query. But, as we all know, in your paradigm, he failed to confess what he ought to confess as the orthodox position.

    This is another straw man. Yes, Catholics do have precisely these criteria. These criteria are the specified conditions under which the Magisterial teaching is divinely protected from error. See Lumen Gentium, 25.

    Even Lumen Gentium is subject to interpretation by every theologian. We are not blind to the theories of what makes an infallible pronouncement. This is something that is debated among RC theologians as they interpret the available data source including Lumen Gentium.

    In short, the whole of your objection here is based on multiple straw men. Before you attempt to criticize Catholicism, you should first learn it.

    I have no reason to believe that I engaged in strawman. You don’t have monopoly to your data source Bryan. I can read and understand what is being taught by Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. And yes, I do seek to understand Catholicism as you do. We both should learn it and not assume that our understanding of it is infallible. Unless, you’re claiming I should bow to your interpretation of Catholicism?

    These are statements about yourself (i.e. what you don’t believe), and are fully compatible with what I said above being true. What submission is, and what it entails, has a long pedigree in Catholic theology and philosophy.

    Of course, it is what I believe given the data source that you hold doesn’t assume your presupposition. You haven’t shown me from the data source that the concept of “submission” in the Divine Relations prior to the incarnation entails merit or entails two wills. What you did is to use your philosophical constructs based on Human Relations and apply to the Divine Relations. You know very well that this is not how Catholic Theology is done especially in the area of the Trinity.

    Indeed. But any Catholic theologian will tell you the same. Otherwise, the will that submits is the same will not submitting, which is a contradiction.

    I don’t think anyone has argued that the Son submits at the same time not submits. That’s a strawman. What you need to show is that your presupposition that submission entails merit and two will is anywhere taught in the data source. If you say that your data source includes the “Truth of Reason” in addition to the three sources, then you are making your interpretation of the “Truth of Reason” infallible.

    And the only difference between the divine Persons is in the processions, not in the essence, power, or operation (i.e. not in the willing). The power and operation belong to the nature, not to the Persons as such; that’s why God in His divine nature has only one will, and one operation, rather than three wills and three operations. That is the universal belief and teaching of the Church. If you don’t realize that, or believe that, that is your choice. This thread is not for the purpose of showing that submission requires at least two wills.

    This is a strawman. Wayne does not deny that there is only one will (Divine Mind). Nor does he deny that there is the external operation of God belong to the whole Trinity. What Wayne argued is that in the concept of procession itself lies the concept of “submission”. As one Catholic theologian puts it, “The procession, however, may take place in various ways — by command, or counsel, or even origination. Thus we say that a king sends a messenger, and that a tree sends forth buds. ”

    The notion that the Son in His divine will submits to the Father is entirely incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Grudem denies that Christ in His divine Personhood is equal in authority to God the Father, and claims instead that “God the Father has eternally had … primary authority among the members of the Trinity, and that the Son has eternally been subject to the Father’s authority.”

    Again this is a straw man. You keep on insisting that the existence of the concept of submission in the Divine Relations necessarily is a division of the Divine Mind. This might be the case of human beings, but to bring this creaturely analogy to the Divine Being is simply naive. As Wayne agreed with Horrel in this point, “There is another view that is clearly not a historical heresy, namely the view that there is “a role of eternal obedience of God the Son to God the Father,” and also that the Son is eternally equal to the Father in his being (or essence) and in all attributes of deity.”

    But the Church has condemned the notion that there are grades or inequality in the Trinity. “It condemns also any others whatsoever who place grades or inequality in the Trinity.” (D 705) This can be seen also in the Lateran Council of AD 649

    Wayne does not affirm that there are grades of inequality in the Trinity. The authority of the immanent Trinity is one. The Divine Mind of the immanent Trinity is one so as his power, dominion and other attributes of deity. This has not been denied at all. What is being denied is that in the Economic Trinity, there can be no differentiation of roles and order such that concepts of “submission” can not exist in the Divine Relations. By virtue of that each has self-consciousness (though having one infinite Mind), the Son is capable of loving the Father in a manner that the Son loves. The Father is capable of sending the Son in a manner that the Father sends. There can be no contradiction in the Divine Relations and in the Divine Mind and Divine Essence if we find in the Divine Relations the concept of “submission” as all orthodox conception of the Trinity accepts the pre-eminence of the Father as shown in the concept of procession.

    This notion, by Grudem, Ware, and Starke, that the Son (in His divine nature) and the Spirit submit to the Father is in its implications a form of tritheism (polytheism) that reduces to the error of monarchianism which makes the Son and Spirit mere creatures). By giving the Son and Spirit separate operations from the Father (i.e. submitting to the Father), it makes them different beings from the Father, and thus makes this position like the position of the sixth century figure Johannes Philophonus, according to whom the three divine Persons had only specific unity, not numerical unity.

    This is simply a denial of the concept of appropriation and procession. Horell was right all along in saying, “Philosophic arguments that a true equality of nature necessitates ultimate equality of social order are neither rationally required nor harmonious with God’s self-revelation. Conversely, to insist on equality of eternal roles and order in spite of biblical evidence is methodologically parallel to that of heterodox theologians who reduce God to their own mental paradigms. When philosophic reasoning divorces a theology of the immanent Trinity from the revelation of the economic Trinity, it may have journeyed to where we dare not go.”

    This is my last post. It seems to me that Bryan will have his own take of interpretation of the data source (Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium) in condemning Wayne’s theological position. I can access the data he bases his judgment on but I have a different take on it. In my view, the data source has simply not answered the theological query of both Ben and Wayne on whether in the Divine Relations a concept of submission can be appropriated to the Son in light of the Divine Order or procession. Wayne have not denied any of the tenets that Bryan accuses Wayne of denying. He does not deny that in essence and nature all three persons possess equality of diety — in power, authority, creative acts, dominion and redemptive acts. And yet Bryan seems confident that his interpretation of the data source is the correct interpretation and it seems that he believes his take on the matter is what I should accept. But I don’t see his interpretation a final and infallible. At the end of the day, I am convinced only by what Scripture, Tradition and the current Magisterium has revealed on this matter. As far as I know, there is no dogmatic assertions in these data source that makes Wayne a heretic or that his theological position is outside the bounds of the accepted Catholic Trinatarian Framework. There is simply no dogma that says that in the Divine Relations a concept of submission can not exist.

    In the end, this exercise is just a show that the data source that Bryan is relying on is subject to interpretation. I have shown that a data source that is without a canon, unfixed and evolving suffers a greater failure of accessing the truth than a data source that is fixed and final. I have asked in the previous thread, who can resolve our interpretational difference between what Wayne has written and between data sources we read (Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium)? How will the paradigm of Bryan resolve this issue? Can I go to the Magisterium and asked a clarificatory statement? Can Bryan asked? If not, may I asked, practically, what is the advantage of paradigm that has three data source with no canon and no ordinary person can approach for clarification?

    Regards,
    Joey Henry

  289. Joey, (re: #288)

    I don’t believe that I have engaged in strawman.

    Undoubtedly. But in rational dialogue when your interlocutor says that you are criticizing a straw man, and you do not believe that you are, the proper response is not to assert that you are not criticizing a straw man (or to talk about yourself, e.g. “I believe that I am not”) but rather to ask your interlocutor to explain the difference between his actual position and his position as you are depicting it.

    I had written, “…you conflate [“unfixed and evolving”] in the sense in which nothing at all is established, with the development of doctrine in which what is infallibly taught can never been reversed or removed or denied, but rather only that which is implicit can be made explicit.” You replied;

    I don’t understand what you are saying here.

    That’s part of the reason why your criticism is a criticism of a straw man, because you are treating development of doctrine as if it is unfixed, unrestricted change.

    A person approaches these data source knowing that what he would conclude currently from the known data source might be contrary to orthodoxy in the future if further data is added.

    This too is another straw man, because it conflates the distinction between what has been defined and what had not yet been defined. These two conflations (i.e. between development and unfixed evolution, and between what is defined and what is undefined) are why your criticism is of a straw man.

    Did Thomas Aquinas knew that the question is not yet defined in the data source he knew? I don’t think so.

    Actually, he did. “Defined” has a technical meaning in the Catholic tradition. You’re treating ‘defined’ as if it means contained in the Tradition, whether implicitly or explicitly. But in the Catholic Tradition ‘defined’ means taught formally, and finally by the Magisterium, so as to put an end to the question. And St. Thomas knew that the Magisterium had not definitively ruled on the question.

    I am not referring to the concepts of unity. I am engaging you on the topic at hand.

    Unity is the topic at hand. The question at hand is whether “solo scriptura” is capable of establishing and preserving Christians in the unity of faith and love such that the world may know that the Father sent the Son.

    Then I ask myself, “Can a data source with unfixed boundaries (i.e. no canon) and evolving in nature have any advantage of being understood and interpreted sufficiently by a person utilizing the data source as compared to a data source that is fixed (i.e. have a canon)?” I believe there is grave difficulty in interpreting your data sources and I believe it has no advantage than a data source that is fixed.

    These are all statements about yourself. But nothing about you shows that anything I said above is false.

    I raised Thomas Aquinas as an example. Your response to this was, Thomas Aquinas didn’t know the “defined” dogmas during his time.

    No, that wasn’t my response. He knew what had been defined, and he was faithful to what had been defined. He did not know future definitions.

    Well, that’s exactly my point. Anyone who utilizes your data source might end up like Thomas Aquinas for not having known the future “added data”.

    And that is fully compatible with the truth of everything I’ve said above about the capacity of Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium to preserve the Church in the three bonds of unity.

    A person can come to a tentative conclusion… but it not be temporary? I think this is a confusing statement. Thomas Aquinas arrived at a conclusion and there is no hint that it seems to be not tentative for him.

    It was tentative because he remained subject to the Magisterium’s decision on the question, which had not yet been made.

    But most of the scholars I know, even considering evolution, admit that Thomas still fell short of the later dogmatic pronouncement.

    If by “fell short” you mean did not arrive at the position later defined by the Magisterium, then of course. That’s not disputed at all.

    Thomas Aquinas formed a theological position and refined his position because he understand that the Scripture, Tradition and current Magisterial Teaching available to him at that time are adequate to define the orthodox answer to this query.

    First, the Magisterium had not yet defined the teaching, so there was no “current Magisterial Teaching” on the question. Second, not being the Magisterium, St. Thomas could not “define” the orthodox answer. Again, you seem not to realize that the term ‘define’ is a technical term in Catholic theology, and so you are criticizing what you don’t yet understand.

    Even Lumen Gentium is subject to interpretation by every theologian. We are not blind to the theories of what makes an infallible pronouncement.

    That objection has been addressed at the first two links in comment #263.

    I have no reason to believe that I engaged in strawman.

    Again, the proper response, when your interlocutor says that you are criticizing a straw man is not to talk about yourself (i.e. I see no reason to believe that I’ve engaged a straw man) but to ask your interlocutor to explain the difference between his actual position and the position as you are depicting it.

    You haven’t shown me from the data source that the concept of “submission” in the Divine Relations prior to the incarnation entails merit or entails two wills.

    Unless the will were involved, nothing would differentiate submission from filiation. But then if the Holy Spirit also submitted to the Father, and submission was filiation, the Holy Spirit would proceed by filiation. But it is de fide that the Holy Spirit does not proceed by filiation. Hence if there is submission of the Son to the Father in the Godhead, the will must be involved. But then the one divine will would be both submitting (i.e. the Son’s willing) and not submitting (the Father’s willing). And that would be a contradiction in the one divine will. So there would have to be at least two divine wills in order for there to be submission in the Godhead. But it is de fide that there is only one divine will (see the second link in #269 above). Therefore there cannot be eternal submission of the Son to the Father.

    I don’t think anyone has argued that the Son submits at the same time not submits.

    Of course. The problem is that the one divine will both submits and does not submit. See above.

    As one Catholic theologian puts it, “The procession, however, may take place in various ways — by command, or counsel, or even origination. Thus we say that a king sends a messenger, and that a tree sends forth buds. “

    In that quotation, the Catholic theologian in question (Fr. George Hayward Joyce, S.J.) is not talking about the eternal processions of the Son and Holy Spirit, but of procession in general.

    As Wayne agreed with Horrel in this point, “There is another view that is clearly not a historical heresy, namely the view that there is “a role of eternal obedience of God the Son to God the Father,” and also that the Son is eternally equal to the Father in his being (or essence) and in all attributes of deity.”

    Right. Grudem claims that the Son is eternally equal to the Father with respect to the divine essence, but that the Father has eternally had primary authority over the Son with respect His Personhood, and that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father in His Personhood. But, what is condemned in Catholic teaching is not just denying equality at the level of divine essence, but denying equality of authority at the level of personhood. “It condemns also any others whatsoever who place grades or inequality in the Trinity.” (D 705) Grudem et al’s “solo scriptura” mistake is inferring from eternal procession within the Trinity to eternal submission within the Trinity.

    This is my last post.

    Ok. The conversation has run its course anyway.

    It seems to me that Bryan will have …

    See the first paragraph in our comment guidelines, regarding speaking of participating persons in the third-person.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  290. Joey Henry,

    Thomas Aquinas said, “Although the Roman Church does not celebrate the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, it does yet tolerate the custom of some other Churches which do celebrate the festival, hence such celebration is not to be wholly disapproved of.
    Aquinas was a Dominican. During his own life time, that order kept the feast in their Book of Hours and in their Martyrology as a double feast. Several notable Dominicans believed in the Immaculate Conception including Albert the Great, Vincent Ferrer, St. Raymond Pennafort and Louis of Granada.
    So, the issue was indeed unsettled and therefore open to speculation.

  291. A trilemma is not refuted by pointing to a fourth option under different conditions.

    I’m not trying to “refute” a trilemma. I’m trying to point out that your argument is reductionistic. There’s more possible reasons for disagreement besides a person being evil in the narrow sense, ill-education, or ignorance.

    The specified conditions here are the interpretation of a text that is claimed to be in itself (i.e. apart from Tradition and Magisterium) sufficient to function as the principle of unity in faith and love for all Christians of sufficient education, intelligence, and good will, such that their unity can be so apparent to the world that the world may know that the Father sent the Son.

    You are begging the question by assuming what unity in faith and love must look like, IE, visible same-home-office unity such that you have with the nominal headship of the pope.

    Intractable, perpetual fragmentation is incompatible with such unity. So in the face of intractable interpretive disagreements between highly intelligent persons with PhDs in the very subject in question, a question that cannot be considered merely adiaphora, if hermeneutical underdetermination is not true then there is only one remaining explanation, i.e. intellectual dishonesty.

    I’m not considering the question adiaphora. I’m pointing out that there are other possible explanations between people being narrowly evil, ignorant, or not educated enough.

    Again, the issue isn’t growth or development. The issue is whether the text is in itself (i.e. apart from Tradition and Magisterium) sufficient to function as the principle of unity in faith and love for all Christians of sufficient education, intelligence, and good will, such that their unity can be so apparent to the world that the world may know that the Father sent the Son.

    Trying to find the Protestant position in this statement. Sola Scriptura is the principle that Scripture is the only infallible authority for faith and practice. No Protestant that I know would say that it is desirable or even possible to interpret Scripture apart from tradition and ecclesiastical authority.

    Pointing to presently intractable hermeneutical schism-preserving disagreements 2,000 years later, multiplied, and not diminished over the past 500 years, and saying that Scripture is sufficient to function as that principle of unity because there is no promised time-frame for Scripture’s ability to clear up faulty presuppositions one brings to the text, just makes my point.

    Again, trying to find the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura here.

    As for “growth in doctrinal understanding” that’s impossible where nothing is definitively established, because it reduces to putting the label ‘growth’ on whatever interpretations one likes or agrees with. In order to avoid this reduction, there must be a principled (rather than ad hoc) way of distinguishing between authentic development and that which is merely labeled ‘development.’

    When all Rome has to do is call something development and you MUST accept that decree even in cases where it looks more like change (religious freedom, salvation for all people outside the church unless they knowingly reject Rome but who knows when that happens, etc.), all you have is ad hoc development.

    And this “nothing definitively established” is a critique of Protestantism for not having the same-home-office-that-functions-by-some-head-guy-making-a-declaration, not an establishment that “nothing is definitively fixed.” Here’s something fixed for you: John 1:1.

    Exactly. That’s the only remaining option for the person advocating “solo scriptura.” The only explanation for all the intelligent, highly educated, Christ-loving and Bible-loving people who don’t reach your own interpretation, is sin.

    Sin in the broad sense, not sin in the narrow “intellectually dishonest” sense.

    By the way, if Rome is what she says she, the only reason for anyone not to become Roman Catholic is sin in the broad sense. So tu quoque.

    And even though the odds that among all those people whose interpretation is misled by sin, you managed to arrive at the correct interpretation is very low, you assume that sin has not deceived you in your affirmation of “solo scriptura,” and you confidently criticize positions/arguments that deny “solo scriptura.”

    The same is true of you, my friend. You and the entire Roman church assume that sin has not deceived you based on the assumption that sin hasn’t deceived you in what it means to be protected from error and you confidently criticize positions that deny Rome’s sola ecclesia.

    The contradiction, however, is between on the one hand the confidence you have in your positions, and on the other hand the defeater for such confidence entailed by your position on the universal noetic effect of sin by which either (a) everyone who doesn’t share your interpretation is mistaken, or (b) you too are one of those holding a false interpretation, and have not yet come to the correct interpretation.

    Rome assumes at least a nominal influence of sin on the intellect, so your confidence in Rome would be equally misplaced and contradictory if we operate by your presuppostions.

    You chalk up pervasive interpretive pluralism to the noetic effect of sin, and then confidently (as if unaffected by the noetic effect of sin) deny the falsity of “solo scriptura.” A person who doesn’t even know whether cows can jump over the Moon (see comment #66 in the “Motives of Credibility” thread) isn’t in a position to have confidence about the truth or falsity of any theological claims. Such a person, if he wishes to be consistent, must simply remain silent.

    Welcome to the human condition where we are confident of our positions despite our own limitations. Unless you are omniscient, you have no more reason to be confident in your choice to become Roman Catholic because you were able to agree with its view of itself.

    And as far as the cows comment, my point was raised in the course of attempting to demonstrate that the MOC are circular and fideistic, and they are. As far as I recall, I noted that cows cannot presently jump over the moon, but given Rome’s embrace of Darwinistic evolution with a theistic bent, you don’t know whether there is not heretofore untapped genetic potential for cows to jump over the moon. Who are you to say that there won’t be mutations that would one day render this possible? The point is the limitations of empiricism in reaching conclusions, which you have to acknowledge to make any argument for the MOC even remotely credible.

  292. Another “solo scriptura” fail, in line with that laid out in #124 above:

    “Biblical literalists, even those who think themselves “nondenominational,” almost all follow some theological tradition that tells them which parts of the Bible to follow and how. ” (source)

  293. Another “solo scriptura” fail: “Is There a Right Way to Think About Hell?

    Update: Another “solo scriptura” fail on the topic of hell: “5 Reasons Christians Are Rejecting the Notion of Hell” (November 29, 2015)

  294. Ed Feser:

    But what does this have to do with sola scriptura? The idea is this. Summarizing an early Jesuit critique of the Protestant doctrine, Feyerabend notes that (a) scripture alone can never tell you what counts as scripture, (b) scripture alone cannot tell you how to interpret scripture, and (c) scripture alone cannot give us a procedure for deriving consequences from scripture, applying it to new circumstances, and the like. Let’s elaborate on each and note the parallels with modern empiricism. (continue reading)

  295. Another “solo scriptura” fail: “Is my husband raping me?

    The author of biblicalgenderroles.com writes, “But I will say this, despite American laws to the contrary, Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as “marital rape”.” (Source: “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not the mood?“)

  296. Re: 295 It’s very disturbing to see thought evolve along those lines.

    On a related point, a very refreshing discovery for me as I’ve been turning to the authority of the Catholic Church is the discovery of the Catholic argument for the exclusively male priesthood. In my experience as a Protestant, one of the apologies which I always found most unsatisfying was the one for the exclusively male eldership. Because the Scripture is not explicit on the point, “sola scriptura” arguments are put together based on verses pulled from various places and contexts in the Bible, which don’t always satisfactorily justify the practice or convince the listener that the equal dignity of men and women is maintained.
    (The concern grows when you compare the commands for Christians to submit to their church authorities and for wives to submit to their husbands. Conservative Protestants will affirm both points strongly. However, if the husband is free to subjectively identify his church authority based on his interpretation of Scripture, but the wife is constrained to objectively identify her husband because he is publicly known to be her husband, then there is a radical difference in freedom between the man and the woman, which does not suggest equal dignity to me.)

    However, the matter finds good resolution in the sacramental understanding of the priesthood. Because the priest must be an icon of the God-Man Christ, and Our Lord’s sacramental embodiment as he leads the Mass, the Church only has the authority to ordain men for the priesthood. (And the objectively identifiable authority to which the man and the woman both must submit is refreshing too.)

  297. Ed Feser critiques sola scriptura in a new post amplifying many of the points in this comments section:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/07/fulford-on-sola-scriptura-part-ii.html

    Peace,
    John D.

  298. Bryan (Re: recent comment in Motives of Credibility)

    Again, there is no need to ask loaded questions, as if this is about shaming or embarrassing persons, rather than about discovering and agreeing upon the truth of claims and positions, the quality of evidence, and the soundness of arguments. Geraldo Rivera, Piers Morgan, etc. are not the standards for good faith ecumenical dialogue. No dialogue at all is better than imitation dialogue. And CTC is not the forum for that sort of engagement; participating here requires putting away that sort of interaction, and committing oneself only to authentic, good faith dialogue.

    I apologize for the loaded questions in the Motives of Credibility thread. I actually meant to ask what I think is a good question, but my manner of asking ruined that. I’m sorry. Here goes another try.

    To my knowledge, the Reformed paradigm holds that the essentials are perspicuous in Scripture, and that entails the weaker claim that some things in Scripture are perspicuous. This puts the Catholic in a dilemma: (a) some things in Scripture are perspicuous and arguments can take place over what those things are or (b) no things in Scripture are perspicuous in which case the testimony to miracles (e.g. the resurrection) that is tied up with New Testament or Old Testament documents cannot serve as Motives of Credibility (since what is not clear cannot lend credibility to belief).

    How can this dilemma be answered from a Catholic point of view?

    Peace,
    John D.

  299. JohnD (re: #298)

    A dilemma is such when both horns are undesirable or problematic. If one or both horns are neither undesirable nor problematic, it isn’t a dilemma, but merely a set of possibilities. As I explained in comment #635 of the “I Fought the Church” thread, and comment #135 of the “Ecclesial Consumerism” thread, Scripture approached as a motive of credibility can provide testimonial evidence for historical events such as Christ’s resurrection and His founding of a Church, without this entailing that Scripture alone (without an authoritative Tradition and Magisterium) is capable of serving as the means by which the unity of faith is preserved, so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son. This is why the notion that either we must give up the possibility of using Scripture as a motive of credibility, or we must embrace the Protestant notion of the perspicuity of Scripture implicit in sola scriptura, is a false dilemma, because there is a third option.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  300. Feser’s four-part sola scriptura series is worth reading in full, because it articulates more clearly arguments we have made here in various places. The links are here, here, here, and here.

    Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

  301. Another sola scriptura fail: “T.D. Jakes Comes Out for ‘Gay Rights’ and ‘LGBT Churches,’ Says Position is ‘Evolving’.” Jakes manifests the ecclesial consumerism that necessarily follows the failure of sola scriptura:

    “Absolutely… I think it is going to be diverse from church to church. Every church has a different opinion on the issue and every gay person is different,” he replied. “And I think that to speak that the church—the black church, the white church or any kind of church you wanna call it—are all the same, is totally not true.”

    Jakes said that he thinks homosexuals should find congregations that affirm their lifestyle.

    “LGBT’s of different types and sorts have to find a place of worship that reflects what your views are and what you believe like anyone else,” he outlined.

    “The church should have the right to have its own convictions and values; if you don’t like those convictions and values [and] you totally disagree with it, don’t try to change my house, move into your own … and find somebody who gets what you get about faith,” Jakes added. (my emphasis)

    (original source of the interview)

  302. Bryan:

    I think the quote from Jakes was taken out of context. He might have other “fails,” but this one was one of (likely and not uncommon) internet tail bearing/gossip.

    http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/50996-bishop-td-jakes-my-stance-on-marriage-has-never-changed

    In fact, his comments sound in accord with many statements from our Pope.

  303. Brent (re: #302)

    The ‘fail’ I was referring to in #301 is the ecclesial consumerism he explicitly endorsed during the interview. Nothing in his subsequent clarification repudiates that ecclesial consumerism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  304. Another “solo scriptura” fail: “Stoner Jesus Bible Study.”

  305. Another “solo scriptura” fail: “People Hilariously Criticize Bible After Reading Verses They Think Are From The Quran

  306. The “eternal submission” debate I mentioned in comment #269 above, continues a year later. Owen Strachan writes:

    Recent posts by Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher on the nature of Trinitarian relations have prompted a fairly major online conversation. I was personally implicated in the controversy alongside greater lights like Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem, as I recently published The Grand Design with Gavin Peacock. In TGD, Gavin and I briefly make the case for what is called Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission (ERAS).

    Trueman and Goligher did not hold back, God bless ‘em: they say that ERAS is akin to “idolatry,” to Islam’s view of God, that we have fallen prey to “neo-tritheism,” that we are “constructing a new deity,” and that we hold “a position seriously out of step with the historic catholic faith” that is “a likely staging post to Arianism.” Who knew that three, nay four, wild proto-Arian bulls were running rampant in the Lord’s vineyard? But here our bullishness must end, and we must come to heel.

    Mike Ovey writes:

    The texts of scripture require us to recognise at the level of the persons distinguishable wills of Father and Son.

  307. Another “solo scriptura” fail: Rob Skiba (see 20′ – 24′ of this video) on how the “flat earth” position necessarily follows from the Bible.

  308. On the question of infant baptism, I’ve provided some patristic support for it in the links at comment #128 under “The Church Fathers on Baptismal Regeneration” thread.

    I noticed recently that in an article titled “Why I am not a paedo-baptist,” Reformed Baptist Tim Challies writes, “What an odd reality that God allows there to be disagreement on even so crucial a doctrine as baptism.” He points to a debate on this question between John MacArthur (arguing against paedo-baptism), and R.C. Sproul (arguing for paedo-baptism).

    This question is of critical importance for visible unity, because credo-baptists do not consider infant baptisms to be valid baptisms, and so require [re]-baptism of those persons after they have reached the age of reason. The disagreement is rooted in part in the role of tradition. On the question of baptism paedo-baptists interpret Scripture as at least partly informed by the enduring practice of the Church in her baptism of infants. Credo-baptists do not allow the Church’s tradition (of baptizing infants) to inform their interpretation, but instead subject the tradition to their interpretation of Scripture, and conclude (with Challies) that “The New Testament contains no explicit command to baptize the children of believers and likewise contains no explicit examples of it.” But the enduring nature of this debate among Protestants, along with the obvious importance for the Church to be agreed regarding this question, shows that a “Scripture alone” approach is unable to resolve the disagreement. Whether or not the patristic practice of infant baptism is allowed to count as part of the authoritative “tradition” depends precisely on whether that practice conforms to one’s own interpretation of Scripture.

  309. Another ‘solo scriptura’ fail: “Single Christians Can Have Sex as Long as It’s ‘Mutually Pleasurable and Affirming,’ Pastor Says.

  310. “Solo scriptura” fail by the KKK:

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