World Vision and the Quest for Protestant Unity

Mar 26th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

World Vision’s
Richard Stearns

Christianity Today reports that Evangelical charity World Vision will now employ same-sex “married” couples, although chastity within marriage still remains corporate policy. World Vision president Richard Stearns explains that the policy change is meant to serve church unity. Since Protestant denominations disagree on the morality of homosexual unions, World Vision will (allegedly) not take a stand either way. In this, World Vision attempts to follow the same policy they apply to other controverted theological issues. They do not restrict employment in disagreements over baptism, for instance. Baptists and Presbyterians can both work there.

Evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and John Piper have expressed shock and dismay at this reasoning. Piper, in particular, goes straight to the heart not only of the moral issue, but of the hermeneutical issue. Are disagreements over homosexuality analogous to disagreements over the mode of baptism? Piper writes:

Make no mistake, this so-called “neutral” position of World Vision is a position to regard practicing homosexuals (under the guise of an imaginary “marriage”) as following an acceptable Christian lifestyle, on the analogy of choosing infant baptism over believers’ baptism.

Piper rejects the analogy. The sinfulness of homosexuality is non-negotiable. Differences over baptism are another matter. As a Catholic reading this debate, what strikes me is the incoherence of Piper’s hermeneutical objection. On what grounds does Piper single out one set of doctrines (sacramental theology) as negotiable and another (human sexuality) as non-negotiable? As a Catholic, I see this whole way of framing the issue as misguided. Protestantism has never been able to provide a consistent account of the distinction between “essential and non-essential.”

When I regard the history of Protestantism one thing that strikes me are the changes in what counts as “essential.” In 1537, for example, John Calvin sought to impose a common confession of faith on every citizen of Geneva. This confession included matters that Protestants today might consider to be of secondary importance. Questions of Church authority, liturgy, and sacramental theology were not excluded. Indeed, in his Petit traicté de la saincte Cène (1541), Calvin argued that proper Eucharistic theology was necessary for salvation. Calvin’s attitude towards believer’s baptism was likewise intransigent. Anabaptists were excluded from salvation.

If anything, Calvin was a “conservative” on liturgy, polity, and sacraments, and a “liberal” when it came to moral theology and human sexuality. Calvin was one of the first Christian theologians to reject the literal, biblical prohibition on money lending, as well as one of the first to allow for Christian divorce and remarriage. The history of Calvin’s Geneva would therefore seem to invert the distinction Piper draws between “non-essential” sacramental theology and “essential” teaching on human morality.

In the aftermath of the Reformation, confidence in the absolute clarity and sufficiency of Scripture began to wane. Already in the Westminster Confession of Faith, we find hints of a distinction between those matters “necessary for salvation,” and those about which Christians might legitimately disagree. This distinction becomes explicit in the thought of George Whitfield and later evangelical theologians. Contemporary evangelical theologians (like Alistair McGrath) frankly concede that Scripture is not sufficient to settle a host of theological disputes among Protestants. The Amsterdam Declaration on Evangelism (2000), spearheaded by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, likewise admits: “We cannot resolve all differences among Christians because we do not yet understand perfectly all that God has revealed to us.” What counts, presumably, is a “personal relationship with Christ” that can accommodate contradictory accounts of Christian faith and morality.

The Evangelical distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” evolved historically over questions of ecclesiology, but there is no principled reason to restrict it to ecclesiology. Whitefield articulated the distinction this way:

I saw regenerate souls among the Baptists, among the Presbyterians, among the Independents, and among the Church [i.e., Anglican] folks — all children of God, and yet all born again in a different way of worship: and who can tell which is the most evangelical.

Whitefield’s definition is fraught with difficulty. How do you “see” a regenerate soul? Calvin coordinated election and regeneration to the maintenance of a well-defined ecclesial structure. But Puritanism could never agree on the answer to this question, which led to the ultimate demise of “the New England Way.” Antinomian Anne Hutchinson identified regeneration with a spiritual illumination utterly distinct from “legal works.” Puritan authorities disputed her, but the logic of the debate led to multiple “Orthodoxies” in the colonies.

Whitefield’s argument also suggests that theological disagreement is enough to qualify a doctrine as “inessential.” Even assuming we can reliably identify “the regenerate,” if two “regenerate” people disagree on a doctrine, then Whitfield presumes the doctrine is inessential. Modern Evangelical Protestantism, to the extent that it follows Whitefield, is thus implicitly relativist. Although individual Christians may insist on a particular interpretation of Scripture, the reality of denominational difference is treated (selectively) as de facto proof that the disputed question must not be one of those things ” necessary for salvation.”

Evangelical Protestantism offers no principled way to distinguish the “essential” from the “non-essential.” Piper himself does not justify his assertion that baptism is “inessential” and human sexuality “essential.” Indeed, Calvin would have viewed Piper’s assertion as strange and surprising. No doubt, he would have written him off as a heretical Baptist who lacked the Spirit.

The Catholic Church clearly teaches the immorality of homosexual unions, but it also clearly defines the necessity of baptism, the structure of Church government, the nature of the Eucharist, and so forth. This is not to say that Catholics regard all doctrines in exactly the same way. We acknowledge a “hierarchy of truths,” in which some doctrines are closer than others to the foundations of our faith. But that doesn’t make subordinate doctrines either unimportant or optional. The reason for Catholic clarity is the existence of a living Magisterium, the patrimony of tradition, and the dictates of natural law.

I am sorry that World Vision has made the decision tacitly to approve homosexual unions. But I am also sorry that John Piper does not see the difficulties in his hermeneutical theory. World Vision has arguably followed a policy that makes perfect sense within the Protestant hermeneutical paradigm. When denominations disagree, “who can tell who is the most evangelical?” Piper insists that World Vision has misapplied the paradigm, but his insistence is plausibly “just another interpretation.” As I have argued elsewhere, Protestant forays into the debate over same-sex marriage have the potential to do more harm than good. Insofar as Protestants embrace an incoherent doctrine of theological authority, they risk bringing ridicule on the Christian defense of marriage.

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  1. Just a minor comment WRT “On what grounds does Piper single out one set of doctrines (sacramental theology) as negotiable and another (human sexuality) as non-negotiable? ”

    This isn’t inconsistent. One is sinful and the other relates to salvation. If a corporation does not restrict people based on their religion or lack of religion, that corporation is not committing a sin. If however, a corporation asserts that sin doesn’t matter (which is the World Vision “neutrality statement”), then that corporation has committed a sin.

  2. Thank you for this article Dr. Anders. This was a question that really bugged me before I became Catholic: how do we determine what is essential. I eventually had to concede the Catholic position that the Magisterium determines the essentials. If one believes that consensus determines the essentials then my question is, how do you know which group of people to include among this group that determines the essentials? Do we include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, etc? If we do not include one of these because they are not true Christians then that brings us back to square one, who determines what is essential to Christianity? The very proposal that consensus determines essentials is bunk because one has to know what is essential beforehand.

  3. Anil,

    This is an ad hoc distinction. Why should differences over morality be treated differently than differences over ecclesiology? Furthermore, who is to say that ecclesiology has no moral significance? Christ gave an explicit command to baptize. We cannot disobey a divine command without sin, can we? For this reason, Calvin regarded questions over the administration of baptism as moral questions.

    -David

  4. Pio,

    You are exactly right. One cannot appeal to a consensus without a normative way of determining who fits into the consensus. This is one of the problems with Keith Matthison’s doctrine of Sola Scriputura. Matthison thinks that he has avoided the subjectivity and individualism inherent in some Protestant appeals to Scripture because he references the Conciliar consensus of the first 4 ecumenical councils. But how does he know which councils are ecumenical? Why not the first 7? Why not the first 3? And why should I presume that the consensus is only expressed in a council? What about those doctrines (like the communion of saints) that were never issues of serious controversy and therefore never defined in a council? and yet, they were universally practiced? Why not liturgical consensus? Or devotional consensus? Or canonical consensus?

    This is why the Vatican Council said that Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium all stand together.

    -David

  5. David,

    I was just discussing this World Vision issue in comment #133 of the Matthew Barrett thread. The consensus problem to which you refer was exactly what came out in our discussion (in the combox) with Christianity Today‘s editor Mark Galli. And Carl Trueman recognizes the consensus problem, but sees no way around it, as I explained in the last part of comment #89 in the Brad Gregory thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. World Magazine claims that World Vision has decided to reverse its position.

  7. David Anders, it’s far from an arbitrary distinction. They are two separate issues, one is secular and one is sacred. The Church and Israel itself has always treated both differently. The Church’s practise wrt the secular world is mostly in line with Israel’s practice, namely people of other religions were welcome, could be employeed or be employers as long as they followed the moral law (i.e. Holiness Code) and they did not profane the sacred. Essentially, the secular was constrained by the sacred, but they were not the same thing (although in the Kingdom of Heaven there will be no distinction).

    Ecclesiology most definitely has moral significance…it is much harder to be moral the further one is from Christ, but it is not impossible. St Paul states as much in Romans 2:14. But the Church serves even those who don’t “sign on the dotted line that they will become baptised Catholic” as some Protestant groups require, even when there is no hope that they will convert (e.g. Mother Teresa often help Hindu’s on their death beds).

    The point about “who determines the essentials?” of the faith is valid since no two denominations have the same list, and “picking the wrong list” would result in a loss in salvation for everyone who gets it wrong. “Blessed Assurance” is also out the window. And if we must keep the moral law one can’t really believe in “Faith Alone” and “Predestined Election” and our acts will refute our claimed beliefs.

  8. Hi,

    In response to an alleged protestant hermeneutic/paradigm, of which there is actually none, I offer one consistent with the biblicist position that regards the teachings of Jesus Christ in Scripture as thoroughly sufficient for both faith and duty. It is called Precept and Example, and is explained here (http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/precept-and-example/).

    Essentially, in order for a practice or a doctrine to have the power to convince Christ’s followers it must have both precept and example, not merely one or the other, or neither. It is derived from observing Christ’s own teaching methodology.

    This hermeneutic necessarily entails the church polity of eldership over the single church in every city, as this is found in Scripture in both precept and example.

  9. As the Orthodox churches also have no Magisterium, does that make them relativists too?

  10. David,

    Excellent post and observations. I believe that the modern notion of moral relativism actually flowed out of the doctrinal relativism of the Protestant Reformation. What one might call, to borrow from the title of Brad Gregory’s book, an unintended consequence of the Reformation. The following lengthy but I believe substantial quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI captures this quite beautifully:

    “Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called “prophetic actions” that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of “local options”. Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia – communion with the Church in every age – is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23).

    Faced with these difficulties, we must first recall that the unity of the Church flows from the perfect oneness of the triune God. In John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus prayed to his Father that his disciples might be one, “just as you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 17:21). This passage reflects the unwavering conviction of the early Christian community that its unity was both caused by, and is reflective of, the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This, in turn, suggests that the internal cohesion of believers was based on the sound integrity of their doctrinal confession (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-11). Throughout the New Testament, we find that the Apostles were repeatedly called to give an account for their faith to both Gentiles (cf. Acts 17:16-34) and Jews (cf. Acts 4:5-22; 5:27-42). The core of their argument was always the historical fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the tomb (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30). The ultimate effectiveness of their preaching did not depend on “lofty words” or “human wisdom” (1 Cor 2:13), but rather on the work of the Spirit (Eph 3:5) who confirmed the authoritative witness of the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-11). The nucleus of Paul’s preaching and that of the early Church was none other than Jesus Christ, and “him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). But this proclamation had to be guaranteed by the purity of normative doctrine expressed in creedal formulae – symbola – which articulated the essence of the Christian faith and constituted the foundation for the unity of the baptized (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-5; Gal 1:6-9; Unitatis Redintegratio, 2).

    My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism. Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is “objective”, relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling. Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean, however, that the “knowable” is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of “personal experience”.

    For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.

    Even within the ecumenical movement, Christians may be reluctant to assert the role of doctrine for fear that it would only exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division. Yet a clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching: a teaching which indeed underlies the inspired word of God and sustains the sacramental life of Christians today.

    Only by “holding fast” to sound teaching (2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rev 2:12-29) will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us. Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the “reasons for our hope”, so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18) and granted us access to his divine life through Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope! God has revealed his love for all peoples through the mystery of his Son’s passion and death, and has called us to proclaim that he is indeed risen, has taken his place at the right hand of the Father, and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Nicene Creed).” – Ecumenical Prayer Service April 18, 2008.

  11. Excellent article, Dr Anders! Now that you’ve pointed this issue out in Piper’s reasoning and Evangelical reasoning in general, I noticed other famous names were making similar claims.

    For example, Kevin DeYoung wrote this yesterday (3-25-14) on his blog:

    To be sure, like many evangelical parachurch organizations, World Vision allows for diversity in millennial views, sacramental views, soteriological views, and any numbers of doctrinal issues which distinguish denomination from denomination. Stearns would have us believe that homosexuality is just another one of these issues, no different from determining whether the water in baptism can be measured by liters or milliliters. But the analogy does not work. Unlike the differences concerning the mode of baptism, there is no long historical record of the church debating whether men can marry men. In fact, there is no record of the church debating anything of the sort until the last forty or fifty years. And more to the point, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that getting the mode of baptism wrong puts your eternal soul in jeopardy, when there are plenty of verses to suggest that living in unrepentant sexual sin will do just that (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Jude 5-7).

    Even though Piper and DeYoung’s goals are noble, this quote is precisely the ad-hoc argument of essentials/nonessentials that this CtC article is about. DeYoung is almost more blatant though, because he doesn’t seem to be shocked/scandalized at the “doctrinal issues which distinguish denomination from denomination,” basically relegating many/most/all of them to the non-essentials category.

    And then today DeYoung followed up today (3-26-14) with an equally stern article but made similar problematic claims relating to the essentials debate:

    Poor Argument #2: Isn’t it best not to take sides since the church has not reached consensus on the issue of homosexuality?

    This train of thought contains a kernel of truth. On some issues it is the better part of wisdom to draw a line in the sand at refusing to draw lines in the sand. Sometimes when faced with committing to the run or committing the pass, we punt instead. But as a general principle the “we can’t decide what is biblical without consensus” argument is absolutely disastrous.

    On what point of theology do professing Christians everywhere in the world agree? You can find churches, scholars, and pastors who support abortion and others who oppose abortion, some who believe the prosperity gospel is good and others who believe it is wicked, those who believe the bodily resurrection of Christ is essential to the faith and others who believe the resurrection is only a powerful spiritual metaphor. There is not one point of World Vision’s statement of core values or behavioral hiring policy that some Christian and some church would not dispute.

    Okay, you say, but those are extreme examples. Obviously, we aren’t talking about anything goes. We must walk in the way of the Great Tradition. That’s what really matters–the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, Chalcedon, that sort of stuff.

    And what sort of consensus was there at time of Nicea? Arius was a sincere person. Arius had Bible verses. Arius had a following. We are happy to use the Nicene Creed as a means of stating our consensus, but the creed was first necessary because there was not complete consensus. Every creed and confession in the Great Tradition arose out of some controversy. If the church must steadfastly refuse to take sides every time professing Christians read their Bibles differently, then shame on Augustine for combating Pelagianism, shame on Chalcedon for getting hung up on definitions, shame on Athanasius for wasting his life contra mundum for a diphthong.

    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. . . .

    The task, then, of the Scripture-saturated, Spirit-filled, heaven-smelling, holiness-pursuing, righteousness-loving, grace-offering church is to discern the truth, rightly handle the word of truth, and stand as a pillar and buttress of the truth, so that the sheep are protected, the wolves are warned, and the darkness is exposed by the light. On issues of eternal significance–the kind the devil loves to confuse–to wait for consensus is not compassion; it is capitulation.

    DeYoung desperately wants to do the right thing, but he’s pretty inconsistent in his claims. As Dr Anders mentioned in an earlier comment, Protestants have infact dispensed with Ecumenical Councils and Tradition when they felt they could, and it all stemmed from not having a Magisterium to decide “essentials” in the first place. At the end DeYoung appeals to the need/duty of the Church to properly address these issues and protect the flock, yet there is no “the Church” in the singular in Protestant, but each person/denomination believing as they please and setting up their own goal posts.

  12. The Orthodox Churches do have a magisterium of sorts. They acknowledge the authority of tradition and the ecumenical councils. However, their ecclesiology is somewhat circular insofar as they have a difficult time defining “true councils” without begging the question.

    -David

  13. Hi Ted,

    Is the doctrine of precept and example, on your view, supported by both precept and example? If so, where does Christ give us the precept that all subsequent doctrinal debates are to be decided by precept and example?

    Thanks,

    David

  14. Anil,

    I may not have understood your point initially. Are you saying that there is a difference between moral standards which ought to be publicly affirmed by believers and non-believers both? If so, I would certainly agree with you. But that’s not the point I was addressing in the article, or the point that was raised by Piper et al.

    As I understand it, Piper, etc. object that the issue of homosexuality is not something over which Christians should disagree – while Christians could legitimately disagree over sacramental theology. I have not seen Piper making the argument that human sexuality is a matter of natural law, or somehow publicly accessible apart from Scripture. That would have been to make a principled distinction between these two types of issues.

    -David

  15. David, as a Protestant, the issue you raise regarding essentials / non-essentials was discussed in 2009 in my presbytery, over issues pertaining to science.

    I appreciate your elucidating your views, while I disagree with how you characterize how we operate. As that was not my experience.

    Grace and peace.

  16. Nick,

    Ok, so if you found a problem with Protestant, good work.

    What next?

  17. Hi Andrew,

    My concern is not so much to say that Protestants draw the line between essential/non-essential in such and such a place, but rather to point out that the line shifts over time and for different reasons. Calvin thought of the essentials one way, Westminster in another, Puritanism in another, evangelical PCA types in still another. At each stage of development, the reasons for drawing the lines also changes. Calvin was deeply concerned about liturgical and ecclesial order, Puritans with being able to reliably identify “the saints,” evangelicals with finding that element of common spiritual experience that could unite disparate theological positions.

    The result, I contend, is radically different constructions of what it means even to be a Christian or to be saved. Calvin ran people out of town, literally, for daring to question his interpretation of Scripture, not hesitating to call them reprobate because they would not submit to his authority; Puritans wrote off Ann Hutchinson for a spirituality that would, quite frankly, go practically unnoticed today; I know evangelicals who would write of the authoritarian Calvin if they met him under any other name. In my own PCA church, we gave lip service to the WCF, but were functionally baptist in our sacraments, spirituality and evangelism. “When did you become a Christian,” meant, “When did you have a D.L. Moody-style, sinner’s prayer type of conversion?” An anti-liturigical, anti-sacramental attitude that Calvin would have abhorred and considered heretical. The irony is that you probably could unite all these groups under a common confession, but they would parse that confession in radically different ways, depending on how they construed “the essentials.”

    But how did your presbytery come down on the essentials vs. non-essentials?

    -David

  18. The only experience I have had with the PCA was a few RUF meetings on campus at UCSB and maybe one worship service in downtown Santa Barabra.

    It’s been OPC since 2001.

    Thanks for this. Take care.

  19. David, I just saw your question. I am headed out the door to work. I will answer tonight after I get off.

    Thanks for asking, I look forward to more discussion.

    Peace.

  20. David (13),

    Is the doctrine of precept and example, on your view, supported by both precept and example?

    Go back to my link in #8, and give it 3 minutes of your reading time.

    Such circular reasoning is not only appropriate when we are reading the words of God, but necessary, for our own logic does not validate or invalidate the word of God. We can never take in all the facts before we speak, as God necessarily does.

    … where does Christ give us the precept that all subsequent doctrinal debates are to be decided by precept and example?

    Observe Christ’s method in handling doctrinal controversies. In answering the Sabbath controversy with the Pharisees (Mat. 12:1-8), He gives first an example – David eating the priest’s showbread – (1 Sam. 21:3-6); then a precept – of the priest’s breaking the Sabbath and yet remaining innocent – Mat. 12:5.

    In both cases He upbraids the Pharisees’ trust in their rabbinic Tradition (capital T) and their unbelieving stance toward God’s holy revelation by twice saying, “have you not read.”

    He upbraided them for not understanding Scripture and instead supplanting it with the Traditions.

  21. Read these. I will have time later for my thoughts.

    http://www.pncnopc.org/audio/audio-presbytery/2009-animus-imponentis-conference/

  22. Ted,

    If I understand you correctly, you are basing your doctrine of P&E on the fact that Christ responded to challenges by upholding the authority of the Old Testament (from which he adduced narrative examples) over against Pharisaical tradition. And, presumably, we should do likewise. Am I reading you correctly?

    -David

  23. Ted,

    I’ve looked over your P&E article. I find a lot that I agree with. Clearly, if Christ gives us a specific precept or an example to follow, then we need to follow them. But Christ also gave us a number of precepts (and examples) regarding the authority of those commissioned to speak in his name. Furthermore, I have no reason to believe that the relevant precepts or examples are to be found only in Scripture. If men sent by Jesus transmit precepts or examples through oral tradition, for example, and command obedience in virtue of the authority Christ gave them, then these, too, would carry divine authority. And, finally, I don’t see how your doctrine of P&E can establish which P&Es are authentically from Christ. How would you know (on the basis of P&E) that the Gospel of Mark is of apostolic authority, for example? I don’t know of any precept of example from Christ in which he shows or commands: “Believe in the Canonicity of Mark’s Gospel.” So, while I certainly agree that we should respect Christ’s commands and examples, I don’t see how this injunction amounts to a complete doctrine of religious authority.

    Here’s how I like to frame the question: “What provision did Christ make for the authoritative transmission of Christian faith?”

    I think that Christ’s precepts and examples are the matter that needs to be transmitted. They are the core of our deposit of faith. But how we hand on that deposit of faith and how we guarantee (of fail to guarantee) its transmission is another question.

    -David

  24. David (23),

    Clearly, if Christ gives us a specific precept or an example to follow, then we need to follow them.

    David, early in my article I used Christ’s teaching in Mat. 8:22 as a test case. This is the passage where Jesus told the young man not to bury his father but to instead follow Him. That’s obviously a precept.

    According to my article, should we today follow that? If not, why not?

  25. Hi Ted,

    I’m not sure that this gets at the gist of my response. Even if I were to grant your theory of both p and E, it still leaves unanswered all the questions I raised. For instance, There is no P and E from Christ that establishes the book of Matthew as canonical Scripture. So, by the theory of P and E, I should not appeal to the book of Matthew to settle theological controversy.

    -David

  26. David (25),

    If you will not understand why you obeying Jesus’ command in Mat. 8:22 would be presumptuous and actually disobedience to Jesus Christ on your part, then you cannot understand why your answers to your religious questions in posts 23 and 25 can only be likewise answered to your satisfaction by the same presumptuous faith.

    You need both precept and example from God to give you a faith that is not built on presumption.

  27. I’m not sure if anyone saw this, but Kevin DeYoung received an email from someone asking why Christians differing on homosexuality is not equivalent to Christians differing on baptism. I cannot tell if it was a Catholic who read Dr Ander’s piece or not, but the person does seem to be a Protestant. DeYoung responded as follows in “Why Is This Issue Different?”(3-27-14):

    I received an email yesterday afternoon to this effect: Could someone please give a short, simple explanation as to why the issue of homosexuality is not like Christians differing on baptism or the millennium? . . .

    1. Approving of homosexual behavior violates the catholicity of the church. Sure, many in the West are arguing for the legitimacy of same-sex relationships, but for 99.9% of our history the church has considered homosexual behavior to be sinful. . . .

    2. Homosexual behavior is so repeatedly and clearly forbidden in Scripture that to encourage homosexuality calls into question the role of Scripture in the life of the denomination that accepts such blatantly unbiblical teaching. The order of creation informs us that God’s plan for sexuality is one woman and one man (Genesis 2). This order is reaffirmed by Jesus (Matthew 19) and Paul (Ephesians 5). . . .

    3. Far from treating sexual deviance as a lesser “ethical issue”, the New Testament sees it as a matter for discipline (1 Corinthians 5), separation (2 Corinthians 6:12-20), and an example of perverse compromise (Jude 3-16).

    4. Most importantly, commending homosexuality involves the core of the gospel because it urges us to celebrate a behavior of which the Bible calls us to repent. According to 1 Corinthians 6 unrepentant homosexuals (along with unrepentant thieves, drunkards, idolaters, adulterers, revilers, swindlers, and money-lovers) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Heaven and hell literally hang in the balance.

    DeYoung didn’t really address the issue in question, which is understandable, but anyone reading this who believes in the permanence of marriage (i.e. divorce is forbidden) should note a certain level of irony in Kevin’s argument. If anything led to widespread acceptance of homosexuality among Christians, it was the widespread use and acceptance of contraception & divorce among Protestants.

    In fact, in terms of sheer numbers and percentage of professing Christians, more adultery is taking place under the guise of divorce and remarriage than the sheer number and percentage of professing Christians who embrace homosexuality. I’d venture to say the ratio is easily 100 divorced and remarried Christians for every 1 Christian who is practicing homosexuality. So this is a huge priority failure, a huge example of ‘swallowing the camel and straining the gnat’.

    And some of the *very texts* which Kevin points us to – namely Matthew 19, Ephesians 5, and 1 Corinthians 6 (speaking of adultery) – are focused explicitly on the permanence of marriage, which most of Protestantism rejects, and thus completely undermining the Biblical testimony.

  28. David,
    Do you think Protestants would regard belief that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He died for sin? Do you think they would consider these as essential beliefs?

  29. Pat,

    It depends on which Protestants you ask.

    -David

  30. Ted,

    Does Christ teach by precept and example that my faith must be based on precept and example?
    Also, you assert that I may be incapable of understanding the necessity of P & E.
    Are you capable of explaining the necessity of P & E in a syllogistic argument whose premises and validity I can assess?

    Thanks,

    David

  31. David,
    Have you ever met or known any Protestants that have denied Jesus is God and died for sin?

  32. pat,

    Consider Episcopal bishop Spong:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong#Twelve_points

    -David

  33. “The Orthodox Churches do have a magisterium of sorts. They acknowledge the authority of tradition and the ecumenical councils.”

    I thought you meant a formal Magisterium, as “living Magisterium” seems to imply that, and was your reason given for distinguishing the (Roman) Catholic Church. Since you are only referring to a sort-of-magisterium, an informal one, well… many Protestant churches have that too, as they also acknowledge tradition as authoritative (e.g. Anglicanism), even if not perhaps its ultimate authority, and a bunch of ecumenical councils.

  34. “they would parse that confession in radically different ways, depending on how they construed “the essentials.””

    Are you claiming that Roman Catholics, de facto, don’t often do the same? Roman Catholicism is strictly monolithic the world over?

  35. “Consider Episcopal bishop Spong”


    Considering Spong is like considering the most rabid Lefebvrist Roman Catholic we can dig up and insisting that that person epitomises Roman Catholicism. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, considering the matron-in-charge (abbess?) of those ultra-liberal, pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage U.S. nuns . . .

  36. David,
    Spong is ultra liberal. What if I were to some liberal RC that denies the pope and the RCC as the true church? I guess like you said–“it depends who you talk to”.

    BTW- there is a study that came out that pointed out that over 50% of RC”s support gay marriage. How could this be in light of your claim that “The Catholic Church clearly teaches the immorality of homosexual unions,…..”?

  37. Pat,

    What if I were to [point out] some liberal RC that denies the pope and the RCC as the true church?

    In that case, you would be identifying a Catholic who dissented from the Magisterium on matters that the Magisterium has defined as essential.
    But, within the Roman Catholic theological system, the liberal RC in question has no authority to posit a different set of “essentials.” This is fundamentally different from a baptist and a presbyterian differing over “essentials” because both claim the right – from their private interpretation of Scripture – to define the essentials.

    BTW- there is a study that came out that pointed out that over 50% of RC”s support gay marriage. How could this be in light of your claim that “The Catholic Church clearly teaches the immorality of homosexual unions

    If this statistic is accurate (which may be true in the US and Europe – I strongly doubt that it is true of RCs worldwide), then it merely demonstrates that large number of Catholics dissent from teachings that the Magisterium has defined as essential. It does absolutely nothing to overturn my thesis – Catholics have a principled way to distinguish essential and non-essential doctrines. I never said Catholics have (or desire) a way to compel all people to accept those distinctions.

    -David

  38. IP,

    Considering Spong is like considering the most rabid Lefebvrist Roman Catholic we can dig up and insisting that that person epitomises Roman Catholicism.

    I never said that Spong was representative of Protestantism. Pat asked me if I knew of a Protestant who denied the divinity of Christ and the atonement. And, to that, yes – there are many.
    I also know Catholics who deny the teaching of the Magisterium.

    -David

  39. IP,

    Are you claiming that Roman Catholics, de facto, don’t often do the same? Roman Catholicism is strictly monolithic the world over?

    Not at all. I am claiming that there is a rationally consistent way within the Catholic Church to identify those doctrines on which we should agree, and those about which we might legitimately differ. I am making absolutely no claim about whether or not the majority of Catholics actually agree on those topics.

    -David

  40. IP,

    many Protestant churches have that too, as they also acknowledge tradition as authoritative (e.g. Anglicanism), even if not perhaps its ultimate authority, and a bunch of ecumenical councils.

    Yes. That is true. And, to the extent that a Protestant group grounds its distinction between essential and non-essential in some interpretive authority outside of Scripture, then that distinction is less ad hoc. Mormons, for instance, claim that their interpretation of Scripture is authoritative because God has entrusted interpretive authority to the Mormon Prophet. If you accept the claim that the Prophet is God’s mouthpiece, then there is nothing arbitrary or ad hoc about recognizing his interpretation as authoritative. There are, however, good reasons for doubting his claim to divine authority.

    -David

  41. Did anybody else notice this part in the CT article? Stearns has pinpointed the weakness of sola scriptura.
    If a doctrine can change (from settled to disputed status) that has been universally set for the first 2,000 years of church history, what cannot change?

    ————-

    The reason the prohibition existed in the first place? “It’s kind of a historical issue,” said Stearns. “Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that’s changed.”

    “This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture,” said Stearns. “People can say, ‘Scripture is very clear on this issue,’ and my answer is, ‘Well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.’ The church is divided on this issue.”
    Mr. Stearns has pinpointed the fundamental weakness of Sola Scriptura as an authority model: it depends on interpretation of Scripture and when that is done by thousands of denominations, it leads to disunity.

  42. David,
    The mere fact that millions of RC’s reject or ignore RC teachings on various issues in your church shows that your thesis is not that effective. Its no better that than Protestants who ignore what the Scriptures teach about homosexuality for example.

  43. Pat,

    The fact that people dissent from church teaching does not contradict my thesis that there is a principled way, within Catholicism, to identify what does or does not belong to the deposit of faith. When people dissent, we know what they are dissenting from.
    When protestant disagree, however, there is no agreed upon center with reference to which “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” can be meaningfully distinguished.

    -David

  44. Pat (re: #42)

    Following up with David said in #43, we’ve written an article addressing precisely this objection. It is titled “The “Catholics Are Divided Too” Objection.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. David,
    Protestant churches do have ways to distinguish between “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy”. They do it by Scripture. Just read some of the protestant blogs that were against World Vision based on Scripture. There was widespread agreement why they were wrong. World Vision agreed with this assessment. Or how do you think that Protestant churches apply church discipline to its members? They use Scripture.

    These examples prove your premise about Protestants that ” there is no agreed upon center with reference to which “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” can be meaningfully distinguished” is false.

  46. Pat,

    The example you adduce demonstrates that some protestants agree on a center of unity. Other Protestants do not agree that Scripture affirms this particular center of unity.
    Since the Reformation, this has always been the case. Not only do Protestants disagree on the meaning of Scripture, but they cannot agree on whether or not those disagreements amount to “essential” disagreements or “inessential” disagreements.

    The fact that some Protestants agree (as in the Present case) does nothing to change this. Indeed, World Vision justified its initial decision on the grounds that denominations disagree. True, some denominations called them out for this decision “on the basis of Scripture.” But others could also commend them “on the basis of Scripture.” There is no privileged “3rd party” interpretive position within Protestantism from which to evaluate these rival interpretations of Scripture.

    -David

  47. David,
    I would agree. However the way it works out in the RCC is that there is no unity on a lot of issues among its people and leaders. I know a RC priest for example that does not agree with church on homosexuality. The “3rd party” interpretive position ” is of no help since he ignores it as do the over 50% RC’s on this issue.

    Keep in mind there is no “3rd party” to help a RC to determine which interpretation of Scripture is correct because the church has never created such a work on the official interpretation of the Scriptures. You also have no way to “evaluate these rival interpretations of Scripture”.

  48. Pat,

    You said:

    The “3rd party” interpretive position ” is of no help since he ignores it as do the over 50% RC’s on this issue.

    This presumes that the point of the Magisterium is to effect complete unity among all those whom God desires to be saved.
    But I have never asserted this, nor has the Catholic Church ever taught this. Indeed, Jesus himself taught that “the road is narrow and few find it.”
    There is no presumption that everyone -even every Catholic – will assent to the teaching of the Church.

    Your second objection:

    Keep in mind there is no “3rd party” to help a RC to determine which interpretation of Scripture is correct because the church has never created such a work on the official interpretation of the Scriptures.

    Again, I have never argued differently. This objection also misunderstand the purpose of the Magisterium. The purpose of the Magisterium is not to offer an exhaustive interpretation of every passage of Scripture. Indeed, the point of the Magisterium is not soley to be a hermeneutical guide to the Bible, as if biblical interpretation were the sole ground of our faith. Rather, The point of the Church’s Magisterium is to define what does and does not belong to the deposit of faith. And it does this quite clearly.

    To illustrate – there is absolutely no doubt that the Council of Nicaea defined the divinity of Christ as part of the deposit of faith. There could be a zillion Catholics (or non-Catholics) who deny this doctrine, and it would still not change the fact that the church has defined this as dogma. The fact that your priest friend believes in the liceity of homosexual unions does nothing to change the fact that the Church has defined such unions as illicit.

    By contrast, the Westminster Confession (along with every other Reformed confession) defines infant baptism as part of the deposit of faith.
    Baptist confessions define believers baptism as belonging to the deposit of faith.
    Both contend that their position reflects the clear teaching of Scripture.
    Both deny that their respective creeds have any authority extrinsic to the authority of Scripture itself.
    As a consequence, many Protestants since the 17th century have concluded that the mode of baptism must not be essential to the deposit of faith, one way or another.
    But that conclusion does not follow. Merely because two parties disagree does not mean that there is no fact of the matter.

    -David

  49. David,
    Do the Reformed and Baptists in their confessions state that Jesus is God incarnate, died for our sins, rose again, the Scripture is inspired-inerrant Word of God?

  50. pat,

    Some do.

    -David

  51. I’m not sure what Mormons have to do with it. I’d have thought they were something Roman Catholics and Protestants, and Orthodox for that matter, could agree on!

  52. “These examples prove your premise about Protestants that ” there is no agreed upon center with reference to which “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” can be meaningfully distinguished” is false.”

    And somehow the Orthodox seem to manage to retain . . . err, um, orthodoxy, without the blessing of a red-clad Magisterium operating out of Rome!

  53. IP,

    Re: Mormons. They have a spurious claim to religious authority, but, potentially, at least, a clear way of defining dogma. But, you are correct, I certainly don’t want to celebrate their doctrine.

    Re: the Orthodox:

    Which of the Eastern churches are you referring to? Chalcedonian/Byzantine Orthodox? Oriental Orthodox? Assyrian Orthodox? Armenian?
    They do not share the same theology, nor do they regard one another as necessarily “orthodox.”

    But, if you regard one of these bodies as “orthodox,” that is, as teaching correct dogma, then do you plan on joining their communion? If so, I would commend you for following your conscience and for joining yourself to a Church with valid sacraments and apostolic succession.

    -David

  54. David,
    How was is possible for the Reformed and Baptists in their confessions to agree that Jesus is God incarnate, died for our sins, rose again, the Scripture is inspired-inerrant Word of God without any ““3rd party” help? Surely these groups would consider these doctrines essential because to deny them would deny the very core of their confessions.

  55. Hi Pat,

    Many Protestants agree on what counts as essential beliefs. That’s evident. In fact, it is central to the concept of denominationalism. Read the Bible, figure out what you think it means, and then go join a denomination that shares your interpretation of Scripture. You will then, de facto, be with a group of people who share your view of what counts as essential.

    But what do you do when you encounter another Protestant who does not share your convictions about what counts as essential? At most, only one of you can be right.

    I don’t deny that many (not all) Protestants share the beliefs you have listed. But who is to say that Protestant consensus is the proper method for distinguishing essential from non-essential? That was the point of the post. Can I conclude, from the fact that denominations disagree, that the doctrine in question is inessential? And how much consensus is necessary? 2/3, 9/10?

    -David

  56. David,
    It is true that there are some serious disagreements in Protestantism. I do think that there are agreements on the essentials that I mentioned above. There are disagreements though on infant baptism, which gifts of the Spirit are relevant to today and the nature of the Lord’s supper to name a couple of disagreements.

    I suppose it would be great if we all agreed on everything but that is not possible and it never has been true in church history.

    RC’s, do have an advantage in being more unified on what they believe because they have a centralized authority structure. Even with this there is not 100 % unity on beliefs among RC’s.

  57. Pat,

    You wrote:

    I do think that there are agreements on the essentials that I mentioned above. There are disagreements though on infant baptism,

    How do you know that infant baptism is not also an essential issue? How do you know that the gifts of the spirit are not essential? That is the point of the post. You seem to be accepting the idea that “the essentials” are “those things most Protestants agree on.”
    But how do you know this is the case? How do you know that this is the criterion for distinguishing essential from non-essential? Why not propose antiquity as a criterion, for example? Or conciliar authority? How do you know that “what most Protestants agree on” is the criterion we should use to distinguish essential from non-essential?

    -David

  58. David,
    Its not an essential doctrine because pouring water over an infant does not save a baby. Gifts of the Spirit are not an essential doctrine because there is no eternal salvation connected with them.

    An essential is a doctrine that has eternal consequences tied to it or something like that. This is how we determine essential from non-essential. A person can have a view on infant baptism or gifts of the Spirit that does not condemn them. To have a belief that Jesus is not God and did not die for sin will condemn a person. The Trintarian doctrine is essential for Christian to believe. To deny it, would mean that person is not a Christian.

    I know of no Protestant church that does not believe that Jesus is God, died for sin and the Trinitarian doctrine is not an essential doctrine.

  59. David,
    In regards to infant baptism its my understanding that it was not until the 3rd century that it was widely practiced. If this is true then it must not have been an essential doctrine-practice.

  60. Pat,

    You gave this definition of essential:

    An essential is a doctrine that has eternal consequences tied to it or something like that

    How do you know which doctrines have eternal consequences tied to them?

    -David

  61. David,
    I know what doctrines have eternal consequences tied to them by Scripture. To not believe and obey the gospel is one such example.
    Here is an example from 2 Thess 1:5-10
    ” 5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

  62. Hi Pat,

    The point of my article (among other things) was to point out that Protestants have disagreed on what Scripture demands regarding “the essentials” or on whether or not a doctrine has “eternal consequences.” Both Calvin and Luther, for instance, taught that the nature of the Eucharist and the mode of baptism were essential and had eternal consequences. They made these judgments on the basis of Scripture. But I’m sure you know plenty of Protestants who do not believe these doctrines are essential also, supposedly, on the basis of scripture.

    So simply to assert that you know from Scripture is not really to get at the root of the problem I’m identifying.

    -David

  63. David,
    The only way to know what is essential can only be understood from Scripture because is among other things God’s communication to us. Only the Scriptures are the revelation of God to us and thus by them Protestants determine what is essential and what is not.
    Just because men may disagree on some issues of what is essential does not mean they don’t agree on some essentials such as the meaning and implications of the gospel. There are secondary issues that Protestants do have debates on.

    For those Protestants who adhere to Sola Scriptura this statement -“World Vision has arguably followed a policy that makes perfect sense within the Protestant hermeneutical paradigm” is false. Homosexuality is condemned in Scripture and is never spoken of in a positive sense.

  64. Hi Pat (#63),

    I apologize for interjecting into your conversation with David, but I thought your below statement particularly interesting:

    For those Protestants who adhere to Sola Scriptura this statement -”World Vision has arguably followed a policy that makes perfect sense within the Protestant hermeneutical paradigm” is false. Homosexuality is condemned in Scripture and is never spoken of in a positive sense.

    I, in my own personal interpretation of Holy Scripture agree with you that homosexuality is condemned. But plenty of exegetes have argued differently. Consider “Paul on Homsexuality” by Michael Wood, or “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church,” by Jack Rogers (PCUSA). I read other literature by Protestant scholars when I was an undergraduate that also sought to present a positive case for Scripture’s acceptance of homosexual behavior, and we’re seeing plenty of Protestant denominations accept homosexuality as moral. What I’ve realized, and what I believe David is seeking to persuade you of, is that within the Protestant interpretive paradigm, there is no authoritative way to determine which issues are essential, or even more broadly, which interpretation of Scripture is authoritative. You and I can debate Mr. Wood and Mr. Rogers all day on the Bible and homosexuality, and since there is no final authority in Protestantism, there is no way to resolve our disagreement. They’ll stay in their Protestant denominations that agree with their interpretation, and we’ll go where we find agreement with ours. The problem we face here is more fundamental, and requires the kind of the authority only Christ can give. As I pondered this dilemma, I asked, does any church have a reasonable claim to such an authority? The Catholic Church can answer in the affirmative. blessings, Casey

  65. Pat,

    Jesus did not say, “Go into all nations and teach them only the essentials.”
    Paul did not say, “Agree on the essentials,” but rather, “Agree on everything.”

    This distinction between essential and non-essential has evolved within Protestantism as a way of explaining denominational difference. It does not arise from the content of Revelation itself. You say,

    Just because men may disagree on some issues of what is essential does not mean they don’t agree on some essentials such as the meaning and implications of the gospel. There are secondary issues that Protestants do have debates on.

    But already you are begging the question in favor of a distinction between essential and non-essential.

    Yes, I admit, some Protestants agree on certain doctrines that they regard as “essential.” They may even propose a criterion, like “connected to salvation.” But this is simply to beg the question again. Different Protestants give different accounts of what is “connected to salvation.”

    From a Catholic point of view, every doctrine is “related to salvation” insofar as the revelation of Christ is all ordered to our salvation. There are no inessential teachings of Jesus. all of scripture is inspired, meaning God intended all of it for our salvation.

    -David

  66. David,
    Not all of Jesus’s teachings apply to us. His condemnation of the Jewish leadership was applicable to them and not us.

    Take infant baptism. It was not widely accepted until the 3rd century and yet its an essential teaching of your church. Purgatory and indulgences which are essential RC doctrines was not even taught by Jesus and His apostles. A married leadership which is essential in Scripture (I Timothy 3) but in your church it is deemed not and so is circumvented by requiring RC men not to be married to be leaders.

    You have no “3rd party” in your church to correct its mistakes.

  67. Casey,
    All you are doing is changing your authority. Instead of Scripture you rely on your church and expect it to settle the issue. The problem is that it really doesn’t. Just look at how Roman Catholics believe that gay marriage is ok. Over 50% think it’s ok even though your church is firmly against it. I have had discussions with some of these Roman Catholics and have reminded them of church teachings on it and it made difference.

    Or look at how many Roman Catholic politicians support laws contrary to church teachings and nothing is done about as far as I can tell. Have Pelosi or Biden ever been disciplined or rebuked officially by your church?

    Btw, do you think in a disagreement with a non-Catholic that your church authority would carry any weight with those who disagree with you?

  68. Casey,
    My mistake in my convention my dialogues with Roman Catholics. Church teachings made no difference.

  69. Pat,

    None of these examples is relevant to the question I am raising.
    Assume, for the sake of argument, that all Protestants agree on (A,B,C).
    Then, assume that they many disagree on (X,Y,Z).
    Of what significance (if any) is that fact?
    One way of interpreting this is to assert that there are also two other sets (essential) and (non-essential).
    As long as (A,B,C) falls under (essential), then, supposedly, there is no major problem.

    But where does this distinction come from? Does the data of revelation class doctrines in this way? Does it present a criterion for sorting doctrines this way?

    History shows that Protestants have not always divided doctrine in this way. And once they started, they have no agreed upon method for sorting data into the essential/non-essential groups.

    My point is that this whole conceptual scheme is misguided, illogical, and unbiblical.

    By contrast, if Catholics disagree on x,y, and z, there IS a method, imposed by revelation, for determining whether or not the disagreement is substantive.
    Whether or not people yield to that method is irrelevant to the point I am raising.

    -David

  70. David,
    Let’s apply some concrete examples to a,b,c that all Protestants agree on: Deity of Christ, died for sin, rose again.

    These are essential doctrines for Protestants because to disbelieve them is to deny Christ and to deny Christ means there is no salvation. Another criteria for an essential doctrine would be has it been believed by the church since the beginning? Is it stated clearly in Scripture? These kinds of tests help Protestants to determine what is essential. It is biblical because it is based on Scripture. It is logical and reasonable to apply these tests and leads to agreement among Protestants about these doctrines.

    Non-essentials would be things like knowing the date of Christ’s return, what kind of music to play at church and whether to hold a Saturday night service.

  71. Hi Pat (#67, 68),

    I didn’t understand what you said in #68, so I’ll just address #67. You wrote,

    All you are doing is changing your authority. Instead of Scripture you rely on your church and expect it to settle the issue.

    When I left Protestantism for Catholicism, I did change my authority: from *me* being the authority over scripture’s interpretation, to an institution that had a legitimate, historical, Scriptural claim to authoritatively interpret scripture.

    You also wrote,

    Just look at how Roman Catholics believe that gay marriage is ok. Over 50% think it’s ok even though your church is firmly against it.

    I’m not sure how that’s relevant. The Church has authoritatively declared its position on homosexuality. Determining which Christian tradition is faithful to Christ cannot be reduced to an assessment of what percentage of people within that tradition actually believe and practice what is taught. We should make our assessment based on whether what it teaches is true, or is faithful to Christ.

    You also wrote,

    Or look at how many Roman Catholic politicians support laws contrary to church teachings and nothing is done about as far as I can tell. Have Pelosi or Biden ever been disciplined or rebuked officially by your church?

    The Church has formal discipline structures, but they do not publicize whatever measures they take. Yes, Catholic politicians who have supported laws contrary to Church teachings have been disciplined and refused communion.

    Finally, you wrote,

    Btw, do you think in a disagreement with a non-Catholic that your church authority would carry any weight with those who disagree with you?

    Yes, I would. I was once a Protestant like you, and when confronted with the dilemma of who, if anyone, has authority to interpret Scripture or define doctrine, I found the Catholic position quite persuasive. in Christ, Casey

  72. Casey,
    You really haven’t gained by converting to the RCC. You have lost much by doing so because now you have to find ways to justify certain doctrines of your church that cannot be squared with Scripture and in fact deny them.

    You still have to interpret. You have to interpret their doctrines just as you had to when you were a Protestant. The other problem you have is that the RCC has never officially interpreted the Scriptures either. In other words, there is no official “work-commentary ” on the Scripture. Without this kind of work you have no way to know what the official interpretation of a passage of Scripture is. For example there is no official interpretation of any Scripture that says the RCC is the only authority to interpret Scripture.

    I agree we should base our beliefs on what is “faithful to Christ”. That can only be done by what Scripture tells us what Christ and His apostles taught. This is why Scripture is the final authority because all that Christ taught is found only in Scripture and nowhere else. If an interpretation or doctrine cannot be grounded in Scripture then it is not faithful to Christ.

    If your church has disciplined Pelosi and Biden and hosts of other RC politicians can you show me where I can see what your church has done in these cases?

  73. “if you regard one of these bodies as “orthodox,” that is, as teaching correct dogma, then do you plan on joining their communion? If so, I would commend you for following your conscience and for joining yourself to a Church with valid sacraments and apostolic succession.”

    Don’t your popes and Magisterium also regard the Orthodox as orthodox? Benny seemed quite willing to give up the filioque as a bargaining chip (and I commend him for that, maybe he or the present pope can throw something our way too, I think us Presbyterians are ready to do business).

    Like Pelikan and others, I find the Orthodox an attractive proposition. Most of the arguments posted on Called to Communion, for example, apply to the Orthodox Church just as much as they apply to Roman Catholicism, but there are no stumbling blocks such as infallible papal pronouncements about Mary.

  74. “Both Calvin and Luther, for instance, taught that the nature of the Eucharist and the mode of baptism were essential and had eternal consequences. They made these judgments on the basis of Scripture.”

    Yup. As a “classical Protestant” I regard infant baptism as an essential (what could be more essential than God bringing the infant into his Holy Church?), and I believe in ‘real presence’ in the eucharist, in line with Calvin.

    For what it’s worth, in the Pat vs. David debate, I have to concede to David.

  75. “I did change my authority: from *me* being the authority over scripture’s interpretation, to an institution that had a legitimate, historical, Scriptural claim to authoritatively interpret scripture.”

    I agree with the gist of your point here. The Bible, of course, doesn’t have a voice, doesn’t speak by itself, and to read it is automatically to interpret it (we simply don’t notice that we are doing so). Every time we say “Scripture” in these discussions it is shorthand for “my interpretation of Scripture” or “my assent to my Church’s interpretation of Scripture.” You have gone from the first to the second.

    From my perspective, the problem is: a) the RC Church is not infallible in practice (and neither is any other Church); and b) it’s not the only Church interpreting Scripture and some are coming to different conclusions.

    What the solution is to these twin aspects, I don’t know. Maybe we need another Ecumenical Council or something . . .

  76. Pat,

    Your still not addressing the issue I’m interested in. Many of the things that you consider non-essentials – matters of liturgical order for example – have been considered essential at other times in Protestant history. Why? Well, because it seemed to someone that they were “so clearly taught in Scripture.”

    You have yet to propose a principled means to differentiate essential from non-essential that arises clearly from the data of revelation itself. You merely assert your view as to what counts as essential. To assert “whatever is connected to salvation” is merely to beg the question. Lots of things have been proposed as “necessary for salvation” at one time or another. You might as well say, “Believe in everything that Scripture clearly teaches as essential.” Yes, . . . but???

    -David

  77. Hi IP,

    What keeps you from being orthodox?

    But, regarding the “orthodoxy” of “Orthdoxy,” it depends on which Orthodox you are talking about.
    Oriental Orthodox, for example, deny the two natures of Christ. Assyrian Orthodox deny the theotokos.
    And, well, the Byzantine Orthodox deny the Petrine nature of Roman Supremacy, as well as the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.

    -David

  78. Hi Pat (#72),

    You wrote,

    You really haven’t gained by converting to the RCC. You have lost much by doing so because now you have to find ways to justify certain doctrines of your church that cannot be squared with Scripture and in fact deny them.

    Ah, well, that has yet to be proven. I assume what you mean is that certain Catholic doctrines cannot be squared with your interpretation of scripture and deny your interpretation of scripture. I’ve found Catholic teaching to always be substantiated by Scripture.

    You also wrote,

    You still have to interpret. You have to interpret their doctrines just as you had to when you were a Protestant. The other problem you have is that the RCC has never officially interpreted the Scriptures either. In other words, there is no official “work-commentary ” on the Scripture. Without this kind of work you have no way to know what the official interpretation of a passage of Scripture is. For example there is no official interpretation of any Scripture that says the RCC is the only authority to interpret Scripture.

    You are correct that the Catholic Church has not official commentary that exhaustively provides all accepted interpretations of scripture. That is not what I meant above by the Church offering a means for authoritative interpretation of scripture. What I did mean is that the Church by her magisterial authority is able to arbitrate between various interpretations of scripture and determine some to be orthodox and others to be unorthodox (e.g. Nicaea, Chalcedon, Trent, Vatican I, etc.). And I dispute your claim that the Church has not declared herself to be the God-given interpretive authority of Scripture. The Church has done this since the Council of Jerusalem, expecting all to accept the promulgation of her teaching as from Christ Himself. Also, there is a categorical, ontological difference between the Protestant and Catholic interpretive paradigm. Bryan Cross discusses this in the Called to Communion article “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority,” in the Objections section, under “A.” Probably better to read it from Bryan himself than for me to summarize Bryan.

    Finally, you wrote,

    If your church has disciplined Pelosi and Biden and hosts of other RC politicians can you show me where I can see what your church has done in these cases?

    As I understand it, the Church does not typically publicize its discipline of members for the sake of privacy. Sometimes these things are leaked because those disciplined publicly declare they are under the Church’s censure, or because a bishop deems it appropriate, given specific circumstances, to share the decision. If you “google” Catholic politicians who have been refused communion, you can find plenty of examples that have been reported in the press over the years. in Christ, Casey

  79. “the Byzantine Orthodox deny the Petrine nature of Roman Supremacy, as well as the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.”

    Well, if that’s all they deny, then they’re pretty right on!

  80. David,
    One principled way to determine what is essential and what is not essential can be determined by implication. Belief in Christ is essential to salvation. Belief in when He is returning is not. This is in part why Protestants do not believe that everything taught in Scripture is not essential or even applicable today.

    You wrote–” Lots of things have been proposed as “necessary for salvation” at one time or another.” What else in the Scripture does it tell us is necessary for salvation besides believing in Christ?

    It is true that your church has proposed other things are necessary for salvation besides belief in Christ. For example the RCC teaches that everyone must be in subjection to the pope for salvation. If you know Scripture well, there is no such command. You have no principled way to know if this is true without begging the question.

  81. Pat,

    You wrote:

    One principled way to determine what is essential and what is not essential can be determined by implication. Belief in Christ is essential to salvation.

    I am trying to find a principle in here, but I’m just finding an assertion: “Belief in Christ is essential to salvation.” Nor am I finding a principle that tells me when something is contained in that by implication. “Belief in Christ” is a very ambiguous phrase. Again, I don’t think you are really getting at the point I am raising.

    As a Catholic, I also begin with “belief in Christ,” but then I try to unpack that by asking what Jesus taught about the transmission of the faith. I see that Christ entrusted that transmission to authorized interpreters, did not limit the deposit of faith to written words, promised his divine assistance in the maintenance and transmission of the faith, instituted a liturgical order, and wrapped the whole thing up with a promise to St. Peter. I see nowhere in the data of history and revelation where Christ tied the transmission of the faith to the text of the New Testament Canon. So, I conclude, any attempt to construe the faith from that text alone – apart from the means Christ did indicate – is to depart from the teaching of Jesus.

    THanks,

    David

  82. Hi IP,

    Are you sincere in your praise of Orthodoxy? Or are you just proposing Orthodoxy as a foil to Catholicism? If you are sincere, then I’d love to know what is keeping you away from the Orthodox communion? Have you approached an Orthodox priest about being received into the Church? And if not, why not? Surely if you believe the claims of the orthodox, it would be disobedience to conscience not to move ahead. I hope you are sincere. Let me know when you become orthodox, and we can celebrate our closer communion through the gift of the sacraments and sacred tradition.

    Thanks,

    David

  83. David,
    What is your ” principled means” to know if these ” authorized interpreters” have interpreted Scripture or anything correctly? After all, Jesus never promised that a church could not err. He never promised to protect church leaderships from erring over the centuries. We know this just by the various warnings throughout the NT of false teachers coming into the church and deceiving many.

    BTW- the “faith” that Christ passed on is found only in the texts of the NT and nowhere else. There were oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles but there is no record of them. So we are limited only to the texts of the NT.

  84. Pat,

    How do you know that the teaching of Jesus is contained only in the text of the New Testament? Your statement that we have no record of oral teachings apart from Scripture is simply mistaken. In the Corinthian correspondence, Paul himself indicates that liturgical practice is one of the things handed down by oral tradition, and known by ecclesial consensus. This is why Church fathers like st. Basil considered ancient practices like the epiclesis to be of apostolic origin. You may dispute the reliability of those traditions, but you cannot claim that there is no record or dominical tradition apart from Scripture.

    Furthermore, if you doubt that the Church of the 4th century could faithfully hand on and interpret the liturgy (which Christ explicitly commanded) why would you trust them to define the contents of a canon that Christ did not command?

    -David

  85. David,
    I know that “the teaching of Jesus is contained only in the text of the New Testament” is because this is the only record we have today of His teachings. To prove me wrong then all you need to do is to demonstrate some teachings or sayings of Christ that are not in the NT and you will have proven me wrong. If you can’t then I am right.

    As for my contention that ” we have no record of oral teachings apart from Scripture ” is true unless you have some specific examples of something Paul or any other apostle. Again, you need to produce specifics that show that the apostles taught these things orally and were not recorded in Scripture. If you can’t then i am right again.

    I do believe that there was more to what Jesus and His apostles taught than what is recorded in the NT. However, we have no record of these things. If you claim that there is then I would like to see this.

    What do you mean by “the Church of the 4th century could faithfully hand on and interpret the liturgy (which Christ explicitly commanded)..”?

  86. “Are you sincere in your praise of Orthodoxy? Or are you just proposing Orthodoxy as a foil to Catholicism? If you are sincere, then I’d love to know what is keeping you away from the Orthodox communion?”

    In answer to your 3 questions: 1.) Yes. 2.) No, but it is a matter of fact that most of the arguments posted on called to Communion are equally valid arguments for being Called to Orthodox Communion (therefore they fail as arguments for Roman Catholicism in sole distinction). 3. What’s keeping me away is a wonderful little Presbyterian congregation which I’ve been a member of for about a quarter of a century.

  87. Hi IP,

    I’m a bit puzzled. The doctrinal claims of orthodoxy are not compatible with those of Presbyterianism. If you really believe the claims of Orthodoxy, wouldn’t it be a violation of conscience to remain Presbyterian?

    Secondly, I would say that some of the arguments on this site are ambiguous between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. That does not mean that they fail vis-a-vis Protestantism. I agree that more than one communion claims the mantle of apostolic succession and magisterial authority. This is not, in itself, an argument for Protestantism. Protestant dogma must stand or fall on its own claim to divine authority.

    -David

  88. Pat,

    You wrote:

    I know that “the teaching of Jesus is contained only in the text of the New Testament” is because this is the only record we have today of His teachings.

    This is precisely what I dispute. I contend that we have many teachings from Jesus and from the apostles that are not contained in the text of the new testament.
    St. Basil gives an impressive list of these in his book On the Holy Spirit. Many of them deal with liturgical rubrics.
    I would also point to the doctrine concerning the apostolic origin of the New Testament books themselves. The bible nowhere teaches, for example, that the gospel of Mark is of apostolic origin.
    And, again, I would point to what Tertullian and Ireneaus called The Rule of Faith – a set of “essentials,” an interpretive paradigm, that Tertullian and Ireneaus teach has been passed down by apostolic authority.

    We could go on.

    Finally, what I mean about the 4th century Church –
    The 4th century church handed on certain books as canonical – The New Testament.
    The same fathers also handed on other extra-scriptural tradition that they held to be apostolic.

    Why would you trust their judgment about the new testament canon, but not their judgment about the apostolic origin of liturgical tradition?

    -david

  89. David,
    What does your church say about the claims of St Basil ? Who else believes these things come from the apostles and Christ? So many questions. One being how could he know they are authentic since he lived centuries after Christ?

    Papias mentions that Mark wrote down what Peter told him. The names on the gospels have always had the names we know them by. Certainly the early church knew who wrote them.

    What did Tertullian and Ireneaus say the essentials were? Can you name a couple? Did they agree what I said some of the essentials were?

    Church fathers don’t speak for the entire church. They are not infallible.

    I don’t know much about liturgical traditions so I can’t say.

  90. “I would say that some of the arguments on this site are ambiguous between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. That does not mean that they fail vis-a-vis Protestantism. I agree that more than one communion claims the mantle of apostolic succession and magisterial authority. This is not, in itself, an argument for Protestantism.”

    You seem to think that I’m defending Protestantism. I’m not. I’m responding to your arguments for Roman Catholicism and noting that very often they would also constitute arguments for Orthodoxy, and therefore fail as distinctive arguments for Roman Catholicism. They don’t fail as arguments against Protestantism. But I’ve never defended Protestantism.

    As for my church membership, its a trade-off. If I was driven to find the church with the greatest doctrinal purity (however I might define that) then I would leave Presbyterianism and embark on a quest elsewhere. But I value other things too, perhaps more so, such as friendships in a small, loving Christian community.

  91. Hi IP,

    Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you have loving friendship in your community. It’s a great blessing.
    -David

  92. Hi Pat,

    There certainly are many questions!
    You are correct about the source of our knowledge of the Gospels. As you mention, we have Papias as a source. And, as you say, the Early Church knew who wrote them.
    My point exactly. We know these things from tradition.

    You stated that we have no traditions apart from those recorded in Scripture. My aim was simply to show that we have many such traditions.
    That doesn’t mean you are instantly obligated to believe them. Making the case for the reliability of tradition is another matter. However, it is not altogether different from making the case for the reliability of the New Testament.

    I’m running out of time today to go into detail on your other questions. In brief, however, Ireneaus and Tertullian both hand on traditions regarding the location of the apostolic sees. (Among other things.) Ireneaus proposes a creedal rule of truth for biblical interpretation, as well as dogma about the relationship of the Old to New Testaments. Ignatius of Antioch includes dogma on the nature of the Eucharist.

    -David

  93. Evangelical blogger Trevin Wax has written a reflection at the Gospel Coalition Blog (4-2-14) about how this World Vision event was just a tremor of a bigger earthquake going to hit Evangelicalism and make even more decisive lines as to where ‘true’ Evangelicals stand. In defending the true Evangelical position against that of liberals and moderates, Trevin makes comments such as the following:

    Marriage is between one man and one woman. Any other arrangement is not marriage at all, but a distortion of one of Scripture’s most beautiful pictures of the gospel. To abandon Christianity’s distinctive sexual ethic is to bow before the prevailing idol of our time and dismiss the authority of Scripture.
    . . .
    What can evangelicals do to show that our belief in the sanctity of true marriage is just as uncompromising and unwavering as our love for gay and lesbian people created in the image of God? How can we be simultaneously committed to upholding biblical marriage and loving our gay and lesbian neighbors?

    This is more ‘for the record’ than anything, but again it’s astonishing to see just how “uncompromising” these Evangelicals are when it comes to homosexuality, and yet just how wishy-washy (non-essentialist) they are when it comes to ‘true marriage’. I really don’t see how Trevin can speak of “Christianity’s distinctive sexual ethic” and “biblical marriage” when (conservative) Evangelicals have caved in on just about every “distinctive ethic” regarding marriage except homosexuality.

    And just as dangerous is that Trevin has conflated natural marriage with Sacramental marriage, neglecting/denying the Natural Law aspect, which is the very issue Dr Anders addressed in his prior post on the Gay Marriage Debate.

  94. Nick,
    Don’t forget that over 50% of RC Americans support gay marriage. So don’t there are serious problems in the RCC on all kinds of issues including contraception.

  95. Pat,

    No one here has ever denied that some (many) Catholics in the US dissent from Church teaching.
    What we like to point out is that there is a clear Church teaching from which Catholics can be seen to dissent.
    I don’t know any informed, dissenting Catholic who believes that the Church’s Magisterium teaches the liceity of homosexual unions. Informed, dissenting Catholics who dissent know what they are dissenting from.

    But this is not the case within Protestantism. Whenever one group of Protestants appeals to Scripture for “the clear meaning of revelation,” there is always another group that proposes another “clear meaning.” In this case, it is not a matter of one group “dissenting” from the clear meaning of revelation. It is rather that the two groups cannot agree on what that clear meaning is. Both of them are faithful to “the clear meaning of revelation” as they understand it. and yet they differ.

    One result of this, historically, has been the evolving notion that one need not agree on the meaning of revelation, so long as the debates are not “essential.” But this is a vacuous solution, insofar as there is also no historic agreement on what counts as “essential.”

    -David

  96. Pat,

    One way of framing the question is this: Can you be certain in your act of faith? Can you be sure that the faith you affirm is, in fact, the faith that Christ wants you to affirm?

    The quote I brought forth from the Amsterdam declaration would seem to answer this in the negative. Protestants cannot have certainty in their act of faith. They must hold all doctrines provisionally, unless they believe in some organ of infallibility.

    Interestingly, the Westminster Confession taught that at least one thing can be held infallibly – knowledge of one’s own election.

    -David

  97. Pat,

    You said:

    Don’t forget that over 50% of RC Americans support gay marriage. So don’t there are serious problems in the RCC on all kinds of issues including contraception.

    This response highlights the fact you’re still failing to make a *key* distinction throughout all these comments. Christian doctrine is not determined by popularity/democracy. It doesn’t matter how many people protest any doctrine, the doctrine remains true and binding. Even if every single Catholic in America denied the Church’s official teaching on divorce and Contraception, the teaching wouldn’t change.

    On the flip side, there is no teaching on divorce or contraception in Protestantism, so a Protestant can literally believe whatever they want. This is why each denomination/individual gets to decide for themselves whether divorce is acceptable.

    So there is no comparison: in Catholicism, there’s a teaching on divorce and you either take it or leave it, whereas in Protestantism there is no teaching on divorce, you simply decide for yourself what to think about it. If 50% of Catholics rejected the Catholic teaching, then those 50% would be wrong and unorthodox; but if 50% of Protestants don’t accept your denomination’s view on divorce, then they’re free to do so and are no more or no less orthodox than you.

  98. David,
    I know a number of “good” RC’s who embrace gay marriage even though its clear your church officially teaches against it. This is no different than what you charge Protestants with. Its clear to them that their church is wrong about this.

    It is not true that Protestants don’t know what essential doctrines are. They have known historically. I have given you a number in which all orthodox Protestant churches agree on. Just look at their statements of faith.

    If by certainty you mean assurance then yes protestants can have that. Its spelled out in 2 Peter 1:3-11. I John deals with the issue of certainty and assurance.

  99. Pat,

    Protestants have always disagreed about what they considered essential. From the Colloquy of Marburg to the Present day. Do you dispute this?
    Yes, there are also Protestants who agree on certain matters that they deem essential. But this doesn’t address the problem I’m raising.
    Your point is that “there are essential doctrines on which all Protestants agree.” I don’t think this is true, but even if it were true, it would still be true that “there are doctrines deemed essential on which Protestants disagree.”

    You seem to be taking the position that as long as there is a set of core doctrines deemed essential on which Protestants agree, then the other matters are inessential almost by default.
    But that is precisely the proposition I am calling into question. Who says that “what we all agree on” should be the standard? Is this a standard revealed by God?

    -David

  100. David,
    Yes I do dispute it because Protestants do agree on many agreed upon essentials such as the ones I mentioned. If they were not in agreement on these doctrines then you would have a case. The fact that they do shows that your argument cannot be sustained.

    Any Protestant church that does not believe that Jesus is God, the Trinity, the Bible is the Word of God, the Lord’s supper and baptism is not a Protestant church. All of these doctrines are clearly taught in Scripture. The standard is the Word of God. No one person says this is the standard but it is agreed upon those churches the believe the Bible to be the Word of God. There is no higher standard than the Scripture.

    This being said, there are still debates in Protestantism on the meaning of certain doctrines such as the Lord’s supper and baptism. Even in your church there is not unanimous agreement on all kinds of issues.

  101. Pat,

    Just to be clear – are you saying that Protestants have not disagreed on matters they considered to be essential?
    That seems like a pretty bold claim.
    To take just one counter example, what about the Marburg Colloquy?

    -David

  102. Pat,

    You wrote:

    Any Protestant church that does not believe that Jesus is God, the Trinity, the Bible is the Word of God, the Lord’s supper and baptism is not a Protestant church.

    Are these not doctrines inherited from Catholicism? Such things were hammered out in the early centuries of the Church when bishops and councils were normative features of every ecclesiastical landscape. It seems to me that any agreement among Protestants on these major tenants is simply an instance of borrowed doctrinal capital.

    And note, as implied by David’s question above, there is no unanimity on baptism and the Lord’s Supper among reformation church groups.

    – Jason

  103. Jason,
    The church did get those essential doctrines right because they are clearly taught in scripture. It’s not because the Rcc said so by its authority. In terms of salvation the Roman Catholic must go beyond scripture to be saved because he is commanded to be in subjection to the pope for salvation.

    All Protestants believe in baptism and the Lord’s supper and consider them essential. The difference though is the meaning of Lord’s supper and is infant baptism biblical.

    Do you think there is complete unanimity in the Rcc? I hope not because there are quite a large number of difference.

  104. David,
    Do all Protestants consider the Lord’s supper essential? Yes. Is there a difference of opinion what it’s nature is? Yes. Does it mean that the differences between the two that one is not a Christian and the other is? No. The same thing would hold true on baptism.

  105. Hi Pat,

    Calvin and Luther both thought that the nature of the Eucharist and the mode of baptism were essentials. Deal breakers. Place you outside of redemption if you get them wrong.
    I think Calvin and Luther are rather important representatives of Protestant opinion.
    Now, you may tell me that Calvin and Luther are incorrect, or that few Protestants today believe this.
    That’s fine. My point exactly. Although Protestants all appeal to the same theological authority (Scripture) they do not, in fact, agree on what it is essential to hold.
    You, yourself, do not – it seems – agree with Calvin. Pat and Calvin disagree on what counts as essential.
    Do you and Calvin agree on the divinity of Christ? The atonement, etc. yes, I’m sure you do.
    Did Calvin view those doctrines as a sufficient basis for communion? Demonstrably not.

    Perhaps Calvin is wrong. Perhaps not. Perhaps there is no fact of the matter either way. But Calvin most assuredly did not believe that all you needed was a set of Christological doctrines and a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, he is on record countless times strongly condemning that point of view.

    (If you want a few citations, check out some of the articles I’ve written on the topic. “How John Calvin made me a Catholic,” “Calvin on implicit faith,” and “Have you been born again: Catholic reflections on a Protestant doctrine.”)

    In response to my previous comment, you restated your claim that sacramental theology is “inessential.” But I’m still waiting on an explanation for how you know this. The Reformers didn’t think that. Neither did the Church fathers. In fact, I don’t believe anyone in Christian history for about 1800 years held that.
    As near as I can tell, you think sacramental theology is inessential simply because Protestants can’t agree on what they should believe regarding sacramental theology.
    But why should that be the criterion for distinguishing essential from non-essential? That’s the point you are not engaging.

    Thanks

    David

  106. Pat,

    You wrote:

    The church did get those essential doctrines right because they are clearly taught in scripture

    Is that your criterion for “essential.” Essential doctrines are those clearly taught in Scripture?

    If so, I wonder if you could explain for me how you know when a doctrine is “clearly taught” as opposed to one that is true but “not clearly taught.”

    -david

  107. David,
    Faith in Christ is essential for salvation while the exact time of His return is not because its not spelled out exactly.
    Another example is head covering. Its not essential for women to wear something on their heads in church. Another example of a non-essential is subjection to the pope as being essential for salvation. All Protestants reject this claim even though its essential for a RC’s salvation.

    Can you name a few Protestant churches that say it is not essential to believe that Christ died for sin and rose again?

    Where did I say that ” sacramental theology is “inessential.” ?

    I have yet to see you explain how so many Protestant churches can agree on those essential doctrines that I mentioned without appealing to Rome. How is that possible?

  108. Hi Pat,

    I have never disputed that Protestants agree on many things. It is not necessary to appeal to Rome to reach some kind of agreement.
    Many Pure Land Buddhists agree that salvation comes by faith alone through the prevenient grace of amitabha. They did not appeal to Rome to get that agreement.
    You and I may agree on our favorite coffee. There are purely psychological and sociological explanations for these facts. But you are missing the point I am making, and dodging my specific questions. Furthermore, you did conceded that protestants disagree on the nature of the Lord’s supper. But you fail to address the fact that this specific question has been treated as an essential one by many Protestant theologians. Calvin and Luther among them.

    Can you spell out a principle – agreed on by all Protestants -for determining when a doctrine is clearly taught in Scripture as essential?
    I’m not interested in a list of the doctrines you think are essential. I want the principle that enables all protestants to differentiate between Scriptural teachings clearly taught as essential, and sciptural teaching taught as non-essential. Can you give me such a principle? YEs, or No. Please. And if yes, then what is that principle.

    Note: “whatever is clearly taught” would be a question begging answer.

    -David

  109. Pat,

    Pretend I’m a new Protestant convert who wants to know how to understand the Bible.

    “Pat, can you tell me how to read the Bible and determine what is essential to my faith, and what is non-essential? If I mess something up, how can I know that my error is trivial?”

    -David

  110. Pat (#104)

    Do all Protestants consider the Lord’s supper essential? Yes.

    Are members of Salvation Army not Protestants, then? They certainly don’t think either the Lord’s Supper or Baptism essential.

    jj

  111. David,
    Another principle that all Protestants would agree is essential would be clarity. Is it clear in Scripture? Taking our example of salvation in Christ alone is clear in Scripture. Another principle would be is eternal life. Anything that is essential for eternal life would be an essential doctrine.

    If something is not clear in Scripture such as the date of the return of Christ or how often the Lord’s supper is to be eaten then its not essential. Head coverings are not essential. None of these things affect eternal life.

    These principles (clarity of Scripture and eternal life) are a couple of principles that Protestants would use to determine if something is essential or not. However, another essential principle is how does it affect my relationship with God? If I don’t forgive another, or deny I have sinned then this would have a negative impact on my relationship with God. Scripture is very clear on these 2 points.

    The principles are: clarity of Scripture, eternal life, the implications of denying a clear teaching of Scripture.

    As for Calvin and Luther these men (nor any man) is infallible except the Lord Jesus. Calvin and Luther and others have had differences of opinion such as on the nature of the Lord’s supper. There is nothing in Scripture that says if you don’t have the correct understanding of the Lord’s supper you are condemned.

    Did Luther say that if you don’t agree with him on the Lord’s supper that means you are no longer a Christian?

  112. Pat (#107

    Another example is head covering. Its not essential for women to wear something on their heads in church.

    Why is it not? St Paul says it is.

    jj

  113. David,
    In your example of a new Christian I would give him a list of the essential doctrines (with Biblical references) that would show that to deny them means you would not be a Christian.

    I would also give him a list of non-essentials such as the I have discussed.

    I would also recommend to read the gospels first. The reason is that I would want him to know what Jesus is like. If he has any questions, write them down and we can discuss them later.

  114. John,
    Paul does not say head covering is essential nor does he command it. Why don’t RC women wear a head covering?

  115. Pat (#114)

    Paul does not say head covering is essential nor does he command it. Why don’t RC women wear a head covering?

    I didn’t say it was an essential doctrine. You said that it is not. I am asking how you know it is not. Paul says:

    2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) 10 That is why a woman ought to have a veil[a] on her head, because of the angels. 11 (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.) 13 Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.

    (I Corinthians 11:2-16)
    It sounds fairly strong to me to say that ‘…a woman ought to have a veil on her head…’ and he asks what appears to be a rhetorical question, with implied answer ‘it is not proper:’ ‘is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?’

    I don’t contend this is an essential teaching. I don’t see any principle by which you can know for certain that it is not essential.

    It has seemed to me that in this discussion about how one can discern essential from inessential doctrines that you have repeatedly stated which doctrines you think are essential, and which inessential. You have said that Scripture itself makes it clear how one can tell the difference, but you haven’t shown that.

    What in Scripture makes it clear that head-covering for women (and, from the same passage, head-baring for men) is not essential?

    jj

  116. Pat,

    As per your #113.

    Playing the part of the new convert again,

    “Pat, I appreciate your willingness to provide me with a list of what you consider to be the essential doctrines. But want I really want is to know how to derive such a list for myself. How can I know, if I read the text, whether my understanding of the essentials is correct and whether or not my error is trivial?”

    Now, as per your 111, your wrote that clarity and “eternal life” are principles to determine if a doctrine is essential. i want to understand how this works.

    Are you saying that if I read the Bible and determine that a doctrine is clearly taught, then that doctrine is essential?

    Likewise, if I read the Bible and determine that a doctrine is connected to eternal life, then that doctrine is essential.

    Am I understanding you correctly?

    -David

  117. John,
    Head covering is not essential because there is nothing about it that is tied in to salvation. How do you know its not essential?

  118. David,
    If a doctrine is clearly taught in Scripture and its connected or impacts eternal life then it would be essential. Keep in mind also that the new believer is to be in fellowship with a church that teaches the Scripture. This is where he can find answers to his questions and be discipled by a mature Christian.

  119. OK, Pat.

    I think I’ve got your point of view. Essential doctrines are those “clearly taught in Scripture” and that “impact eternal life.” Furthermore, one should check one’s interpretation against that of “mature Christians.” I have a few questions.

    First:

    Let’s call this The Doctrine of Essentials: “Essential Doctrines are those clearly taught in Scripture, that impact eternal life, and that are confirmed by mature Christians.”

    Would you say that “The Doctrine of Essentials,” as I have defined it, passes the test for an essential doctrine? Is “The Doctrine of Essentials” clearly taught in Scripture, does it impact eternal life, and is it confirmed by mature Christians?

    If you think so, could you please show me where “THE DOCTRINE OF ESSENTIALS” is clearly taught in Scripture, ’cause I have to say I haven’t seen it there.

    Second, How many and which mature Christians are needed to establish a doctrine as essential? What do I do when two mature Christians disagree on whether or not a doctrine is essential?

    Third, How do you know whether or not a doctrine “impacts eternal life?” Are you saying that there are clear, Scriptural doctrines that do not impact eternal life?

    Finally, if I may apply your rule to a test case:

    When I read the Bible, the doctrine of the real presence and its intrinsic connection to eternal life seem pretty plain to me. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, . . .etc.”
    Furthermore, my understanding of this doctrine is CLEARLY CONFIRMED by the testimony of many, many mature Christians. St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas among them.

    On your view, would I then be safe concluding that this is an essential doctrine?

    -David

  120. David,
    The “THE DOCTRINE OF ESSENTIALS” would be derived from Scripture by using the principles I have mentioned.
    Christ gave the church pastor-teachers to teach the Scripture. These pastor-teachers are to know the Scriptures themselves. The “average” Christian is also to know the Scripture well. Paul for example tells us that we are to have the Word of Christ richly dwell within us.

    Sometimes 2 mature Christians will not agree on secondary issues. Infant baptism is one such disagreement as is the nature of the Lord’s supper.

    It is the pastors and elders who would determine what is essential doctrine in harmony with the Scripture. If they taught some doctrine that was essential but not grounded in Scripture then it is to be rejected. Believers are not to follow their leaders blindly but have a responsibility themselves to know the Scripture and doctrine well so as to be discerning about these things. When they are not, then they are susceptible to believe false doctrines and embrace practices not of Christ.

    Some doctrines-teachings do not affect eternal life such as head coverings, infant baptism, my freedom to eat or not eat and the nature of the Lord’s supper.

    I know if a doctrine affects eternal life by the denial of it. If a person denies the doctrine of Christ (died for sin and rose again) then that person is condemned.

    When you read about the Lord’s supper you are reading it from your RC beliefs. The early church in the first 3 centuries never defined the nature of the Lord’s supper as you believe today.
    ““The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure [during the period from 100-325 AD]. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of Christian worship, and accordingly, celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.”
    Philip Schaff’s History of the Church – Passages on the Eucharist

    The Lord’s supper is an essential doctrine but its nature misunderstood by RC’s and others. John 6 says nothing about the Lord’s supper. Jesus says nothing at the supper about eating it will gain a person eternal life.

  121. Pat,

    I’ve got lots of questions, but let me just take one at a time.
    Could you please show me where “THE DOCTRINE OF THE ESSENTIALS” as you have expressed it is taught in Scripture?

    Thanks,

    David

  122. David,
    We can start with what Jesus taught and said about His mission. He taught that we are to listen to Him. The Father said as much. So from this we can know what He taught was essential for us to listen to. When God speaks, we must listen.

    I already have laid out a couple of principles from Scripture how we can know what these essentials are. Do you deny these principles are in Scripture?

  123. Pat (#118)

    Head covering is not essential because there is nothing about it that is tied in to salvation.

    This seems to me to beg the question. Jesus says that if we love Him, we should keep His commandments. I should have thought that keeping His commandments was essential to salvation – that disobeying Him would definitely be contrary to salvation.

    But if head-covering is in fact essential, then it is one of His commandments – in which case it is “tied in to salvation.” But I would have to know if it was essential first.

    jj

  124. John,
    Of course keeping His commandments are essential but not keeping them (perfectly) does not condemn us. We also need to know what He taught is relevant to us and what is not. He commanded His disciples to prepare a room for the Passover but that does not apply to us.

    Does that RCC teach that a woman must wear a head covering in church and if she does not she would lose her salvation?

  125. Pat:

    To the comments of David and John, let me add:

    1. There is a big difference between having an important doctrine “plausibly contained” in Scripture, and having an important doctrine “unambiguously spelled out” in Scripture.

    To say merely that a doctrine is “plausibly contained” in Scripture means that out of any 10 mature Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, and leading devout moral lives, and having good knowledge of the original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew in all its colloquialisms, some of them will find passages which, in their interpretation, support that doctrine; however, others will not agree with that interpretation and will conclude that there are no passages supporting that doctrine.

    To say that an important doctrine is “unambiguously spelled out” in Scripture means that 10-out-of-10, or (allowing for human obtuseness) 99-out-of-100, will agree that the doctrine is supported by certain passages, which they all interpret the same way, and which they all describe as supporting and defining that doctrine the same way.

    2. When a doctrine is “unambiguously spelled out,” why then, it makes sense that a Christian would believe it, and feel no strong need to check with outside authority to confirm it.

    But, when a doctrine is merely “plausibly contained” in Scripture, a Christian with any intellectual humility and self-awareness will, on seeing that fellow Christians of equal and greater knowledge and holiness than himself disagree with his interpretation, realize that he needs to double-check his work to ensure that he is not in error.

    3. But how will he double-check his work? If Scripture by itself has not given him certainty, he must needs check his interpretation with an authority outside of Scripture.

    This alone verifies that the practice of Christianity requires authority outside Scripture. If Jesus could not foresee that need, then He is not God. (But He is God. So….)

    4. Furthermore, a simple thought-experiment can tell us what KIND of authority Christianity requires, outside Scripture: It must be one which can answer questions in real time.

    For of course IF the Bible were like a “Magic 8-Ball” which could give true answers to questions of interpretation, there’d be no need at all for outside authority. One could ask, “In John 6, did Jesus literally mean that in order to have life in us, we Christians would somehow have to eat His body?” and the Bible-8-Ball would answer “Yes” or “No” or “It Is Decidedly So.”

    It is for the LACK of a Bible-8-Ball that can answer the question, “Hey, Bible, am I understanding you correctly, here?” that we realize the need, not only for an outside authority, but a living, speaking, question-answering authority: One which can make rulings on disputed matters, like the New Testament talks about in Matthew 18 and elsewhere.

    5. Returning to the distinction between a doctrine being “unambiguously spelled out” and merely “plausibly contained” in Scripture, it’s worth noting that the following doctrines are NOT plausibly contained in Scripture, let alone unambiguously spelled out:

    (a.) Your “Doctrine of the Essentials”;
    (b.) A Guarantee That Scripture Actually Contains All The Doctrines A Christian Needs To Know; or,
    (c.) The Canon of Scripture, or any rule by which the Canon of Scripture could be reliably derived.

    These three doctrines are just not there at all.

    And let’s say you try to defend them by picking a verse here or there which can, with some stretching and squeezing, be construed as to support even one of these three doctrines.

    Well, that would make the doctrine rise from “not plausible” to “plausible”…in which case, a Christian would then need to go to some outside authority to confirm whether construing those verses to support those doctrines was a correct interpretation.

    And in that case, the Christian would need an outside authority which could answer his questions, with authority, with a guarantee of being correct. Something like…the Catholic Church.

    So you see that the need for an infallible Magisterium is non-obvious to people like you and me, who didn’t grow up with it. But run a 500-year experiment on functioning without it, and the need becomes increasingly obvious. This was enough for me, even though I grew up in Baptist circles, to conclude that only a divine wisdom could have seen the need for it ahead of time. And that helped me to see Matthew 16 and 18 in a whole new light.

    Sincerely,

    R.C.

  126. Anyone know how to unsubscribe from comment updates? I’ve basically left the conversation but I’m still getting a plethora of new comments in my email.

  127. Pat,

    I asked you to show me where Scripture says that the essentials of christian doctrine are those things plainly taught in scripture, connected to salvation, and affirmed by the witness of mature christians.

    You response was to say “start with what Jesus taught.”

    I’d love to.

    Can you show me where Jesus taught that Christian doctrine must distinguish between essential and non-essential, and that the essentials are those things plainly taught in the 66 book Protestant canon of the Bible, connected to salvation, and affirmed by the witness of mature christians?

    I don’t remember Jesus saying that,

    David

  128. David,
    How about we start with a couple of examples for comparison? John 3:16-36 is essential to believe while Matthew 24:35-37 is not essential to know exactly when Christ will return. What a person believes about Christ will determine their eternal destiny while not knowing the exact date of His return does not. Agreed?

    Don’t you know Scripture well enough to answer your question about Jesus teaching which doctrines are essential and which are not?

  129. R.C.
    Let’s start with some basics that all mature Protestant Christians believe: Is belief in Christ necessary-essential for salvation? Do the Scripture tell us another way to be saved without believing in Christ that is clear as the necessity of faith in Christ is?

    Is an infallible Magisterium necessary to understand this?

  130. Pat (#124)

    Of course keeping His commandments are essential but not keeping them (perfectly) does not condemn us. We also need to know what He taught is relevant to us and what is not. He commanded His disciples to prepare a room for the Passover but that does not apply to us.

    Well, head-covering for women doesn’t apply to you and me as we are males, but how do we know it doesn’t apply to women?

    Does that RCC teach that a woman must wear a head covering in church and if she does not she would lose her salvation?

    I haven’t commented on these questions, because what I am trying to find out is not whether you think this or that specific bit of Scripture is essential or not, but how you know any bit in particular is or is not essential – how you know whether it ‘applies to us’ or not.

    jj

  131. Hi Pat,

    You keep giving me lists of doctrines that you think are essential. But that’s not what I’m asking for.

    You have made some very specific claims about how we should interpret the deposit of faith. Claims such as : “The essential things are those clearly taught in Scripture,” or “The essentials are the things connected to salvation.” When I ask you how you know that, you keep reverting to lists of doctrines that you think meet those criteria. But I’m not asking about the doctrines. I’m asking about the criteria themselves.

    My question to you earlier which you didn’t address was this –

    Has Jesus taught us that when seeking to know what is essential for belief, that we are to consult the 66 Book Protestant canon of Bible and derive whatever seems “clearly taught.”

    Has Jesus taught us that when seeking to know what is essential for belief, that we are to consult the 66 Book Protestant canon of the Bible and single out those doctrines that we think are “connected to salvation.”

    These principles you have articulated – do you believe that they are your own invention, or are they derived from the teaching of revelation? If you think they are revealed, then, please, show me where and how?

    Again – PLEASE DON’T just give me a list of things all Protestants agree on. That does not address my question at all. I could also give you lists of things all Protestants agree on. I’m much more interested in discussing the significance we should (or should not) ascribe to the fact of their agreement or disagreement. Whether or not such agreement somehow evokes this distinction between the essential and the non-essential? How best to account for their disagreements, and so forth? In order cogently to sustain the distinction between essential and non-essential, it is necessary to have a non-arbitrary principle derived from revelation.

    Just asserting: “The essential things are connected to salvation, or to belief in Christ, or to what Christ taught,” does nothing to advance the argument. These premises are not self-evident. They must be justified. That’s what I’m waiting for.

    -David

  132. David,
    I have given you the criteria that Protestants use. They are justified because they are provide good reasons to use them and they help Protestants to determine what is most important to the least important. I used some simple examples to show you how the criteria works. We know it works because Protestants agree on these essentials and it leads to sound doctrines.

    Paul in Galatians expected the Galatian Christians to make distinctions between a false gospel and the true gospel. The true gospel is essential to know and believe and Paul expected them to make this distinction. He condemned those who taught a false gospel. This gospel that Paul is referring to is found in the Scripture and nowhere else. The gospel is essential to know and believe because of the implications of the gospel. This is something that I have found when asking RC’s what the gospel is they don’t know.

    Jesus believed that the 39 books of the OT was the Word of God. We know this by the way He uses and speaks of the OT and apostles themselves in their writings quote from it in the same kind of way. The same is true of the NT which is also the Word of God. The Word of God (66 books) contain all that God has given us that is necessary for salvation and sanctification. It is the highest authority because it is the Word of God and it has no equal.

    Christ has given the church pastor-teachers who are to study it and teach sound doctrine. (I Tim 4:6) Sound doctrine can only come when doctrine is grounded in Scripture. Sound doctrine points us to salvation and godliness.

    Please justify what you wrote –“In order cogently to sustain the distinction between essential and non-essential, it is necessary to have a non-arbitrary principle derived from revelation.”

  133. John,
    Please answer what I asked–“Does that RCC teach that a woman must wear a head covering in church and if she does not she would lose her salvation?”
    Your answer would help me to know how a RC determines what is essential and what is not.

  134. Pat:

    Thanks for your reply…although, it seems to me that the content of your reply implies no clear understanding of my comment to you, and its implications.

    My comment indicated that some things in Scripture are plain and thus uncontroversial. Had there ever been any significance to the question of whether Jesus ever wept, the famously-short verse “Jesus wept” would have settled it. There is likewise sufficient Scriptural univocality on the question “Does God exist?” that anyone — atheists and Buddhists and other disinterested third parties included — will come to the same conclusion about what Scripture says on the matter (even if they don’t believe it themselves).

    My comment also indicated that some things in Scripture are famously un-plain, and consequently are controversial. And, of course, some of these touch on critical matters.

    No objective observer of the history of Christianity over the last 2,000 years can doubt that vital doctrines, doctrines upon which salvation hinges, are among them. Sola Fide, for example, is a matter dealing directly with salvation: But the majority of the Christians who have ever lived did not (or do not) hold it, and those that do hold it often mean different things by it, some of which are nearly identical to the Catholic view or even are the Catholic view presented under a very non-Catholic label, and others of which are called antinomian even by fellow Protestants.

    I point this out for two reasons:

    First, your reply to me says: “Let’s start with some basics that all mature Protestant Christians believe: Is belief in Christ necessary-essential for salvation…?” Now this question is problematic because “all mature Protestant Christians” is a group which, while it will uniformly respond affirmatively to the question as stated, different subsets of the group will mean different things by it.

    When you get down to the nitty-gritty details of what is meant by the word “belief,” and what is meant by the word “Christ,” and what is meant by the word “necessary,” and what is meant by the word “salvation,” you will find that (a.) this group of “all mature Protestant Christians” will indeed subdivide and dissent from one another on one or more points; (b.) they will appeal to various bits of Scripture to defend their various points; (c.) they will not be able on the basis of appeals to Scripture to resolve their differences; and (d.) they will think the differences sufficiently important that they will subdivide into like-minded groups wherein one group will not allow a person holding the other group’s view to preach that view from their pulpit.

    Can anyone observe the last 500 years of Christian history and deny this?

    Second, given what I said in my earlier post, how could my answer to your question possibly matter?

    For if indeed this was a truth, which could be derived from Scripture alone, upon which all mature Protestants agreed, meaning exactly the same thing by it, then it would fall within that category of truths which are plain in Scripture, alongside “Jesus wept” and “God exists.” But my argument already admits that a group of such truths exists (and I have provided two examples: “Jesus wept” and “God exists”). My argument is unaffected by admitting one more example into that group.

    And if it were not a truth “unambiguously spelled out” in Scripture, but only a truth “plausibly contained” in Scripture, what then? Once again, its categorization in the group of truths upon which mature Protestants could disagree is equally agreeable to my argument.

    Anyway, since both possibilities are equally agreeable to my argument, I don’t see why you raise the question. Any way I answer it, it gains nothing: And thus I am concerned you didn’t follow the original argument.

    Oh, and by-the-way: Isn’t it rather “stealing a base” to confine your query to “all mature Protestants?” Is there a principled reason you didn’t say “all mature Christians” or even “all intellectually honest persons who, regardless of whether they believe the Bible to be inerrant, are curious to know what exactly it is that the Bible teaches?” By specifically saying “Protestants” aren’t you merely selecting the subjects of your “thought experiment” from a single 500-year-old interpretative tradition in hopes of increasing their odds of agreement? (You can guarantee near-unanimity about whether a white house looks pink, if you carefully select your study participants on the basis of whether they’re all wearing red-tinted glasses.)

    Anyway, suppose I stipulate for the sake of argument that all mature Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, et cetera — every group which holds the Bible inerrant and authoritative — were to agree that “Belief in Christ is necessary-essential for salvation.” And, suppose I stipulate for the sake of argument that they all mean exactly the same thing by it. (You and I both know that’s not true; but again, I’m stipulating for the sake of argument.)

    Even so, finding one thing that’s “necessary-essential for salvation” is not the same as finding all the things which are “necessary-essential.” To defeat the need for an authoritative interpreter, you need first to show that:

    1. All the things necessary-essential for salvation are unambiguously spelled-out in Scripture; and,
    2. “That which is necessary-essential for salvation” constitutes the whole body of essential, mandatory Christian doctrine, leaving out nothing which Christ views as critical to the Christian life.

    For (with regard to item #2) there’s ample reason to think that Christ wants more for us than merely to eke our way into Heaven; and (with regard to item #1), if you leave even one “salvation-necessary-essential” thing out, then…oops! People are likely to wind up in hell because of that oversight, which is not good.

    Now by adding “belief in Christ” to the list of things unambiguously spelled-out in Scripture, you might think you’re making a good start: That you’re well on your way to building a complete list of all the critical components of the Christian faith, and to showing that they’re all unambiguous in Scripture, making an infallible interpreter superfluous.

    But you’re actually not “well on your way,” unless you start by knowing that only salvation-related doctrines are critical to the Christian life (item #2 again), and furthermore you need to start by knowing that exactly so-and-so many things are “necessary-essential.” That is to say: If you know that exactly forty-two things are “necessary-essential,” then, after you’ve ticked off ONE, why, you’ve only got FORTY-ONE left to show unambiguously present in Scripture.

    But if you don’t start off with an (infallible) knowledge of which (or at least how many) things are “necessary-essential,” then merely adding to the list of “necessary-essential” things which are unambiguously spelled-out in Scripture will never be enough. There might always be one more!

    So I’m afraid, if you want to keep arguing that Scripture is functionally sufficient for the purpose for which you’re using it, you cannot merely come up with a list of three or five or ten things which are “necessary-essential” and say, “and that’s everything; therefore, Scripture is functionally sufficient for the Christian life; therefore, I need no authoritative interpreter.”

    Nope, that won’t fly. I’m afraid you’ll have to start out with an unambiguously spelled-out list, or a numerical count, or something like that, in the Scriptures itself, saying, “These are the only things critical to living a Christian life.”

    Then, once you’ve fully populated that list with the individual items which are also unambiguously spelled-out in Scripture, up to the required number, you’ll have what your argument needs: A Bible which unambiguously gives the Christian everything Christ wanted him to have for living the Christian life, along with an unambiguous statement that that is all that Christ wanted him to have for living the Christian life.

    Pat, that’s what your argument requires.

    Without that, you’re forced to rely on some extra-biblical authority for reassurance that the Bible unambiguously gives you all you need. But unless that extra-biblical authority is also infallible, you’ll need to seek even further for some other (infallible) authority, to show that the first authority is right to be claiming the Bible unambiguously gives you all you need.

    Y’know, this all gets pretty detailed doesn’t it? Let’s take a step back and look at history.

    IF it were true that:

    (a.) the Bible unambiguously spells out for a Christian everything he needs for the Christian life;

    …AND,

    (b.) the Bible unambiguously states that those unambiguously-spelled-out items constitute the complete list of everything that a Christian needs for the Christian life, with nothing left out;

    THEN, we can reasonably expect that all ecclesial communities and traditions which regard the Bible to be inerrant would not only agree on the essentials, but also would agree about what is or isn’t essential. Wouldn’t that necessarily follow?

    Oh, sure; I grant that we should allow for human sin and blockheadedness. OK, fine: But we’re talking about unambiguously spelled-out, here. So even if it isn’t “all,” the percentage should really be pretty high. 95%, if not 98%, right?

    Drop much lower than that, and you’re really beginning to admit ambiguity about critical doctrines; and with that, you’re admitting to the requirement of an infallible interpreter.

    So: If your thesis is correct, Pat, I should see 95%+ agreement about what is and is not critical, and what view to hold on each critical item, among all those who hold Scripture inerrant and authoritative, over the last 2,000 years.

    Is that the case? No?

    If not, then I’m afraid the thesis is falsified.

    You can still try to do the grunt-work of adding items to an ever-growing list of unambiguously stated truths in Scripture, and showing that Calvinists and Methodists and Jehovah Witnesses are all in perfect agreement about them, if you like.

    But really, think about it: You may be very clever, and very well-versed in Scripture. But how is one very-clever, very-well-versed man in his spare time going to achieve what 500 years of Protestant effort by thousands-upon-thousands of persons could not? If your unambiguously-exhaustive list of unambiguously-explained critical Christian truths could not be detected by them, trumpeted to the heavens, and utilized to draw them all into a common confession…how’re you going to do it, here, now?

  135. Hi Pat,

    The reason that our principle needs to be derived from revelation is that we want our faith to come from divine authority and not human opinion.

    In your most recent response, you assert that Protestant principles “help us to determine what is important,” or words to that effect. I do not deny that the principles you articulate can in fact help some people to arrive at some agreement. But does this consensus possess divine authority? People agree on all kinds of things without their agreement expressing divine authority.

    I asked if Jesus taught the principles you assert (“seems clear in Scripture,” “connected to salvation,” etc.). Should I take your silence as a tacit admission that Jesus does not teach these principles?

    thanks,

    david

  136. Pat:

    Two other things:

    In my preceding note (#133) I replied to your reply (#128) to my first post (#125).

    First, since your reply (#128) didn’t address some of the most important points I made in my first post (#125) I should perhaps reiterate them and see whether you don’t wish to contest them. Do you grant that…

    (a.) Your “Doctrine of the Essentials”;
    (b.) A Guarantee That Scripture Actually Contains All The Doctrines A Christian Needs To Know; and,
    (c.) The Canon of Scripture, or any rule by which the Canon of Scripture could be reliably derived…

    …are not to be found unambiguously spelled-out, anywhere in Scripture?

    Secondly, in your reply to David, you say at one point, “This is something that I have found when asking RC’s what the gospel is they don’t know.” I’m not sure how David will respond to this statement, but allow me to note that, of course, there are poorly-catechized Christians and well-catechized Christians. Among the first group, you may well find persons who don’t know what “the gospel” is, whether they are Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, or something else. But, among the second group, who actually know “the gospel” objectively, you may find two difficulties about asking them whether they know “the gospel”:

    Difficulty #1: They may come from a spiritual tradition which finds it extremely off-putting to be asked such a question by anyone who is not a close and trusted family-member. Recall that while American Christians have no generations-long memories of persecution, the Thomasites in India and the Copts in Egypt and other groups do, including a lot of Catholics from European countries where Protestant governments dominated, or where the Arian heresy or other heresies once dominated. So you may encounter a reticence about such conversations which might be mistaken for ignorance. And of course not every Christian is comfortable giving a two-minute recitation of the Creed and its significance, “standing on one foot,” as they say, even if they belong to an unusually brash and overt culture (such as the American).

    Difficulty #2: Are you aware that certain terms are used very differently by Protestant Christians than by most Christians? Asking “what is the gospel?” to a Catholic (or many Anglicans, for that matter) is likely to elicit the response, “Well, it’s Matthew this year; last year I think it was Luke.” For of course Catholics frequently use the term “the gospel” for today’s gospel reading in the lectionary cycle. But asking, “What — in a general sense — ought you to believe and do for the rest of your life, so that you may enter Heaven when you die?” will generally give you the answer, you’re looking for, if you’re talking to a well-catechized Catholic. At any rate a question phrased in Protestant terminology will often produce bewildered stares, not because the person is ignorant, but because you are, like an Englishman and an American, two persons divided by your common language!

    None of that is to deny the existence of poorly-catechized Catholics. There’s too much of that. If only they all went through RCIA once a decade…or better yet, taught it!

    But sometimes what looks to a Protestant like ignorance isn’t: It may be the Protestant is too culturally American to read a response coming from a different cultural perspective; or that his verbiage is too Protestant to make much sense to the person with whom he’s conversing.

  137. David,
    Is it clear in the gospels that Jesus taught that faith in Him is necessary for salvation? Is Jesus a divine authority?
    This answers your question about ” our principle needs to be derived from revelation”. Since Jesus taught clearly that faith in Him is necessary for salvation (clarity) and Jesus is the divine authority.

    Protestants do not claim to be a “divine authority”. No one is. The only divine authority is the Scripture to which all men are accountable to.

  138. Pat (#132)

    John,
    Please answer what I asked–”Does that RCC teach that a woman must wear a head covering in church and if she does not she would lose her salvation?”
    Your answer would help me to know how a RC determines what is essential and what is not.

    I really don’t see how the answer to that question would help you to understand how a Catholic determines what is essential. Indeed, I don’t think the Catholic would even understand the idea of differentiating amongst beliefs as to which are essential and which not. The Catholic would say that whatever is true but cannot be known by natural means should be believed. There are no non-essential truths. When I was a Protestant, I recall hearing people say something like “God says it; I believe it; that settles it.” All truth, surely, is essential. It is you who have distinguished between essential and inessential beliefs and have said that all essential beliefs can be known by a well-intentioned person from reading the Bible without any authoritative voice. So far, it does not seem to me you have given any argument at all in favour of this claim. You have listed beliefs you consider essential. You have asked which beliefs the Catholic Church considers essential. It is the distinction between essential and inessential beliefs that I think is at question here. Why do you think there are any inessential beliefs?

    jj

  139. David,
    I have spent a lot of time explaining to you how Protestants discern essential doctrines from non-essentials. How about you explain how RC’s do? Then we can compare to the 2.

  140. Yes Pat,

    You have told me repeatedly how you discern essential doctrines. But you haven’t answered my question.

    -David

  141. David,
    Ok. How do you do it?

  142. John,
    Maybe you haven’t thought much about this. Not everything in Scripture is essential for salvation. Is it essential for salvation or my relationship to know if the 6 days of creation are 24 hours or long periods of time?

    Is it essential for a RC to believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis is historical or myth? I have been having this discussion with a RC and he believes they are myth. If they are myth then that is going to affect his theological foundations because so much of Christian doctrines are affected by these chapters. What one believes about these chapters is essential because it affects so many other doctrines and beliefs.

    It is not essential to know if David killed Goliath or who was the 5th king after David died. If you think these are essential things to know and believe then please show me why this is so.

  143. R C,
    You asked “Do you grant that…
    (a.) Your “Doctrine of the Essentials”;
    (b.) A Guarantee That Scripture Actually Contains All The Doctrines A Christian Needs To Know; and,
    (c.) The Canon of Scripture, or any rule by which the Canon of Scripture could be reliably derived…
    …are not to be found unambiguously spelled-out, anywhere in Scripture?”

    Some doctrines that are essential to know are clearly stated in Scripture. I have been focusing on salvation that is found only in faith in Christ alone. There are so many passages that support. The same is true of His deity. All doctrines that are derived from Scripture are essential. The canon of Scripture is derived from the Scripture itself because God is the author of Scripture. Just because some doctrines may not be as clear to some as others does not mean they are not essential.

    So what must a Roman Catholic believe to be saved? What are the specifics?

  144. Pat,

    I am thinking that perhaps I have not expressed myself clearly enough. Let me try again.
    The following is a yes or no question.

    Did Jesus teach that the way to discern the essential content of Christian faith is to find 1) what appears clear in sacred scripture and 2) what appears intrinsically connected to salvation?

    Again, the answer is either yes or no. Yes Jesus taught this, or No Jesus did not teach this.
    What do you say?

    -david

  145. Yes.

  146. Ah, Good.

    Could you tell me where Jesus teaches these things?

    -David

  147. Matthew 7:24-27 is an example.

  148. Pat (#141)

    John,
    Maybe you haven’t thought much about this. Not everything in Scripture is essential for salvation. Is it essential for salvation or my relationship to know if the 6 days of creation are 24 hours or long periods of time?

    Is it essential for a RC to believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis is historical or myth? I have been having this discussion with a RC and he believes they are myth. If they are myth then that is going to affect his theological foundations because so much of Christian doctrines are affected by these chapters. What one believes about these chapters is essential because it affects so many other doctrines and beliefs.

    It is not essential to know if David killed Goliath or who was the 5th king after David died. If you think these are essential things to know and believe then please show me why this is so.

    What I do not feel comfortable with is the idea that there is a list of things which, if I believe them, I am all right with God; it then does not matter what I believe about everything else.

    I do not know if the six days of Creation are 6 literal 24-hour periods or not. I am certain that if I do come to know this – and knowledge of this would, necessarily, have to be by revelation, since, in the nature of things, it cannot be known by reason – then I could not not believe it, unless I were willing to call God a liar.

    Now … could I possibly call God a liar, and still maintain that I trusted Jesus for my salvation? I just don’t know how this can possibly be the case.

    So I think that there cannot be some list of essentials – of things that I must believe and then I am in with God. Indeed, I do not think it can possibly come down to a matter of simple belief in any case. The devils believe – and tremble.

    jj

  149. Hi Pat,

    Here’s the text you cited:

    24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

    I am looking here for where Jesus says that if you want to understand the deposit of faith, you should search the scriptures for what seems both plain and intrinsically connected to salvation. I don’t see any mention of the New Testament canon, no discussion of distinguishing essential from non-essential, no admission that some of Christ’s teachings are inessential, no acknowledgment that some of his teachings are not connected to salvation.

    You’re going to have to unpack this for me.

    Thanks,

    David

  150. John,
    Your church has a list of essential beliefs. Its found in the catechism.

  151. David,
    Do you think that after Jesus finished teaching in Matt 7 that He expected His disciples to understand what He taught and that He taught with divine authority?

    I get the impression that you don’t know Scripture well by your questions.

  152. Hi Pat,

    Let’s assume I don’t know the Bible at all. How about explaining to me how this verse you cited fits with your theory of religious authority?

    Thanks,
    David

  153. Pat (#149)

    John,
    Your church has a list of essential beliefs. Its found in the catechism.

    The Catholic Catechism is definitely not a list of beliefs which, if you believe, you are then assured of salvation. Indeed, though it contains things one must believe, it covers far more ground than that.

    I think this thread has gone pretty far off the topic of the post, which is whether Protestants have any basis for doctrinal unity. The presenting problem was World Vision saying that one could be a member of a homosexual pseudo-married couple whilst still being sufficiently Christian to work for an evangelical organisation, then, after catching flack, deciding that one could not be that.

    And one might suppose that the storm they raised by allowing homosexual couples to serve would show there was such a thing as Protestant unity, at least on this issue – except that when they pulled back and changed their mind, another Christian organisation, called Faithful America chastised them for stopping allowing gays to serve. The Faithful America web site has a petition on the subject.

    It would really appear that, at least on the topic of whether homsexuality is compatible with Christianity, Protestant unity is in trouble.

    And this illustrates what I mean when I say that the idea of a list of essentials – outside of which you are free to believe what you want – is not going to work. You suggest that the Catholic Catechism is such a list. It is not. At the moment, the Catechism does not speak on some topics – bioethical ones, for instance – which, once issues arise, will certainly be matters that Catholic will know what to believe about. These are not on any list of essentials now because they haven’t happened. But because the Catholic Church has been appointed by God to guide us to Heaven, when new issues arise, ones not covered by any current list of essentials, God will, through His Church, make certain that Christians know what they need to understand about such things.

    jj

  154. David,
    Notice what verse 28–” When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

    Throughout 5-7 Jesus makes no reference to anyone else for His authority to teach. He references no higher or equal authority to what He says. No one in the OT taught like this nor did any rabbis.

    In 7:21-23 He claims to be Lord and implies He will judge. He is the highest religious authority there can be:

    “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

  155. Hi Pat,

    I agree with the observations you make about these verses. Jesus, indeed, references no higher authority than himself. No one in the OT taught this way. But nowhere in these texts does Jesus say, “If you want to derive the essential content of Christian faith, it is necessary to read the 66 book Protestant canon of Scripture, and discern what seems clear and connected to salvation.” I just don’t see how your hermeneutical theory follows from these texts. Could you explain?

    -David

  156. David,
    I agree that from that text alone that we cannot “derive the essential content of Christian faith, it is necessary to read the 66 book Protestant canon of Scripture” but we can in part by it “discern what seems clear and connected to salvation” . The reason is that it shows Jesus as the highest authority and the consequences of listening, understanding and obeying what He teaches here. It has temporal and eternal consequences.

    Since Jesus is the highest divine authority then we can establish from His teachings what is necessary and clear for salvation and how we are to live. Do you doubt this?

  157. John,
    I agree that there are many Protestants who embrace gay marriage. Some Protestant churches do. However, its not on sound doctrine from Scripture that they do so. However, the RCC is not in any better shape. There are polls that show over 50% of American RC’s support gay marriage. This shows that the claim of RC’s unity is not a reality and throws into doubt the influence and power of the papacy and the magisterium.

    I disagree on about your comments that the catechism is not a list of essential doctrines for Rc’s to believe. One of the purposes of the a catechism serves this function.

    Protestants are free to believe what they want but that does not mean its true nor in harmony with Christ.

  158. Hi Pat,

    Your position stated earlier was that the essential content of Christian faith could be derived “from what seems both clear in Scripture and connected to salvation.”
    I asked you if that doctrine were, itself, stated in Scripture or the teaching of Jesus. You said yes.
    What you have produced are texts that demonstrate the authority of Christ. But the authority of Christ is not in question.
    I do not deny that the doctrine of Christian faith is materially present in the teaching of Jesus. What I deny is that we can formally derive that doctrine in a consistent way from the text of Scripture alone. What I have asked you to produce is some logion of Scripture in which Jesus teaches that we should derive the essential content of christian faith in the way that you suggest.
    He either instructs us to do this, or he does not. You have said that Christ, in fact, teaches this. I am waiting for the text.

    -david

  159. David,
    You stated earlier at #136 “The reason that our principle needs to be derived from revelation is that we want our faith to come from divine authority and not human opinion.” I answered with Matt 7 which establishes Jesus as divine authority.
    The sermon on the mount found in Matt 5-7 is full of doctrine that Jesus expected His disciple to understand. He considered these things essential because of the consequences of not obeying Him. The people also understood what He was teaching.

    Please justify your assertion that we cannot “formally derive that doctrine in a consistent way from the text of Scripture alone. “

  160. A bit late to mention this, but I wanted to make an observation.

    It should be obvious that head coverings are not tied to women’s salvation…they’re tied to their heads!

    Pat,
    I think David is trying to figure out how your list of essential doctrines finds a solid and scriptural base, and avoids being a “list of teachings I think are essential/not essential.”

    For example, is Infant Baptism an essential issue for salvation? What is Baptism? If it is the way to be brought from spiritual death to life in Christ, it is essential for salvation to know whether it may be administered to infants. If it may not, someone who was *baptized* as an infant is not really a Christian. That is pretty much the definition of “essential for salvation”. However, if you believe baptism is not the way we are brought from death to life, infant baptism is not important.

    It seems strange that a literal 6-day creation is essential doctrine, but the very question of “How do I become a Christian” is not.

    David is hoping you will be able to point to a text that shows the essential/non-essential distinction (which you assume to be the way of discerning the teachings necessary for salvation), and that this distinction is more solid that your own opinion on how scripture should be interpreted. We want to know how this is an objective criterion, and not a subjective one.

    This is not a question of the interpretation of scripture, but of the “lens” we read it through. We are asking for the scriptural justification of your “lens”, but is seems that you don’t realize you have a “lens”. I would like to ask, (1) do you agree we necessarily look at scripture with an interpretive “lens”, (2) do you agree others may have a different “lens” they look through, (3) do you agree that if Scripture is the only authority Our Lord left us, the proper “lens” should be articulated inside scripture?

    Pax + Christi
    friar Charles

  161. Pat (156)

    John,
    I agree that there are many Protestants who embrace gay marriage. Some Protestant churches do. However, its not on sound doctrine from Scripture that they do so. However, the RCC is not in any better shape. There are polls that show over 50% of American RC’s support gay marriage. This shows that the claim of RC’s unity is not a reality and throws into doubt the influence and power of the papacy and the magisterium.

    Quite correct. The difference is that the Catholic who approves of gay marriage knows that he is dissenting from the Church. He does not argue that what the Church teaches really means that gay marriage is right. The Protestant who approves of gay marriage has the same Scripture as the one who says it is not ‘sound doctrine’ – but he claims it it is. He claims that he understands Scripture better than the one who disapproves of gay marriage. Who is to choose between them? Only God – which means that, whilst the Catholic is able to have unity on the basis of his Church’s teaching, there is no way for the Protestant to do so. He must wait until the eschaton to find out of he is right.

    I disagree on about your comments that the catechism is not a list of essential doctrines for Rc’s to believe. One of the purposes of the a catechism serves this function.

    Not in the sense that you seem to be talking about ‘essential doctrines.’ Your idea of essentials appears to be a list of all and only those things which are necessary to believe; the Catechism is not that. The Catholic is bound to believe the Church, because it is God’s divine mouthpiece. Thus when, in future, some new controversy arises which it is necessary for Christians to know the truth of, the Church will be able to tell him – even although it is not in the current copy of the Catechism. That’s what I mean when I say that the idea of a list of essentials is not a Catholic concept at all.

    Protestants are free to believe what they want but that does not mean its true nor in harmony with Christ.

    Thou hast said it :-)

    jj

  162. Hi Pat,

    I agree that Matthew 7 (and many other passages) establish Jesus as a divine authority. That is not at issue between us, so simply pointing out that Jesus is a divine authority does nothing to resolve the difficulty. It seems to me that you may not understand the question I’m asking, because you keep not answering it. This could be my fault. Maybe I’m not clear enough.
    I wonder if you could restate what you think I’m getting at, what I’m asking, so that we could see if we are really talking past each other.

    But, just to recap – You claimed that Jesus taught a specific doctrine. Let’s call it “Doctrine A.”
    I want to know where or how Jesus taught “Doctrine A.”
    You answers to that question make me think we have a radically different conception of what i mean by “doctrine a.”

    So, just to be clear, here’s how I understand the discussion so far:

    1. You think that Christian doctrine may be meaningfully distinguished as essential and non-essential.
    2. You think that the way to distinguish essential and non-essential is to find in Scripture those teachings that are both
    a) Clear, and
    b) connected to Salvation.

    Propositions 1 and 2 above are what I’m calling “Doctrine A.”
    Earlier, I asked if “doctrine A” is taught by Jesus, and you said, “Yes.” (At least, as far as I can tell).

    I asked you to show me where, and you pointed out the passages in Matthew. But the passages you mention say absolutely nothing about the propositions I’ve laid down. All they establish is that Jesus in a divine authority. But, again, we’re not arguing about that.

    What am I missing here? I’m trying to see where the confusion is, and I just can’t get it. Help me out.

    As to your question –

    The material content of revelation is one thing – the ink on the page, as it were.
    The shape that content takes in the form of propositions (like the Nicene Creed, for example) is something conceptually different.
    The Process whereby we move from one to the other – from the material content of revelation to formal articles of faith proposed for belief – is one of interpretation.

    That process of interpretation is a critical moment in articulating the deposit of faith. If Christian faith actually contains formal dogma, formally defined articles of faith, then those definitions either possess divine authority or they do not. But they can only possess divine authority qua formal statements if the process for deriving them and pronouncing them also possesses divine authority. This is why I am so keen on discussing your principle of interpretation (clarity/connected to salvation, etc.) Because that principle either possess divine authority as a principle or it does not.

    My contention is that Scripture nowhere presents us with an authoritative principle of interpretation that keeps the authority for interpretation within the page itself. There is no scriptural principle like “clarity” to which we are directed. For that matter, we are not even directed to Scripture itself (meaning the 27 books of the NT). Rather, I contend, Scripture points us to the role of authorized interpreters who possess divine authority proceeding from their office. (See my article “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium” for details)

    Now, there is no logical impossibility in asserting that scripture authorizes no kind of interpretation – not that of clarity, or the magisterium, or anything. In that case, revelation would be entirely material, but not formal. There would literally be no authoritative interpretation. But that doesn’t seem to be your view, and I’m trying to figure out how.

    -David

  163. friar Charles,
    Good point on head coverings. lol

    Why is it necessary that “a text that shows the essential/non-essential distinction” in Scripture? I know of none but that does not mean that Protestants cannot discern such principles from Scripture. I gave a couple of examples how this looks and I have yet to see David refute this.

    Would you consider a principle that something that must be believed for eternal life to be just an opinion i.e. subjective?

    Of course I have a lens. I call it Sola Scriptura.

    Now for your questions:
    1) We do “look at scripture with an interpretive “lens”. We can’t read and understand Scripture (or anything for that matter without interpreting)
    2) Yes. People have “different “lens” they look through”.
    3) Yes. Scripture is the ultimate authority because of what Scripture is i.e. the Word of God. It is not the only authority in the church. These other authorities i.e. bishops, pastors, teachers, elders derive their authority from Scripture. They are to be listened to when they are in harmony with Scripture.

  164. David,
    Let me approach it this from another angle. We both agree that the Scriptures are the inspired-inerrant Word of God. I think we would agree that Christ has given the church pastors-teachers to teach-equip the body of Christ.
    From these pastor-teachers (and others who study Scripture) have created creeds for the church that are based on Scripture and are essential to believe. The creeds themselves and the ones who created them are not inspired-inerrant themselves but they correctly articulate some key concepts that are in Scripture that are essential. The same could be said for catechisms. However, from the Scripture we can see these things and believe what they say without any need or requirement from authorized interpreters.

    Now you claim that these “authorized interpreters who possess divine authority proceeding from their office”. I assume you mean that these “authorized interpreters” are RC’s. If so, can you justify this from Scripture? Can you also from Scripture show that Protestants cannot correctly interpret Scripture or have no right to?

  165. John,
    The RC who supports gay marriage is also saying that he understands Scripture better than the one who disapproves of gay marriage and believes his church is wrong also. Its a double whammy for the RC. There is no unity on this issue within the members of the RCC. I suspect the average RC does not think his church cannot err or needs to be listened to when it comes to issues they disagree with the church on. After all, who speaks for the entire church besides the pope? I say this because I know some RC’s who don’t care about what the church says on this issue and they consider themselves good RC’s.

    Are all the teachings of the catechism the same in consequences? For example, is it the same thing if a RC’s does not believe that Mary was without sin is that the same as not believing Jesus died for sin and rose again? Will a RC be condemned if he believes Mary was not without sin?

  166. Pat (#164)

    The RC who supports gay marriage is also saying that he understands Scripture better than the one who disapproves of gay marriage and believes his church is wrong also.

    Yes, indeed. What he cannot say is that the Catholic Church approves of gay marriage. The Protestant who approves of gay marriage cannot say that ‘the Protestant Church’ does or does not approve of gay marriage. At most he can say that his denomination or congregation does not approve gay marriage.

    The Catholic who approves of gay marriage knows that there is a standard that he has rejected. The Protestant does not – for his standard is the Bible and what he means by the Bible is what he thinks the Bible means. An honest pro-gay-marriage Protestant honestly thinks he is obeying his standard. The honest pro-gay-marriage Catholic knows that he is disobeying his standard. That is the difference.

    jj

  167. Hi Pat,

    At one point, you stated that Christ taught a principle of interpretation (Doctrine A) whereby Christians could reliably discern the essential content of Christian faith.
    I asked you to show me where Christ taught that. You replied with citations showing that Christ is a divine authority – a point not at issue between us.
    Now that I have pressed the point, it seems to me that you no longer affirm the existence of an interpretive principle, derived from revelation and possessing divine authority, wherewith to discern the essential content of Christian faith.

    Now, as I understand you (don’t let me put words in your mouth) you deny that there is such a principle, and deny even the need for such a principle.

    If that is your position (again, I don’t want to impute to you a position you do not hold), then I would say that you have affirmed a major premise of the article on World Vision.
    As you recall, I argued in the essay that Protestants have no principled way to discern the essential content of Christian faith.
    I never denied that Protestants get many of the essentials right. I never denied that Protestants can agree on many things. I never denied that PRotestants often correctly interpret Scripture. What I denied was that they had a principled and consistent way to distinguish the essential from the non-essential.

    It seems to me that you are now also affirming this. In which case, well and good.

    The dilemma, as I see it, is this:

    Protestants either have a consistent principle for distinguishing essential and non-essential, or they do not. (I hold they do not.)
    If they do have such a principle, it either possesses divine authority or it does not.
    If it possesses divine authority, it must be derived from revelation.
    I would like to see such a principle in the data of revelation, if it exists.
    this is what I pressed you on earlier.

    as to your point about the need for authorized interpreters –
    You assert we do not need them.

    I suppose it depends on what you want. If you want for your dogmatic formula to possess divine authority, and to be able to hold them with certainty, then you need a means of deriving those formula that possesses divine authority. However, if you are content to hold your dogmas provisionally (which is to say, without the certainty that they proceed from divine authority), then I suppose you do not need authorized interpreters. In the essay, I quoted the Billy Graham Association to the effect that doctrinal unity is impossible because Christians do not understand the content of revelation. Those were their words almost exactly. Doctrinal unity is impossible because Christians do no understand the content of revelation. I suppose someone could hold this view, logically. God gives a revelation while withholding the means to understand it. I, myself, do not regard such a dogma as “good news.”

    But, apart from the question of need, there is the question of fact. Did Christ in fact authorize certain individuals to transmit the faith with divine authority? I believe he did.

    we’ve got a lot of articles on the site treating that topic – which is, by the way, beyond the scope of the current thread.
    If you’d like to take up that question, I’d direct you to one of these links.

    -David

  168. Pat:

    My last reply to you was in two posts: #133, and #135.

    From what I can see, you haven’t replied to the points I made in #133. Should I assume that you grant that they are true, then?

    If you agree, you’d be granting that:

    #133 item 1: The formula “Belief in Christ necessary-essential for salvation” is something affirmed by many persons: Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Catholic…but since the content will vary due to different uses of “belief” and “necessary-essential” and “salvation” and “Christ” these are not all in fundamental agreement, despite the fact that they derive this view from Scripture. It is thus reasonable to hold that this view is unambiguously spelled out as a formula in Scripture, but that its precise meaning is susceptible to well-meaning misinterpretation.

    #133 item 2: Christians who use the Scriptures, interpreted apart from the authority of the bishops in Apostolic Succession in communion with the Successor of Peter, disagree wildly about its meaning on various points…and this includes disagreement about critically important topics, including topics related to salvation. We can consequently conclude that even if all topics required for salvation are touched-upon in some fashion in Scripture, they are not spelled out sufficiently unambiguously to allow well-intentioned, devout, Spirit-led, seminary-trained persons to agree about what Scripture teaches on these topics.

    #133 item 3: Scripture does not anywhere, unambiguously, tell us that the beliefs and practices which Jesus held to be critical to living the Christian life include solely those beliefs and practices which are minimally sufficient for eternal salvation; and thus, it is a plausible interpretation of Scripture that some beliefs and practices not directly related to salvation are also, in Jesus’ teaching, critical to the Christian life, above-and-beyond those minimally sufficient for eternal salvation.

    Do you grant these? (I’m putting you on notice that the majority of the Christians who’ve ever lived — in which, it must be remembered, the entire 500-year Protestant movement is a minority — plus any disinterested third parties, will generally agree to all of those propositions.)

    In addition to these, there was one point in post #135 to which you did reply. In #135 I asserted that none of the following could be found unambiguously spelled-out in Scripture:

    (a.) Your “Doctrine of the Essentials”;
    (b.) A Guarantee That Scripture Actually Contains All The Doctrines A Christian Needs To Know; and,
    (c.) The Canon of Scripture, or any rule by which the Canon of Scripture could be reliably derived.

    You answered as follows:

    “Some doctrines that are essential to know are clearly stated in Scripture. I have been focusing on salvation that is found only in faith in Christ alone. There are so many passages that support. The same is true of His deity. All doctrines that are derived from Scripture are essential. The canon of Scripture is derived from the Scripture itself because God is the author of Scripture. Just because some doctrines may not be as clear to some as others does not mean they are not essential.”

    Now let’s look at that answer piece-by-piece, shall we?

    “Some doctrines that are essential to know are clearly stated in Scripture.” That statement is part of my argument. It thus gets you nowhere in refuting my argument; there wasn’t any real reason to include it. Next,

    “I have been focusing on salvation that is found only in faith in Christ alone.” Yes, you have. In addition to that one topic, there are other critical doctrines which Jesus intended us to know in order to live the Christian life not merely in a minimal way, but to the fullest: He came to give us not merely minimal life, but “abundant life”; and He intended that we should know the truth, and that the truth would set us free. He even intended that we would “be one” as He and His Father are one. (Does Jesus disagree with His father about whether an infant baptism is valid? About whether salvation is by faith alone?)

    Again, you said: “I have been focusing on salvation that is found only in faith in Christ alone.” Yes, you have…but it doesn’t matter which particular facet you have been focusing on. That particular facet is one of the facets which is better-documented in Scripture than others…but even it is not sufficiently well-documented to prevent well-meaning persons from claiming the Bible as their authority while taking differing interpretations of it! Sure, they agree to the formula as stated, more or less, but when you ask them to break it down they mean different things by it.

    The question is whether Scripture is sufficient in the following way: That it unambiguously spells out ALL the necessary doctrines which Christ intended His Church to teach, and spells them out so CLEARLY that there’s not only no disagreement among well-intended, well-educated persons about precisely what the Scriptures are teaching us, but also no need to go back and ask follow-up questions.

    Even if I were to grant you that a particular item; e.g., the divinity of Christ, is spelled-out very clearly (and that one is almost, but not quite sufficiently clear to qualify as unambiguous and requiring no follow-up questions, as the Jehovah Witnesses and the Arian controversy demonstrate), this would get you no closer to a confidence that ALL the necessary items are spelled out sufficiently clearly. And in fact, they are not. (If they were, Protestants would all be Lutheran, and there’d be exactly one branch of Lutheranism.)

    Next, you say, “The canon of Scripture is derived from the Scripture itself because God is the author of Scripture.”

    Now that statement, I’m afraid, simply does not stand up to any kind of examination, as written. It is like a man saying “This particular collection of cookbooks must, somewhere in it, contain a list of all cookbooks by Martha Stewart,” and his friend asks him, “How do you know such a list is in there?” and he answers, “Because Martha Stewart authored each of the cookbooks therein.” Do you see how that doesn’t follow?

    The reality is that one cannot get:

    (a.) A definition of what qualifies a book as “canonical”;
    (b.) A definition of what precisely is meant by the word “inerrant” or “inspired”;
    (c.) A table-of-contents specifying a collection of books meeting the above criteria;
    (d.) A body of men whom you can trust to gather together and preserve those books and hand on that “canon” to the world;

    …unless you have a body of men…

    1. …whom you can identify objectively using only the power of natural reason to distinguish who is, and isn’t, in the group; and,

    2. …to whom Jesus, as a group, gave authority to make such proclamations in His name with a guarantee of divinely-protected accuracy, such that what they pronounce on the subject can be relied upon by the Christian faithful.

    There isn’t any other way to get that book. Which is why the Bible is a “Catholic book.” The New Testament is, in a sense, the “memoirs of the Apostles”; the “family scrapbook” of the early Catholics. The Protestant experiment is an experiment in one group of a family breaking off from the rest of the family and trying to prove that the head-of-house in that family isn’t really part of the family at all (or, at least, is doing things wrong) by using a somewhat-redacted copy of the family scrapbook which was, ironically, collected and curated and given to them on the authority of…the head-of-house of the family!

    ***NOTE***

    I started writing this reply on Monday; unfortunately emergencies at work intervened and I’ve been unable to come back to the conversation since then.

    My apologies for that.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to get re-engaged sometime in the next few days. In the meantime, I defer to the very capable David (Anders) and JJ (John Thayer Jensen) to cover my end of the conversation.

  169. Pat,

    I have a question for you.

    Can a fallible mind interpret the infallible word of God?

  170. Snoopie,
    Yes.

  171. Pat,

    Jesus warned the Scribes and the Pharisees in (John 5:39)

    “You study the scriptures diligently because you believe that in them you have eternal life…..”

    Here Jesus is talking about salvation are Jesus words in John 5:39 “essential” or “non-essential”?

    When Jesus was asked what a person must do to enter eternal life Jesus replied

    Matt 19:17
    “… If you want to enter life, keep the commandments”

    Are Jesus words here “essential” or “not essential”?

    Jesus follows up His statement by saying that with God EVERYTHING is possible. But you say that it’s not necessary to obey Gods commands “perfectly”. Again when Jesus says with God everything is possible are Jesus words “essential” or “not essential?”

    Also in Matthew 5:1-11 Jesus list 9 things that His true followers must do and then Jesus says that anyone who does not do these things is

    “…. no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”

    Are Jesus words here “essential” or “not essential”?

    In Matt 5:20 Jesus says

    Matt 5:20
    “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will CERTAINLY NOT enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    When Jesus says you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven He is speaking about salvation, are His words “essential” or “not essential”?

    Jesus sums up all of His teaching in Matthew 5 by saying

    Matt 5:48
    “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”

    When Jesus says “be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” He finishing His teaching on what is required for salvation. Are Jesus words here “essential” or “not essential”?

    As a fallible sinner, how do you determine when Jesus infallible, perfect words are “essential” or “not essential”? How/why do you decide whenJesus words in scripture are “essential” and “not essential”?

    This is the fundamental question that David has been asking you. You insist that all men are fallible but then in the same breath you say that you KNOW which of Jesus teachings are “essential” and which of Jesus teachings are “not essential” Again, how does a fallible sinful human mind determine when the words of a perfect, infallible God are “essential” and “not essential”?

    To be quite honest your answers lead me to believe that you haven’t actually given this any serious thought. I mean this in the most charitable way. Your responses in here come across as someone who is struggling to defend a doctrine that you haven’t really given a lot of thought to. I say this because your answers are not replies to the actual question they are just circular arguments that lead you back to where you started.

    Do you know where the Bible lists all of the writings that belong in the Bible? In other words where in the Bible do we go to see the list of all of the writings that are scriptural and belong in the Bible? Are the books you call the Aprocrypha listed there?

    The Septuagint (Jesus Bible) and the original 1611 King James Bible and the original Gutenburg Bible and the original Geneva Bible all contained the 7 books that you call the “Apocrypha” but these books are not in your Bible, why not?

    Why were those books in the original KJV and the original Geneva Bible and the original Gutenburg Bible and more importantly why were they removed? Does the Bible say to remove them? If not then who removed them and why and more importantly why do you accept someone removing 7 books from the inerrant word of God? If the Bible truly is INERRANT then WHO has the authority to add or remove books from the Bible?

    If the Bible does not say to remove those books that means that Protestants did not go by “scripture alone” when they decided to removed them. Doesn’t that bother you at all? If they did not go by scripture alone what did they go by? If the Bible doesn’t say to remove those books why did they remove them?

    Doesn’t it bother you that the Catholic Bible of today is identical to the ORIGINAL King James Bible and the ORIGINAL Gutenburg Bible and the ORIGINAL Geneva Bible? Doesn’t it bother you that your Protestant Bible is missing 7 books that were in Jesus Bible, the original King James Bible, the original Geneva Bible and the original Gutenburg Bible? Doesn’t it bother you that Protestants go by “scripture alone” AFTER they removed 7 books from scripture? Why didn’t they go by scripture alone BEFORE they removed those books? Does that seem a little odd to you? How can Protestants testify to “scripture alone” after removing 7 books from scripture?

    Scripture also nowhere testifies to a “New Testament” being added to scripture. In other words NO WHERE in the Bible does the Bible say to add ANYTHING to the Bible let alone a “New Testament” so why was the New Testament added to scripture? If you don’t already know I will tell you. A council of Catholic Bishops made the decision to add the books of the New Testament to the Bible over 400 years AFTER the last Apostle died. Prior to that council the New Testament was not in the Bible.

    So going by “scripture alone” even the New Testament is not scriptural. This is a very significant fact that many Protestants either have never taken the time to consider or simply choose to ignore.

    NO WHERE does the Bible testify that ANY of the writings contained in the “New Testament” are “scripture” or should be put in the Bible. You know this now because of the council of Catholic Bishops that put them in the Bible but prior to that they were not in the Bible.

    Think about this. A council of Catholic Bishops added the New Testament writings to the Bible over 400 years after the last Apostle died and then Protestants turn around and try to use those same writings (that the Catholic church put in the Bible)….are you ready for this? ……… to prove that the Catholic church is not “biblical” Chew on that one for a moment. Does that make any logical sense at all? It would be logical to reject those writings (since no where does the Bible mention those writings) but to accept them as “biblical” and then turn around and use them say that the church that told you they are biblical is not biblical is quite a feat of logic wouldn’t you agree.

    Without even realizing it, when you accept the writings found in the New Testament as scripture you are violating the principle of “scripture alone” To someone looking from the outside it makes Protestants appear delusional. It’s like holding an egg and insisting that Chickens don’t exist and then as soon as your egg hatches you suddenly announce that you have discoverd a new species called the chicken.

    Saying that you go by scripture alone AFTER removing 7 books from the scriptures and AFTER accepting the New Testament canon makes no sense at all. It reminds me of a well known politician who was “for the war before he was against it.”

    If scripture does not say to ADD a “New Testament” to scripture and does not say to REMOVE 7 books from the Bible why do you accept BOTH of these things and then say you go by “scripture alone?”

    The above questions also lead to several other questions such as, when those books WERE in the original King James Bible and the original Geneva Bible and the orignal Gutenburg Bible was that a mistake? If God is ALL KNOWING and ALL PERFECT and can NEVER make a mistake how did 7 books end up in the infallible word of God and why did God need fallible men to then remove those books? Does God need fallible men to fix things for Him?

    The well known Protestant scholar R.C. Sproul says that the Bible is a

    “fallible list of infallible books”

    Do you agree? If so then that means that God did not determine what goes in the Bible fallible men did. If fallible men determined what goes in Gods Bible then the Bible cannot be infallible. Again, the “fallible list of infallible books” theory is also circular, self defeating logic. A book made up of a fallible list cannot be infallible. Also if the list is fallible then that means there could be books (such as the Apocrypha) that are supposed to be in the Bible that are not. How do you reconcile this obvious contradiction?

    As a scripture alone Protestant you have accepted both the adding and the taking away of things from the scriptures not because scripture said to do so but because fallible sinful men said to do so. As a scripture alone Christian how do you reconcile things being added to and taken away from scripture when the scripture do not say to do so? Whose authority is above the word of God so that they can add and remove things from the word of God?

    Quite honestly, your own first principle (scripture alone) undermines itself before it even leaves the starting line. You never even get out of the gate. Scripture alone is circular and self defeating becuase scripture doesn’t tell you what belongs in it. IF you reject the NT and take back the Apochrypha then you can TRULY say that you go by “scripture alone”. Otherwise you are just accepting the testimony of fallible men OVER “scripture alone” None of your explanations come anywhere close to addressing this fundamental problem. Your questions and answers testify to the fact that you clearly haven’t given this very much thought and I mean that sincerely, not as a slight.

    Have you ever honestly taken the time to ask yourself why you are so invested in defending “scripture alone” when the Bible you are using had 7 books removed from it even though the Bible didn’t say to remove those 7 books? Forget all of the opposing views and all of the dualing verses and theological debates (they really profit nothing) , have you ever sincerely asked yourself WHY you accept a Bible that Catholics added books to and Protestants removed books from? Why?

    Finally, no where in the Bible will you find any mention at all of the principle of “essential” and “not essential” teachings of Jesus Christ. So, if I adhere to your principle of “scripture alone” I must necessarily reject your principle of “essential” and “not essential” teachings found in the Bible.

    In Christ

    r/Snooop1e

  172. Snoopie,
    Lets cut to the chase. When you read the Bible do you understand most of the time what you are reading? Do you think you have a good understanding of the 10 commandments?

  173. Pat

    Can a fallible mind infallibly interpret the infallible word of God?

    In Christ

  174. Pat,

    Please answer the question,

    Can a fallible mind infallibly interpret the word of God? Yes or no?

  175. Pat,

    While I am waiting for you to answer the question above I’ll give you a hint of what this is leading to. You ask if when I read the “Bible” do I generally understand it? Well first I have to ask which “Bible” you are referring to. Are you referring to the Bible that Protestants removed 7 books from or the Bible that Catholic Bishops added the New Testament to?

    If you are referring to the Bible that Protestants removed 7 books from then my second question is which version?

    If you say the King James Version then the next question is, the ORIGINAL or the modern translation that is missing 7 books?

    If/when you answer the above questions the next question “cuts to the chase” which is this, scripture ONLY testifies that the WRITING of scripture was inspired. NO WHERE does scrpture make the claim that any later TRANSLATION or that a specific translation was inspired.

    This is where your “scripture alone” doctrine falls down and cannot be substantiated by scripture alone. For when we endeavor to translate the original Greek and Hebrew texts it is based on INTERPRETATION of what fallible men think the original texts meant to convey.

    Any sincere Christian with even a minimal understanding of the history of Christianity knows that there was much disagreement about which text were truly inspired and which were not because NOT ONE of the original texts claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    So an authority OUTSIDE of scripture told the Bible which writings belong in it.

    Going by scripture alone you can’t tell me which version or translation contains an infallible translation that is PERFECTLY translated and inerrant. Scripture makes no claim at all as to what belongs in the Bible and gives no assurance that any translation is inspired.

    Please tell me which traslation of the Bible you believe is perfect and without error (infallible) and who you believe made this infallible translation and where scripture alone testifies to this?

    You and I both know that you cannot. Scripture does not tell you. If scripture listed which writings belong in the Bible and if scripture told us which translation ( there are MANY differnent translations with completely differnt words and meanings which leads to disagreement and division) then you would be one step closer to “scripture alone” being true but you would still be left with a problem, WHOSE interpretation is perfect and without error.

    In order to know all three of these things (which scripture does not tell you)

    1. Which writings are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit
    2. Which translations into your language are perfect and infallible
    3. Which interpretation is perfect and infallible

    You need assurance from God Himself. In this regard if you had biblical and historic proof that Jesus gave YOU the keys to the kingdom of heaven and earth and Jesus gave YOU His authority and power to bind and loose (determine these things authoritatvely absent any indication in scrripture) on earth AND in heaven AND Jesus power and authority to forgive and not forgive peoples sins then you could have assurance that things you determine that are not testified to in scripture are true and without error.

    In this regard you begin your argument AFTER (and ignoring all of these truths/facts) based on zero biblical evidence which makes one more guy on a list of over 35,000 others who cannot even tell me which version of the Bible Alone is perfect and without error.

    Your entire house is built on the foundation of the “Bible Alone” but using the Bible Alone you cannot even tell me WHICH Bible was translated infallibly. In this regard your house is built on sand.

    In Christ,

    HE IS RISEN!!!

  176. Pat,

    A lot of people are making the same points to you. But I’ve yet to be certain that you have entirely “gotten” the points they’re making: I mean, “gotten” them well enough that, if asked, you could re-iterate those points back to them in their own words and have them say, “Yes. That’s what we’re saying.”

    So, it may be that the conversation should pause long enough to ensure mutual comprehension, and then proceed.

    Ιn particular the issue of Scripture and its role in the Church (in EVERY era) needs to be clearly understood before anything else happens.

    Will you please agree, specifically, to the following eighteen items?

    On a point-by-point basis, you need to either affirm or deny that….

    1. The Jews didn’t have a fixed canon in Christ’s time;

    2. Some Jews regarded only the 5 books of Moses as authoritative;

    3. Other Jews regarded something similar to, though not always identical to, the Protestant OT canon to be authoritative;

    4. Still other Jews regarded something similar to, though not always identical to, the Catholic OT canon to be authoritative;

    5. The “OT canon” question cannot thus be settled by appeals to pre-Christian Jewish authorities settling the issue, since they hadn’t;

    6. By the time Jewish sages formed a consensus which included (for example) Esther but excluded (for example) 1 & 2 Maccabees, Christ had already come; Christ had already died; Christ had already risen; Christ had already ascended; the Holy Spirit had already come at Pentecost; the Proto-Council of Jerusalem had already exerted authority over the Christian faithful (Acts 15); the Apostles had already taught their message “by word of mouth, or by letter” as being “what it really is, the Word of God”; and all the original Twelve apostles had died;

    7. There is therefore no just cause for a Christian to appeal to anti-Christian Jewish sages of the early 2nd century (over and against the authority of the early Christian bishops!) to get an authoritative OT canon;

    8. When the Jewish sages started excluding the Deuterocanonical books (e.g., Wisdom), it was partly to undermine Christian apologists (since Wisdom contains a detailed prophecy of Christ’s suffering which was being used by Christian apologists to persuade many Jews that Jesus was the Messiah);

    9. The New Testament books used by Protestants today, when quoting the Old Testament, mostly quote the Septuagint word-for-word…and either quotes or alludes to various OT books which are in the Catholic OT, but excluded from the Protestant;

    10. Before 370 A.D. we have no record of any Christian authority using the same 27 NT books which Catholics and Protestants agree upon today, but after 370 A.D. everyone agreed for 1,100 years until Luther tried unsuccessfully to exclude James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation in the 1500’s;

    11. Before 370 A.D. we have varying OT canons from Christian witnesses but they invariably at least one of the books which Catholics regard canonical (Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees) is included, and usually all but one or two are included (and the one or two vary);

    12. After 370 A.D. authorities agreed upon an OT canon of 46 books identical to the Catholic OT canon, and this continued until Luther and Calvin’s day;

    13. After the death of the last of the Twelve (John) there was no way Christians could appeal to the Twelve to get a New Testament canon or an Old Testament canon (neither of which was yet known to the faithful), so, wherever Christians got their canon of Scripture, it wasn’t from the Twelve;

    14. Until the Church had set the canon to show what was and wasn’t “Scripture”, it was impossible to take “Sola Scriptura” as a valid methodology for discerning whether a given doctrine was heretical or orthodox…and in historical fact, the Christian faithful did not do so;

    15. The Christian faithful, instead, found out what was orthodox from “The Church” in the following way: They accepted what was said by their bishop (provided he had Apostolic Succession and could trace his authority and his teachings on the disputed matter back through his predecessor to the Apostles); and when there were disputes between bishops they appealed either to the bishop of Rome, or to a council called-and-conducted with the consent/agreement of the bishop of Rome, to resolve the dispute;

    16. The reason that the Christian faithful accepted the 27-book NT canon and the 46-book (Catholic) OT canon when, after 370, these were finally standardized was because their bishop, and especially the bishop of Rome, had said so;

    17. You cannot get a canon of Scripture from Scripture itself inasmuch as (a.) Scripture never says what the canon should be or gives any standard for determining it; (b.) even if it did, you wouldn’t know whether it was trustworthy because the book including the canon might not, itself, be canonical; and,

    18. Consequently, any Christian claiming to have an infallible knowledge of which books should be in the Bible is ABSOLUTELY forced to admit that he’s relying, for that knowledge, on an infallible authority OTHER THAN the authority of Scripture itself.

    Pat, do you agree to those eighteen items?

    The first seventeen are matters of historical fact, after all. Look ‘em up on Wikipedia or wherever you like.

    And the eighteenth follows inexorably from the first seventeen.

    Pat, if you disagree with any of those eighteen items, please indicate which ones, and why.

  177. Thank you R.C. much better approach.

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