Scripture and Tradition

Sep 4th, 2014 | By | Category: Radio

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How do we know the will of God for the Church? On CTC Radio today, I hope we can generate discussion about Scripture and Tradition.

I welcome your emails at ctc@ewtn.com

There is also live video feed from the Radio Studios at http://www.ewtn.com/radio/radiolive.asp

Here, finally, is a short text I prepared for One Voice, the Diocesan paper for the Diocese of Birmingham.

Which Came First: the Liturgy or the Bible?

Non-Catholic Christians often ask me to defend this or that Catholic belief from the Bible. I am very happy to get this request, and I always make an effort to show that Catholic belief and practice are consistent with Holy Scripture. But often, the request proceeds from a false premise, namely, that the Bible is the only authentic source or bearer of divine revelation. This is a premise that Catholics rightly reject. So, whenever I am asked to defend my faith from Scripture, I also want to challenge the questioner, “Why should I defend my faith from Scripture alone? Shouldn’t I appeal to all the authorities Christ gave us?”

Usually, the non-Catholic responds that only the Scriptures are inspired. Church Tradition (he claims) is of merely human origin. Fortunately, it’s fairly simple to challenge this claim. All one needs to do is ask, “What provision did Christ make for handing on the Christian faith? Did he point us to the Scriptures alone? Or to some other source?” The truth is that Christ never mentioned the completed canon of Christian Scriptures. Instead, he pointed us to sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. I would like to address Christ’s teaching on the Magisterium in another article. Here, I want to focus only on Sacred Tradition, especially a tradition that all non-Catholic Christians accept implicitly: the Tradition of the Church’s liturgy.

We find the oldest account of the Mass in St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians. In this letter, Paul points back to a tradition that predates the Scripture, a tradition He received from the Lord Himself:

The tradition which I received from the Lord, and handed on to you, is that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was being betrayed, took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, given up for you. Do this in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:23)

In this passage, we have the preeminent example of what the Church means by Sacred Tradition: something received orally from Our Lord, handed on through the apostles by His command, and received by the Church as a Sacred Trust to be celebrated “until he comes again.” This is clearly how the apostle Paul understood the liturgy. He wrote, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2)

When Paul addressed the Corinthians, much of the New Testament was still unwritten. And yet, the apostle believed that Church was able to maintain this tradition just as she had received it from the Lord. He also affirmed the principle of Catholicity – that, the Liturgy should be celebrated the same way in every place. (1 Corinthians 11:16) And, he clearly understood the Liturgy as a bearer of divine revelation, an authoritative proclamation of the Lord’s death and resurrection. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Paul’s account agrees with what we read in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Before one jot or tittle of the New Testament had ever been written, Jesus had authorized a tradition (i.e., something to be handed on) which was not only the central act of the Church’s worship, but also the primary means of handing on the faith. When the Scriptures finally were written, it was precisely in the context of the Liturgy that they were meant to be used and understood. Put simply, the Liturgy came first, not the Bible.

The Scriptures are divine, of course, but they cannot be set over against the authority of Christ’s tradition. The Second Vatican Council expressed it this way:

There exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. (Dei Verbum)

If the case for Sacred Tradition is so strong, why do so many non-Catholics claim to defer to Scripture alone? The truth is that most non-Catholics cannot give a reasoned response to this question, and certainly not a Biblical response. Ironically, most of them hold their beliefs about Scripture simply because of their own tradition. They believe what pastors and parents have handed down. So the next time you get asked to defend you faith from Scripture take heart and turn it around. All Christians receive some tradition. The important question is, “Which tradition? Do you receive the traditions from Christ? Or those from the teaching of men?”

Finally, You might find these links helpful:

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

On the Usefulness of Tradition: a Response to Recent Objections

191 comments
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  1. The video of today’s program can be found here.

  2. David,
    Your last paragraph above, concerning the influence of the traditions that all Christians receive, reminded me of the following quote from historian of Christianity Jaroslav Pelikan, from a 2003 interview:

    “[T]he only alternative to tradition is bad tradition.”
    http://www.onbeing.org/program/jaroslav-pelikan-the-need-for-creeds/transcript/6285

    I have been a great fan of your Open Line episodes for the past months, and am exited about the new CtC radio show! May God richly bless your ministry.
    — Nathaniel

  3. David,

    If the case for Sacred Tradition is so strong, why do so many non-Catholics claim to defer to Scripture alone? The truth is that most non-Catholics cannot give a reasoned response to this question, and certainly not a Biblical response. Ironically, most of them hold their beliefs about Scripture simply because of their own tradition. They believe what pastors and parents have handed down. So the next time you get asked to defend you faith from Scripture take heart and turn it around. All Christians receive some tradition. The important question is, “Which tradition? Do you receive the traditions from Christ? Or those from the teaching of men?”

    The simple answer is that the only source of Apostolic tradition is the New Testament.

    Now, if you can show me a teaching of Jesus of apostolic provenance that is not recorded in Scripture, then we can talk. Where do I find the words that Jesus, Paul, Peter, or anyone else said that are not in the canon? Does Rome have an infallible list of all those teachings that never got written down?

    The issue is that the NT views tradition as a fixed body of content—the preaching of the Apostles, not an ever-growing mass of information.

  4. Hi Robert,

    You wrote:

    if you can show me a teaching of Jesus of apostolic provenance that is not recorded in Scripture, then we can talk.

    There are many doctrines of “apostolic provenance” that are not recorded in Scripture and that the Church has always considered authoritative revelation. For instance, how about the claim that the Gospel of Mark is of apostolic origin and should be accepted as inspired Scripture? The Bible nowhere makes this claim, but tradition does.

    We can give other examples, but this makes the point, I think.

    You also make this claim:

    The simple answer is that the only source of Apostolic tradition is the New Testament.

    Is this a revealed doctrine? Has God ever said, “The only source of Apostolic tradition is the New Testament?” If you think the answer to this question is “yes,” (yes, God has revealed that NT is the unique source of apostolic doctrine) then I would appreciate seeing the evidence for this claim. If you think the answer is, “No,” (God has not revealed this) then I would have to conclude that the claim is of merely human opinion and not of divine revelation. What do you think.

    You also ask, “Does Rome have an infallible list of all those teachings that never got written down?”

    The answer is “Sort of.” I’m not aware of a list deriving from the extraordinary magisterium (a pope or council) that says, “Here is everything Christ revealed outside of Scripture.” However, the Church does tell us what the sources of tradition are. In particular, the liturgy, the Scriptures, the church’s juridical decisions, worship, devotion, the writings of the fathers, and so forth. The Church also claims to provide an authoritative interpretation of that tradition. And, for good measure, there is a list of those decisions. You’ll find it in Denzinger’s Enchiridion.

    Finally, you write that the NT treats tradition as a static body of doctrine, and not something subject to development or evolving interpretation. I don’t really think that’s true, as Acts 15 makes clear. The deposit of faith is one thing – static, if you will – but its interpretation and development is subject to evolution, as we see in the pages of the New Testament itself and especially in the councils of the first 4 centuries.

    Thanks for commenting.

    -David

  5. David,

    You said,

    For instance, how about the claim that the Gospel of Mark is of apostolic origin and should be accepted as inspired Scripture? The Bible nowhere makes this claim, but tradition does.

    I’m not even sure how to respond to such a statement. You think that the Gospel of Mark does not present itself with Apostolic authority? Even if its claims are bogus (which I do not believe they are) it most certainly provides an authoritative testimony that derives from Apostolic teaching. Go pick up “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” to get an idea of how some sectors of the academic world regard Mark’s Gospel. The tradition attests to something that is inherent to the text itself, something that the best of your theologians (Cardinal Avery Dulles and Yves Congar) already acknowledge.

    Regarding your other question to Robert, you are side-stepping the issue in an attempt to put the Protestant on the defensive, but your position does not permit you to do that. You are claiming there is extra-canonical apostolic testimony. Robert is simply asking you to point to a doctrine that was taught by Jesus not recorded in Scripture. If we agree that God has revealed himself in Scripture, then the Protestant is simply asking why you believe that there is more Apostolic testimony than the Apostolic testimony we agree exists.

    Finally, nothing that Robert said necessitates a static body of doctrine that is not subject to development. Robert believes the “development” of Nicea was a good and clarifying thing as does every other Confessional Protestant body. The question is whether or not the Church has the authority to define traditions that are not recorded anywhere in the tradition. We don’t object to homoousious but we do object to the Bodily Assumption of Mary. You claim both are Apostolic tradition. We affirm the former but not the latter because some developments come out of the Apostolic traditions while others are a perversion or distortion of it. The way to test such a development is to allow the Apostolic testimony to judge it–this is Sola Scriptura.Thus, you do not accurately represent Robert or the Protestant tradition.

    It’s also problematic to use an Apostolic decision to determine whether or not the post-Apostolic church is able to make such determinations and deem them “Apostolic” in any meaningful sense. No one denies the Apostles had the authority to make Apostolic pronouncements, particularly in light of the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The question is whether post-Apostolic churches retain that same level of Apostolic authority; something that Acts 15 does not address.

  6. Hi Brandon,

    You wrote:

    I’m not even sure how to respond to such a statement. You think that the Gospel of Mark does not present itself with Apostolic authority? Even if its claims are bogus (which I do not believe they are) it most certainly provides an authoritative testimony that derives from Apostolic teaching.

    Whether or not Mark provides an authoritative testimony that derives from apostolic teaching is precisely the question I mean to raise by my objection. Even more so, whether or not Mark is an inspired text intended by God to be collected into an authoritative canon. “Scripture,” as such, does not address this question. Even the Gospel of Mark itself makes no such claim about its own authority. At most, “Mark” presents itself as an account of “good news about Jesus the Messiah.” (Mark 1:1). It doesn’t claim to be of apostolic origin, let alone to be inspired, and, even less, to belong to a “canon.” All of these claims about Mark derive not from Mark itself, nor from the New Testament, but from the traditions of the early Church.

    You are claiming there is extra-canonical apostolic testimony.

    That is correct.

    Robert is simply asking you to point to a doctrine that was taught by Jesus not recorded in Scripture.”

    Yes. I gave one example: “St. Mark’s Gospel is inspired Scripture and to be included in the Church’s canon. Also, Mark wrote it, or at least stands behind it as the source of its apostolic material.” This is a revealed doctrine not found in Scripture.

    But, for sake of argument, I’ll give another couple of examples that I know will be more contentious.

    “The epiclesis belongs to the Church’s liturgy by apostolic authority.”

    Or, how about this: “Christ does not intend for the exception clause in Matt. 19 to permit divorce between two baptized people in the case of adultery.”

    Both of these statements are also part of the church’s tradition, but not found in Scripture. We know them from liturgy, juridical tradition, and the writings of the Fathers.

    Here’s a tradition that I learned – believe it or not – from Doug Wilson: “Women should receive communion.” Nowhere mentioned in Scripture, no direct evidence from Scripture that women ever received communion. Better believe its in Tradition, however.

    Or, how about this one: “Christians are prohibited from procuring abortion.” Find that in the Didache as well as the Church’s unbroken teaching and juridical tradition.

    Should we get started on contraception?

    Or, “the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church” (ordinatio sacerdotalis)

    How about – “Civilly divorced Christians should not receive communion.” The Dominicans provide documentation for that here.

    How about the tradition that Peter finished his course at Rome, and established his bishopric there?

    We could go on and on. It’s also worth mentioning, however, that traditions aren’t simply discrete facts not recorded in Scripture, but also interpretations of Scripture. Take, for example, the patristic consensus that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, or that baptism really regenerates, or that the Eucharist is really the body of Christ, or that Christ established the priesthood, etc. etc.

    . If we agree that God has revealed himself in Scripture, then the Protestant is simply asking why you believe that there is more Apostolic testimony than the Apostolic testimony we agree exists

    Because the apostles say so. (2 Thess. 2:15)

    Finally, nothing that Robert said necessitates a static body of doctrine that is not subject to development. Robert believes the “development” of Nicea was a good and clarifying thing as does every other Confessional Protestant body. The question is whether or not the Church has the authority to define traditions that are not recorded anywhere in the tradition.

    I’m not sure that’s what Robert is saying. However, I’m not sure what you mean by “traditions not recorded in the tradition.” As far as I know, the Catholic Church does not claim authority for traditions that are not part of the tradition. Instead, the Catholic Church says we should hold to everything handed down to us by Christ and the apostles which Christ intended as part of the deposit of faith. Catholics also hold that doctrines must be authorized by divine authority to be considered part of the deposit of faith. So, for example, the claim “Scripture is our sole rule of faith” is nowhere authorized by divine authority. This claim is not taught in Scripture or in tradition or by the Magisterium of the Church. And so, the claim has no divine authority. It is a human tradition.

    We don’t object to homoousious

    I’m glad. But do you think the phrase homoousious has divine authority as part of the deposit of faith? Does the Church have the right to exclude from her fellowship all who deny homoousious? And if so, why? Is it merely because homoouisious agrees with your interpretation of Scripture? Or, does the Church have the right to authorize symbols (creeds) that possess divine authority by virtue of the authority of those who promulgate them? If it is the former, then no creed has divine authority as a creed but only as an interpretation of Scripture than may or may not be correct. If it is the latter, then we are moving in the direction of a divinely authorized Magisterium.

    we do object to the Bodily Assumption of Mary. You claim both are Apostolic tradition. We affirm the former but not the latter because some developments come out of the Apostolic traditions while others are a perversion or distortion of it.

    How do you differentiate a development from a distortion? And how, by the way, do you know that a doctrine was not passed down orally, by liturgy, canon, decree or devotion rather than in Scripture?

    The way to test such a development is to allow the Apostolic testimony to judge it–this is Sola Scriptura.

    No, this assumes that Sola Scriptura provides our only access to apostolic testimony. But, since this is what is at issue between us, it is also begging the question.

    Thus, you do not accurately represent Robert or the Protestant tradition.

    I was not aware that I was making an argument about Protestant tradition, but rather an argument about the teaching of Scripture.
    However, I have addressed Protestant traditioin elsewhere.

    It’s also problematic to use an Apostolic decision to determine whether or not the post-Apostolic church is able to make such determinations and deem them “Apostolic” in any meaningful sense. No one denies the Apostles had the authority to make Apostolic pronouncements, particularly in light of the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The question is whether post-Apostolic churches retain that same level of Apostolic authority; something that Acts 15 does not address.

    Acts 15 establishes that the deposit of faith is not “self interpreting.” It was not perspicuous, even during the lives of the apostles, but required authoritative interpretation. Acts 15 also establishes that the Church-as-instituted-by-Christ had a mechanism for such authoritative interpretation. It was a mechanism consistent with Chris’s commission in Matt. 16, Matt 18, and John 20: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”

    Acts 15 does not address the question of succession, but neither does it give us any reason to believe that the Church subsequently took on a constitution nowhere mentioned in Scripture or tradition. That is to say, neither Acts 15 nor any other text of Scripture ever points us to “sola scriptura” as the Church’s rule of faith.

    The question is whether post-Apostolic churches retain that same level of Apostolic authority.

    Actually, that’s not the question I raised in this article. Instead, I asked, “Which Came First: the Liturgy or the Bible?”

    My point is that the Liturgy – which clearly derives from Christ – is the ideal example of what the Church calls tradition. The texts of the New Testament come later and, interestingly, the Biblical Canon as a canon comes much, much later. The authority Paul ascribes to the liturgy is that he “received it from the Lord.” Even without a single word of Scripture, the Church can “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” in a way that possesses divine authority. If anyone wants to be contentious, remember “We have no other practice, nor do the Churches of God.” (1 Cor. 11:16)

    Thanks,

    David

  7. David,

    It doesn’t claim to be of apostolic origin, let alone to be inspired, and, even less, to belong to a “canon.” All of these claims about Mark derive not from Mark itself, nor from the New Testament, but from the traditions of the early Church.

    That is a very simplistic view of the matter. I could say the same thing about every book of the Old Testament and yet the church somehow knew that it was to receive the OT as Scripture and that it was part of a canon. The very fact that the church recognized Mark and not other books indicates that it knew there should be a canon. The canon predates the church. As soon as the book is written is canonical; its recognition as such may come in some sectors later, but certainly not by its first readers who recognized it as God’s Word immediately. You seem to be confusing a whole bunch of issues here.

    The message of Christ and the Apostles gave birth to the church. The message is before the church. The tradition is before the church. The question is what is the tradition. You are advocating, essentially, the NT plus more. That’s fine if you want to, but then it is incumbent upon you to produce a list of teachings from Paul, Jesus, Peter, etc. that never got written down. The whole “well, we find it in the liturgy, fathers, etc.” isn’t an answer because to my knowledge we just don’t have a father saying something like: “Jesus delivered the order of service of the Tridentine Mass five minutes after the Sermon on the Mount, and this is the Aramaic form he used that later was translated into Greek and on into Latin.

    Yes. I gave one example: “St. Mark’s Gospel is inspired Scripture and to be included in the Church’s canon. Also, Mark wrote it, or at least stands behind it as the source of its apostolic material.” This is a revealed doctrine not found in Scripture.

    But none of that is a revealed doctrine, at least not in the same way that the crucifixion of Christ is a revealed doctrine. You are positing an ever-growing lump of tradition that consists of more than what Jesus and the Apostles spoke or wrote. You have to prove that such a body of doctrine exists and that it conveys information different than what is in the canon and that it comes from Jesus or the Apostles.

    The liturgy simply does not predate the canon. The canon consists of the Apostolic preaching, which was delivered long before any liturgy was developed.

    When I am speaking of tradition, I am speaking of what Jesus and the Apostles actually said and taught. If these men are the founder of one’s religion and they, by their own claim, bear unique authority, you simply don’t need anyone telling you that it might be a good idea to collect their teachings into a canon. As soon as you hear their teaching, you receive it as canon.

    That is to say, neither Acts 15 nor any other text of Scripture ever points us to “sola scriptura” as the Church’s rule of faith.

    If Scripture is sufficient to equip men for every good work—including what they are to believe—you have the church’s rule of faith being only Scripture. Were something more needed, it wouldn’t be a sufficient rule.

    Acts 15 establishes that the deposit of faith is not “self interpreting.” It was not perspicuous, even during the lives of the apostles, but required authoritative interpretation. Acts 15 also establishes that the Church-as-instituted-by-Christ had a mechanism for such authoritative interpretation. It was a mechanism consistent with Chris’s commission in Matt. 16, Matt 18, and John 20: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”

    There is severe discontinuity between Acts 15 and the rest of church history that even Rome admits because you all will not claim (or at least the RCs I have talked to will not claim) that the modern Magisterium is inspired in the same way that the Apostles were. Furthermore, Acts 15 occurs in a context when the deposit of faith is still being delivered. Prior to that council, you don’t have it delivered that the Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised, or at least you don’t have it universally delivered (assuming Paul had received the revelation at the time). You can’t take Acts 15 and then say “look, not self-interpreting” when the total deposit had not been delivered yet and, especially when the ones doing the interpreting are the Apostles. The fact that it is Apostles doing the interpreting validates the Protestant claim because inherent to the Protestant claim is that the Apostles interpret the other Apostles.

    It seems to me that if you want to use Acts 15 to prove the Magisterium’s authority, you have to claim identical inspiration and authority for the Magisterium as the Apostles, and you also have have a state of perpetual, ongoing revelation (as was the case when the Jerusalem Council was held). But Rome won’t make those claims, at least formally.

    Thanks.

  8. Neverthelesse, we are also very sensible of the great and imminent dangers into which this common cause of religion is now brought by the growing and spreading of most dangerous errours in England, to the obstructing and hindering of the begun reformation, as namely, (beside many others,) Socinianisme, Arminianisme, Anabaptisme, Antinomianisme, Brownisme, Erastianisme, Independency, and that which is called (by abuse of the word) Liberty of Conscience, being indeed liberty of errour, scandall, schisme, heresie, dishnouring God, opposing the truth, hindering reformation, and seducing others; whereunto we adde those Nullifidians, or men of no religion, commonly called Seekers: Yea, we cannot but look upon the dangers of the true Reformed religion in this island as greater now then before, not onely for that those very principles and fundamentals of faith which, under Prelacy, yea, under Popery itself, were generally received as uncontroverted, are now, by the scepticisme of many sectaries of this time, either oppugned or called in question; but also, because in stead of carrying on the reformation towards perfection, that which hath been already built is in part cast down, and in danger to be wholly overthrown through the endeavours of sectaries to comply with many of the Prelaticall and Malignant, and even the Popish party; and their joyning hand in hand, and casting in their lots, and interweaving their interests together in way of combination against the Covenant and Presbyteriall government; yea, the unclean spirit which was cast out, is about to enter againe, with seven other spirits worse then himselfe, and so the latter end like to be worse then the beginning. (Sess. 15, August 20, 1647, ante meridiem.—A Declaration and Brotherly Exhortation of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to their Brethren of England, emphasis mine.)

  9. Hi Robert,

    You wrote:

    That is a very simplistic view of the matter. I could say the same thing about every book of the Old Testament

    Indeed, you are absolutely correct. There is no book of the Bible that attests its own canonicity. Which is why there is no account of canon – whether the Saducees canon, or Qumran’s, or the Pharisaical canon, the Alexandrian Jewish Canon, the Coptic, Amenian, Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, or Reformed canon – that does not appeal to Tradition.

    and yet the church somehow knew that it was to receive the OT as Scripture and that it was part of a canon.

    Again, no objection here. “Somehow” the Church knew. In On Christian Doctrine, bk.2, ch. 8, St. Augustine includes the deuterocanonical texts (Judith, Tobi, Esther, Ecclesiasticus, etc. etc.) in that canonical list because “they have attained recognition as being authoritative.” He makes this claim with reference to Catholic tradition.

    The very fact that the church recognized Mark and not other books indicates that it knew there should be a canon.

    Well, that’s an interesting claim. As you know, the earliest use of the canonical texts was liturgical. These were texts deemed useful to “teaching, correction, training in righteousness,” etc. Does liturgical use of a book automatically indicate awareness of a book as inspired by God and belonging to a special collection of such texts? J.N.D. Kelly says that Ireneaus was the first Christian writer to reference a “new testament,” parallel to the old. The idea of a New Testament canon of Scriptures is clear in Tertullian, but the actual list -as you know – was contested for some time.

    The canon predates the church. As soon as the book is written is canonical;

    I think we’re equivocating here about the meaning of “canon.” You seem to be equating “canon” with “inspired.” I agree that the inspired books were inspired in the moment they were written, and thus authoritative. But I’m using the word “canon” to indicate the authoritative list of books which the Church recognizes as inspired.

    its recognition as such may come in some sectors later, but certainly not by its first readers who recognized it as God’s Word immediately.

    Do you have evidence that the first readers of Revelation “recognized it as God’s word immediately?” How about the first readers of Hebrews? Doesn’t Paul suggest that his letters were contested by many of his first readers? This seems to be a claim without evidence.

    You seem to be confusing a whole bunch of issues here.

    Please state the issues I am confusing, and show that I am confusing them.

    The message of Christ and the Apostles gave birth to the church.

    This is a very theologically loaded claim, and one that demands more explication. Scripture shows that Christ founded the Church by an executive act, “I found my Church.” (Matt. 16:18), that the Church proceeds from Christ as body from head, spouse to groom. (Ephesias 1 & 5), and that one is joined in that fellowship through baptism. (Galatians 3:27, Romans 6) Paul adds that the Church comes together by liturgical act (1 Corinthians 11), not simply by transmitting or affirming a message, though that is certainly part of the liturgical action. Mere affirmation does not suffice to make one part of the Church, as 1 John 2:19 makes clear.

    The message is before the church.

    Well, yes. Jesus taught the kingdom of God before he formally established the Church by his executive act, death, and resurrection.

    The tradition is before the church.

    Hmm. Isn’t the kerygma the message of Christ’s death and resurrection? Isn’t it by these acts that Christ establishes the Church?

    The question is what is the tradition. You are advocating, essentially, the NT plus more.

    The tradition is everything that Christ commanded, guaranteed by divine authority. (Matt. 28) Christ never said a word confining that tradition to the written word. In fact, he explicitly taught a mode of transmission (the liturgy) that was unwritten. “Do this in memory of me.”

    That’s fine if you want to, but then it is incumbent upon you to produce a list of teachings from Paul, Jesus, Peter, etc. that never got written down.

    I offered you several specifics. The epiclesis, for example, is of apostolic authority. I know this by tradition, not Scripture. So is the tradition of mixing water with the eucharistic wine. Tertullian also says the sign of the cross is of apostolic origin. I listed several others above.

    The whole “well, we find it in the liturgy, fathers, etc.” isn’t an answer because to my knowledge we just don’t have a father saying something like: “Jesus delivered the order of service of the Tridentine Mass five minutes after the Sermon on the Mount, and this is the Aramaic form he used that later was translated into Greek and on into Latin.

    This objection attacks a straw man. I never said that the Tridentine Mass was delivered by Christ five minutes after the sermon on the mount.

    Yes. I gave one example: “St. Mark’s Gospel is inspired Scripture and to be included in the Church’s canon. Also, Mark wrote it, or at least stands behind it as the source of its apostolic material.” This is a revealed doctrine not found in Scripture.

    But none of that is a revealed doctrine, at least not in the same way that the crucifixion of Christ is a revealed doctrine.

    That’s a very important admission, if you really believe this. The Westminster Confession, for example, includes the contents of the canon as part of the deposit of faith. It gives a list and demands acceptance. If you really believe that “Mark is inspired” is not part of the deposit of faith, then I assume that inspiration and authority of no Scriptural book is part of the Church’s faith, in your opinion. In which case, perhaps you are affirming Neo-Orthodoxy or Protestant liberalism?

    However, I doubt this what you mean. In the Catholic tradition, we speak of a “hierarchy of truths.” Some revealed doctrines are more central to our faith than others. The dogma of the trinity is more central than the inspiration of mark, but both are revealed doctrines.

    You are positing an ever-growing lump of tradition that consists of more than what Jesus and the Apostles spoke or wrote.

    No, I am positing a deposit of faith that is contained in Scripture and in traditions not found in Scripture. Then, I am positing that this deposit of faith is subject to interpretation and a development in accord with the teaching of a living Magisterium.

    You have to prove that such a body of doctrine exists and that it conveys information different than what is in the canon and that it comes from Jesus or the Apostles.

    Again – I think there is very little dispute between Catholics and Protestants about whether there are patristic traditions not included in Scripture. (How many times do I need to list examples?) The dispute is rather about the authority of those traditions.

    But Protestants also recognize traditions not taught in Scripture. For example, “These 66 books are inspired and canonical” is a tradition not taught in Scripture. Is this tradition authoritative? Has it been revealed?

    The liturgy simply does not predate the canon.

    Well, when did the liturgy exist? 32 AD? When was the earliest book of the canon written? 1 Thessalonians in 51? Or maybe Galatians in 49?

    The canon consists of the Apostolic preaching, which was delivered long before any liturgy was developed.

    You are equivocating on the meaning of the word “canon.” By “canon” I mean the list of authoritative books.

    When I am speaking of tradition, I am speaking of what Jesus and the Apostles actually said and taught.

    Me too.

    If these men are the founder of one’s religion and they, by their own claim, bear unique authority,

    Absolutely

    you simply don’t need anyone telling you that it might be a good idea to collect their teachings into a canon.As soon as you hear their teaching, you receive it as canon.

    Again, you are equivocating about the meaning of the word “canon.” still, I dispute the premise. I don’t think I would consider 2 Peter or Revelation or even Romans to be inspired by God unless I had learned this from my Protestant parents. For that matter, I don’t think I would have even arrived at the idea of inspiration unless someone told me about it. Faith comes by hearing, after all.

    If Scripture is sufficient to equip men for every good work—including what they are to believe—you have the church’s rule of faith being only Scripture. Were something more needed, it wouldn’t be a sufficient rule.

    Exegeting 2 tim. 3 is a lengthy job for another post. I note, however, that the Scriptures in question are those Timothy knew from Childhood – i.e., the LXX. Do you believe these are sufficient? Further, Paul never says that they are a sufficient rule of faith. He says they are sufficient for training in righteousness, so that the man of God might be ready for “pan ergon agathon” which, throughout the NT, refers to things like acts of charity, giving alms, etc. Not explicating Christian doctrine. That’s a task he assigns to authoritative individuals (Timothy), exhorting them to hold to what they learned from many witnesses (i.e, oral tradition.)

    There is severe discontinuity between Acts 15 and the rest of church history that even Rome admits because you all will not claim (or at least the RCs I have talked to will not claim) that the modern Magisterium is inspired in the same way that the Apostles were.

    The deliberations of acts 15 were not “inspired.” Inspiration attaches to texts. What they wrote and included subsequently in Acts was inspired. You are correct. Inspiration and infallibility are two different gifts.

    Furthermore, Acts 15 occurs in a context when the deposit of faith is still being delivered.

    This contradicts what you said earlier, “The message predates the Church.”

    Prior to that council, you don’t have it delivered that the Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised, or at least you don’t have it universally delivered (assuming Paul had received the revelation at the time).

    I agree for the most part. We had the kerygma – the message about Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, the implications of that fact were not clear to all (as they are not clear now), and required authoritative interpretation. That interpretation belongs to the deposit of faith in an extended sense, further down the “hierarchy of truths.”

    You can’t take Acts 15 and then say “look, not self-interpreting” when the total deposit had not been delivered yet

    This contradicts your earlier point about the message predating the Church. But, if you will, “the kerygma delivered by Paul in 1 Cor. 15 was not self-interpreting.”

    and, especially when the ones doing the interpreting are the Apostles.

    Was everyone in the jerusalem council an apostle?

    The fact that it is Apostles doing the interpreting validates the Protestant claim because inherent to the Protestant claim is that the Apostles interpret the other Apostles.

    You are equivocating about “the Protestant claim.” Protestants claim much more than that apostles interpret apostles.

    It seems to me that if you want to use Acts 15 to prove the Magisterium’s authority, you have to claim identical inspiration and authority for the Magisterium as the Apostles,

    then you haven’t understood the nature of the Magisterium’s claims about itself.

    and you also have have a state of perpetual, ongoing revelation (as was the case when the Jerusalem Council was held). But Rome won’t make those claims, at least formally.

    No, I don’t. All I have to do is claim that the authority to interpret the deposit of faith is logically distinct from the deposit itself, something most Protestants also admit.

    Thanks for writing,

    David

  10. Is there is way to embed this so it does not automatically play when the page is loaded? it’s surprised me a couple of times

  11. Hello Covenanter,

    I’m not sure what the purpose of this comment was. However, it draws out for me the impossibility of sola scriptura. After the demise of “Popery,” Protestantism began the process of splintering and disintegration that has led to the doctrinal relativism so decried by this “brotherly exhortation.”

    Thanks for reading,

    David

  12. Robert,

    The canon predates the Church? On Pentecost 3,000 men entered the Church. Not one word of the N.T. had been penned as of yet.
    When did the Church begin if it was already in existence on Pentecost? Although we count the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as the birth of the Church, surely we can say the Church was born on Calvary when Christ’s side was opened and out poured the blood and water of Baptism and the Eucharist. Or, we could say the Church existed in the house at Nazareth.
    However you say it, the Church predates the canon.

  13. Jim @12,

    Technically, the church was born in Eden, but that is another discussion.

    Technically speaking, the gospel predates the church because the gospel gave birth to the church. That is what I mean when I say the canon predates the church. Where do we find the gospel? In the teaching of the Lord and His Apostles. Where do we find the teaching of the Lord and the Apostles. In the canon of Scripture.

    The challenge remains—show me one word that Jesus or the Apostles spoke that is not recorded in Scripture. That is the tradition that births the church. Where has Rome defined this? Where has Rome told us, for example, the place where John, Peter, or Paul said Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. I want the words that they gave us.

    The Apostolic deposit is a contained body of material. I agree that our understanding of it grows. What I deny is that our understanding is equivalent to the deposit itself. You guys use tradition in all manner of different ways, none of which are consistent with the way the Apostles used it.

    From what it looks like to me:

    Tradition (Roman Catholicism) = Scripture plus anything else the church says is tradition

    Tradition (Protestantism) = what the Apostles actually taught and only what the Apostles actually taught, not our later understanding of it. Our later understanding may be accurate, but it is not equivalent to Apostolic tradition. Apostolic tradition is what the Apostles actually said.

  14. This is a very theologically loaded claim, and one that demands more explication. Scripture shows that Christ founded the Church by an executive act, “I found my Church.” (Matt. 16:18), that the Church proceeds from Christ as body from head, spouse to groom. (Ephesias 1 & 5), and that one is joined in that fellowship through baptism. (Galatians 3:27, Romans 6) Paul adds that the Church comes together by liturgical act (1 Corinthians 11), not simply by transmitting or affirming a message, though that is certainly part of the liturgical action.

    And the meaning of all these things is not transmitted by osmosis but by the authoritative interpretation of such things by the Apostles themselves. Otherwise, Jesus is just another guy who died on the cross in the first century. The message always remains primary. The first act Jesus did in his ministry was to preach the gospel. The church is established by the Apostolic preaching. It remains foundational and unique. The question is, where do we find this apostolic preaching?

    Do you have evidence that the first readers of Revelation “recognized it as God’s word immediately?” How about the first readers of Hebrews? Doesn’t Paul suggest that his letters were contested by many of his first readers? This seems to be a claim without evidence.

    The Apostles all expect their readers to recognize their authority. The fact that some readers did not recognize their authority says nothing about whether they had that authority or not. The books of the NT all speak with authority, make commands, etc. The expectation is that the reader will receive them as authoritative based on the message and its Apostolic provenance. Not one of the original readers who received the text as authoritative needed a non-Apostolic bishop with a claim of infalliblity to recognize and submit to it.

    Please state the issues I am confusing, and show that I am confusing them.

    You are confusing the recognition of canon with the existence of canon. If God desires the church to have a select set of inspired texts (a fact on which we agree), then any inspired text is canonical the minute it is penned. The church does not MAKE a text canonical anymore than it MAKEs a text inspired. The church can only recognize where God has spoken. Mark was canonical long before there was a formal ecclesiastical statement on the matter.

    By confusing recognition of canon with existence of canon, your argument becomes a mixed bag:

    Did the liturgy predate the recognition of canon? If you mean that the liturgy predates a formal declarative list of all 27 NT books, then yes liturgy predates canon.

    If you mean that liturgy predates the idea of canon, then no, the liturgy does not predate canon because the canonical texts are used in the liturgy.

    If you mean that liturgy predates the Apostolic message which later came to be written in the canon, then no, liturgy does not predate the canon because the message was given before any liturgy developed.

    My basic argument is this:

    Jesus establishes the church by his ministry, atoning death, resurrection, and outpouring of the Spirit. We learn about all of these from Aposotlic tradition, which consists of what the Apostles actually taught and not the church’s later understanding of it. The later understanding may be correct, but it is not the tradition itself because that is not how the Apostles understood Apostolic tradition. They understood the Apostolic tradition to consist of a body material that they actually taught.

    Because of all this, Apostolic tradition predates the church. It seems to me that the onus is on the RC to prove:

    1. The Apostles understood Apostolic tradition to consist of both what the Apostles taught and the church’s later post-Apostolic interpretation of it.
    2. That there exists a substantial body of Apostolic tradition (ie, what the Apostles taught) that contains information that is not identical to what is actually written in the NT. And, once proven, Rome must show us where this is and its context. We know, for example, that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in a particular context and we know the words he used. If Rome wants to say something like the Assumption of Mary is part of the Apostolic tradition, we at least need to know where this teaching was given and in what context.
    3. That the Apostolic message did not birth the church.

    If Rome can’t prove these things—and I submit that she can’t—then sola Scriptura is the only position agreeable to the Apostles themselves. For only Scripture contains the tradition that birthed the church.

    I hope that is clear. There’s much else to talk about in your response. One quick comment—Paul did not understand Scripture to consist only in the LXX. None of the Apostles did. Peter saw Paul’s letters as Scripture. Paul quotes from Luke’s gospel as Scripture. I could go on.

    Was everyone in the jerusalem council an apostle?

    No, but Apostles were there, and it was Apostles who came to the decision and promulgated it. So if you want the later church to have the same infallible authority, then the present Magisterium must consist of Apostles who are Apostles in the same sense that the Apostles in Acts 15 were Apostles.

    I wrote:

    It seems to me that if you want to use Acts 15 to prove the Magisterium’s authority, you have to claim identical inspiration and authority for the Magisterium as the Apostles,
    You replied that I have not understood the Magisterium’s claims. But I do understand that the Magisterium makes a claim to authority that is distinct from the claim it makes for the Apostles’s authority. The Magisterium, at least as I understand it, doesn’t have the authority to give revelation but to give the authoritative interpretation of revelation. And that is precisely the point why you can’t use Acts 15 to prove infallible authority for the Magisterium. If you want to base infallible continuing authority for the post-Apostolic church, then you need to claim the same inspiration and authority that the Apostles possessed. Otherwise, the text doesn’t prove what you think it does. Your claim might be true, but it can’t be based on that text.
    Thanks,

    Robert

  15. David,

    Thanks so much for your reply.

    First, regarding Mark, Mark was apostolic, inspired, and authoritative in its completed form. The Church simply recognizes this fact, so while there is no explicit claim from Mark saying “this is authoritative” the fact is that the book was written and inspired by God himself which is why the Church accepted it in the first place. It did not confer authority to the book, it simply acknowledged that it was in fact authoritative over the people of God.

    In regards to traditions, you’ve listed a number of things that are part of the Apostolic tradition but I’d be interested to seeing an argument for them. Some of the things you listed are good and necessary consequence—like women taking the Eucharist. Others are very debatable exegetically and even in the churches practice, like Matthew 19. Still others are ahistorical legends, like Peter establishing an episcopate in Rome. The point being, we acknowledge that the NT is inspired as a source of authority, but you are claiming more than this is authoritative. Simply listing things you believe are part of the tradition though really doesn’t begin to answer the question Robert raised. What evidence do you have to believe this things are part of the Apostolic deposit? For many of these things, even your fellow Catholics are abandoning such a posture.

    2 Thess. 2:15 doesn’t address anything I had written. Of course the Gospel was preached before it was written—Paul is not talking about later Christians relying on two sources of tradition. You claim that the RCC does not hold to traditions that are not part of the deposit (I meant to say deposit and not have a redundancy with the word tradition), but that’s the very thing under dispute. The things you’ve listed are rather weak evidence for substantiating such a claim as well.

    Regarding Sola Scriptura, you’ve not fairly or accurately represented the Protestant approach. The Protestant approach is that only God’s Word is to be considered inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians. The canonical text is God’s Word, as we agree, and so the question becomes, why do you believe that “Scripture, Tradition (whatever it is), and Magisterium are the three sources of the rule of faith?” What makes Tradition and the Magisterium the Word of God? Scripture, as we agree is the Word of God, and we don’t see the Scripture giving tradition this authority, so whence does your claim come? How do we know that it is anything other than a tradition of men?

    Regarding homoousious, it is an explanation of the apostolic deposit, but the term itself is part of the revered Christian tradition. The Church has the authority to define and explicate the Apostolic deposit, but it does not have the right to add to it. In this way, the Church was clarifying the deposit at Nicea when it was describing the deity of the Son whereas the declaration that Mary was bodily Assumed was the addition of a Medieval tradition to the Apostolic Deposit and as such is a perversion. In matters like this, distinguishing development from distortion is rather easy. In other cases it is more difficult, but if the Bible is God’s Word, then we hold all other human authority to the Word of God and prayerfully seek his wisdom.

    I don’t know that a doctrine wasn’t passed down orally—I’m not denying that it could have been—but what doctrine do you have in mind? I’m not conceptually opposed to the idea, but we need concrete examples to know what you have in mind because the problem is not with the conceptual possibility that certain parts of the Apostolic teaching were retained via oral transmission, the question is, what is it? Many people claimed oral testimony from the Apostles very early, even in the first century. Those individuals claiming to have spoken with the Apostles were also called Gnostics and the Church realized that anyone could claim anything they wanted from oral tradition and that many in fact had.

    As Robert as pointed out, using Acts 15 doesn’t get your very far, but I think your statement illustrate a misperception of what Sola Scriptura actually is. You say,

    Acts 15 does not address the question of succession, but neither does it give us any reason to believe that the Church subsequently took on a constitution nowhere mentioned in Scripture or tradition. That is to say, neither Acts 15 nor any other text of Scripture ever points us to “sola scriptura” as the Church’s rule of faith.

    In order to serve your apologetic ends you are dichotomizing the Church and the Word of God, as if Sola Scriptura mandates that the Church could not operate or function if Sola Scriptura were true. This is also misleading and untrue. The Church was governed by the Spirit of God moving through the Apostles. The Apostolic teaching of Jesus Christ was the norm for the Church. It took written and oral forms and the earliest churches were constituted by the kerygma before the canon was set. You want to extrapolate from this that the Apostolic teaching existed outside of what we now possess as the New Testament writings, but that is a non sequitur. You need to actually demonstrate where you find the Apostolic deposit orally transmitted.
    We are agreed that the New Testament is unequivocally Apostolic and that it is the Word of God for the people of God. We are also agreed that the earliest Christians were not only governed by a book, there were elders and deacons placed over them to teach, instruct, and correct. But for the Protestant the Church was not infallible in everything that it taught—it was infallible only wherein it taught the Apostolic faith, and the earliest Christians turned to Scripture as the surest source of that teaching and accepted as the Word of God from the earliest of times. Liturgical aspects of services were also important in the shaping of the theological perception and practice of Christians, but your citation of 1 Corinthians 11:16 provides an example of how difficult all this can be. Contextually, Paul is writing about women wearing head-coverings, and he makes the claim that this is the universal practice of the Church. But as the CDF states in Inter Insiniores paragraph 4,

    It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.

    This severely undercuts your point because either the CDF is wrong, and the church has erred by not keeping an Apostolic practice given by Christ *or* your utilization of this Scripture is incorrect. Either way your argument is falsified. And Paul’s continued discussion of the perversion of the liturgy in the Corinthian church only underscores the reality that churches, even under Apostolic guidance and teaching, could corrupt the apostolically sanctioned “liturgy.”

    In short, you’ve continued to talk about tradition outside of Scripture, but you’ve not yet been able to explain what it is or go about defending it’s Apostolic origin. You’ve listed a few things, but those things are under dispute so you are going to need to present an argument in order to move the conversation forward, otherwise this post is just an example of sloganeering and caricature that gets in the way of legitimate ecumenical dialogue.

  16. From 9

    Prior to that council, you don’t have it delivered that the Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised, or at least you don’t have it universally delivered (assuming Paul had received the revelation at the time).

    I agree for the most part. We had the kerygma – the message about Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, the implications of that fact were not clear to all (as they are not clear now), and required authoritative interpretation. That interpretation belongs to the deposit of faith in an extended sense, further down the “hierarchy of truths.” (This completes what I copied and pasted from 9.)

    Actually it is Peter in Acts 10 who gets the revelation about receiving the Gentiles into the Church. Acts 10 concludes with the consideration that “Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?” Acts 10:47 Jerusalem Bible

    No mention is made of circumcision or other practices of the Jewish law. The people of Cornelius’ household are now Christians and Peter is the guarantor of that fact.

    I believe this is important because in Acts 15, after the initial discussions, it is Peter who takes the floor and give the interpretation to how this should be understood. He is followed by Paul and Timothy who recount their experiences. James concludes by in essence taking the position given by Peter.

    Some rules are made but they are explicit for the Gentiles given the way they are used to thinking and living. However the Gentiles are not expected to go to Jesus through Moses, which is the issue involved in the Council of Jerusalem. The Gentiles are not descendants of Abraham through the flesh, and the Jewish experiences coming out of Egypt do not necessarily apply to the Gentiles coming into the Church.

  17. Brandon, et al.

    Thank you so much for the very substantive discussion. I don’t have time this morning for an extended reply to each and every point you raise. However, there is a common thread implicit in your comments that I can address briefly.

    The implicit assumption is this – if we establish that a book (or a collection of books) is inspired by God and inerrant, then it follows that this book (or collection) must be the rule of things to be believed and practiced in the church. Barring any other contended for such authority (i.e., tradition), the case for Scripture looks even stronger.

    But this assumption is quietly begging the question, because I do not concede the major premise. That is, just because a book (or collection) in inspired, it does not follow that it is the sole or even primary rule of faith. Inspiration does not automatically (I claim) translate into that kind of authority.

    To illustrate – suppose that God inspired a cook book. (An absurd example, I admit). Would it follow that God intends the cook book to be the all-sufficient rule for airplane repair? (also absurd, sorry). No, and it wouldn’t even follow that God intends for this to be the final and authoritative cook book to end all culinary disputes. Unless God tells us otherwise, we could conclude only that God intends this to be an inspired cook book, a source of really great, divine recipes – inerrant recipes even.

    Now the Catholic church freely confesses the inspiration and authority of Scripture. But even if she rejected all extra-scriptural tradition, it would not follow from that confession that God necessarily intends this collection of books to function in the way you suggest. There is nothing internal to the books in question that presents the collection in this light, and there is nothing in tradition, either.

    The claim “God intends the 66 book canon to be the Church’s sole rule of faith,” is not self-evident, is not found in the tradition, and cannot be deduced from the content of the 66 books themselves. It is, at best, an inference from the fact of inspiration. But, I contend, it is a spurious inference – as the cook book example makes clear.

    In order for the doctrine of sola scriptura to have divine authority, one must have an argument, based on evidence, that God intends this collection of books to function in this way.

    By contrast, when I look at the data on how Christ set up the Church, and see what provision he made for the authoritative transmission of the Christian faith, I see that he did make specific provision, authorizing individuals to teach in his name and with divine authority. He also commanded ritual actions performed “in his memory,” and commanded that his teaching be handed on to posterity. In other words, Christ specifically mentioned a body of tradition and a teaching authority. He never mentioned a New testament Canon.

    So, identifying the canon as the rule of faith is to exceed the teaching of Christ.

    Peace,

    David

  18. Robert,

    “only Scripture contains the tradition that birthed the church…”

    Where in scripture does Jesus condemn the practice of polygamy? Although Jews at the time and even now in Muslim countries are free to engage in polygamy, Christians never did.

    What about the doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo”? It is not found in Genesis. ( Only in Maccabees ). Christians always believed in it against the pagans and gnostics.
    How do we know Christ was crucified on a T shaped cross? Where does the Bible clearly teach the immemorial custom of infant Baptism? Making the sign of the cross. Lent, Christian funerals and marriages are just accepted without question.
    How is it Christians have always know Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle?
    What about the baptismal formula? In Jesus’ name or the Trinity? The condemnation of contraception is as old as Christianity.
    When did the prohibition against eating blood and strangled meats end? How can we be sure Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote their respective Gospels? Why do we accept Mark and Luke’s writings as canonical as they weren’t Apostles?
    C’mon! The divinity or even Personhood of the Holy Spirit is iffy if you are going on the Bible alone. Same goes for “two natures, one Person”.
    Let’s not forget the dating of Christmas, or to be more accurate, the dating of the Annunciation upon which Christmas is based.
    Robert, if you give it some thought, I am sure you can add to this list of extra-biblical traditions.

  19. Brandon,

    I hope you won’t mind my asking for some clarification regarding your position. You wrote:

    “First, regarding Mark, Mark was apostolic, inspired, and authoritative in its completed form. The Church simply recognizes this fact, so while there is no explicit claim from Mark saying “this is authoritative” the fact is that the book was written and inspired by God himself which is why the Church accepted it in the first place. It did not confer authority to the book, it simply acknowledged that it was in fact authoritative over the people of God.”

    I am not clear on how your claims concerning the ontological status of scripture (its apostolic, inspired and authoritative nature) can be divorced from the epistemological question (how one comes to know that such ontological claims are true). You write that “Mark was apostolic, inspired, and authoritative in its completed form”, but isn’t your knowledge of the truth of that very assertion based on the extra-canonical testimony of the Church’s tradition, since the intra-canonical text (as you admit) does not make that claim? Besides, even if the text did make such a claim for itself (for instance, if we read within Mark’s Gospel: “I, Mark, write these words under the influence of divine inspiration”), wouldn’t one need some basis other than the textual assertion itself in order to assent to that claim with intellectual integrity – i.e. to avoid rank circularity? Without some basis outside the text itself for assessing internal claims to divine inspiration (or even authorship); how would one adjudicate the veracity of one textual claim to inspiration over against another?

    Or again, you write “the fact is that the book was written and inspired by God himself which is why the Church accepted it in the first place”. But is not that very claim also something which you have come to know only through the extra-canonical tradition of the Church? Is it not the tradition of the Church which ultimately informs your own assessment of the ontological status of Mark? The original assessment of tradition to the effect that Mark was “written and inspired by God himself” (not to mention the assessment that “Mark” was written by Mark) has simply been passed down through the centuries until it finally reached you. Is there some other way by which you have come to know that Mark was apostolic, inspired, and authoritative?

    Or again, you write “It did not confer authority to the book, it simply acknowledged that it was in fact authoritative over the people of God”. Yet, without that acknowledgement arising from the extra-canonical tradition of the Church, how would you know that the book was already (ontologically) inspired and authoritative over the people of God? Isn’t your knowledge that Mark’s Gospel was authoritative from the moment it was first put to papyrus derived from the Church’s own assessment within the tradition? Therefore, without passing through the epistemological gate of extra-canonical Church tradition, what non-circular, non-subjective, reason(s) could you give as to why anyone should offer intellectual assent to all of the above assertions concerning the authorship, inspiration and authoritative status of Mark’s Gospel? It seems to me that the epistemological question is critical to this discussion as I will explain.

    You wrote:

    “The Protestant approach is that only God’s Word is to be considered inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians. The canonical text is God’s Word, as we agree, and so the question becomes, why do you believe that “Scripture, Tradition (whatever it is), and Magisterium are the three sources of the rule of faith?”

    Your argument here seems dependent upon skirting the epistemological question. You simply state that the canonical text is “God’s Word”, then you note that Dr. Anders happens to agree with you on that point. But you rush ahead as if the respective reasons why you both hold the 27 book canonical text to be “God’s Word” have no bearing upon the larger dispute; as if the “how do you know” question could be entirely overlooked without consequence in this discussion. But if the only non-circular or non-subjective epistemological pathway by which you, or Dr. Anders, or anyone else, can reach the conclusion that the 27 book NT canon is “God’s Word” is through an appeal to extra-canonical Church tradition (because the claim is nowhere found within the books themselves, and would be circular even if it were); then your ability to consistently hold those 27 books as inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians already requires a concomitant embrace of the authority of extra-canonical tradition (at least where it touches upon the authorship, inspiration and canonicity of the 27 books).

    It is useless to claim that some group of writings are “God’s Word” (and therefore inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians) unless one can identify exactly which writings those are. But if the means and decisions by which those writings were identified as constituting the [written] Word of God are, themselves, not taken to be protected from error and irrevocably binding, then how can one justify the assertion that the content of a potentially errant and revocable list of books with the stipulated title “God’s Word”, should be considered inerrant and irrevocably binding on all Christians? If one or more of those books is not really God’s Word (which must remain a real possibility if the means and decisions by which the canon was identified were open to the possibility of error), then Christians might very well be regarding the content of some book or books within the canon as irrevocably binding with respect to faith and morals, when in fact such book or books is errant and uninspired. Such a position (declaring the content of a codex to be inerrant and authoritative while denying those same attributes to the source or process by which the codex was identified) seems manifestly self-defeating.

    But if, in order to avoid this incongruity, one goes ahead and affirms the inerrant and irrevocable nature of Tradition with respect to the canonical identification process, then asking why Tradition should be taken as one of the sources of the rule of faith is frivolous, for such a person has already affirmed that the rule of faith (whatever else its sources may be) at least includes the canon and that Tradition by which the canon is identified. Such a person is already a proto-Catholic. And that situation would certainly seem to undermine the Protestant approach you describe, which holds that only God’s Word [the canonical text] is to be considered inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians”.

    So, unless you can offer some means, other than the extra-canonical tradition of the Church, by which to gain epistemological access to both the content and ontological status of the canon (God’s Word), I cannot see how your position can remain consistent. I am happy to be corrected if I have misunderstood your argument.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  20. Brandon,

    Or to my query more simply, I do not see how the following four propositions can hang together logically.

    Prop 1: “only God’s Word is to be considered inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians”

    Prop 2: “The canonical text is God’s Word”

    Prop 3: We only know which writings make up the canonical text by way of extra-canonical Church tradition.

    Prop 4: The extra-canonical Church tradition by which the canonical text was identified was, itself, either inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians, or it was not inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians.

    The first two propositions are taken from your remarks above, and I believe they are taken with due attention to context. The fourth proposition seems indisputable as presenting two mutually exclusive alternatives.

    If the extra-canonical tradition by which the canon was identified was, itself, inerrant and irrevocable; then God’s Word (the canonical text) is not the only inerrant and irrevocable rule of faith binding on Christians. The inerrant and irrevocable extra-canonical tradition by which the canonical text was identified, would also enter into the rule of faith.

    If, on the other hand, the extra-canonical tradition by which the canonical text was identified was not inerrant and irrevocable, then it seems self-defeating to insist that the content of the canonical text is inerrant and irrevocable for Christians while simultaneously holding that the extra-canonical means by which the identity of that content is made known is not inerrant and irrevocable. It would amount to an epistemological effect devoid of an adequate epistemological cause.

    Accordingly, as far as I can tell, the only way out of this dilemma would be to deny proposition 3, which is why I am interested in knowing if you do deny it, and if so, what alternative(s) you would propose for explaining how men gain epistemological access to the identification of the canonical text.

    Pax Chrisit,

    Ray

  21. Hi Ray,

    I don’t have much time to respond, but I’ll attempt to do so concisely.

    First, the first premise isn’t really related to anything we’ve been discussing. That’s the Protestant position, but it’s not the point at argument at this moment.

    I would really recommend you read Dulles and Congar on this issue. Congar puts it this way,

    It is not that the Church and her Magisterium actually create the canon; even less do they endow the Scripture with its authority, as mistakenly rather than intentionally certain Catholic apologists have sometimes maintained. With this dogma, as with others, Church and Magisterium simply recognize the truth established by God’s action, submit to it, and since they are responsible for it, proclaim it with authority, making it into a Church law.

    In connection to this #3 is really an infelicitous way to put it. And it’s also not entirely true that we only know canonical material by way of church tradition. Much canonical material predates the existence of the church. Moreover, the only thing the church does is testifies to the witness of God, it does not make it binding or authoritative because the Church simple ministers what God has given to it, and as Congar notes, with Scripture, the Church simple receives and recognizes Scripture for what it is. It doesn’t endow it with any authority, it simply submits itself to it

    Therefore, the extra-canonical tradition is a means by which the Church accepts the Word of God, but it is not itself infallible. It merely testifies and recognizes God’s work, which is the very definition of the churches role in the world. It testifies to what God has done and ministers in his name.

    Making the inspiration of Scripture dependent upon the means by which the Church recognizes Scripture misunderstands that nature of Scripture to begin with. The church used the widespread acceptance of the books, their apostolic origin, their consistency with other Scripture, the beauty of it’s teaching, and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit among other criterion to verify the individual books, but the Church only recognized what was true and submitted to it.

    Given your criteria, it would be like telling people that it would be inconsistent for them to not accept me as infallible and inerrant since I am teaching the Word of God to them–they wouldn’t be hearing it it was not for me. But this is a category error. Scripture is infallible and inerrant, but the means used in proclamation of the Gospel are broken vessels that God uses even though they are severely broken. Even using the analogy from Scripture, even an ass speaks on behalf of God, but that ass is not himself inerrant or infallible. He simply transmits the message of God. The Church, in the same way, has an obligation to preach and teach the Word of God, but just because they have been given the Word of God to protect it does not mean that they must also be infallible in order for us to have faith in Scripture.

    But it is important to note that your concluding musings on canonical epistemology are related yet, they don’t actually answer the question that Robert and I brought to David, what is the extra-canonical tradition? Can you explain how the Bodily Assumption of Mary is part of the Apostolic Deposit? Where can we identify it in the oral tradition and who gets to define it? Why should we believe Rome when it tells us doctrine “X” is part of the Apostolic Deposit?

    Protestants acknowledge Scripture, but there we see no reason to see that God has spoken beyond what he has said. We agree that Scripture is the Word of God, so we are asking what makes you believe that something else has equal authority with the Word of God? If you say the Church, then that is a fine response, but why do you believe the Church possesses such authority?

  22. Hi Brandon,

    Thank you for your reply.

    ”I would really recommend you read Dulles and Congar on this issue.”

    I have read them both extensively, including what they have to say on this issue. But nothing they say undermines anything I wrote.

    ”Congar puts it this way,

    It is not that the Church and her Magisterium actually create the canon; even less do they endow the Scripture with its authority, as mistakenly rather than intentionally certain Catholic apologists have sometimes maintained. With this dogma, as with others, Church and Magisterium simply recognize the truth established by God’s action, submit to it, and since they are responsible for it, proclaim it with authority, making it into a Church law.”

    I, of course, agree with all of this – Congar correctly explains the ontological status of the text in itself. Scripture does not derive its authority from the Church but from God. However, that entirely skirts the epistemological question. Why must the Church “recognize” the truth established by God’s action and “proclaim it with authority”? Because our coming to know that Scripture is endowed with God’s authority depends upon it. Whatever the actual ontological status of the writings that make up the canon of Scripture may be in itself, our coming to know that status is something quite different. Both Dulles and Congar were perfectly aware of this critical distinction which you seem to overlook. Moreover, Congar would recognize that the very truth of his assertions which you quoted, are themselves something he has come to know through the heritage of the Church – as a part of the theological training which he received within the Church. Hence, the necessity of answering the epistemological question must always proceed the theological assertions which we make about the ontological status of revealed truths (such as Scripture’s inspiration and divine authority, or the relationship existing between Scripture and the Church), if those assertions are to avoid devolving into mere personal assertions.

    ”In connection to this #3 is really an infelicitous way to put it.”

    What is “infelicitous” about it? Is that simply your subjective reaction to proposition #3, or is there something wrong with the proposition itself, as posed?

    ”And it’s also not entirely true that we only know canonical material by way of church tradition. Much canonical material predates the existence of the church.”

    The “canonization” of Scripture strikes me as an act uniquely requiring the action of the Church. I would be very interested to learn what other means there are, besides Church tradition, which might enable men to recognize any written material as specifically “canonical”? Indeed, that is precisely the question I asked you to address in my prior posts.

    Moreover, the only thing the church does is testifies to the witness of God, it does not make it binding or authoritative because the Church simple ministers what God has given to it, and as Congar notes, with Scripture, the Church simple receives and recognizes Scripture for what it is. It doesn’t endow it with any authority, it simply submits itself to it

    Agreed on all counts. But again, in putting forth all of these theological claims, you bypass the difference between what the nature of a thing is in itself (independent of our knowing it); and the question of how we come to know the nature of a thing as it is in itself. Once again, the distinction between ontology and epistemology. Moreover, the only way in which you (or Dulles or Congar, or myself) could possibly know such theological assertions to be true (as opposed to remaining mere opinions) is through the tradition of the Church. Your theological positions (and mine and Congar’s) on precisely these points was first determined by the Church and then passed down through time until reaching us within the Christian communities of which we are a part. From an epistemological point of view, one cannot claim to know either the extension of scripture, or the fact that Scripture is divinely inspired, without the authority of the Church’s Tradition.

    ”Therefore, the extra-canonical tradition is a means by which the Church accepts the Word of God, but it is not itself infallible. It merely testifies and recognizes God’s work, which is the very definition of the churches role in the world. It testifies to what God has done and ministers in his name.”

    Agreed. But once again you overlook the distinction between ontology and epistemology. Why must the Church do things like “recognize” and “testify”? Because the ontological facts about Scripture (such as its inspiration and divine authority) as known firstly by God, are – like all other publicly revealed truths – made known to us through the mediation of others.

    ”Making the inspiration of Scripture dependent upon the means by which the Church recognizes Scripture misunderstands that nature of Scripture to begin with.”

    Agreed. I never wrote that the inspiration of Scripture was dependent upon the means by which the Church recognizes Scripture. The inspiration of Scripture depends solely on the free action of God by which He inspired the authors who were instrumental in composing the text. If God inspires a writing, it is inspired, immediately and whether anyone else besides God knows about it or not. However, our recognition or knowledge of the fact that some particular collection of writings is inspired does depend upon the means by which the Church recognizes Scripture. Again, you seem to be conflating ontology and epistemology.

    ”The church used the widespread acceptance of the books, their apostolic origin, their consistency with other Scripture, the beauty of it’s teaching, and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit among other criterion to verify the individual books, but the Church only recognized what was true and submitted to it.”

    Agreed. This is consistent with everything I have written.

    ”Given your criteria, it would be like telling people that it would be inconsistent for them to not accept me as infallible and inerrant since I am teaching the Word of God to them–they wouldn’t be hearing it it was not for me. But this is a category error”

    I don’t understand this analogy, so I have no way to assess on what grounds you think I have made a category error.

    ”Scripture is infallible and inerrant, but the means used in proclamation of the Gospel are broken vessels that God uses even though they are severely broken.”

    Agreed, but nothing prevents God from supervening upon severely broken vessels to insure that they write or teach without error. The inspiration of scripture through the instrumentality of severely broken apostolic authors is a case in point.

    ”Even using the analogy from Scripture, even an ass speaks on behalf of God, but that ass is not himself inerrant or infallible. He simply transmits the message of God.”

    No, the ass is not infallible insofar as he is an ass, but insofar as the ass speaks for God he is infallible. To affirm otherwise would be to charge God with deceit. Likewise, the apostles were not infallible insofar as they were sinful men. But insofar as they acted as the instruments of God’s inspiration of Scripture, they were prevented from teaching error. Likewise, there is no intrinsic philosophical or theological reason why God cannot protect the leadership of the Church when making decision which enable the faithful to recognize and know the content of the canon and the inspired nature of the books collected therein.

    ”The Church, in the same way, has an obligation to preach and teach the Word of God, but just because they have been given the Word of God to protect it does not mean that they must also be infallible in order for us to have faith in Scripture.”

    I have argued carefully in my previous posts that this assertion is false. The Church, in her Tradition, must be infallible – at least in the acts whereby she identifies the contents of the canon and proclaims its inspired and authoritative status – if we are to know what constitutes Scripture. Without knowledge concerning what constitutes Scripture, we do not know which writings toward which to direct our faith. Therefore, the epistemological requirement of the Church’s “recognition”, “testimony” and “proclamation” concerning the content of the canon and its inspired nature remains inescapable. Nothing you have written so far touches the arguments which I made in my prior posts to support this conclusion.

    ”But it is important to note that your concluding musings on canonical epistemology are related yet, they don’t actually answer the question that Robert and I brought to David, what is the extra-canonical tradition?”

    I think my “musings” have direct bearing upon the questions which you and Robert posed to David. In dialogue with David you wrote:

    ”Robert is simply asking you to point to a doctrine that was taught by Jesus not recorded in Scripture.”

    To which David replied:

    ”Yes. I gave one example: ‘St. Mark’s Gospel is inspired Scripture and to be included in the Church’s canon. Also, Mark wrote it, or at least stands behind it as the source of its apostolic material.’ This is a revealed doctrine not found in Scripture.”

    That Mark’s Gospel is inspired and that it is to be included in the canon is a claim that does not emerge within the canon itself. Hence, knowledge of its truth must necessarily derive from some extra-canonical source. I have shown through my arguments in my first two posts in this thread, that unless one accepts the inerrant and irrevocable nature of whatever extra-canonical process by which the inspired and canonical status of Mark’s Gospel becomes known to us, then one has no intellectual warrant for holding that the written content within Mark’s Gospel is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. If I am right about that argument, then one is faced with two horns of a dilemma.

    (a) Either one will have to deny the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the extra-canonical canon-identification process and thereby give up any certain claims concerning the existence or extension of any inspired canon.

    (b) Or else, acknowledge the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the extra-canonical canon-identification process.

    In either case the Protestant approach which you summed up as follows:

    “ . . . only God’s Word is to be considered inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians.”

    is evidently unseated. Embracing the first horn of the dilemma undermines the claim that God’s Word (identified with the canonical text) is inerrant and irrevocably binding. Embracing the second horn does away with the claim that only God’s Word (identified with the canonical text) is inerrant and binding. The title of the post, after all, is “Scripture and Tradition”, not “Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium”. I have argued that, at a minimum, intellectual integrity requires that both Scripture and Tradition be recognized as constituent elements of the rule of faith.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  23. Ray, Brandon, and Robert:

    Ray wrote:

    I, of course, agree with all of this – Congar correctly explains the ontological status of the text in itself. Scripture does not derive its authority from the Church but from God. However, that entirely skirts the epistemological question. Why must the Church “recognize” the truth established by God’s action and “proclaim it with authority”?

    It also skirts another very important, indeed, crucial, question – However we come to recognize Scripture’s ontological status as inspired, and divine/inerrant, we must then also come to a determination about the natureof Scripture’s authority. As I showed in the Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium article, the standard Protestant move is to assume that once you conclude the inspiration of Scripture and once you discount every other source of divine authority (tradition, magisterium), then sola scriptura follows of necessity.

    There is an implicit Protestant syllogism:

    1. If an authority is divine and inerrant, then God intends for it to be the final authority for the faith and practice of the Church.
    2. Only Scripture is divine and inerrant.
    3. Therefore, God intends for Scripture to be the final authority for the faith and practice of the Church.

    The great difficulty with this syllogism is that the first premise begs the question between Protestants and Catholics. Just because an authority is divine and inerrant does not mean that God intends it to be the final authority for the Church’s faith and practice. My light-hearted remark about divine cookbooks illustrates this. But so does a more germane illustration. Take any single book of the Bible – say, Ecclesiastes. Inspired, inerrant, everything. Can you conclude from its inspiration that God intends ecclesiastes by itself to be the final authority for the Church? Of course not. Now add another book. How about Matthew? Can we conclude from their inspiration and authority that God intends Eccl. and Matt. to be the Church’s final authority? No Protestant would say so. Now keep adding successive books. At one point can we infer from the books themselves that we have a sufficient canon? answer: never. We need some other authority to tell us, “Now you’v got a sufficient rule of faith.” But no such authority is forthcoming.

    The second premise is also question begging, for obvious reasons.

    The proper way to proceed is this:

    What authority does God intend to rule and guide the Church?

    This question can only be answered with reference to revelation, not by spurious inferences and dubious syllogisms.

    And the answer has been provided by revelation: “Whoever hears you, hears me.”

    Peace,

    David

  24. Ray,

    You said,

    Agreed, but nothing prevents God from supervening upon severely broken vessels to insure that they write or teach without error. The inspiration of scripture through the instrumentality of severely broken apostolic authors is a case in point.

    And then

    Likewise, there is no intrinsic philosophical or theological reason why God cannot protect the leadership of the Church when making decision which enable the faithful to recognize and know the content of the canon and the inspired nature of the books collected therein.

    No one denies that there is a philosophical or theological reason that God could not do it, the question is whether or not he did do it with those men who lived after the time of the Apostles. I’ve yet to see you present a case that God did in fact do so.

    It does seem that you are marking the case though that God could not have given the Word of God as a testimony in itself without an infallible interpreter because there would have been no way for God’s Word to have been accessible to us without that interpreter. That does seem to fly in the face of Paul’s statement that the Word of God equips the believer for every good work, but perhaps you have something else in mind?

    Then you said,

    The Church, in her Tradition, must be infallible – at least in the acts whereby she identifies the contents of the canon and proclaims its inspired and authoritative status – if we are to know what constitutes Scripture. Without knowledge concerning what constitutes Scripture, we do not know which writings toward which to direct our faith. Therefore, the epistemological requirement of the Church’s “recognition”, “testimony” and “proclamation” concerning the content of the canon and its inspired nature remains inescapable. Nothing you have written so far touches the arguments which I made in my prior posts to support this conclusion.

    Your are conflating what the church is affirming with the essence of the Church. What the church affirms is infallible, but the church itself is not necessarily infallible.

    I have shown through my arguments in my first two posts in this thread, that unless one accepts the inerrant and irrevocable nature of whatever extra-canonical process by which the inspired and canonical status of Mark’s Gospel becomes known to us, then one has no intellectual warrant for holding that the written content within Mark’s Gospel is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God.

    I’m not following you here, perhaps your could repeat it for me because I hear you saying that whatever mechanisms we use to define the canon must likewise be infallible otherwise we could never have the epistemological warrant to access the fact that Scripture is (ontologically) God’s Word. God must use an infallible interpreter otherwise we have no way of knowing that it was God who said it. But how do we know who that infallible interpreter is? Is our determination of the interpreter also subject to interpretation and therefore in need of further substantiation?

    Finally, you said,

    That Mark’s Gospel is inspired and that it is to be included in the canon is a claim that does not emerge within the canon itself.

    This is anachronism. The canon developed, the inspiration of the books of Scripture did not. So of course Mark’s canonicity did not emerge from the canon itself, the canon emerged from inspired Word of God. When Mark’s Gospel was completed, it was God’s binding Word (and as such “canonical” in the sense that it was to be seen as the measure of faith and accepted as God’s Word. It is not canonical in the historical sense of the term as being the collection of authorized and inspired books).

    You continue by arguing,

    unless one accepts the inerrant and irrevocable nature of whatever extra-canonical process by which the inspired and canonical status of Mark’s Gospel becomes known to us, then one has no intellectual warrant for holding that the written content within Mark’s Gospel is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God

    So unless the Church recognizes the inherent authority of the Word of God the Word of God cannot be known to be inspired, inerrant, and the authoritative Word of God, even though God himself has spoken it? The ultimate ground for accepting Mark as inspired is that God is its author, not that the Church testifies that God is its author.

    I have more to say but time will not allow it. This will have to be my last post for some time, but thanks for the discussion.

  25. Hi David,

    I too must attend to other matters, but I think #17 still contains much that misses the mark. I know you were not able to develop your thoughts in this comment, but you say,

    just because a book (or collection) in inspired, it does not follow that it is the sole or even primary rule of faith. Inspiration does not automatically (I claim) translate into that kind of authority.

    Again, this could be. Just because God speaks in Esther does not mean that it is the sole rule of faith on the doctrine of justification, for example. It is authoritative, however, in what it teaches and because it is the Word of God no other testimony could be any stronger and nothing can be changed. It can be reaffirmed by God himself (like he does with Abraham), but when God speaks about a subject, that is the definitive word. In that way, it must be the rule of faith in what it speaks about because there is no higher rule.

    As to the cook book example, I’m not sure that I understand what you are getting at. You seem to acknowledge that this is not a good example, and the fact is that Scripture tells us that the Word of God is able to equip us for every good work, so I’m not sure how the Christian conception of Scripture fits in your analogy.

    You are moving too quickly to grasp the nuance of Sola Scriptura when you say,

    There is nothing internal to the books in question that presents the collection in this light, and there is nothing in tradition, either…The claim “God intends the 66 book canon to be the Church’s sole rule of faith,” is not self-evident, is not found in the tradition, and cannot be deduced from the content of the 66 books themselves. It is, at best, an inference from the fact of inspiration.

    Wait a minute. Earlier you had admitted that the books of the NT were God’s Word as the ink was drying on the parchment. Now if you are talking about the collection of the books, of course the collection as a collection is a later development, but it is a collection of books that have possessed authority and demanded their reception as the Word of God because we agree they are the Word of God. No authority could be added to them to make them more binding, they could only be received and confirmed. That was an incredibly important process, and one that such brief comments do not do justice. The process of canonization was arduous, messy, and at many times unstable. This historical process however, did not determine which books were authoritative, it was the church operating in its role of receiving the Apostolic deposit and proclaiming it.

    Moreover, you’re moving too quickly. No one has said, “God intends 66 books…” Instead, we are observing something that Church has always believed, that Scripture is the Word of God. As such, it claims a particular authority that trumps all human authority. I don’t suspect we have any disagreement at this point and I’m willing to concede that you believe that the Church is not a human authority, it is God’s divinely sanctioned and protected institution.

    It’s misguided to say,

    In order for the doctrine of sola scriptura to have divine authority, one must have an argument, based on evidence, that God intends this collection of books to function in this way.

    The Bible is the Word of God and for Christians is indisputably God’s spoken Word. Scripture testifies of itself that it is able to equip us for every good work. Again, we are agreed on this point. You simply want to argue more than that. Yes, the Bible is God’s Word, but it does not contain the fullness of the Apostolic deposit, he has entrusted the Apostolic Deposit to the Church and he gave the church the authority to infallibly define the interpretation of Scripture and to define what is and what is not the Apostolic Deposit. The question that Robert and I are pressing you on though is, what is the Apostolic tradition outside of Scripture? Alongside of this I also want to know what makes you believe the Roman Catholic Church possesses the authority you claim. Who says that there is a tripartite authority structure in the Church? What evidence do you have for these things, and that they derive from the Apostolic Deposit?

    You continue to miss this point entirely when you conclude,

    In other words, Christ specifically mentioned a body of tradition and a teaching authority. He never mentioned a New testament Canon.

    This is a very poor argument. You are once again dichotomizing the kerygma and the Church. The canon developed later. The canon took centuries to become solidified historically while the kerygma of the Church existed from Christ’s first sermon, but Sola Scriptura does not require that the Church not exist or preach the Gospel. That is what the earliest church did and the Apostles preached widely and freely. But subsequent generations of Christians always submitted themselves to the Apostolic teaching—that was the standard and even the Gnostics appealed to the Apostles because their teaching was the Christian standard.

    Finally, your syllogism is skewed and not worded in a way that any Protestant would frame these issues. I agree with you that the question cannot be answered with spurious inferences or dubious syllogisms, but I believe you need to exert greater effort to presenting the best of the Protestant arguments.

  26. Brandon,

    You write:

    It’s misguided to say,

    In order for the doctrine of sola scriptura to have divine authority, one must have an argument, based on evidence, that God intends this collection of books to function in this way.

    The Bible is the Word of God and for Christians is indisputably God’s spoken Word.

    Whether or not the Bible is the word of God is not in question between us, so asserting “the Bible is the word of God” does not resolve the dispute.

    I contend that

    1. for a doctrine to have divine authority, it must be revealed by God.

    2. The doctrine of sola scriptura – namely, that these 66 Books are the sole rule of faith – has not been revealed.

    3. Therefore, the doctrine has no divine authority.

    Can you show me why this is not a valid argument, or that any of the premises is false?

    Your comment:

    No authority could be added to them to make them more binding, they could only be received and confirmed.

    Begs the question against their being a divinely authorized interpreter. Begs the question against their being other sources of revelation apart from inspiration. And equivocates about the meaning and nature of authority. Romans, for example, has authority to speak on those issues in St. Paul’s mind when he wrote to Rome. That’s one kind of authority, but not the kind of authority claimed by Protestants for Scripture as a whole.

    Finally, your syllogism is skewed and not worded in a way that any Protestant would frame these issues.

    I took this syllogism from Richard Muller’s book on the scholastic doctrine of Scripture.

    To quote a passage from my article:

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

    In other words, Rijssen argues explicitly – Scripture is inspired and inerrent, therefore it is the sole rule of faith.

    Luther did basically the same thing when he said, “Popes and councils err, therefore, Scripture.”

    Peace,

    David

  27. H Brandon,

    Thanks for the discussion so far. I understand you have other time commitments, so no need to hurry a response.

    I note that you did not address or challenge the distinction which I repeatedly highlighted in my last comment between the ontological status of the canon (for instance that it is divinely inspired and authoritative), and the epistemological question concerning how we come to know the ontological status of the canon. I will assume going forward that you grant that distinction.

    ”The question is whether or not he did do it with those men who lived after the time of the Apostles. I’ve yet to see you present a case that God did in fact do so.”

    Relative to this question, I have presented and defended the following if/then claim. If God did not protect the Church’s Tradition from error, at least with respect to the process by which the canon was identified and its inspired nature recognized, then one has no intellectual warrant for affirming the inerrant and irrevocable nature of what is written within the books which make up the canon. That argument stands unchallenged thus far, and if it were to remain un-refuted it would directly undermine the “Protestant approach” as you have presented it. Why? – because to admit the truth of the claim would force one to either deny the inerrancy and irrevocability of Scripture or else affirm the inerrant and irrevocable nature of at least a part of Church Tradition – namely, that concerned with identifying the canon. Neither option is compatible with the Protestant approach, at least as you have formulated it.

    ”It does seem that you are marking the case though that God could not have given the Word of God as a testimony in itself without an infallible interpreter because there would have been no way for God’s Word to have been accessible to us without that interpreter.”

    It seems you may not have read what I have written carefully. I have never once in this threat discussed the role of an “interpreter”. Talk of an “interpreter” already supposes that one knows the object to be interpreted, but my line of argument is directed precisely at that prior supposition. I have written that without an inerrant and irrevocable extra-canonical canon-identification process [nothing to do with an interpreter or interpretation], one is necessarily left in the epistemological situation of having no intellectual warrant for affirming the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the canon’s written content.

    ”That does seem to fly in the face of Paul’s statement that the Word of God equips the believer for every good work, but perhaps you have something else in mind?”

    My argument thus far has concerned how one comes to know what the “Word of God” is in the first place. It has nothing to do, directly, with the ends which the written “word of God” might serve in the life of the Christian once the identity of the written “Word of God” becomes known. Therefore, nothing I have written could possibly fly in the face of St. Paul’s words since I am addressing a concern fundamentally prior to the point he is making. It makes no sense to speak about a “Word of God” capable of equipping men for every good work unless one already knows what writings are included under the title “Word of God”, and that is just the problem I have been raising.

    ”Your are conflating what the church is affirming with the essence of the Church. What the church affirms is infallible, but the church itself is not necessarily infallible”

    .

    I have written nothing about the “essence of the Church”, so I fail to see how I could be conflating the “essence of the Church” with anything else. I have argued that the Tradition of the Church with respect to the extra-canonical process by which the contents of the canon have been identified, and its inspired nature recognized, must be inerrant if one wishes to also affirm the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the canonical text with intellectual integrity.

    ”I’m not following you here, perhaps your could repeat it for me because I hear you saying that whatever mechanisms we use to define the canon must likewise be infallible otherwise we could never have the epistemological warrant to access the fact that Scripture is (ontologically) God’s Word. God must use an infallible interpreter otherwise we have no way of knowing that it was God who said it”

    Not an infallible “interpreter”, but an infallible “identifier” or identification process. Unless one affirms that God supervened upon the process by which the content of the canon was identified and its inspired nature recognized, so as to render that process inerrant and irrevocable, we have no epistemic basis upon which to affirm the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the text itself.

    ”But how do we know who that infallible interpreter is? Is our determination of the interpreter also subject to interpretation and therefore in need of further substantiation?”

    This is an important question to ask, but it is a red herring with respect to the argument I have been making. Knowing “who” or “whom” was responsible for the extra-canonical process by which the content of the canon was identified and its inspired nature recognized, is in no way germane to my argument. All my argument entails is that “whoever” it was through whom our knowledge of the canon’s content and inspiration was achieved, must be recognized as acting in an inerrant and irrevocable way; otherwise we lose the intellectual warrant by which to affirm that the written content of the biblical text is inerrant and irrevocable. The question of identifying those responsible for enabling the faithful to know the contents and nature of the canon is a logically posterior question.

    I had written:

    ”That Mark’s Gospel is inspired and that it is to be included in the canon is a claim that does not emerge within the canon itself.”

    To which you responded:

    ”This is anachronism. The canon developed, the inspiration of the books of Scripture did not.”

    I do not see how what I wrote is “anachronism”. My statement neither entails that the canon did not develop, nor does it entail that the inspiration of the books of Scripture did develop. So nothing in my statement about Mark’s Gospel corresponds to the two notions which you mention here as grounding your charge of anachronism. Frankly, although you use the word “anachronism” often enough, I am unclear as to what you actually mean by it.

    You wrote:

    “. . . the canon emerged from inspired Word of God.”

    If by this you mean that the inspired biblical writings were, from the moment of their composition, rendered ontologically fit for later canonization by way of the tradition of the Church, then I agree. If, however, you mean that somehow our knowledge of what writings constitute the canon, or that our knowledge concerning the inspired nature of those writings, in any way “emerged from the Word of God” independent of an extra-canonical tradition, then I disagree. Such a contention presupposes prior knowledge of what the [written] Word of God even is – which is, again, the problem I have been raising with you.

    ”When Mark’s Gospel was completed, it was God’s binding Word (and as such “canonical” in the sense that it was to be seen as the measure of faith and accepted as God’s Word. . . .” [bold emphasis added]

    I agree with the claim that Mark’s Gospel was God’s binding Word the moment it was completed. That’s the ontological reality as I explained in my last post. However, that reality is distinct from the question about how one comes to know that Mark’s Gospel enjoys a divinely binding status. Your own words imply as much when you note that Mark’s binding nature was “to be seen” [future tense] as the measure of faith. The ontological status of Mark’s Gospel at the moment of its completion is one thing. Our coming to know that Mark’s Gospel was binding at the moment of its completion is another. Our knowledge of Mark’s binding status necessarily happens later in time and gives rise to the epistemological problem for your position which I continue to point out.

    ”So unless the Church recognizes the inherent authority of the Word of God the Word of God cannot be known to be inspired, inerrant, and the authoritative Word of God, even though God himself has spoken it?”

    That is correct. It may in fact be inspired, inerrant, etc; but it cannot be known as the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God unless we already know that the extra-canonical means by which the identification of the contents of the canon and the recognition of its inspired nature were made known to us, were themselves rendered inerrant and irrevocable by God. That entails that “Tradition”, at least with reference to that portion of Tradition related to the identification of the canon’s content and inspiration, must enjoy an inerrant and irrevocable status along with the Scripture, precisely in order to secure an epistemologically credible defense of the inerrant and irrevocable nature of Scripture. That, in turn, means that the rule of faith must minimally be constituted by both Scripture and Tradition. And that means that the “Protestant approach”, to which you subscribe, is flawed – at least as currently formulated.

    To avoid these conclusions I have invited you to either:

    a.) point to some non-circular, non-subjective, alternative means, other than the Church’s extra-canonical tradition, by which one might come to know which writings constitute the canon, and by which one might come to know that such writings enjoy the ontological status of being divinely inspired

    or

    b.) show what is wrong with the line of argumentation by which I have been defending these conclusions.

    So far, you have done neither.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  28. David,

    Let me take the liberty of addressing something you asked Brandon:

    1. for a doctrine to have divine authority, it must be revealed by God.

    Agreed

    2. The doctrine of sola scriptura – namely, that these 66 Books are the sole rule of faith – has not been revealed.

    This is a misstatement of sola Scriptura.

    1) Sola Scriptura does not say that the 66 books of the Bible are the sole rule of faith. It says the 66 books constitute the sole infallible rule of faith.

    2) Even that is not exactly right. Sola Scriptura is a claim about divine revelation, first, and where the revelation is found, second. It would be more accurate to say that sola Scriptura is making the more fundamental claim that divine revelation is the sole infallible rule of faith. I think this gets to one of the fundamental disagreements between Rome and Protestantism in that it does not appear to me that Rome is willing to grant even this claim. Since Rome denies that it is an inspired organ of revelation—it has authority to define dogma, not the authority to give new revelation—Rome does not grant that only God and what He reveals is infallible. The church is also infallible—sometimes.

    3) Sola Scriptura, secondarily, is a claim about where that revelation is found, and it says that divine revelation is found exclusively in what God has given to His church. On this Rome would agree, I think. Where Rome disagrees is that place where revelation is found. I actually don’t think Rome has a coherent set position on this. Partim-Partim and Material sufficiency views are both allowed, so some will point me to Scripture only as the bedrock source for Roman doctrine, and some will point me to Scripture plus unwritten traditions not found in Scripture. This means I have no effective way of verifying Rome’s claims. The conservatives who hold to each position agree, however, that revealed doctrine ultimately consists of whatever Rome says it is. Liberals, however, do not.

    4) The question as to how one knows what God has revealed (the canon) is related to sola Scriptura-inextricable from it really-but it is a second order question. First we have to settle the question as to whether anything besides divine revelation can serve as an infallible rule of faith, and unless Rome today claims explicitly to be an organ of divine revelation, I personally don’t see how it can be taken seriously as an infallible rule of faith. I could be wrong about Rome’s claim on this point, but since you all effectively deny ongoing revelation (formally, anyway), I don’t see how.

    5) This point assumes that it has been revealed that Rome and its tradition is an infallible rule of faith. As Brandon and I keep asking, where has this revelation been made? If you point to Scripture, that’s fine, but then it becomes an exegetical disagreement, and the exegesis is not on Rome’s side, I’m afraid. If you say the Apostolic deposit reveals it, show me where. Where does Paul, Peter, or Jesus say that the Bishop of Rome and those in union with him constitute the church or the rule of faith? Did they say it orally in Capernaum and it got passed down? If so, who were they talking to. Where is the proof for it.

    The problem is that the claim that the Apostles taught some things by oral tradition is nebulous. Nobody knows what this tradition is. Rome hasn’t defined it. It has defined some things that this tradition supposedly teaches, but I want the tradition itself. Is it the postcard Mary send to Ephesus? Is it the speech Peter gave on the third Passover after the Ascension of Jesus, a speech that was memorized and never written down. What is it?

    3. Therefore, the doctrine has no divine authority.

    Jesus repeatedly condemns people for placing people under traditions of men and elevating them to the status of Scripture. Ergo, people can only be bound by what has been divinely revealed. The onus is on Rome to prove that something else exists that has been revealed that contains information not found in Scritpture. IE, prove that what Paul taught by word and by letter were different. If they’re not, we have in his letters what he taught orally and don’t need to go looking elsewhere.

  29. Ray,

    point to some non-circular, non-subjective, alternative means, other than the Church’s extra-canonical tradition, by which one might come to know which writings constitute the canon, and by which one might come to know that such writings enjoy the ontological status of being divinely inspired.

    You cannot escape the circularity in arguing for one’s ultimate authority. Broad circularity is inevitably involved. Rome cannot give a means for showing that it is the one true church that wholly escapes circularity and subjectivity. It is not wholly circular or subjective, just as the Protestant argument is not wholly circular or subjective. However, circularity and subjectivity are necessarily present.

  30. Hi Robert,

    Let me restate the syllogism for sola scriptura in your terms.

    1. for a doctrine to have divine authority, it must be revealed by God.

    2. Sola Scriptura . . . says the 66 books constitute the sole infallible rule of faith.

    3. Sola Scriptura, [claims that] that revelation is found exclusively in what God has given to His church.

    4) [There is nothing] besides divine revelation that can serve as an infallible rule of faith.

    5) This point assumes that . . . Rome and its tradition [are not] an infallible rule of faith.

    6) Therefore, . . . Sola Scriptura.

    I constructed this syllogism from your words. If it does not accurately represent your beliefs, I apologize and would invite you to construct another syllogism in favor of sola scriptura. However, this syllogism, as stated, is essentially the same one Rijssen, Muller, Luther, Calvin, and other Protestant theologians have offered.

    If this does accurately reflect your views, then I would point out that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. The conclusion (Sola Scriptura, i.e., the 66 books constitute the sole infallible rule of faith – your phraseology) still has not been revealed. Nor have any of your premises (3-5) shown it to be a revealed doctrine. They merely establish that the rule of faith, whatever it is, has to be given by God and can’t be Rome.

    Again – God gave us Scripture and Scripture (whatever it is) is inspired. No argument here. But for what purpose has God given Scripture? Has God given us the 66 (or 45, or 73) books to be a rule of faith for the Church? Or for some other purpose? Merely pounding the table and saying “Revealed! Inpsired! Unique!” Does not establish the point in question.

    As far as evidence that Christ established authorities other than Scripture to rule and guide the Church, I would point you to my article on sola scriptura and the magisterium, and to the words of Christ and the apostles, “Whatever you bind, . . . ; Whoever hears you, . .. ; Do this in memory of me, . . .; Teach them everything I’ve commanded, . . .; The tradition I received from the Lord, . . .; Hold fast to the traditions, written or oral, . . .; We have no other practice, nor do the Churches of God, . . We know they were not from us because they went out, . . . etc.

    Peace,

    David

    2-5 if true

  31. Ray,

    Briefly, this comment gets to the point of the disagreement,

    That is correct. It may in fact be inspired, inerrant, etc; but it cannot be known as the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God unless we already know that the extra-canonical means by which the identification of the contents of the canon and the recognition of its inspired nature were made known to us, were themselves rendered inerrant and irrevocable by God.

    Such a position makes communication with God impossible without an interpreter. Your position is that God could not speak his Word to us in a way that we could understand without an interpreter–but this is nothing other than an assertion. You say,

    The ontological status of Mark’s Gospel at the moment of its completion is one thing. Our coming to know that Mark’s Gospel was binding at the moment of its completion is another. Our knowledge of Mark’s binding status necessarily happens later in time and gives rise to the epistemological problem for your position which I continue to point out.

    This is one of the things that is disturbing to me about this approach; it is rank skepticism with simplistic appeals to authority to solve the problem. Even though Mark’s Gospel is God’s Word communicated to the people of God for the edification and building up of the people of God, it is completely inaccessible without an infallible tradition. According to you, we have literally no way of knowing if it’s God’s Word or not, it’s an epistemological problem that we cannot get out of on our own.

    This is not the way God’s Word presents itself, however. The religious leaders are frustrated with Jesus and tell him, would you please plainly tell us that you are the Messiah?! Jesus responds, ” You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

    Elsewhere, the author of Hebrews writes, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

    These are just two passages of many more that could be cited, but God’s Word does not need the authentication of the Church to be binding or even to ground the faith of Christians that it is in fact God’s Word. After all, Christians received the Gospel of Mark as God’s Word before it was formally canonized. There are various pieces of evidence [See WCF 1.5] that confirm what God’s Word is, but because it is God’s Word, the evidences do not pierce us, the Word’s of God do.

    Regarding anachronism, I mean what the word means, namely,

    a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other.

    The reason the discussion of inspiration and canon need to be distinguished and a failure to do so constitutes anachronism is because discussion of the canon usually refers to the churches acknowledgement and acceptance of the book as inspired. That is why arguing that Mark’s Gospel does not make a statement about its own canonicity is anachronistic if you are speaking of canonization as a process by which the Church recognized the authoritative books. It does make a claim to Divine authority and was received by the Church as wielding such authority.

    You need to disambiguate what you’re talking about because to claim that Mark does not claim to be canonical is to make a statement that would not have made sense to Mark in his time. If you’re talking about the historical process by which a book was to be included as authoritative Scripture, then no, Mark doesn’t say this. But if you are referring to Mark being written with Divine authority, then yes, Mark does make this claim and you therefore David’s argument that Mark’s inclusion in the canon is a Tradition not included in Scripture ought to be dropped.

  32. Robert,

    Thanks for your reply.

    ”You cannot escape the circularity in arguing for one’s ultimate authority.”

    That is simply an assertion. Philosophical demonstrations rests upon undeniable first principles and so are not “circular”. Theological arguments rest upon divine revelation. However, knowledge that a divine revelation has been given, as well as its temporal locus, rests upon motives of credibility open to human reason. Hence, theological arguments – from the standpoint of reason – are not “circular”.

    ”Broad circularity is inevitably involved.”

    That is an assertion not an argument. Its inevitability is something you would need to establish by argument.

    ”Rome cannot give a means for showing that it is the one true church that wholly escapes circularity and subjectivity.”

    Sure it can. Catholics appeal to a wide variety of motives of credibility, rooted in human history and open to public investigation, to argue that the Catholic Church is a supernatural and identifiable society founded by Christ to be the normative bearer of the deposit of faith to the human race after Christ’s ascension. There is nothing “circular” about this form of argument since nothing in the conclusion is hidden within the premises. It is a non-circular means for “showing that it is the one true church”. As for subjectivity, it is true that different people have different assessments of the probative force of the motives of credibility which are offered to rationally underwrite the claims of the Catholic Church. However, the same can be said concerning how different persons assess the probative force of the motives of credibility offered to rationally underwrite the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. At any rate, neither line of argument involves circularity.

    ”It is not wholly circular or subjective, just as the Protestant argument is not wholly circular or subjective. However, circularity and subjectivity are necessarily present.”

    Actually, with respect to the epistemic warrant by which the Protestant and the Catholic respectively affirm that the written contents of the NT books are inerrant and irrevocable, the Protestant argument is either circular or fideistic, whereas the Catholic argument is neither circular nor fideistic. The Catholic argument may fail, but if so, that will be due to some material deficiency in the premises. The Protestant argument appears to me false because it is either circular or fideistic.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  33. Ray,

    Catholics appeal to a wide variety of motives of credibility, rooted in human history and open to public investigation, to argue that the Catholic Church is a supernatural and identifiable society founded by Christ to be the normative bearer of the deposit of faith to the human race after Christ’s ascension. There is nothing “circular” about this form of argument since nothing in the conclusion is hidden within the premises. It is a non-circular means for “showing that it is the one true church”. As for subjectivity, it is true that different people have different assessments of the probative force of the motives of credibility which are offered to rationally underwrite the claims of the Catholic Church. However, the same can be said concerning how different persons assess the probative force of the motives of credibility offered to rationally underwrite the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. At any rate, neither line of argument involves circularity.”

    Of course you apply to a wide variety of motives of credibility. So do Protestants. That’s not the issue. The issue is that ultimate authority must be self-authenticating, otherwise it is not ultimate authority.

    If I ask you why Rome is the church Jesus founded, you will no doubt point me to any number of combinations of Scripture, apostolic succession, catholicity, etc., etc. But if any of those are what convince you, indeed, if all of those are what convince you, then the final authority for you is those things, not the church Jesus founded. You are depending on something external to the church to finally “push you over the edge” as it were. That becomes the ultimate authority for you.

    Protestants finally end up saying that Scripture is self-authenticating, though not apart from other external evidences. Rome must finally say the same thing about the church. Both positions are circular and fideistic in some respects. That’s not a bad thing. It’s bad to be narrowly circular and narrowly fideistic. Protestantism is neither.

    Actually, with respect to the epistemic warrant by which the Protestant and the Catholic respectively affirm that the written contents of the NT books are inerrant and irrevocable, the Protestant argument is either circular or fideistic, whereas the Catholic argument is neither circular nor fideistic.

    I could say the same thing about Rome’s view of itself as the church. It relies first on a claim by the church, to which you point to external things for evidence, that lead you back to the church. The Protestant view of Scripture relies first on Scripture’s claim to be the Word of God, to which we point to external things for evidence, that lead us back to Scripture’s claim.

    Again this isn’t a bad thing. God’s claims for his own authority are circular in some respects. “I am that I am.”

  34. Hi Brandon,

    ”Such a position makes communication with God impossible without an interpreter. Your position is that God could not speak his Word to us in a way that we could understand without an interpreter–but this is nothing other than an assertion”

    That is not my position at all, nor did I assert any such proposition. Of course, God could “speak” His Word to us in a way which we could understand without an interpreter. He did so with respect to the OT prophets. But again, I have said nothing about an “interpreter”, so I have no idea why you keep referring to an interpreter. When one puts forward the proposition that some codex of writings enjoys the ontological status of being inspired by God, such a person is offering that proposition for acceptance by another person – a third party. Otherwise, there would be no reason for giving verbal or written voice to a proposition. Further, unless the person putting forth that proposition can offer some ground or basis to his listener as to why the listener should assent to the truth of that proposition, then the listener has no choice other than to regard the proposition as a fideistic assertion.

    For example, even if God spoke to you directly (perhaps audibly) and informed you that the 27 books of the NT were His inspired Word, and even if He provided you with physiological certainty that it was indeed He Who had spoken; that would in no way solve the epistemological problem with respect to any other person but yourself. For if you then were to propose to a third party that the 27 books are divinely inspired based solely on your direct existential encounter with God (which no third party shared in), they would have absolutely no intellectually credible basis for assenting to your proposition. For them to do so would be intellectually dishonest. Anyone could claim that any set of writings was inspired based on an appeal to a direct existential experience as proof. But it should be obviously hat such a move would be epistemologically worthless in human dialogue. Even the direct communication which God granted to the OT prophets had to be verified by third parties through some other means than a mere appeal to “God told me”. Third parties were able to verify the prophetic claim only later when all that the prophet predicted came to pass. Moreover, Christ Himself, Whose words just were the words of the Father, provided miracles, and ultimately his resurrection, as evidence by which third parties could verify His claims.

    ”This is one of the things that is disturbing to me about this approach; it is rank skepticism with simplistic appeals to authority to solve the problem.”

    Telling me how you feel about my argument and calling it names in no way refutes it.

    ”Even though Mark’s Gospel is God’s Word communicated to the people of God for the edification and building up of the people of God, it is completely inaccessible without an infallible tradition.

    You continue putting the cart before the horse. You write “even though Mark’s Gospel is God’s Word” as if that very assertion is just obvious, hanging there with no necessity of an account concerning how one might have ever reached such a conclusion in the first place. Moreover, I never wrote that it was “completely inaccessible”. I specifically argued that it cannot be known to be inerrant and irrevocable without admitting the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the extra-canonical process by which Mark’s Gospel was identified as both canonical and inspired. That argument remains un-refuted.

    ”According to you, we have literally no way of knowing if it’s God’s Word or not, it’s an epistemological problem that we cannot get out of on our own.”

    That’s basically correct, and you have yet to refute the arguments I have given to reach this conclusion.

    ”This is not the way God’s Word presents itself, however. The religious leaders are frustrated with Jesus and tell him, would you please plainly tell us that you are the Messiah?! Jesus responds, ‘ You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’

    Elsewhere, the author of Hebrews writes, ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’”

    Firstly, this entire series of statements presupposes that you already know what writings constitute “God’s Word” such that you can quote these passages as part of “God’s Word”. But you have yet to give any intellectually credible account of how you have come to know that the texts from which you quote are inspired, which does not entail direct dependence upon the extra-canonical Tradition of the Church. Secondly, to assume that when Jesus says “my sheep hear my voice” He has in mind a written canonical text, presupposes your own paradigm and thus begs the question. Likewise, to assume that the author of Hebrews has in mind the canonical text when noting that the “word of God which is living and active” also begs the question in favor of your own paradigm.

    ”These are just two passages of many more that could be cited, but God’s Word does not need the authentication of the Church to be binding or even to ground the faith of Christians that it is in fact God’s Word.”

    Again, mere assertions which leave my argument to the contrary entirely unchallenged. If one does know that the extra-canonical process by which the canon was identified, and by which its inspired nature was recognized, is inerrant and irrevocable, one cannot know that the text itself is inerrant and irrevocable. If inerrancy and irrevocability do not attach to the canon identification process, then your assertion that the canon itself is inerrant and irrevocable entails an ontological claim concerning the text for which you have not provided a sufficient explanation. The claim just hang in the air fideistically with no intellectual foundation.

    ”After all, Christians received the Gospel of Mark as God’s Word before it was formally canonized.

    Yes, based on the Church’s own extra-canonical tradition.

    There are various pieces of evidence [See WCF 1.5] that confirm what God’s Word is, but because it is God’s Word, the evidences do not pierce us, the Word’s of God do.”

    WCF 1.5 reads:

    We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

    Firstly, notice that every single “argument” whereby the Word of God “evidences itself” already presupposes that one knows exactly which writings are to be taken into account when determining the efficacy of doctrine, or the majesty of style, or the consent of its parts, or the scope of the whole, or the discovery made therein regarding the only way to salvation, or the “other” incomparable excellencies. Nowhere does it establish how one comes to know which writings delimit the canon in the first place, so as to facilitate a focused search for the evidences. Secondly, the above “evidences” require loads of subjective assessment. It is some human person who assesses the efficacy of doctrine, majesty of style, etc. Therefore, no sense can be made of the Word of God “evidencing itself” because all of the evidences emerge by way of an individual’s subjective assessment of the text. The text is passive and does not “evidence itself”. Thirdly, not one of the evidences listed, nor the whole list taken together, logically leads to the conclusion that the canon is inspired by God. Every one of those evidences, and the list as a whole, could be predicated of the Summa Theologica. The WCF seems tacitly aware of this shortcoming. Hence, the ultimate criteria by which one is to know that the 66 books are the Word of God is said to be an inward subjective experience. This gets to the real trouble with the WCF approach. It is ultimately a form of subjectivism. And while it my be useful to the individual subject, it is epistemologically worthless in dialogue with the rest of the human race. In short, none of this provides a single epistemologically credible reason why any other person (besides the one claiming to possess an internal divine witness) should assent to the proposition that the 66 books are inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians..

    The reason the discussion of inspiration and canon need to be distinguished and a failure to do so constitutes anachronism is because discussion of the canon usually refers to the churches acknowledgement and acceptance of the book as inspired.

    Agreed.

    That is why arguing that Mark’s Gospel does not make a statement about its own canonicity is anachronistic if you are speaking of canonization as a process by which the Church recognized the authoritative books.

    Neither I nor David “argued” that Mark’s Gospel does not make a statement about its own canonicity. We simply pointed out the obvious fact that the text contains no such statement. Why was that important? Because you argued that the inerrant and irrevocable Word of God was the “canonical” text. But that entails that knowing what “God’s Word” is logically requires a prior knowledge of the extension of the canon. But if knowledge of which books are to be included in the canon is not fond within the canonical books themselves, then it must derive from some non-canonical source. The only extra-canonical source offered so far as being capable of determining the canon, is the Tradition of the Church. Hence, by simply logic, unless you can offer some other extra-canonical source which might fill this role, your knowledge of exactly what writings constitute the “Word of God” depends upon the input of an extra-canonical source. That reality creates the problems for your position which I have been highlighting.

    ”It does make a claim to Divine authority and was received by the Church as wielding such authority”.

    Please show where the writing we know as the “Gospel of Mark” makes the internal claim that it is divinely inspired, or even that it was written by Mark. While the Church did indeed receive the Gospel of Mark as wielding divine authority, I would be very interested in any evidence you may have to support the claim that the Church’s reception of Mark’s divine authority was due to any internal textual claims which might be found within Mark’s Gospel.

    ”You need to disambiguate what you’re talking about because to claim that Mark does not claim to be canonical is to make a statement that would not have made sense to Mark in his time.”

    Of course, as mentioned above, to point out that Mark’s Gospel does not have anything to say about its own fitness for canonization is simply to point out the obvious.

    ”But if you are referring to Mark being written with Divine authority, then yes, Mark does make this claim and you therefore David’s argument that Mark’s inclusion in the canon is a Tradition not included in Scripture ought to be dropped.”

    Please show where the Gospel of Mark makes a claim for its own divine authority. Further, even if such a claim were found within the text, such an internal claim would be manifestly circular. As I argued in #19:

    ”. . . even if the text did make such a claim for itself (for instance, if we read within Mark’s Gospel: ‘I, Mark, write these words under the influence of divine inspiration’), wouldn’t one need some basis other than the textual assertion itself in order to assent to that claim with intellectual integrity – i.e. to avoid rank circularity? Without some basis outside the text itself for assessing internal claims to divine inspiration (or even authorship); how would one adjudicate the veracity of one textual claim to inspiration over against another?”

    As far as I can tell, my argument remains fully intact. So I ask you again to please either:

    a.) point to some non-circular, non-subjective, alternative means, other than the Church’s extra-canonical tradition, by which one might come to know which writings constitute the canon, and by which one might come to know that such writings enjoy the ontological status of being divinely inspired

    or

    b.) show what is wrong with the line of argumentation by which I have been defending these conclusions.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  35. Brandon and Robert,

    Ray and I have been addressing two subtly different questions in this dialogue.

    Ray has been asking how we come to recognize and talk about 1) the inspiration, and 2) canonicity of the biblical texts.

    I have been asking another question. Once we come to recognize both inspiration and canonicity, what are we to conclude about the purpose of the canon. What is its function? What does God intend for the canon to do?

    For simplification and clarification, perhaps I can put the question in a way that combines these subtle differences?

    How do you know that God intends these 66 books (WCF I.2) to be the Rule and Norm of things to be believed and done within the Church?

    The answer to this question must necessarily address all of the issues above – knowledge of inspiration, knowledge of canonicity, and knowledge about the function of the canon (how God intends for it to function).

    Peace,

    David

  36. Ray,

    You say that everything you believe is compatible with Congar’s statement, but everything you continue to argue is that God’s Word is unknown to us without someone telling us that it’s God Word–that is not saying the same thing as Congar. Let’s revisit Congar’s quote in conversation with you,

    Congar,

    It is not that the Church and her Magisterium actually *create the canon*; even less do they endow the Scripture with its authority, as mistakenly rather than intentionally certain Catholic apologists have sometimes maintained. With this dogma, as with others, Church and Magisterium simply recognize the truth established by God’s action, submit to it, and since they are responsible for it, proclaim it with authority, making it into a Church law.

    Ray,

    I specifically argued that it cannot be known to be inerrant and irrevocable without admitting the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the extra-canonical process by which Mark’s Gospel was identified as both canonical and inspired. That argument remains un-refuted.

    While the Church did indeed receive the Gospel of Mark as wielding divine authority, I would be very interested in any evidence you may have to support the claim that the Church’s reception of Mark’s divine authority was due to any internal textual claims which might be found within Mark’s Gospel.

    It is ultimately a form of subjectivism. And while it my be useful to the individual subject, it is epistemologically worthless in dialogue with the rest of the human race. In short, none of this provides a single epistemologically credible reason why any other person (besides the one claiming to possess an internal divine witness) should assent to the proposition that the 66 books are inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians..

    For Congar, it is God’s action that creates the canon apart from the Church. This is in distinction from your view which requires that for us to know the Word of God the extra-canonical Tradition must be infallible as well. I concede that the Church may in fact be infallible, but with Congar, I see no reason to believe that the “tradition” must be infallible in order for Christians to know if or what God has said.

    Also, you are looking at WCF 1.5 as a fully-formed argument for the 66 books, but that is not what it is. It provides evidential grounds by which the Word of God can be verified, but I’d be curious to know why you believe Scripture is the Word of God that is ultimately not self-referential in some sense. I don’t understand how it is any different from the distinctions you make with the motives of credibility in Catholicism.

  37. Hi Brandon,

    ”You say that everything you believe is compatible with Congar’s statement, but everything you continue to argue is that God’s Word is unknown to us without someone telling us that it’s God Word.”

    Correct. Knowing that a collected codex of specific writings is co-terminus with “God’s Word” is something one does not know unless someone else tells one about it (unless you want to claim that it is a natural intuition or a properly basic belief). If that Someone is God Himself, perhaps through a direct internal “witness”, then one could know that the collected codex is His Word, but that internal witness would remain epistemologically inadequate to secure assent for that claim from anyone other than the one having the internal witness. If that someone is not God, then unless inerrancy and irrevocability attach to the acts by which that someone determined which writings belonged within the codex as “God’s Word”, one would have no intellectual justification for affirming that the written content within that codex was the inerrant and irrevocable Word of God.

    ”–that is not saying the same thing as Congar.”

    True. I never said I was saying the same thing that Congar was saying. I maintained that what I say in no way contradicts what Congar is saying. Moreover, I say that Congar (being well trained philosophically) was fully cognizant of the distinction between the ontological nature of Scripture and the epistemological question concerning how we come to know about Scripture’s ontological status.

    ”Let’s revisit Congar’s quote in conversation with you”

    Great

    You quote Congar as follows:

    ”It is not that the Church and her Magisterium actually *create the canon*; even less do they endow the Scripture with its authority, as mistakenly rather than intentionally certain Catholic apologists have sometimes maintained. With this dogma, as with others, Church and Magisterium simply recognize the truth established by God’s action, submit to it, and since they are responsible for it, proclaim it with authority, making it into a Church law.”

    Congar is simply pointing out that the Church does not “create the canon” in the sense of bringing it (ontologically) into existence or as being the cause of its inspiration and authority. Rather, the “dogma” (note that a dogma is specifically designed to make a truth which must be held by all Catholics explicitly known) “recognizes” (re-cognizes – note the epistemological nuance) the truth that God’s action had already established. The reason that such already-completed action had to be “re-cognized” and “pro-claimed” as “dogma” was precisely in order to overcome the epistemological gap between what God had already accomplished ontologically in space and time, and our coming to know what God had already accomplished. If God’s action in inspiring a specific number of writings were in itself sufficient to make the inspiration and identity of each of those writings obvious, there would have been no need for the Church to recognize, dogmatize, and proclaim the identity of the canon, nor any point to the distinction which Congar makes in his comments. Thus, the Church does not “create” the canon from an ontological point of view (in the sense of making the inspired writings to exist or be inspired – which is Congar’s point), but the Church does “create” the canon in the epistemological sense of enabling Christians to recognize which writings are canonical. That’s what the process of “canonization” is all about.

    You then quote me as follows:

    ”I specifically argued that it cannot be known to be inerrant and irrevocable without admitting the inerrant and irrevocable nature of the extra-canonical process by which Mark’s Gospel was identified as both canonical and inspired. That argument remains un-refuted.

    and

    While the Church did indeed receive the Gospel of Mark as wielding divine authority, I would be very interested in any evidence you may have to support the claim that the Church’s reception of Mark’s divine authority was due to any internal textual claims which might be found within Mark’s Gospel.

    and

    It is ultimately a form of subjectivism. And while it my be useful to the individual subject, it is epistemologically worthless in dialogue with the rest of the human race. In short, none of this provides a single epistemologically credible reason why any other person (besides the one claiming to possess an internal divine witness) should assent to the proposition that the 66 books are inerrant and irrevocably binding on Christians.”

    Feel free to point out how any proposition within any of those three quotes contradicts what Congar has to say.

    ”For Congar, it is God’s action that creates the canon apart from the Church. This is in distinction from your view which requires that for us to know the Word of God the extra-canonical Tradition must be infallible as well.”

    No incompatibility at all. Your remarks, once again, entirely overlook the distinction between ontology and epistemology. As I wrote in #22

    ”Congar correctly explains the ontological status of the text in itself. Scripture does not derive its authority from the Church but from God. However, that entirely skirts the epistemological question. Why must the Church “recognize” the truth established by God’s action and “proclaim it with authority”? Because our coming to know that Scripture is endowed with God’s authority depends upon it. Whatever the actual ontological status of the writings that make up the canon of Scripture may be in itself, our coming to know that status is something quite different. Both Dulles and Congar were perfectly aware of this critical distinction which you seem to overlook. Moreover, Congar would recognize that the very truth of his assertions which you quoted, are themselves something he has come to know through the heritage of the Church – as a part of the theological training which he received within the Church. Hence, the necessity of answering the epistemological question must always precede the theological assertions which we make about the ontological status of revealed truths (such as Scripture’s inspiration and divine authority, or the relationship existing between Scripture and the Church), if those assertions are to avoid devolving into mere personal assertions.”

    You have not once acknowledged the ontological/epistemological distinction I have repeatedly pointed out, much less challenged its validity. If what I say here is correct, it should be obvious that your appeal to Congar achieves nothing with respect to the topic at hand. I concur with everything he has to say and find it utterly compatible with the argument I have been making.

    with Congar, I see no reason to believe that the “tradition” must be infallible in order for Christians to know if or what God has said.

    It is in no way evident that Congar agrees with the way you see things, and even if he did, your appeal to his agreement would be a mere appeal to authority and not a refutation of my position. Besides, if you think Congar agrees with you, you would need to demonstrate that claim, not merely assert it. Can you show how your position follows from any proposition, or combination of propositions, within the quote you have pulled from him? Moreover, your informing me that you “see no reason to believe x” only tells me something about you, it is not an argument for the truth or falsity of “x”. Additionally, your statement here is ambiguous. The specific point I have been arguing (which Congar does not deny in the above quote) is that at least that part of tradition tied up with the identification of the canon must be inerrant and irrevocably binding if one wishes to have any epistemological justification for going on to claim that the written contents of that identified canon are themselves inerrant and irrevocably binding. Without the former claim, there is simply no non-circular, non-subjectivist, foundation for affirming the later. If the process by which the canonical writings were identified was open to error, then there is no intrinsic reason why some non-inspired, non-authoritative writing(s), might have mistakenly been included. That being the case, one simply could not be certain that the contents of the canon just are inerrant, divinely inspired, and irrevocably binding on Christians. I am, of course, assuming here that we both take circular and subjectivist foundations for conclusions to be epistemologically inadequate. In any case, I do not see that my argument has been refuted in any way.

    Also, you are looking at WCF 1.5 as a fully-formed argument for the 66 books, but that is not what it is.

    No, I simply responded to the “evidences” given within that limited passage since that is where you, yourself, pointed. I am happy to consider a fully-formed argument

    It provides evidential grounds by which the Word of God can be verified

    I am not sure what you mean by “verified”. If you mean to say that WCF 1.5 gives evidential grounds for verifying which writings should constitute the canon, or that a canon, once identified, is necessarily divinely inspired, then I do not agree for all of the reasons I gave in #34.

    but I’d be curious to know why you believe Scripture is the Word of God that is ultimately not self-referential in some sense. I don’t understand how it is any different from the distinctions you make with the motives of credibility in Catholicism.

    First, I note that both you and Robert have now raised the tu quoque challenge. Rather than refute my arguments to the effect that your position lacks epistemological justification, you instead are asking me how mine avoids the very same trouble. But even if my position were to fall prey to the same criticism (which it does not) it would in no way repel the force of my argument against your position. All it would mean is that neither one of us can defend the inerrancy and irrevocability of Scripture in an epistemologically justifiable way. Our options vis-à-vis the divine authority of the canon would then be something like fideism or agnosticism.

    Secondly, to mention just one important difference, the motives of credibility which are offered as evidential grounds for thinking that the Catholic Church has been endowed with divine authority do not, themselves, assume the truth of Catholicism. One may consider them insufficient to establish the claim, but they do not presuppose the conclusion within their premises. By contrast, the so call evidences which one finds within WCF 1.5 quite obviously smuggle an a priori embrace of the 66 books as the “Word of God” within their premises. In this respect they are not only hopelessly subjective but also circular. That was the very first point I noted about them in #34 when I wrote:

    Firstly, notice that every single “argument” whereby the Word of God “evidences itself” already presupposes that one knows exactly which writings are to be taken into account when determining the efficacy of doctrine, or the majesty of style, or the consent of its parts, or the scope of the whole, or the discovery made therein regarding the only way to salvation, or the “other” incomparable excellencies. Nowhere does it establish how one comes to know which writings delimit the canon in the first place, so as to facilitate a focused search for the evidences.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  38. Ray,

    Of course there is a distinction between ontology and epistemology. Sorry if I was not clearer on that earlier.

    Do you mind taking the time to explain to me how your position is anything other than a skeptical assessment of human faculties, though? The reason I ask is because I’m curious if you extend the issues of ontology and epistemology to all issues or specifically to canonical issues and what principled reason you have for doing so.

    Is it possible for me to know the essence of anything? If so, why are we incapable of knowing the essence of God’s Word if we are agreed that it is ontologically God’s Word? Is there something particular about the interpretive process in accessing divine revelation that is different knowing the essence of my wife, for example?

    If we are unable to know the essence of anything, how can you know that the RCC was founded by Jesus? How can the motives of credibility operate to testify to the Divine constitution of the RCC if you cannot know the essence.

    Thanks for your patience with me. Even though we have some pretty pointed differences I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me and I’m not trying to “catch” you. I just want to get a better sense of what you’re saying because it seems part of miscommunication is centered upon this misunderstanding.

  39. Hi Robert,

    The issue is that ultimate authority must be self-authenticating, otherwise it is not ultimate authority.

    That is an assertion that you would need to argue for. Moreover, I am not sure what you mean by the phrase “ultimate authority”.

    If I ask you why Rome is the church Jesus founded, you will no doubt point me to any number of combinations of Scripture, apostolic succession, catholicity, etc., etc. But if any of those are what convince you, indeed, if all of those are what convince you, then the final authority for you is those things, not the church Jesus founded. You are depending on something external to the church to finally “push you over the edge” as it were. That becomes the ultimate authority for you.

    Correct, the proposition that Jesus founded the Roman Catholic Church is a historical claim, not a supernatural claim. In such a case, Catholics depend upon external evidence as the final authority for establishing that claim. They do not depend upon the “church Jesus founded”, since to propose that our knowledge that “Jesus founded the Roman Catholic Church” rests upon the fact that it is the “church Jesus founded” would be manifestly circular.

    Protestants finally end up saying that Scripture is self-authenticating, though not apart from other external evidences.

    Your statement requires disambiguation. It could mean that the canon of Scripture can only be authenticated as God’s Word when its own internal testimony is combined with external evidences. On the other hand, it could mean that Scripture can be authenticated as God’s Word through its own internal testimony independent of external evidences, even though external evidences exist.

    If the former, then the external evidences (whatever they are) are essential to any possible recognition of the canon as God’s Word, and it is unclear how one could then hold the contents of the canon to be inerrant and irrevocable, while also denying those same properties to those essential external evidences by which “God’s Word” is even identified.

    If the later, then internal evidences suffice to recognize the contents and inspiration of the canon. But all such “internal” evidences are either circular or else subjective (I have argued). But circularity and subjectivism are inadequate epistemological credentials by which to gain the assent of any third party concerning the extension or inspiration of the canon. From an epistemological point of view, to secure such assent one would have to return to the allegedly non-necessary external evidences to find an adequate epistemological ground for affirming that the canon is God’s Word. But that would entail that such external evidences were really essential after all. But that situation presents problems for the Protestant position since the Protestant position does not admit any extra-canonical source as essential to the rule of faith.

    Rome must finally say the same thing about the church. Both positions are circular and fideistic in some respects.

    That is an assertion not an argument. It does not show that the apologetic method by which the authority of the Church is proposed to reason for assent, is either circular or fideistic.

    I could say the same thing about Rome’s view of itself as the church. It relies first on a claim by the church, to which you point to external things for evidence, that lead you back to the church.

    No. The apologetic method by which the authority of the Church is proposed to reason for assent, does not use the Church’s own claim for herself as a premise in any of its arguments. There is no circularity. If you think there is, then you would need to show where the circularity lay. But perhaps you misunderstand the traditional apologetic method.

    The Protestant view of Scripture relies first on Scripture’s claim to be the Word of God, to which we point to external things for evidence, that lead us back to Scripture’s claim.

    Insofar as that is true, the Protestant view is circular. Insofar as any individual protestant holds to a conclusion derived from a circular argument he is practicing fideism. That is neither a good nor laudable situation because it is contrary to the good of the intellect.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  40. Ray,

    Secondly, to mention just one important difference, the motives of credibility which are offered as evidential grounds for thinking that the Catholic Church has been endowed with divine authority do not, themselves, assume the truth of Catholicism. One may consider them insufficient to establish the claim, but they do not presuppose the conclusion within their premises. By contrast, the so call evidences which one finds within WCF 1.5 quite obviously smuggle an a priori embrace of the 66 books as the “Word of God” within their premises. In this respect they are not only hopelessly subjective but also circular.

    This is manifestly not true. Feingold lists these as motives of credibility:

    (1) miracles, (5′)
    (2) prophecies (6′)
    (3) the Church (7′)
    (4) the wisdom and beauty of revelation itself, and Christ Himself (7′)

    Apart from presupposing the truth of the RCC and the way Rome defines these things, not one of these things is evidence for Roman Catholicism. If I approach these things with atheistic presuppositions, for example, miracles are just unique events for which we presently lack a naturalistic explanation.

    The motive of credibility the Church presupposes that the RCC definition of the church is true. A (nominally) universal truth with an infallible Magisterium is a motive of credibility only if you first accept that such is God’s will for the church.

    I could go on for all the motives. None of them point to Roman Catholicism without, in some measure, the truth of Roman Catholicism being presupposed. It is the same with every single argument for ultimate authority.

    There’s a difference between a vicious or narrow circle and a broad circle. All arguments for ultimate authority depend finally on broadly circular arguments.

    As far as the tu quoque, you are indeed correct that it comes up and that even if true, it doesn’t prove Protestantism. But that’s not the point. If you guys are going to criticize Protestantism for being unable to answer certain questions, you can’t do it on the basis of things that invalidate your own position.

  41. Brandon and Robert,

    Ray and I have been addressing two subtly different questions in this dialogue.

    Ray has been asking how we come to recognize and talk about 1) the inspiration, and 2) canonicity of the biblical texts.

    And as we have said to Ray, WCF 1 answers this question by providing a list of external corroborations and then saying that the final persuasion comes from the Holy Spirit. I know you guys don’t really like that answer, but that answer is essentially the same as to how we know that Rome is the true church—motives of credibility plus faith, unless you want to tell me that the final reason you believe Rome is the Church Christ founded is not God but rather your own opinion. I don’t think you want to go there.

    I have been asking another question. Once we come to recognize both inspiration and canonicity, what are we to conclude about the purpose of the canon. What is its function? What does God intend for the canon to do?

    The same way you approach the church, you turn to what the church says about itself. We turn to what the Scriptures say about themselves and what Jesus and the Apostles say about them.

    For simplification and clarification, perhaps I can put the question in a way that combines these subtle differences?

    How do you know that God intends these 66 books (WCF I.2) to be the Rule and Norm of things to be believed and done within the Church?

    The answer to this question must necessarily address all of the issues above – knowledge of inspiration, knowledge of canonicity, and knowledge about the function of the canon (how God intends for it to function).

    See WCF 1, which tells us how we know God intends these things. It seems to me you are asking the question as to how we know that WCF 1 is true. And we’ll go back to see if it agrees with Scripture. And how do we know Scripture is what we say it is, because of certain external evidences secondarily but primarily because of the witness of the Spirit. Just like you would claim for Rome, unless of course you are the final arbiter of truth.

    IOW, unless in both of our cases the Holy Spirit is the final persuader, both of us are left with our own mere opinions.

    Thanks,

    Robert

  42. Ray (re: 39),

    You wrote to Robert:

    Correct, the proposition that Jesus founded the Roman Catholic Church is a historical claim, not a supernatural claim. In such a case, Catholics depend upon external evidence as the final authority for establishing that claim. They do not depend upon the “church Jesus founded”, since to propose that our knowledge that “Jesus founded the Roman Catholic Church” rests upon the fact that it is the “church Jesus founded” would be manifestly circular.
    ————————

    13. You, Venerable Brethren, understand how much this question is in Our mind, and We desire that Our children should also know, not only those who belong to the Catholic community, but also those who are separated from Us: if these latter humbly beg light from heaven, there is no doubt but that they will recognize the one true Church of Jesus Christ and will, at last, enter it, being united with us in perfect charity. While awaiting this event, and as a pledge of Our paternal good will, We impart most lovingly to you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people, the apostolic benediction.

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius11/P11MORTA.HTM
    ———————–

    Why did the Pope ask us to beg light from heaven to recognize the true Church (church Jesus founded) if it is not a supernatural claim ? You appear to downgrade the claim to avoid circularity. It should be noted, however, that light from heaven will avoid circularity.

  43. Hi Brandon,

    I also appreciate the conversation we are having. While we may not agree, it seems we are moving toward the root of some of our disagreements.

    ”Do you mind taking the time to explain to me how your position is anything other than a skeptical assessment of human faculties, though? The reason I ask is because I’m curious if you extend the issues of ontology and epistemology to all issues or specifically to canonical issues and what principled reason you have for doing so.”

    Great question. No, my position does not entail any skepticism concerning human faculties, quite the contrary. I am a moderate realist (Aristotelian right down the line) with respect to epistemology, which means I affirm the reliability of the senses, acknowledge that the laws of logic are derived from the laws of being, and believe that natural reason is capable of truth: truth being defined as “the adequation of the mind to reality”. By ontology I simply mean the way things are irrespective of our knowledge of things. Therefore, reality is neither true nor false, it simply “is”. Epistemology, on the other hand, concerns our conception of the real, and insofar as our conception of the real corresponds with reality, our conceptions are either true or false. Insofar as they are true, they constitute natural knowledge. Therefore, broadly speaking, ontology and epistemology concern all aspects of reality and human knowledge, albeit in different ways. The epistemological means by which we come to know natural truths are different from those by which we come to embrace supernatural truths.

    ”Is it possible for me to know the essence of anything?”

    Yes, all of our intellectual knowledge comes through the senses. At least there is no evidence that there is anything in the intellect that was not first in the senses. Moreover, essence follows action. Through sensate encounter with a thing we come to know its essence over time with increasing clarity. I know the essence of a tree in a confused way the first time it impacts my sense of sight through the mediation of light waves. Even from a distance I gain some sense of its shape, size, color, etc. If I bring my other senses to bear upon it over an extended period of time, my grasp of its essence, properties, and accidents will become clearer. Indeed, I might extend the range of my senses through the use of modern tools such as a microscope and come to have a more complete knowledge still, penetrating perhaps to an understanding of the molecular or atomic makeup of the tree.

    ”If so, why are we incapable of knowing the essence of God’s Word if we are agreed that it is ontologically God’s Word?”

    Let’s slow down a bit. I am not sure what you mean by the “essence of God’s Word”. I am going to take my best guess and assume that by this phrase you mean to ask something like: “why are we incapable of knowing the that the 66 books are divinely inspired” (inspiration being the formal cause which makes the 66 books “God’s Word”). If that does not accurately reflect what you have in mind please let me know.

    Given that meaning, I need to point out that nowhere in my argumentation in this thread have I maintained that we cannot know that the canon is inspired. I have argued that the Protestant account concerning how we (a) come to know which writings are to be included in the canon and (b) come to know that said writings are divinely inspired, lacks epistemological justification. I have not maintained that God could not grant some individual a direct, personal, revelation concerning the extension and inspiration of the canon. Indeed, I affirmed that very possibility in my prior comments. What I maintained was that even if God were to do such a thing, while the person who had received that personal revelation might well know and be certain that the 66 books are a divinely inspired canon, that personal revelation alone would be an epistemologically inadequate basis upon which to seek the assent of some third party. Given no other basis than a personal experience or internal witness for accepting the inspiration of some collection of 66 writings, anyone evaluating such an argument must necessarily judge it to be fideistic as a matter of intellectual integrity.

    Of course, God could give every person on earth a direct, unmediated knowledge of the canon and its inspiration. But unless you think the majority of human souls are malevolently suppressing this innate knowledge, it must be admitted that in the normal case, people arrive at knowledge of both the canon’s extension and inspiration through the mediation of others.

    Let’s turn now to a consideration of the distinction in our epistemological situation as it relates to naturally known realities as contrasted with supernatural realities. You asked:

    ”Is there something particular about the interpretive process in accessing divine revelation that is different knowing the essence of my wife, for example?”

    The proper object of the human intellect is sensible being (things around us which act upon our five senses). Your wife is known to your through your five senses. Even her thoughts are communicated to you through her bodily activity (handwriting, verbalization, body language), and you receive these products of these modes of communications through your own senses (ocular, auditory, tactile, etc). Obviously, the same is to be said for how you come to know her shape, size, smell, etc. Moreover, through sensate encounter with your wife you become aware that she grows, is capable of reproduction, locomotion, and sensation. Hence, she falls within the genus “animal”. Further, through your sensate experience you learn that she uses language, symbols, and abstract concepts. Hence, she is rational. In short, you recognize the essence of your wife as a “rational-animal” (which is the traditional philosophic definition of the species “man”). All knowledge of your wife ultimately traces back through your aggregate sensate experience. That is because your wife (like rocks, plants and other animals) is a sensible being. She is a reality which falls within the natural intellect’s noetic range.

    Now supernatural realities such as God’s Trinitarian nature, Christ’s divinity, and the inspiration of Scripture are outside of the natural’s intellect’s noetic range, precisely because they are realities which the senses cannot detect. That is why they are called “super-natural” realities. That is also why, from an epistemological point of view, our knowledge of them requires that they be “revealed” to us by God, either directly or through the mediation of others. They are strictly beyond the capacity of unaided reason to discover.

    Clearly, God has chosen to disclose the essential supernatural truths which He wishes men to understand, by way of a public and mediated revelation. Hence, the instrumentality of the prophets, the apostles, the ministry of the Church, and the humanity of Christ. Although He could have given all men direct, private, revelations concerning the supernatural truths which He wanted them to know, He did not do so. The reasons for this choice seem tied up in deeper macroscopic considerations having to do with participation, cooperation, interdependence, etc. But suffice it say that since God has chosen to reveal through intermediaries, and since He does no violence to the good of man’s intellect, He has always attached motives of credibility to the efforts of His messengers. In this way men are not required to practice fideism, but are rather granted an epistemologically adequate basis for accepting the words of the mediator as the words of God. Hence, the fulfillment of prophecies, the working of miracles, the resurrection, etc. throughout salvation history.

    With all of this in hand, let’s now focus on the issue of inspiration in particular. Put 100 healthy persons who have never been exposed to the claims of Christianity in a room with a leather bound Protestant bible. After 4 hours take them each to a separate room and ask them to describe that bible. Because the leather, pages, ink, etc, are all realities which are open to the senses, you will likely get a similar material description of that leather bound bible from each participant. Why? – because that bible, insofar as it is sensible, remains open to the penetration of the natural intellect. Since all 100 people share the same sensate and intellective faculties, it is no surprise that they reach relative agreement about its material shape, size, color, number of pages, etc. etc. However, will any of them come out of the room affirming that the 66 books are divinely inspired? I doubt it, don’t you? If none of them do come out of the room affirming divine inspiration, is that because they are all actively suppressing an internal witness which God has directly implanted within them? If so, then we would need some very interesting non-fideistic argument to support such a radical claim. The more likely reason that none of the participants will express any awareness of that bible’s divine inspiration is simply because the divine inspiration of a 66 book codex of religious writings is a supernatural quality which is strictly beyond the capacities of natural reason to discern. The most likely way that any one of these persons will ever come know that the 66 books are inspired is if someone else tells them so.

    And if someone else eventually does present them with the proposition that those 66 books enjoy the non-sensible quality of being divinely inspired, then intellectual integrity will demand that they seek out that source or means by which the 66 books were first identified as constituting an inspired canon. Moreover, If they should be told that those through whom the canon’s extension and inspiration were secured may very well have erred in their determination, then there would be no adequate epistemological grounds for affirming that the 66 books are necessarily the inspired and irrevocable Word of God. That is because they would have to admit the real possibility that one or more non-inspired works was mistakenly included within the 66 book codex.

    To sum up, God could directly reveal the extension and inspiration of the canon to the human intellect. This seems in some measure what you and Robert and the WCF are proposing. But even if He did afford such a private revelation to someone, it would remain epistemologically inadequate as a basis for seeking assent concerning the extension and inspiration of the canon from anyone else. To propose acceptance of the extension and inspiration of the canon on that basis alone would be to ask for a fideistic assent from another. Moreover, God could directly reveal the extension and inspiration of the canon to everyone on earth. But if He has done so, men must be generally suppressing such knowledge. Such a bizarre claim would itself obviously require an argument. Short of such direct private revelation, and given the supernatural character of inspiration as falling outside the natural intellect’s noetic range, the only other epistemological vehicle by which the extension and inspiration of the canon might be known is through non-divine mediation. But in that case it seems evident that if the non-divine mediator(s) which first identified the extension and inspiration of the canon was not preserved from error during said identification process, then there is no epistemologically adequate basis for affirming that the canonical claims they make are inerrant or irrevocably binding.

    That situation (I have argued) creates a dilemma for the Protestant position. Of course, if one does claim that the non-divine mediator(s) which first identified the extension and inspiration of the canon were preserved from error, then given the supernatural nature of such a claim, there would need to be epistemologically adequate motives of credibility to affirm that such mediator(s) acted with divine authority/protection. That, of course, is the Catholic claim. However, answering the question as to whether or not there really are such epistemologically adequate motives of credibility is not in any way essential to my argument here. For even if the Catholic claim entirely fails, the logic of my argument still forces the Protestant position into the dilemma of either recognizing some other source, in addition to Scripture, as essential to the rule of faith, or else digging in and continuing to affirm that Scripture is the onlyinerrant and irrevocable rule of faith despite the fideism involved in doing so.

    If we are unable to know the essence of anything, how can you know that the RCC was founded by Jesus? How can the motives of credibility operate to testify to the Divine constitution of the RCC if you cannot know the essence.

    As explained above, we can and do know the essence of things, although the way we come to know necessarily differs depending upon whether the object of knowledge is a natural or super-natural reality.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  44. Hi Robert,

    I could go on for all the motives. None of them point to Roman Catholicism without, in some measure, the truth of Roman Catholicism being presupposed. It is the same with every single argument for ultimate authority.

    Claiming that none of the motives of credibility “point to” the Roman Catholic Church is not the same as claiming that the arguments which appeal to the motives of credibility include the Church’s claims for herself within their premises – which is what I deny. Nothing you wrote in #40 provides a single argument to show that the Church’s claim for herself is included within the premises of the arguments which appeal to the motives of credibility.

    Also, while I do not think that Feingold’s lecture falls prey to your accusation either, it is worth noting that his presentation is not at all rigorous. It was directed to a popular audience. If you are interested in studying a rigorous account of the traditional scholastic approach to Catholic apologetics I recommend The Principles of Catholic Apologetics by Fr. T.J. Walshe, which is based on Fr. Pierre Gariggou Lagrange’s two volume master work (unfortunately never translated into English), titled De Revelatione per Ecclesiam Catholicam Proposita (On Revelation as Proposed by the Catholic Church).

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  45. Brandon, Robert, David,

    I am very much enjoying our exchange. I have to bow out for a bit in order to finalize a writing project for which I am responsible. I’ll check back in and comment when I can. God bless you all.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  46. Ray,

    Claiming that none of the motives of credibility “point to” the Roman Catholic Church is not the same as claiming that the arguments which appeal to the motives of credibility include the Church’s claims for herself within their premises – which is what I deny.

    Again, not one of those motives of credibility says anything about the RCC, nor does it give anyone any reason to put his faith in Rome’s claims, apart from Rome’s interpretation of what these motives mean. For example, a purported “miracle” that Rome has performed has no evidentiary force apart from Rome’s interpretation of it. Apart from RCC presuppositions, a RC miracle could be just an unusual event with as a yet unknown naturalistic explanation, a work of the devil, a magic trick that hasn’t been yet uncovered, etc., etc.

    The motives of credibility have evidentiary value only if you accept Rome’s view of what they are and what they mean. And those things are bound up inextricably with Rome’s claims for itself. In that respect, appealing to the motives of credibility is no more and no less broadly circular than any other argument for ultimate authority. Rome has to tell me why I should even care about these motives and why they are what they are. Apart from that, the “seeker” doesn’t care.

    It’s a bit like saying the resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God. Apart from Christian presuppositions, the evidence for the resurrection of Christ proves no such thing. Apart from Christian presuppositions, it is just something unusual.

  47. Hi Robert,

    Again, not one of those motives of credibility says anything about the RCC.

    This is not true. Among the motives of credibility are historical claims about the episcopate and Peter’s ministry in Rome and the early Christian doctrine of Petrine primacy and Roman primacy (even among non-Romans and non-Catholics). These are intimately and essentially related to the identity and authority of the RCC, whether or not the motives are persuasive.

    The motives of credibility have evidentiary value only if you accept Rome’s view of what they are and what they mean.

    I’m trying to make sense of this claim. If I present evidence in court (“I saw the defendant leaving the scene of the murder 5 minutes after I heard gunshots, carrying a the murder weapon), this either confirms the prosecution’s theory of the crime or not. One doesn’t have to “presuppose” the prosecution’s theory in order for the testimony to have evidentiary value.

    It seems to me that your view would destroy the possibility of evidence ever confirming or refuting an empirical claim.

    Christ either founded the church or he did not. He either instituted the episcopate or he didn’t. He either established Petrine Primacy or he didn’t. The early Christian community either understood that primacy to reside in Rome, or it didn’t. There is evidence for these claims, or there isn’t. One doesn’t need to presuppose the outcome of the inquiry to investigate these questions.

    Peace,

    David

  48. Robert (#46)
    Regarding the ‘motives of credibility:’

    It’s a bit like saying the resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God. Apart from Christian presuppositions, the evidence for the resurrection of Christ proves no such thing. Apart from Christian presuppositions, it is just something unusual.

    I think this is correct – except I don’t think it’s a matter of presuppositions. It is, rather, as in any case of proving something: you have to have a hypothesis (not the same as a presupposition). Given the hypothesis that the Catholic Church is what Catholics believe, do the ‘motives of credibility’ bring one to ‘moral certainty’ considering the hypothesis?

    This is somewhat off the topic of this post, but the matter is discussed in considerable depth here.

    jj

  49. Robert,

    You wrote:
    “See WCF 1, which tells us how we know God intends these things”

    I have read WCF 1, but it does not answer the question I raised in the form of a valid argument.

    To summarize, WCF says,

    1. I know by the spirit’s witness that these 66 books are inspired.

    2. The pope and councils err.

    3. Therefore, God intends the 66 to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

    If you think I have misrepresented WCF, or if you have another syllogism to present, I’d love to hear it.

    Thanks,

    David

  50. I have read WCF 1, but it does not answer the question I raised in the form of a valid argument.
    To summarize, WCF says,
    1. I know by the spirit’s witness that these 66 books are inspired.
    2. The pope and councils err.
    3. Therefore, God intends the 66 to be the Church’s rule of faith.
    The conclusion does not follow from the premises.
    If you think I have misrepresented WCF, or if you have another syllogism to present, I’d love to hear it.
    Thanks,

    .

    The basic problem here is that your syllogism doesn’t go far enough into WCF 1.

    You have to start with point 1:

    Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

    1. Natural revelation tells us enough about God so that we cannot claim to have no understanding of God.

    2. Natural revelation is not enough to tell people the way of salvation.

    3. Therefore God revealed Himself in a special way to give this information.

    4. This special revelation was committed into writing.

    Of course the confession goes on to enumerate the confession etc. Concluding basically with:

    5. The only place we find this special revelation is Scripture.

    I think we can agree that God’s special revelation is to be the rule of faith for the church.

    So the disagreement is where the church finds special revelation. We say Scripture only. You all say, basically, Scripture plus whatever the Magisterium says is special revelation.

    We agree that Scripture is special revelation and is Apostolic. What has to be proven is

    1) The Apostles intended to leave something more than just their writings.
    2) The scope of this tradition

    If it is Scripture plus x, you all should be able to tell me what x is. But no one can. All I get is “liturgy, witness of the fathers, etc.” I can’t even get an infallible list of everything Rome has thus far said is infallible dogma. And I’ve asked for this repeatedly, not so much here, but elsewhere. And the complaint that most RCs give to me here is that “well, you just want another canon.” As if that is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s a legitimate question

  51. Hi Robert,

    Thanks so much for writing. I have a few questions about your syllogism.

    First of all, is #5 meant to be a conclusion or is it a premise? In either case, doesn’t it beg the question against the Catholic position?
    Secondly, I think there is an ambiguity in #4. Do you mean to assert that “special revelation has been committed to writing,” or that “all special revelation has been committed to writing?

    Next, you comment:

    I think we can agree that God’s special revelation is to be the rule of faith for the church.

    Actually, I don’t think that at all. This goes to the heart of the distinction between the material and formal sufficiency of Scripture. It was this issue that made Newman (ultimately) into a Catholic as he learned from Edward Hawkins, the Anglican, that “the sacred text was never intended to teach doctrine, but only to prove it, and that, if we would learn doctrine, we must have recourse to the formularies of the Church; for instance to the Catechism, and to the Creeds.” (Apologia pro vita sua)

    To clarify, the bearer of divine revelation is one thing (i.e., scripture or tradition or what-have-you), the power to define its meaning and contours (what I mean by the rule of faith) is something different.

    The Protestant view is that Scripture fulfills both these roles. It is both the bearer of divine revelation and (via the Holy Spirit) it is its own interpreter. The Catholic position is that Scripture is a bearer of divine revelation but that God has not invested Scripture with the authority (nay, even the ability) to be its own interpreter. The task of interpreting divine revelation belongs to the Church. And, as I argued in the article, Scripture is not even the only divinely authorized bearer of divine revelation. Christ also instituted the apostolic college to convey his oral tradition (teach them everything I have commanded you,) as well as the liturgy (do this in memory of me, baptize, whoever sins you forgive, . . . )

    And so, your next comment:

    “So the disagreement is where the church finds special revelation.”

    Actually misrepresents the nature of the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics. There are Catholics who believe in the material sufficiency of Scripture. In these cases, “where revelation is to be found” is not at issue.

    Finally,

    “If it is Scripture plus x, you all should be able to tell me what x is. But no one can. All I get is “liturgy, witness of the fathers, etc.” I can’t even get an infallible list of everything Rome has thus far said is infallible dogma. And I’ve asked for this repeatedly,”

    I’m not sure what you are getting at here. I think we have got some kind of misunderstanding. If I assert that Christ left authorities other than Scripture as, for example, the liturgy-as-bearer-of-divine-revelation [Do this in memory of me], what is ambiguous about that? Likewise, if I assert that apostolic authority – the power to bind and loose, as exercised in Acts 15, belongs to the Church such that the Church can define the contours of the deposit of faith, what is ambiguous about that?

    It may be that you are thinking strictly in terms of doctrinal propositions – such as those contained in Scripture – and you are looking for a list of those “authoritative doctrines” laid down by tradition. If so, I think you are misconstruing the Catholic position. In the Catholic paradigm the doctrinal content of the faith is one thing – the power to define it, the vehicle of its transmission – is something else. For many Protestants, however, these ideas get conflated because they are used to thinking in terms of an authority that just is a collection of propositions.

    So let’s disambiguate. In the Catholic paradigm, the power to define the contours of the faith – to bind and loose the conscience of believers, is held by the Church’s magisterium. Thus, the Nicene creed is not simply a summary of biblical teaching, possessing authority in an entirely derivative way. Rather, the Nicene Creed possesses divine authority inherently, intrinsically, because it is proposed by the Church’s magisterium as an article of faith.

    As far as a list of those binding decisions, I would point you to Denziger’s enchiridion, where he gives the list. I would also direct you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a summary and abbreviation.

    I think another source of confusion is the Protestant habit of relating to the faith as a static body of propositions contained in Scripture instead of an historical event – the incarnation, the implications of which may be recognized in a developmental way over time. The spelling out of those implications in an authoritative way in the form of propositions is that task of the Magisterium and results in what we call dogma. The Catholic paradigm presupposes that future definitions of dogma may be necessary in ways the current generation may not anticipate. (Could the infant Church have anticipated Nicea?) So the demand for an exhaustive list of infallible dogmas misrepresents the Catholic approach to dogma. As a Catholic, I want an infallible Church – a living magisterium – that is able in every age to propose for me “what it is necessary to believe” in a way possessing divine authority.

    In any event, I’d still like to discuss your take on WCF, if you could clarify those premises for me. So far, I haven’t found an articulation of Reformed doctrine that presents the conclusion “God intends these 66 to be the Church’s rule of faith” in a way that follows validly from premises grounded in revelation. Hence, my belief that the doctrine of sola scriptura is mere assertion, founded neither in Scripture nor any revelation, nor entailed by any rational argument.

    thanks again,

    David

  52. David,

    First of all, is #5 meant to be a conclusion or is it a premise? In either case, doesn’t it beg the question against the Catholic position?
    Secondly, I think there is an ambiguity in #4. Do you mean to assert that “special revelation has been committed to writing,” or that “all special revelation has been committed to writing?

    I should have been clearer:

    1. Natural revelation tells us enough about God so that we cannot claim to have no understanding of God.

    2. Natural revelation is not enough to tell people the way of salvation.

    3. Therefore God revealed Himself in a special way to give this information.

    4. Special revelation alone is to govern what God’s people must believe (and do) for salvation.

    5. The special revelation God intended to govern his people for all time was committed into writing.

    (Any form or revelation not given in nature is special revelation, but not all of this is for all time. The OT, for example, refers to many prophets who never wrote anything and whose words even Rome would say we do not have either in oral or written form.)

    Of course the confession goes on to enumerate the confession etc. Concluding basically with:

    6. The only place we find this written special revelation is Scripture.

    That’s a syllogism based on WCF. I know Rome disagrees that special revelation is found only in Scripture. Well, actually the position isn’t clear as you point out. Material sufficiency advocates ultimately say that yes special revelation is found only in Scripture (I think). Partim-partim advocates say it is partly in Scripture and partly in tradition. Those are contradictory positions. Yet both are permitted.

    Rome, it seems to me, reconciles those contradictions by saying it doesn’t matter where you look for special revelation as along as you agree that you won’t deny what the Magisterium has infallibly said. That ultimately makes special revelation in its original form and meaning irrelevant. You admit as much in this statement:

    As a Catholic, I want an infallible Church – a living magisterium – that is able in every age to propose for me “what it is necessary to believe” in a way possessing divine authority.

    But I hope to get back to that statement of yours in time.

  53. Hi Robert,

    As you have presented it, 1-6 do not form a syllogism. They are, rather, a series of assertions. In any event, I’m looking for the conclusion “God intends these 66, etc.) to follow from the premises.

    Thanks,

    David

  54. David,

    Briefly, and I’ll say more later. The assertion “God intends these 66” is not the primary conclusion of the Protestant argument but rather a secondary one. The primary conclusion of the Protestant argument is that God intends the Apostle’s teaching to be the church’s rule of faith. The canon is an artifact of revelation, not revelation in and of itself. God didn’t speak a table of contents; he spoke via prophets and Apostles who wrote down the revelation they received. Canon, is secondary. It tells us where the special revelation is.

    It’s not unlike the RCC position on the rule of faith, which is, namely, that the church (or properly speaking, the Magisterium) is the rule of faith. That doesn’t answer the question as to how one identifies the place where one finds that church. That’s a secondary matter, an artifact as it were of the more primary aspect, which is that the church or the church Jesus founded is the rule of faith.

    If the Apostle’s teaching and only the Apostle’s teaching is indeed the rule of faith, the canon (in some form at least) seems to inevitably follow. If the church is the rule of faith, then an infallible church (in some form at least), seems to inevitably follow. The thing that must first be proven is where the rule of faith is to be located and what it is.

  55. David,

    I’d also add that my points 1–6 aren’t mere assertions. 1 through 3 are a summary of Romans 1–3. If point 4 isn’t true, then ultimately Roman Catholicism isn’t true because it takes special revelation to give us the church. Further, as many RCs have told me, the role of the Magisterium is to recognize the extent and meaning of special revelation and not to give it, so in theory even for Rome only special revelation can bind us as to what we are to believe. Admittedly, in practice, Rome itself becomes special revelation, but even in that case, it is special revelation that tells us what to believe.

    Point 5 isn’t really a leap because even Jesus repeatedly refers back to written special revelation to validate his work. He doesn’t say, go find the oral tradition of prophet Joe who never wrote anything down. And he repeatedly condemns unwritten traditions not based on Scripture.

    Point 6 is not really a leap either because I am assuming that we can both agree that the canon listed in WCF is inspired. If we can’t agree on that, then I would have to approach you as one who denies Scripture altogether, which I can’t do as long as you profess to adhere to it. So the burden really isn’t on me to prove it. It’s on you to disprove it. We both agree that Scripture is special revelation. We disagree that it alone is special revelation (I think, though Rome could allow for this position among those who hold to material sufficiency. Which Rome are we talking about?).

    What hasn’t come out in all this is whether you are a material sufficiency or partim-partim guy. That could help clarify the discussion.

  56. Hi Robert,

    The assertion “God intends these 66″ is not the primary conclusion of the Protestant argument but rather a secondary one. The primary conclusion of the Protestant argument is that God intends the Apostle’s teaching to be the church’s rule of faith.

    I wonder if this is quite right. The point at issue is whether or not God intends the 66, etc. To make that case that God does intend this, Protestants usually have recourse to the two premises “God intends the apostolic teaching to be the rule of faith,” and “the apostolic teaching exists only in Scripture.” The conclusion then would seem to follow, “God intends the 66, etc.” Would you not agree?

    Regarding you statement,

    The canon is an artifact of revelation, not revelation in and of itself. God didn’t speak a table of contents;

    Should I take this as a concession that the content of the canon, on your view, is not revealed and cannot be proposed as a dogma?

    -David

  57. Hi Robert,

    Regarding the propositions 4-5,

    There is a category mistake here. To rely on something as evidence is not to acknowledge that evidence as the governing rule of a society.

    To illustrate, I know that Barrack Obama is the highest executive authority in the U.S. because those deputized to count votes, those responsible for reporting them, and those responsible for acknowledging or recording them all say so. The vote-counters are how I know the identity of the president. But that doesn’t make them a higher executive authority than the president.

    So, again, the fact that the Catholic Church relies on special revelation to report God’s will – in fact, receives special revelation in the form of propositions from God, does not entail that those propositions constitute the rule of faith.

    Imagine if I wrote to my children saying, “I want child #1 to be in charge in my absence.” It would be absurd for child #2 to refuse submission to child 1 on the grounds that “Dad’s letter is really in charge, not you.” The letter carries a sort of authority – the authority to convey a specific piece of info from Dad – but not the authority to govern the house in my absence.

    -David

  58. David,

    Should I take this as a concession that the content of the canon, on your view, is not revealed and cannot be proposed as a dogma?

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by this. Is the content of the canon revealed as a table of contents? No. That doesn’t mean it isn’t revealed. The sheep of Christ hear his voice.

  59. Robert,

    So the table of contents cannot be proposed as an article of faith?

    -David

  60. David,
    I appreciate the analogies, but as you know all analogies have limitations. In any case, I’ve seen analogies like these before, and they are fundamentally flawed for your case even when limitations are accounted for:

    There is a category mistake here. To rely on something as evidence is not to acknowledge that evidence as the governing rule of a society.

    But Scripture is not “evidence.” It is the living and active Word of God. Scripture isn’t merely something the church uses to come up with the rule of faith. It never claims to be that. In any case:

    To illustrate, I know that Barrack Obama is the highest executive authority in the U.S. because those deputized to count votes, those responsible for reporting them, and those responsible for acknowledging or recording them all say so. The vote-counters are how I know the identity of the president. But that doesn’t make them a higher executive authority than the president.

    Actually, you know Obama is the highest executive authority because the Constitution, in theory, is the highest authority of all. The constitution prescribes how the president is to be selected—by the electoral college. There is freedom in determining exactly how the electoral college will function, but as long as you do not violate that principle (an the constitution is not amended), there are any number of ways the votes can be counted. By proxy. By in person voting. By choosing electors according to what a state legislature says.
    What happens when the vote counters violate the Constitution? They don’t replace the Constitution. They stop violating it or they are replaced. The Protestant claim is that the vote counters (the Magisterium) have usurped the authority to which even they are accountable, namely, God Himself, who governs His church by His Word. Even Jesus submitted to His Word and would not violate it. The RC claim is the that Magisterium, under certain circumstances, cannot contradict the Constitution—the Bible.

    So, again, the fact that the Catholic Church relies on special revelation to report God’s will – in fact, receives special revelation in the form of propositions from God, does not entail that those propositions constitute the rule of faith.
    Imagine if I wrote to my children saying, “I want child #1 to be in charge in my absence.” It would be absurd for child #2 to refuse submission to child 1 on the grounds that “Dad’s letter is really in charge, not you.” The letter carries a sort of authority – the authority to convey a specific piece of info from Dad – but not the authority to govern the house in my absence.

    (The tacit assumption here is that the Bible doesn’t give enough information to serve as the rule in itself. Be that as it may…)

    But by appointing child #1, the Letter is serving as the final authority because it is the word of the Father. This is no different than Scripture. Further, child #2 doesn’t then have to bow to child #1 when child #1 violates the will of His Father. But in traditional RCism, that does not hold. Implicit faith is key. I have to do and believe believe whatever the church tells me to do and believe even if it’s wrong. When the papacy ordered the execution of heretics, the appointed executors could not violate the Vatican upon pain of their own punishment. Today, Rome will likely say that God doesn’t will the execution of heretics. Back in the day, however, when child #1 (the church) was violating God’s will in such matters, child #2 was not justified in bucking child #1. Today, the modern RC teaching on conscience would likely allow it in this particular matter. But what the Protestant is saying is that the RC tells us today to believe and do other things that violate the father. Child #1, who was left in child, is commanding child #2 to violate his father’s will and pointing to a letter leaving him in charge in order to justify this command.

    No one is saying the church is unnecessary. No one is even saying that the authority of Scripture is not ordinarily conveyed through the church at least in some sense. For it is true that the Bible doesn’t sit up on the shelf and ordain elders, administer sacraments, etc. What we are saying is the Bible in no way depends on the church for its authority. The Bible isn’t authoritative because the church says so; the church is authoritative because the Bible says so, and then what the Bible says only matters because it is the very Word of God. If Rome wants to start saying its pronouncements are the Word of God in the same sense that the Bible is the Word of God, the position might be a little more coherent.

    Ordinarily, God does not exercise His authority through Scripture apart from His church. But that in no way means the Bible cannot and does not function as the final authority. If that were so, then the random pagan who picks up a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room, reads it, and rejects Christ would be entirely justified in doing so. After all, the Bible can’t function as the final authority in matters of faith and practice. But surely you would not want to say that the pagan would be so justified. I’d also note that plenty of people in Scripture have their lives governed by special revelation apart from the church. Abraham is perhaps the best example. He didn’t have a Magisterium, but He had the voice of God. If Scripture is what it claims to be, what we have in writing is exactly what Abraham had when he heard God’s voice audibly, or however it happened.

    This is the strange thing about the RC position. On the one hand, I’ve been told by many RCs that because the Bible is divinely inspired, I can’t really trust myself to read it, understand it, and submit to it without an infallible third party. On the other hand, you guys treat Scripture as an ordinary book when you deny that it can serve as the rule of faith for the church. It’s just a dusty old tome that is “inferior” to the living voice of the Magisterium. You even said above that what you are looking for is the living Magisterium. What, is Scripture dead? That’s the implication of your position.

    The more I think about it, a lot of what the difference between Prots and RCs is this:

    1. Roman Catholics—the Bible is an ordinary, book full of dead letters that comes alive ONLY by the extraordinary means of an infallible interpreter.
    2. Protestants—the Bible is the living and active Word of God that needs no extraordinary means to bring its authority to bear but only the rather ordinary process of reading.

    Obviously, no RC would formally confess #1, but it is the logical implication of what you have said. You’re not the first RC to tell me that the Bible cannot be authoritative without an infallible church. In making that claim, you are denying the unique character of Scripture and what it says about itself. You’re making Scripture into a dead letter.

  61. Robert,

    But Scripture is not “evidence.” It is the living and active Word of God. Scripture isn’t merely something the church uses to come up with the rule of faith. It never claims to be that.

    Being the living and active Word of God is not incompatible with the bible being evidence of God’s will. However, I agree with you that Scripture never claims to be something the church uses to come up with a rule of faith, precisely because the Bible makes no claim about itself at all.

    Even Jesus submitted to His Word and would not violate it.

    Actually, Jesus abrogated specific teachings in the Old Testament.

    (The tacit assumption here is that the Bible doesn’t give enough information to serve as the rule in itself. Be that as it may…)

    This is not an assumption. It is a conclusion based on the kind of information the bible conveys. It’s not a matter of there not being enough information. It would only take one sentence: “God intends the following books to be the Church’s rule of faith.” But, instead of this, we find, “Whoever hears you hears me.”

    If Scripture is what it claims to be, . . .

    “Scripture” doesn’t claim to be anything. More precisely, some parts of Scripture make claims about other parts. But there is no claim within the Bible about the Bible as a whole.

    what we have in writing is exactly what Abraham had when he heard God’s voice audibly, or however it happened.

    What Abraham heard audibly was a direct and specific command from God, not a constitution for the Church.

    On the one hand, I’ve been told by many RCs that because the Bible is divinely inspired, I can’t really trust myself to read it, understand it, and submit to it without an infallible third party.

    No, not because the Bible is inspired. But rather, because the inspired bible does not present itself as the Church’s rule of faith. Following the teaching of the inspired Bible leads us to trust those authorities established by Jesus. Jesus never directed us to the canonical new testament as our rule of faith.

    On the other hand, you guys treat Scripture as an ordinary book when you deny that it can serve as the rule of faith for the church.

    Incorrect. Catholics believe that Scripture is inspired and inerrant, useful for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness. It is perfect for exactly those things for which God intends it.

    It’s just a dusty old tome that is “inferior” to the living voice of the Magisterium.

    Not at all. It’s the inspired word of God, just not the Church’s rule of faith.

    You even said above that what you are looking for is the living Magisterium. What, is Scripture dead?

    Nope, not dead. Just not the Church’s rule of faith because Christ never gave it to us as a rule of faith nor have you presented a valid argument to the contrary.

    Roman Catholics—the Bible is an ordinary, book full of dead letters that comes alive ONLY by the extraordinary means of an infallible interpreter.

    Then you have not understood the Catholic point of view.

    Protestants—the Bible is the living and active Word of God that needs no extraordinary means to bring its authority to bear but only the rather ordinary process of reading.

    Actually, Catholics also believe this. The question is whether that authority includes being the church’s rule of faith.

    You’re not the first RC to tell me that the Bible cannot be authoritative without an infallible church.

    I never made this claim. Without the Church’s magisterium, the Bible would still be an infallible record of the life and teaching of Jesus, the thoughts of Saint Paul, the history of the infant Church, etc. It just wouldn’t be the Church’s rule of faith, because Christ never told us to view it as the Church’s rule of faith. Apart from divine revelation, the claim “God intends these 66, etc.” is merely human opinion. And, God has not revealed that these 66 are the Church’s rule of faith. So, this claim is merely human opinion.

    In making that claim, you are denying the unique character of Scripture and what it says about itself.

    Please show me where Scripture claims the 66 are to be the Church’s rule of faith.

    You’re making Scripture into a dead letter.

    Nope, not a dead letter. Inspired, infallible, authoritative. Just not the church’s rule of faith. Christ gave that job to another authority, not to Scripture.

    Again – The doctrine of sola scriptura possesses divine authority or it does not. for it to have divine authority, it must be revealed by god. It has not been revealed by God. therefore, the doctrine of sola scriptura does not have divine authority.

    I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary. What I have seen are many claims that the scriptures are inspired and infallible. But I do not contest that. Catholics believe Scripture is inspired and infallible. We just deny it is the Church’s rule of faith, because no divine authority has ever said otherwise.

    -Peace,

    David

  62. David,

    I never made this claim. Without the Church’s magisterium, the Bible would still be an infallible record of the life and teaching of Jesus, the thoughts of Saint Paul, the history of the infant Church, etc. It just wouldn’t be the Church’s rule of faith, because Christ never told us to view it as the Church’s rule of faith. Apart from divine revelation, the claim “God intends these 66, etc.” is merely human opinion. And, God has not revealed that these 66 are the Church’s rule of faith. So, this claim is merely human opinion.

    With all due respect, this is just silly. Christ never told us to view the Roman Catholic Church as the rule of faith. If your claim is true, it is at best a good an necessary consequence of what Christ did say about the church. If the Protestant claim is true, it is a good and necessary consequence of what Christ and the Apostles say about Scripture.

    Again – The doctrine of sola scriptura possesses divine authority or it does not. for it to have divine authority, it must be revealed by god. It has not been revealed by God. therefore, the doctrine of sola scriptura does not have divine authority.

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Paul DOESN’T say its sufficient for every good work EXCEPT the good work of ordering the church, determining what is to be believed, etc. etc.

    You alluded to this passage above:

    The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me. (Luke 10:16) Notice that Jesus says this about the 72, not the Vatican, and here it is limited to the specific mission for which Jesus appointed them. Again, if this is about the Vatican, it is at best a good and necessary consequence of Jesus’ teaching, which has to be proven and not assumed.

    I stated that even Jesus submitted to the OT law—to Scripture. You said:

    Actually, Jesus abrogated specific teachings in the Old Testament.

    The only thing Jesus “abrogated” were ceremonial laws that were not part of the order of creation from the very beginning. And then, he only does so because He fulfills them. So yes, Jesus kept the Sabbath and did everything else in the OT law. He submitted to it, specifically to its true meaning, which shouldn’t be a surprise since He’s the one who gave it in the first place.

    Throughout the NT, the Apostles call us to hold fast to the Apostolic deposit (the faith once delivered to the saints) (Jude 3). You’ve yet to tell me where this Apostolic deposit is found apart from Scripture. All I get is vague statements such as “the liturgy.” Which liturgy. Rome doesn’t follow the precise liturgy of the 1st or 2nd century, nor has it said in an infallible pronouncement “This liturgy found in this source is the divinely revealed liturgy given by St. Peter.” I ask for an infallible list of everything that Rome has thus far said is infallible dogma and the best answer I get is Denzinger, which does not claim infallibility for itself, which Rome does not claim infallibility for, and which RC theologians differ over as to which is infallible dogma and which is not.

    Rome makes a claim to be infallible only in matters of faith taught ex cathedra by the pope or in an analogous way by the whole Magisterium. Neither of those are “divinely revealed” either by direct statement or by good and necessary consequence. Rome fails her own standard.

    The crux of the matter is this: Both of us accept the authority of the Apostles. The Apostles tell us to hold fast to what they taught. Both of us agree that NT contains the deposit of faith. It is therefore incumbent upon Rome to show us where, if parts of the deposit exist outside the NT, this deposit is to be found. I’m still waiting.

  63. Hi Robert,

    You wrote:

    If the Protestant claim is true, it is a good and necessary consequence of what Christ and the Apostles say about Scripture.

    This is precisely the point at issue. Have the apostles taught – directly or by “good and necessary consequences” that God intends these 66 books to be the Church’s rule of faith? I have never seen an argument from any Protestant theologian or apologist producing that conclusion validly from demonstrably true premises.

    I am quite frankly puzzled by your contention that no one has answered your charge about the non-scriptural components in the deposit of faith, since I have listed numerous examples in our correspondence. I’d prefer not to list them again. I understand if you reject the authority or authenticity of those claims, but to say that you haven’t been answered is to misrepresent our discussion.

    The major thesis of the current article (Which came first . . . ?) is that Christ instituted the liturgy (“Do this in memory of me”) as, among other things, a distinctly non-scriptural means of conveying the faith. (As often as you eat, drink, you proclaim . . . ). We know from St. Paul that this non-scriptural rite was received by way of tradition (The tradition I received from the Lord I pass on to you.”) This is a paradigmatic case of what the Church means by tradition. Fathers of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century point specifically to the content and interpretation of that rite as a specific instance of tradition, including elements (such as the epiclesis) that are distinctly missing from the scriptural narrative.

    -David

  64. >I am quite frankly puzzled by your contention that no one has answered your charge about the non-scriptural components in the deposit of faith, since I have listed numerous examples in our correspondence. I’d prefer not to list them again. I understand if you reject the authority or authenticity of those claims, but to say that you haven’t been answered is to misrepresent our discussion.

    What I have asked for is a list of those traditions that go back to the Apostles that contain information not found in Scripture. You haven’t given me that. I want to know where, apart from Scripture. Paul taught the assumption of Mary (or Peter, or Jude, or anyone else) for that matter. Saying that they did so orally is not enough even from the perspective of the fathers because the first fathers to speak about the rule of faith—i.e., Irenaeus—gives us stuff that is found in Scripture or taught in Scripture by good and necessary consequence.

    The major thesis of the current article (Which came first . . . ?) is that Christ instituted the liturgy (“Do this in memory of me”) as, among other things, a distinctly non-scriptural means of conveying the faith. (As often as you eat, drink, you proclaim . . . ). We know from St. Paul that this non-scriptural rite was received by way of tradition (The tradition I received from the Lord I pass on to you.”)

    It’s not a non-scriptural way of conveying the faith because all of that you mentioned is found in Scripture. No one is denying that the words of institution, for example, were originally delivered orally. Nobody is denying that those words are divine revelation. No one is even denying that they were used before any of the NT was actually written. No one is denying that those words are Apostolic. None of that is the issue. The issue is whether we have access to Apostolic teaching today that never got written down. If you want to point to some element of tradition and claim that it is Apostolic, then you need either to show me where and how the Apostles gave it or where it is taught in Scripture either directly or by good and necessary consequence.

    This is a paradigmatic case of what the Church means by tradition. Fathers of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century point specifically to the content and interpretation of that rite as a specific instance of tradition, including elements (such as the epiclesis) that are distinctly missing from the scriptural narrative.

    As far as I am aware, the first clear reference to the rule of faith comes from Irenaeus, and what he gives is essentially the Apostles’ Creed, all of which is taught in Scripture. If you can provide evidence otherwise, I’d be glad to hear it.

    Again, the Protestant argument is that Jesus established the church by his ministry, life, death, and resurrection, and he delivered the authoritative tradition that is to explain these things to His Apostles. This interpretation gives birth to the liturgy because there is no church and no liturgy until Jesus has explained what all these things mean. Was every single aspect of the NT written down when the church first celebrated the Eucharist. It does not seem so. That doesn’t mean that it does not predate the liturgy, however. Even if at that point not all of the NT was written, the principle of Apostolic tradition consisting of the authoritative explanation and teaching BY THE APOSTLES has already been established. The NT is the only sure source of Apostolic teaching that we have, which means that anything claiming to be of Apostolic pedigree must conform to it.

    God has always ruled His people by a written constitution. He has always mediated His authority in that manner. That doesn’t mean there is no other authority. Priests were to interpret the Law under the old covenant, but no one was justified in obeying them when they contradicted the Law. Paul exercised His authority over the Corinthian Church by way of a written document. No elder there would have been justified in contradicting it. Peter did the same thing in the churches he wrote to. James, etc.

    No one is denying that the church has authority to interpret God’s Word. No one is denying that the church is protected by the Spirit. No one is denying that the church may produce inerrant statements. What we are denying is that a statement is inerrant every time the church says it is by virtue of the church saying so. What we are denying is that the church is infallible every time it says it is by virtue of it claiming to be infallible.

    Paul says that we are to hold fast to whatever he (and by extension the other Apostes) taught by word or by letter. The context of this statement gives us no reason to believe that there is something taught by word that is different from or not found in what is taught by letter.

    In sum, the tradition of Apostolic teaching births the liturgy, and not the other way around. We agree that the NT is Apostolic teaching. For the Roman position to be true—and then it only proves partim-partim sufficiency—you must demonstrate where we have things the Apostles said that are not found in Scripture. And saying that some early father makes reference to it is not enough because Rome does not hold that everything every Father taught was Apostolic.

    Saying something like the words of the epiclesis were given by the Apostles is fine. But you have to prove that they gave it, first, and then prove that the Apostles said such words must be offered at every liturgy for all time. You also have to prove that the standard modern Roman interpretation of this is what the Apostles gave. I don’t see how you prove that. At best you can claim that Rome’s reception and promotion of these things is granted to it. I don’t see where you can locate this interpretation as coming directly from James or Peter or Paul themselves.

    No one denies that the church was worshipping prior to the completion of the NT canon. But that doesn’t mean that the liturgy was given before the NT. If, in fact, the NT is Apostolic tradition and Apostolic tradition births the liturgy, then the NT always has logical priority. Always.

  65. David,

    You will continue to mischaracterize the Protestant position until you drop the “God intends these 66 books to be the Church’s rule of faith.” You’re moving too quickly and you’re making the Protestant claims sound absurd which should send off alarm bells. Before moving to the 66 books, we are asking *you* if the Word of God is the rule of faith. Do you accept that God’s Word constitutes the rule of faith for his people?

    At this point Robert and I aren’t even trying to get you to say it is the alone rule of faith, but do you acknowledge that when God speaks it an essential part of the rule of faith (whether it is the *only* source of the rule of faith is a related but distinct question)? If you do, then we have very important common ground.

    Now the question becomes, where has God spoken and what has God spoken? If God has spoken that the Church is to be the infallible witness, then you have Divine warrant for your claims.

    And David, I’m puzzled at how you can be puzzled at Robert’s contention that no one has answered his charge. I explained why your examples are distortions of Scripture and how the CDF explicitly disagrees with the way you try to utilize 1 Cor. None of your examples establish the thing that you’re trying to prove and any honest historians knows that reconstructing the liturgy of the first churches is exceedingly difficult. It is difficult to even try to wrap my head around how you could argue that the liturgy precedes Scripture when your examples are as follows:

    “Do this in Remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24; allusions in Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-25)

    That seems to be a pretty Scriptural means of conveying the faith. And making the argument that Paul is referring to non-scriptural rite received by way of tradition is equally confounding. It is Scriptural and recorded in every Gospel except for John and even in John the Supper is mentioned but without any attention being given to its institution. It is very possible that Peter wrote this before the other Gospels were penned, but the point is that the tradition is recorded for us by three other canonical books and that Paul himself recounts the tradition. This undermines your argument; it doesn’t support it.

    I’m still not sure what Apostolic practices you believe have been retained in the liturgy that are not grounded in Scripture. Do you mind linking to them again if I’ve missed them or offering an argument that addresses the problems with your current proposal?

  66. Robert,

    Here is your list:

    -David

  67. Brandon,

    You will continue to mischaracterize the Protestant position until you drop the “God intends these 66 books to be the Church’s rule of faith.”

    A question: does God intend these 66 books to be the Church’s rule of faith? He either does, or he does not, or, you don’t know one way or the other.

    I don’t see how this question mischaracterizes the Protestant point of view. If I may, here is the WCF 1.2:

    Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: Of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Of the New Testament: The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians I, Corinthians II, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians I , Thessalonians II , To Timothy I , To Timothy II, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation of John. All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.

    The Confession lists the 66, and then concludes: given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.

    This seems pretty straightforward to me. What am I missing? Westminster includes 1.2 as an article of faith for the Christian religion.

    Again, the shorter catechism says:

    Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
    A. The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

    Seems like a pretty clear statement of an article of faith.

    You’re moving too quickly and you’re making the Protestant claims sound absurd which should send off alarm bells.

    Why should this send off alarm bells? Luther said, “But as He is the one and true God, and moreover incomprehensible and inaccessible by human reason, it is right, nay, it is necessary, that His righteousness should be incomprehensible.” –Luther, On the Bondage of the Will.

    He also remarked, ““Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”

    Also ascribed to Luther: “”All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false.”

    Luther identified the absurd as a mark of divinity, so I don’t know why the appearance of absurdity should be surprising. Most of the people I know who have converted to Catholicism from Protestantism by conviction rather than convenience have identified the absurdity of Sola Scriptura as a major contributing factor.

    we are asking *you* if the Word of God is the rule of faith. Do you accept that God’s Word constitutes the rule of faith for his people?

    No, if by “Word of God,” you mean the 66.

    At this point Robert and I aren’t even trying to get you to say it is the alone rule of faith, but do you acknowledge that when God speaks it an essential part of the rule of faith.”

    If you are asking whether God’s direct speech is to be the rule of faith for the Church, the answer would have to be no. God’s direct speech and God’s acts in history constitute the material in the deposit of faith. But the rule for transmitting, interpreting, and safeguarding that deposit has been entrusted to authorized individuals. “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you… the overseer refutes false doctrine, etc.”

    None of your examples establish the thing that you’re trying to prove

    I think we must have a misunderstanding here. I am not arguing that Christ delivered every detail of the Tridentine Liturgy or Chrysostom’s liturgy, or some such development. But isn’t it obvious that Christ’s institution of the Eucharist predates its record in the Synoptics? And isn’t it obvious that Paul did not rely on his own letter to the Corinthians to convey the Church’s Eucharistic tradition to Corinth? He appealed to the tradition he received from the Lord.

    Of course, we also have a written account of the institution, but the rite was in place and celebrated before any written account was offered. Is this really that controversial?

    I’m still not sure what Apostolic practices you believe have been retained in the liturgy that are not grounded in Scripture.

    Here’s one mentioned by Cyprian, but he’s not the first to do so:

    Thus the cup of the Lord is not indeed water alone, nor wine alone, unless each be mingled with the other; just as, on the other hand, the body of the Lord cannot be flour alone or water alone, unless both should be united and joined together and compacted in the mass of one bread; in which very sacrament our people are shown to be made one, so that in like manner as many grains, collected, and ground, and mixed together into one mass, make one bread; so in Christ, who is the heavenly bread, we may know that there is one body, with which our number is joined and united” (“On the Sacrament of the Cup of the Lord,” No 13).

    From St. Basil, On the Holy Spirit:

    For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learned the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.

    I would particularly direct your attention to the mention of the invocation at the display of the eucharistic elements, an extremely important eucharistic tradition (included in all ancient liturgies) that reinforces and confirms the orthodox doctrine of the Eucharist.

    -David

  68. David,

    Here is your list:

    Does the Magisterium say that Denzinger is infallible?

  69. David,

    Of course the Protestant position is that the 66 books of the OT and NT are the sole infallible source of Divine revelation. We already know that though and you continue to miss that while you rush to say we believe that you are completely missing how we get there. As such you are being simplistic and reductionistic. Regrading your statements about Reformed theology and absurdity, I’ll apply Proverbs 26:4.

    You demonstrating that you do not understand this discussion well when you answer my question,

    No, if by “Word of God,” you mean the 66.

    I asked,

    do you acknowledge that when God speaks it an essential part of the rule of faith (whether it is the *only* source of the rule of faith is a related but distinct question)? If you do, then we have very important common ground.

    You’re not even addressing my question because you are forcing it into a poorly conceived apologetic. I’m not talking about the 66 books at this moment because to go there is to move far to quickly, as I noted.

    You then say,

    If you are asking whether God’s direct speech is to be the rule of faith for the Church, the answer would have to be no.

    Ok, so God’s speech does not rule over and regulate the Church and the world? What authority does?

    Continuing,

    But isn’t it obvious that Christ’s institution of the Eucharist predates its record in the Synoptics? And isn’t it obvious that Paul did not rely on his own letter to the Corinthians to convey the Church’s Eucharistic tradition to Corinth? He appealed to the tradition he received from the Lord.

    Precisely! Yes, it is blatantly obvious. This is why your arguments don’t introduce anything new to the discussion aside from huge leaps in logic. Robert and I have taken pains to admit that the preaching of the Apostolic Deposit preceded the written Scripture. Every Confessional Protestant in the history of the world acknowledges this. That is an historical fact–do you believe that anyone denies this? No one denies that this happened, but the question is what were the Apostles teaching before it was written down? That record is found in the Apostolic writings while you want to claim that the Apostolic witness included other aspects of tradition not written down.

    To lay these out you’ve suggested, that putting water into the wine is an Apostolic practice…and for evidence of that we have an unclear statement from Justin Martyr and Cyprian’s statement in the third century. That is your Apostolic tradition? Now, I have no problem giving deference to such positions. If my church chose to observe such a practice I’d be absolutely fine with it, but to declare that denial of the mixture of anathema is the very example of Church authority run amok.

  70. Brandon,

    To lay these out you’ve suggested, that putting water into the wine is an Apostolic practice…and for evidence of that we have an unclear statement from Justin Martyr and Cyprian’s statement in the third century. That is your Apostolic tradition? Now, I have no problem giving deference to such positions. If my church chose to observe such a practice I’d be absolutely fine with it, but to declare that denial of the mixture of anathema is the very example of Church authority run amok.</blockquote

    Thanks. You've very eloquently and concisely stated the problem with the RC understanding of ecclesiastical authority vis a vis the church's tradition. We could obviously say this about a host of practices.

    I'd also add that it is anachronistic to mandate such a practice because Justin and Cyprian say it is from the Apostles and then to completely ignore the fact that neither of them supports the idea of the papacy. Where's THAT Apostolic tradition. Oh wait, development covers a multitude of sins, as long as Rome is the only one allowed to develop.

  71. Brandon,

    you are completely missing how we get there.

    I’ve been asking all along for a valid argument that concludes with “God intends the 66 to be the rule of faith.”

    What I think I’ve been hearing instead is the assertion that the Scriptures are inspired, that they are the word of God, and that only the word of God should rule the Church, that the word of God is found nowhere but Scripture, therefore, etc. This is the position outlined in WCF and in Calvin. But the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises and at least one of the premises is question begging. So I’m asking you guys to present a valid argument for this conclusion.

    This is why your arguments don’t introduce anything new to the discussion aside from huge leaps in logic.

    You haven’t shown that my argument has “leaps.” And, I think that I have introduced something substantive to the discussion. Namely, the claim that the doctrine on the rule of faith must be taught by divine authority. This is a doctrine that the Protestant position implicitly denies. As Richard Muller notes, the Protestant infers Scripture’s regulative authority from its attributes, not from the actual content of revelation. You also seem to concede this, because every time I ask for evidence that God intends the 66, you respond that this is an illegitimate question. Instead, you propose an argument based on the attributes of Scripture, but not on its content. Attributes, I might add, that are alleged on the basis of interior experience (Sheep hearing voices, and all that), rather than on the actual content of revelation.

    To summarize the Protestant approach:

    1. I feel that these books are divine, so they must be divine.
    2. Only the divine can rule the Church.
    3. Only these books are divine (presumably, because I don’t get these feelings from other sources),
    4. So only these books can rule the Church.

    The Catholic position is, rather:

    1. Doctrine must be established by divine authority.
    2. Christ (a divine authority) teaches that the faith is to be transmitted by authorized interpreters and via ritual/tradition.
    3. Therefore, the rule of faith is this apostolic authority established by Christ.
    4. And, for good measure, those authorized authorities never indicated that any canon of Scripture was to take over the job Christ gave them. Instead, they appointed men to succeed them and instructed them to hand on the faith, correct error, and appoint successors.

    The Catholic position – rightly or wrongly – is based on the objective teaching of Christ and the apostles. The Protestant position is an inference, ultimately, from religious experience.

    If you think I’ve mischaracterized the Protestant position, I’m happy to hear an alternate explanation.

    Thanks,

    David

  72. Nope. But the ordinary Magisterium of the Church is infallible, and proposes articles for belief based on the content of the tradition Denzinger reports. See the index to the Catechism for extended examples.

    I don’t need an exhaustive list of traditions because any such list would not, on its own, be the rule of faith. The rule of faith is the living magisterium, whose teaching continually expands and clarifies and develops our understanding of the faith.

  73. Brandon,

    How do you know that Church authority cannot specify the matter and form of a sacrament? The claim that such specificity “runs amok” is an assertion, but a false assertion IF Christ has given such authority to the Church.

    -David

  74. #60
    Robert
    “The more I think about it, a lot of what the difference between Prots and RCs is this:

    1. Roman Catholics—the Bible is an ordinary, book full of dead letters that comes alive ONLY by the extraordinary means of an infallible interpreter.
    2. Protestants—the Bible is the living and active Word of God that needs no extraordinary means to bring its authority to bear but only the rather ordinary process of reading.

    Obviously, no RC would formally confess #1, but it is the logical implication of what you have said. You’re not the first RC to tell me that the Bible cannot be authoritative without an infallible church. In making that claim, you are denying the unique character of Scripture and what it says about itself. You’re making Scripture into a dead letter.”

    The “infallible interpreter” caught my eye. I don’t believe that the Catholic Church holds entirely to that point, but when a decision about the real meaning of a part of scripture might have to be made, then, yes, an “infallible interpreter” would be the right thing to have under the assumption that God is not the Author of confusion.

    Noting your #2 above, I’ll illustrate what having “unaided human reason” means when interpreting scripture and arriving at dogmatic positions, with the following example:

    AME
    AME Zion
    Anglican
    Anglican-Catholic
    Apostolic
    Assemblies of God
    Baptist
    Free-will Baptist
    Full-Gospel Baptist
    Independent Baptist
    Pentecostal Free-will Baptist
    Southern Baptist

    There is a lot more but I’m going to skip them to arrive at the following:

    Lutheran
    Lutheran ELCA
    Lutheran Missouri Synod
    ..
    Presbyterian
    Presbyterian PCA
    Presbyterian USA

    I believe that there are about nine different denominations claiming Presbyterianism.

    “2. Protestants—the Bible is the living and active Word of God that needs no extraordinary means to bring its authority to bear but only the rather ordinary process of reading.”

    It would appear that an “extraordinary means” is needed to bring authority to bear for a correct understanding of scripture. The alternative, which you can read from your own Yellow Pages under Church, is the chaos listed above. The Protestant position finds God telling one thing to one person or group and telling something else (something antithetical and contrary) to another person or group, ad infinitum. Whatever my many faults, I don’t want to be credited with bringing that one to the judgment.

    Should you claim Calvin, you mustn’t be surprised when someone else claims Luther, another Wesley, another Mary Baker Eddy, another Aimee Semple McPherson, another the founder of the Latter Day Saints, and on and on.

    So, “infallible interpreter”? Yes. Real authority? Yes. Jesus as the Founder and Head of His Body the Church? Yes. Founded on the apostles? Yes. One, holy, and catholic? Yes. Disappeared from anywhere between 100 AD to 500 AD (depends on one’s authority as to when the Church effectively disappeared) until Luther’s rediscovery of the gospels? Nope. Corrected by Calvin? Nope. Subsequent corrections to Calvin’s efforts? Nope.

    Do I have an un-nuanced free will? Yes. Can it respond to grace? Yes. Is the bible a book of dead letters? No, and it was not a dead letter book when I was an evangelical. Our Lord spoke to me through His scriptures, and one of the things He spoke to me about was that He had founded a Church and that I was outside of it. I am a bit slow and it took a while for Him to get through to me but then He is nothing if not patient with His own and I am one of His.

    If you are right about #2, I am right about the consequences of #2. Now that is worthy of consideration.

  75. David,

    What I think I’ve been hearing instead is the assertion that the Scriptures are inspired, that they are the word of God, and that only the word of God should rule the Church, that the word of God is found nowhere but Scripture, therefore, etc

    Your thoughts about this conversation are wrong, David. That Scripture is inspired is not an assertion–it’s a shared doctrine that Congar admits is the onotological reality of the Scriptures apart from the Church. Ray has argued that we can’t *know* it because it requires Divine revelation. That’s problematic, IMO & I intend on responding, but at least Ray acknowledges that Scripture is God’s Word independent of the Church.

    And I have insisted, over and over and over again, that while we believe that the Word of God is the only thing that should rule the Church, we get to that point further down the road. Your unwillingness to engage in the conversation and further understanding has become exceedingly frustrating. From my perspective, it seems as if you’re not even attempting to listen.

    You continue by saying,

    And, I think that I have introduced something substantive to the discussion. Namely, the claim that the doctrine on the rule of faith must be taught by divine authority.

    If you believe this is a novel contribution to the discussion, then you only underscore the point that you have no idea what the Reformed actually believe. The question is not whether the rule of faith must be taught by Divine authority, the question is what that authority is.

    You also say,

    Attributes, I might add, that are alleged on the basis of interior experience (Sheep hearing voices, and all that), rather than on the actual content of revelation.

    David, go look at WCF 1.5. It is not alleged on the basis of interior experience. But it is instructive to note how your perspective leads to a diminutive view of Jesus’s own statement about his sheep hearing his voice. The internal witness of the Spirit is not the evidence for belief, but as the WCF notes, it is the ultimate ground of our belief because it is God himself persuading our hearts.

    You gross distortion of the Protestant syllogism is disappointing, but it is not surprising. It is reflective of your poor understanding of Reformed theology on these points. There really is no way to enter into a conversation with someone unwilling to hear the other side and from the very beginning Robert and I have been attempting to explain why your question is bound to generate unsatisfactory answers because it mischaracterizes the Reformed position. If you want to keep insisting that your question is a good one, that’s fine, but don’t be surprised when people throw their hands up and leave the conversation.

  76. David #73,

    The claim that such specificity “runs amok” is an assertion, but a false assertion IF Christ has given such authority to the Church.

    That is not strictly speaking an assertion, it is an evaluation of what the historical sources say and what the Church dogmatizes. If the Church is what she claims, then I concede that she’d be able to make such a determination–but such a pronouncement actually speaks against the Church being what it claims. Because you’ve bought into the system hook, line, and sinker you’re not phased, but such strong statements about something with so little historical evidence further confirms for the Protestant that the Trent was being authoritarian and not attempting to follow Apostolic practice.

  77. Hi Brandon,

    I don’t think I need to tell you why this position begs the question against the Catholic point of view.

    Thanks,

    David

  78. Brandon,

    I’m actually, genuinely, concerned here. I don’t want to frustrate you. I don’t want to make light. I apologize if I came across this way. Please, the floor is yours, lay out what you take to be the reformed argument that concludes with sola scriptura. I don’t want to misrepresent. Please elucidate.

    -David

  79. Robert (#70),

    This is not really pertinent to the topic, but you made a statement in number 70,

    I’d also add that it is anachronistic to mandate such a practice because Justin and Cyprian say it is from the Apostles and then to completely ignore the fact that neither of them supports the idea of the papacy.

    There is evidence that St. Cyprian did support the idea of the papacy. I don’t want to get this conversation off topic–but I did not want that statement to remain without responding. Here are some statements by St. Cyprian found here http://www.catholic.com/tracts/origins-of-peter-as-pope

    Cyprian of Carthage

    “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. . . . If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

    “There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering” (Letters 43[40]:5 [A.D. 253]).

    “There [John 6:68–69] speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest and the flock clinging to their shepherd are the Church. You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priests of God, believing that they are
    secretly [i.e., invisibly] in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and Catholic, is not split nor divided, but it is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere one to another” (ibid., 66[69]:8).

    Thanks, Kim

  80. David,

    I don’t need an exhaustive list of traditions because any such list would not, on its own, be the rule of faith. The rule of faith is the living magisterium, whose teaching continually expands and clarifies and develops our understanding of the faith.

    Bingo. Whatever Rome says you must believe today is Christianity. It doesn’t matter if it said the same thing yesterday or if it will say the same thing tomorrow. This is the problem.

  81. Donald,

    And I find the exact same theological confusion among Roman Catholics. I will not find two RCs who will give me the same list of what has been declared infallibly. And Francis is already proving that his understanding of so many things isn’t the same as what came before, which is why so many conservative RCs are beside themselves right now.

    Within the U.S. church alone, I can find parishes that support homosexual marriage, parishes who are Thomistic in orientation, parishes whose priests are Molinistic, etc. etc. The fact that they all claim to be RC doesn’t make them more meaningfully united. Bureaucratic unity when there is not doctrinal agreement is not unity at all. And why should I accept your definition of RCism, or the understanding of it promoted here over and against the understanding of Sister Jeanne Grammick or any other rank RC liberal? If you are going to go down the road of looking in the phone book, you need to explain why Rome hasn’t produced anything more meaningfully united than the civil service sector of the American economy.

    Or maybe you can explain how the pope can nonchalantly marry people living in sin and that NOT contradict historic RC teaching on the matter, or at least teaching from the last

  82. Brandon, (re: #75, #76)

    You wrote:

    Your unwillingness to engage in the conversation and further understanding has become exceedingly frustrating. From my perspective, it seems as if you’re not even attempting to listen.

    … you have no idea what the Reformed actually believe.

    your poor understanding of Reformed theology

    you’ve bought into the system hook, line, and sinker you’re not phased,

    All these are personal attacks, and are not permitted here. If you think something David said is false (or problematic in some way), then simply explain why the claim is false, the argument is bad, or the position inaccurate. But attacking participating persons is not permitted here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  83. Hi Robert,

    You wrote, “Bingo. Whatever Rome says you must believe today is Christianity. ”

    That is exactly correct. Right on. When I became Catholic, I was asked to confess, “I believe everything that the Holy Catholic Church declares to be revealed by God.” 100% You got it.

    So what do you do when, as you note, you think you detect some discontinuity between the living magisterium and your private interpretation of the tradition? You defer to the Living Magisterium.

    Roma locuta est; causa finita est.

    “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority,” Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 3.3.

  84. Robert,

    Could you show me a list of all the teachings in the Bible? Can you take me to any Protestant church regardless of denomination where every member would give me the same exact list of biblical teachings?

    As for Catholicism, every Joe Six=pack does not determine what we believe. Go to authoritative sources. Besides, the differences you list that you find among Catholics have more to do with obedience rather than doctrine,

  85. Robert:

    Why should the various views among Catholics bother you? Can you discern which ones are Catholic orthodoxy or not? If so, you prove our point. The tone of your comment and the examples you cite seem to offer as much.

    Authority and Unity do not eliminate sin and dissension. They only make it clear when it exists, for example providing a reference for schism. If Authority and Unity do not exist, as such in the Catholic paradigm, then many sins (e.g., schism) are impossible. Catholic unity is not bureaucratic, nor is it for angels. However, it is supernatural, and the rank dissension you mention only serves to prove the miraculous nature of her unity. Can you imagine any entity that would not tare apart at the seams under such internal dissension? I cannot, nor can the history of the world. Man has always failed at unity because we are sinners. Only The Church, founded by Christ and maintained by the Holy Spirit can offer us sinners a supernatural home where unity exists despite our brokenness.

    Peace to you on your journey

  86. @Dr. Anders (#71):
    Speaking as a Catholic, I can nonetheless see why Protestants might take your argument as beating on a straw man. At least from the Protestant perspective, the evidence of apostolicity of Scripture is at least as sufficient as the evidence of prophetic inspiration in the Old Testament. At least arguably, the assumption could be that, if Israel wasn’t identifying Scripture based on “feeling,” neither are they now doing so. And it is true that, at least formally, there was not a binding determination of canonicity for Judaism (apart from the Pentateuch definitely being canon). As Brandon suggests, the ultimate determiner of accepting Scriptural authority may be the witness of the Holy Spirit, but the motives of credibility aren’t.

    The argument could then look something like the following (I’m speculating, so Protestants may want to tweak this):
    1. We have sufficient motives of credibility to believe that Jesus was God Incarnate (premise).
    2. We have sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus claimed the authority of the God of Israel (premise).
    3. God provided sufficient objective criteria for recognizing the authority of written divine revelation to Israel (premise).
    4. The divine authority recognized in #3 is the same as Jesus’s (from 2).
    5. Jesus provided sufficient objective criteria for recognizing the authority of written divine revelation to Israel (from 4 by substitution).
    6. The sufficient objective criteria for recognizing the authority of written revelation is unchanging (premise).
    7. Therefore, the sufficient objective criteria provided by Jesus for recognition of the authority of revelation continue to be applicable (from 5 and 6).
    8. If the sufficient objective criteria applied to writings identify the canon of Scripture as being divinely inspired, then those criteria are sufficient to show divine inspiration (from 7).
    9. The sufficient objective criteria applied to Scripture identify the 66 books as inspired (premise).
    10. Therefore, the 66 books of Scripture are inspired (from 8 and 9-.

    Premises may be debatable, but I think I have the form generally right.

  87. Hi Jonathan,

    A few points. First of all, do any Reformed theologians actually appeal to feelings as evidence of inspiration? Does any Reformed theologian infer inspiration from a subjective experience?

    Let’s look at Calvin:

    Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human judgment, feel perfectly assured – as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it -that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God . . . We feel a divine energy living and breathing in it – an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge. (Inst. 1.7.5)

    2nd, I’m not sure that premise 3 in your argument actually reflects the Reformed point of view. The Gallican Confession, for instance, says:

    We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith.

    Likewise, WCF says:

    We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture.[10] And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

    Next, I’d be interested to know what would count as “sufficient objective criteria” for recognizing the inspiration and authority of, say, the book of Jude, or Esther, or even the Book of Judges. What is this “sufficient objective criteria?”

    But what if, for the sake of argument, Jesus had actually said, “Here’s a list of the inspired texts – all 66.”

    Would that admission be enough to establish the Scriptures are the rule of faith? By no means. Because it wouldn’t establish what the list is for. The existence of a list is really not at issue between Protestants and Catholics. The use of the list is very much at issue.

    -David

  88. #81
    Robert in a reply to me

    I am going to make a suggestion: I would suggest that the people who host this site refer to the same Catechism of the Catholic Church that I refer to. So, effectively, we are identical. We have each and every one of us deferred to the understanding and teaching of the Church. I have no doubt, from having the privilege of reading their responses, that they are more knowledgeable than me (and that is fine by me, God uses each of us as He is able), but for all of that, we are sons of the same Church founded by Jesus of which He is the Head.

    “And Francis is already proving that his understanding of so many things isn’t the same as what came before, which is why so many conservative RCs are beside themselves right now.”

    This has come up a couple of times in my experience and I realized, having taught adults, that there is a gross misunderstanding of how marriage is seen in the Catholic Church. The sacrament of marriage is expressed by the groom for the bride, and by the bride for the groom. The priest, deacon, or the pope is the Church’s official witness to the fact that the sacrament was confected by the bride and the groom for each other. The sacrament itself is not brought about by the priest, deacon, or the pope. What Francis did was to recognize what these people had committed to with one another, and brought it into perspective by giving it the Church’s recognition. Jesus is supposed to be part of Christian marriage and, whatever happened before, He is now part and parcel of those marriages. (Of my own, I believe that this is a effort worthy of Peter who was given the authority to strengthen his brothers, both those who are up close [bishops] and those who are remote such as the laity. One might see the men and women in those irregular marriages as brothers and sisters. Francis is bringing them home, which is where they belong.)

    Of a related consideration, the historical underpinnings and understanding of marriage are under fire in our brave new world. Francis’ efforts in part are to counter that effort to change our perspectives on what marriage is.

    There was and is another, separate issue. It involves economics and Francis. The complaint is that if Francis understood economics, he would phrase things differently. I prayed about that one and came to understand that as important as economics is, Francis was talking about something more important: The truly hungry need food. They cannot wait for economics, they are hungry even to the point of death, right now. Our Lord did not send the crowds away hungry, He fed them. Francis, good servant that he is, is merely looking at his Lord and then attempting to ensure that people don’t go away hungry.

    Once they are fed, they might gain the strength to fish or cultivate crops, but first the truly hungry must be fed, because people made in the image and likeness of God are more important than economics.

    “Within the U.S. church alone,” followed by a laundry list of complaints.

    If you will permit me, a different perspective should be considered:

    “Are You really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? … Do not think of it. Will the Judge of the whole earth not administer justice?” Abraham as recorded in Gen 18:21 and 25

    “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matt 7:2

    I am an orthodox, practicing Catholic, pretty close to a daily communicant. I am also a sinner in need of salvation so one might reasonably assume that I can be both a good Catholic and a bad Catholic, a fact which I am copping to right now for your benefit. When I find I am wrong in a sinful way, I go to confession. I want the benefit of those able to bring the forgiveness of sins to me, as it is written: Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Jn 20:23 (Of note, this was not a claim made by my former church or its ministers.)

    This does not split the congregation as people look to distance themselves from me, or to justify their own positions based on my actions or the words I express. Neither am I shunned. This does not split the Church for the same reasons as noted above. I am not a source of division. I am not an offense against John 17; and the Church with preternatural wisdom waits on her Master. It is He Who separates the sheep and the goats because He is the Judge, and to be sure, if asked, I will plead for mercy. Actually I do plead for mercy for both myself and those I pray for daily. I am operating under the assumption that given what He did in forgiving me, if I am imitating Him in regard to those who have sinned against me, then I will get to be in His company.

    I am not your judge. For your own sake, I hope you receive mercy. Try not to be angry with me or with the Church Jesus founded. It does not serve you, nor does it justify your position. God came to save the world, not to condemn it as Abraham’s effort in Genesis so eloquently brought out, and as Jesus uttered from His cross. That is the correct perspective, so even if we fail, we should assume the grace will be given to us to bring us back to that perspective if we allow Him sway with us.

  89. Donald,

    I am going to make a suggestion: I would suggest that the people who host this site refer to the same Catechism of the Catholic Church that I refer to. So, effectively, we are identical. We have each and every one of us deferred to the understanding and teaching of the Church. I have no doubt, from having the privilege of reading their responses, that they are more knowledgeable than me (and that is fine by me, God uses each of us as He is able), but for all of that, we are sons of the same Church founded by Jesus of which He is the Head.

    This is all well and good, and I can assume that for all practical purposes that you and the people on this site believe the same things (or mostly the same things). The problem is that none of you is representative of mainstream RCism, which is decidedly more liberal. And then you have communing members of your church in good standing that reject what appear to me to be the most literal and conservative ways of reading the catechism, and nothing is done about them. At the end of the day, all that is left is me having to read and consult the RC sources and determine what is right and wrong, and that is all you have as well.

    Kind of like what Protestants have with Scripture…

    The thing that is routinely ignored by the type of RC apologetic I see here are the divisions that invalidate Rome’s own claims. Protestants are criticized for having a paper pope. That’s all modern Rome has. There are just utterances, and there is almost no enforcement of those utterances. And whenever I bring this up with any conservative RC, the final answer is: God is the judge.

    Which is all well and good, but that doesn’t square with the exalted claims of the Magisterium that, in effect, makes it God in practice. You guys can’t have it both ways.

    So God did indeed come to save the world. And part of that saving involves casting out the heretics and dissenters who after decades refuse to repent. Discussions of church discipline are rather extensive in the NT. Since Rome won’t do that, and since Rome is the infallible arbiter of such things, the only logical confusion is that there really is no such thing as heresy for the Vatican today.

  90. Gentlemen,

    I am going to ask that we refocus the discussion onto the topic of the article: whether or not Christ instituted Sacred Tradition as a bearer of divine revelation.

    I am also going to remind everyone of our posting guidelines.

    Try to state your comments succinctly, in the form of a question or an argument. Avoid labeling your interlocutor (or the writers on the site). A label is not an argument. Avoid ad hominems.
    Eschew obfuscation. (Just kidding.) And remember, commas save lives:

    “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
    “Let’s eat Grandma!”

    Thank you,

    David

  91. Robert/Brandon,

    I’ll let Ray and David continue with their angle on the canon of Scripture, but I have some clarifying questions. You’ve written things like:

    “We agree that Scripture is special revelation and is Apostolic. What has to be proven is
    1) The Apostles intended to leave something more than just their writings.”
    and
    “Robert and I have taken pains to admit that the preaching of the Apostolic Deposit preceded the written Scripture…. No one denies that this happened, but the question is what were the Apostles teaching before it was written down? That record is found in the Apostolic writings while you want to claim that the Apostolic witness included other aspects of tradition not written down. ”

    So the preaching of the AD preceded inscripturation. So at a minimum it seems Tradition and inscripturation were operating in parallel until the last sentence of the last book was written correct? So my question is why assume that pattern and the rule of faith suddenly changed and shifted in essence in terms of transmission and operation when the last inspired word was penned – would it not be more reasonable to assume the pattern continued by default (especially when the church was already operating for decades) unless there was strong evidence to the contrary? And given your rule of faith, such evidence would have to exist in the writings/Scripture themselves correct? But if your rule of faith was not operating during inscripturation, I fail to see how that can even be possible, let alone probable since any appeal to support SS would violate the original meaning/intent of the words.

    You’ve also written things like:
    “2) The scope of this tradition
    If it is Scripture plus x, you all should be able to tell me what x is. But no one can. All I get is “liturgy, witness of the fathers, etc.” I can’t even get an infallible list of everything Rome has thus far said is infallible dogma. And I’ve asked for this repeatedly, not so much here, but elsewhere. And the complaint that most RCs give to me here is that “well, you just want another canon.” As if that is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s a legitimate question”

    If someone is claiming there is Scripture plus (unwritten) Tradition, to then ask them to justify that claim by equating Tradition to “just more Scripture” (another canon) does indeed seem to be a bad thing. One cannot reduce the “common life, teaching, worship of the church” to a set of propositions or canons; you’ve been given the sources/witnesses of Tradition, but those do not suffice for some reason. To analogize, “America” is more than just a written “canon” of documents I would think you agree, though those are critical. Would you also agree that America has a tradition that is significant in defining what it is? So America is written canon (Constitution, Decl of Ind, court decisions/laws, etc) plus x. What is x then?

    Thirdly – and this touches on the whole teachings in Tradition issue – do you think the Apostles all had full-orbed completely developed understandings of all teachings of the deposit of faith? Most protestants acknowledge a form of development of doctrine – you two presumably consider WCF and other confessions to have developed doctrines and to be faithful to the DoF – in that case if the Apostles of 1st century were presented with WCF/Reformed doctrine/essentials – would they immediately accept it or would they possibly have to reflect and think on it before accepting it?

  92. Jonathan #86,

    Yes, that is a much more accurate assessment of the Reformed position. Of course, some of those premises are contested, but I think your summary provides a launch point for further discussion (that I cannot engage in at the moment but which I intend to come back to). Thank you very much!

  93. I would like to propose an argument which compels me to believe the claims of the (Roman) Catholic Church with regards to Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church.

    1. God loves the world, and wants His revelation in Jesus Christ to be known by the world, so that we will be led into all truth. (John 3:16, Matthew 28:18-20, John 16:13)
    2. God knows the limitations of human language, and foresaw that humans would misunderstand the written word. (for instance, 2 Peter 3:16, and the evidence of the modern fracturing of Protestant Christianity)
    3. So that His truth would continue to be understood as He revealed, He therefore instituted a supernatural way by which all can come to know His revelation despite human misunderstandings. (John 16:13, 1 Tim 3:15)
    4. In order that this supernatural authority might correct misunderstandings in every age, it is necessary that this authority be a living voice which can infallibly speak against misunderstandings of His revelation.
    5. This supernatural authority must possess conscience-binding authority over the entire Church.
    6. This supernatural authority must possess conscience-binding authority over all ages of the Church.

    There are two obvious candidates for a supernatural authority which can correct misunderstandings of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ – the Holy Spirit (Johh 16:13), and the Church (1 Tim 3:15)

    The Holy Spirit does speak to individuals to correct misunderstandings of God’s revelations (as evidenced in Acts 15 and in the life of Paul). In addition, the Holy Spirit is a living authority and speaks with divine authority, because the Holy Spirit is God.

    However, when the Holy Spirit speaks to a first individual, how does a second individual know the truth of what is communicated to the first individual? One possibility is that the Holy Spirit must speak the whole Truth to all the faithful simultaneously and continuously (in order to satisfy #5 and #6).

    However, given that the faithful in the Church at times do misunderstand the Truths of the faith, we can know that the Holy Spirit does not speak simultaneously and continuously to all the faithful.

    The second possibility is that the Holy Spirit must speak _through_ someone (or some persons) who have recognized, permanent, supernatural authority over the whole Church.

    But, if the Holy Spirit speaks through a human authority (individual or group) who has recognized supernatural authority, then that authority must possess certain supernatural gifts:
    * authority recognized by the Church as divine / supernatural
    * authority recognized as infallible
    * authority recognized as binding on the conscience
    * authority recognized by the whole Church
    * authority recognized by the all ages of the Church
    * the ability to speak with one voice

    If someone accepts premises #1, #2, and #3, then what these premises necessitate is that the Church possess something identical to what we find in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. And the words of this Church are preserved as part of Sacred Tradition.

  94. Jonathan Brumley @93

    The problem with the argument you present is that the living Magisterium can only give words that must still be interpreted. The problems of language and possible misinterpretation are still there. When the Magisterium corrects a misunderstanding, that correction must still be interpreted and the Magisterium does not guarantee that misunderstanding won’t happen. It can’t.

    IOW, it seems that in the Roman system God foresaw that people would misunderstand the written Word but evidently did not foresee that people would misunderstand the word of the living Magisterium. Hence the fracturing evident in Roman Catholicism. All you’ve done is submit one authoritative but unclear (according to Roman assumptions) source—Scripture—for another authoritative but unclear source.

    IOW, tu quoque. Brandon wrote a rather good article on this on his blog. I’m sure he could link to it if you want him to.

  95. David @90

    I am going to ask that we refocus the discussion onto the topic of the article: whether or not Christ instituted Sacred Tradition as a bearer of divine revelation.

    Great. But I think that there is a more fundamental question.

    Both of us agree that Apostolic tradition is a bearer of divine revelation. The question is now this: What did the Apostles conceive of as being Apostolic tradition? I think a rather conclusive case can be made that what the Apostles meant by Apostolic tradition was a body of fixed content—i.e., that which Jesus actually said and what they actually said.

    This requires a distinction between the actual Apostolic tradition and the church’s understanding of it. As a Protestant, I have to say that the formula “three hypostases, one ousia” from Nicea is NOT Apostolic tradition because, as far as I know, the Apostles never said that. Now, that doesn’t mean Nicea is wrong. It’s Apostolic, I believe, in that it is a faithful summary of the actual Apostolic tradition that we do have, namely, the NT. But it isn’t the only way to summarize that teaching; you could say the same thing using other vocabulary, etc.

    IOW, Apostolic tradition cannot grow once there are no more Apostles. This is why we keep asking for a “canon” of tradition, as it were. It seems to me that Rome takes the opposite approach, with the result that Apostolic tradition is ever growing. For all practical purposes, there is no distinction between what the Apostles actually said and the church’s understanding of it.

    The million dollar question is: What did the Apostles mean when they spoke of tradition? I think it is pretty clear from the NT that they meant a fixed body of content. That means nothing after the death of the last Apostle can be actual Apostolic tradition even if it agrees with Apostolic tradition. There is a distinction to be made. Without the distinction, you might as well claim that that special revelation is ongoing.

  96. @David (#87):
    Thanks very much for the response. I don’t disagree with your conclusions, but it may be worth delving into why people may stumble in reaching them. With that in mind, here are where I see the sore points.

    First of all, do any Reformed theologians actually appeal to feelings as evidence of inspiration? Does any Reformed theologian infer inspiration from a subjective experience?

    Having read the cited quotations, I suspect that the rejoinder would be “no more than Catholics do in appealing to the certitude of faith.” The reason I say that is that if a Protestant views what I have outlined as the sufficient objective criteria for identifying written revelation as the motives of credibility, then he could appeal to the Holy Spirit as providing the certitude of faith for those who already have reasonable basis for believing. I find that argument unconvincing for exactly the reason that the tastefully-named Jonathan B. helpfully outlined for us in #93. But it is reasonable to say that they aren’t appealing to feelings or subjective experience as evidence of revelation so much as the basis of certitude in a conclusion for which there (albeit arguably) sufficient motives of credibility. So it’s important to look at that question of sufficient evidence.

    Next, I’d be interested to know what would count as “sufficient objective criteria” for recognizing the inspiration and authority of, say, the book of Jude, or Esther, or even the Book of Judges. What is this “sufficient objective criteria?”

    I suppose the answer might be “it doesn’t matter, so long as it was known by Israel at the time of Jesus’s ministry.” In other words, if one is bootstrapping the authority of the Old Testament based on the authority of the New Testament, then it doesn’t matter how Israel got there by that time, so long as they did, in fact, get there. There was some-or-other set of criteria that Israel knew or should have known in Jesus’s mind (e.g., Luke 24:44, referring to the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets). And if Israel could do it absent some formal mechanism for doing so, then one might reason that something analogous could take place for the New Testament, with the criterion essentially being apostolic authorship.

    Would that admission be enough to establish the Scriptures are the rule of faith? By no means. Because it wouldn’t establish what the list is for. The existence of a list is really not at issue between Protestants and Catholics. The use of the list is very much at issue.

    Let’s suppose for argument’s sake that here the Protestant says “the same thing that Israel thought it was for.” For example, it was to provide a regulative set of principles commanded by God for human obedience, or something like that.

    In essence, the Protestant argument would be this: we have in OT Israel an example of a public people of God who successfully, albeit via providence, identified the canon of Scripture and understood what function it was supposed to serve. But there was no formal infallibility protecting them and, on the contrary, they sometimes fell into massive collective error. If that argument holds, then the response to the question you’ve raised as to whether Christ instituted Sacred Tradition as a means of divine revelation could be “why would He need to do so when He had left Scripture?” Generations may be more or less successful at following it, but the mere existence of Scripture means that God’s commands are available to follow.

    That seems to create a need to break this parallel between Israel and the Catholic Church in order to convince a similar-thinking Protestant of the need for the Church. Do you have any thoughts on how to respond to that concern?

  97. Jonathan (re: 93),

    You wrote:
    If someone accepts premises #1, #2, and #3, then what these premises necessitate is that the Church possess something identical to what we find in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. And the words of this Church are preserved as part of Sacred Tradition.

    Response:
    Now the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has good reason to avoid teaching in a written form. If anyone misuderstands her written decrees, then they have recourse to the words preserved in Sacred Tradition. Right ? But the Magisterium, when confronted by a similar problem, didn’t follow the course you outlined. Vatican I stated:

    Now since the decree on the interpretation of Holy Scripture, profitably made by the Council of Trent, with the intention of constraining rash speculation, has been wrongly interpreted by some, we renew that decree and declare its meaning to be as follows: that in matters of faith and morals, belonging as they do to the establishing of Christian doctrine, that meaning of Holy Scripture must be held to be the true one, which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture.
    ———————-

    It simply renewed the written decree of Trent when rash speculation wrongly interpreted the decree. How can you not apply 2Peter 3:16 to the written decrees of the church ? Scripture and Church decrees are writings subject to human limitations and misunderstandings (wrongly interpreted).

  98. David:

    This is a great article and discussion. In your comment #6, you proposed several discrete items included in Sacred Tradition, which may have predated or coincided written Apostolic teaching. This got me thinking, and I wondered if you could shed some light on a question that I’ve had for some time. As I understand it, the Catholic system of authority is a three-legged stool (or two-legged, depending on the way you group it):

    (1a) Sacred Scripture: that part of the Apostolic deposit of faith/teaching that was reduced to writing;

    (1b) Sacred Tradition: that part of the Apostolic deposit of faith/teaching transmitted orally; and

    (2) Magisterial Teaching: that part of divine revelation which does not change or add to the written/oral Apostolic deposit, but transmits it through time and provides authoritative interpretations as needed.

    Is there a way to define the contents, scope, and limits of Sacred Tradition and Magisterial Teaching in the same way that Sacred Scripture can be (and has been) defined by the canon?

    Thought Experiment: A new Catholic convert is excited to learn and treasure all of God’s revelation, and decides to devote a bookshelf of his office to that content. The canon makes it relatively easy for him to ascertain exactly what Scriptural content belongs on his bookcase and what does not. Precisely ascertaining the scope of Magisterial teaching seems a bit harder, but still possible – the creeds, the encyclicals, etc. But, once he turns to Sacred Tradition, is there a way that Catholics have identified the exact scope of what belongs?

    Clearly, under the Catholic view, [God’s Revelation] – [Sacred Scripture] – [Magisterial Teaching] = [Sacred Tradition], but is there any way to know ALL that Sacred Tradition contains, and what it does not? In other words, is there a canon of Sacred Tradition (and for that matter, of Magisterial teaching)? Is such a canon necessary/helpful, or does my question arise from a misunderstanding of the Catholic authority structure?

  99. Brent @85

    Why should the various views among Catholics bother you?

    Actually, I don’t much care in the abstract. What bothers me are assertions like Donald’s that presume to falsify sola Scriptura by pointing to divisions among Protestants. If that falsifies sola Scriptura, it falsifies Roman Catholicism as well.

    Can you discern which ones are Catholic orthodoxy or not? If so, you prove our point. The tone of your comment and the examples you cite seem to offer as much.

    If I accept the presuppositions laid out here and on other places where conservative RC apologists gather, then at best I only have probability and not certainty as to what positions are RC orthodoxy or not. I cannot be trusted to interpret Scripture or the Magisterium because the Magisterium can always come along and say “you’re wrong and it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand because we’re infallible and you’re not.” For all the vaunted certainty of faith that you guys claim for yourselves, your understanding of RC dogma never rises above the level of probability.

    I’m happy to accept the most conservative readings of RC statements as the most feasible presentation of the current position of the Roman church. But I don’t know what Rome will say tomorrow, and in many cases Rome has taken radically different positions over time. Just consider Rome’s position vis a vis religious coercion. We hear all about religious liberty from the Vatican today. During the Reformation, not so much.

    The thing I keep coming back to is Rome’s position on abortion. If I give the Magisterium the fairest and most conservative reading, I must personally conclude that Rome is anti-abortion as a matter of infallible dogma. But that conclusion never rises above the level of mere probability, especially when leading RCs in this country go to mass and then go write laws that promote abortion both in this country and around the world. To give Rome the fairest hearing on this, I conclude that Rome is just really bad at discipline. But again, that is just a probable conclusion. Maybe it really isn’t a mortal sin to have an abortion. Maybe those RCs who say that are better readers of Roman dogma than I am. After all, they’re still given a seat at the table after decades of impenitent abortion promoting.

    Authority and Unity do not eliminate sin and dissension.

    If that is true, and I largely agree, then Protestant division does not in itself invalidate any Protestant communion as the church Jesus founded. Where we differ is on the nature of union. For all the claims to the contrary, the only unity Rome has is bureaucratic unity. See below.

    They only make it clear when it exists, for example providing a reference for schism. If Authority and Unity do not exist, as such in the Catholic paradigm, then many sins (e.g., schism) are impossible.

    Without consistent discipline, there is no clear way to identify sin and dissension. Even when there is more consistent discipline, it’s not that easy. I’m not in sin for not joining the RC Church anymore because of my invincible ignorance. This was not true during the Reformation. According to RC presuppostions, I don’t see how you can have certainty of faith because its still up to you to interpret the Magisterium, and since you don’t have the gift of infallibility, all you can come up with probabilities.

    Catholic unity is not bureaucratic, nor is it for angels.

    As long as RC unity means union with the Vatican and accepts pro-choicers as good and faithful RCs (to play off my example above), then RC unity is purely bureaucratic. There is no discernible unity of dogma if there is not even a consistent attempt at discipline.

    However, it is supernatural, and the rank dissension you mention only serves to prove the miraculous nature of her unity. Can you imagine any entity that would not tare apart at the seams under such internal dissension?

    But Rome has torn apart at the seams. See the Reformation. Rome stays together ultimately not because unity of dogma is important but because unity of practice trumps all. Every RC agrees that it is important to go to mass at least occasionally. Beyond that, there is no agreement. When you guys start kicking out those who seem to take positions opposite to the most conservative reading of the Magisterium, then we might be able to talk. But Rome won’t do that. It won’t even condemn ME as a heretic anymore.

    The notion of self-excommunication by rejecting Roman teaching even though one might remain a communing member of the Roman church doesn’t help you guys either. Any Protestant can say that an individual self-excommunicates himself by rejecting the teaching of Scripture. So much for the advantages of an infallible church.

    I cannot, nor can the history of the world. Man has always failed at unity because we are sinners. Only The Church, founded by Christ and maintained by the Holy Spirit can offer us sinners a supernatural home where unity exists despite our brokenness.

    This assumes that bureaucratic unity trumps all. I’m a confessional Presbyterian, and I am as united to Reformed Baptists as Molinists and Thomists are united to one another in dogmatic matters. The thing we don’t have but that RCs do is the same home office. The only way in which we are less united is in terms of being under the same bureaucracy. But I guarantee there is more dogmatic unity between me and a Reformed Baptist such as Al Mohler than there is between the authors on this site and the Council of Women Religious. Which is why I can’t take your claims that Rome is united seriously.

    Peace to you on your journey

    May you know the peace that comes from trusting in Christ alone and what He did in His life and death and resurrection.

  100. Jonathan,

    if a Protestant views what I have outlined as the sufficient objective criteria for identifying written revelation as the motives of credibility, then he could appeal to the Holy Spirit as providing the certitude of faith for those who already have reasonable basis for believing.

    If I understand you, you are saying that the motives of credibility provide the rational ground for belief, but then the Holy Spirit kicks in to actually move the Christian into the act of faith. Is this correct? If so, then I agree that this is certainly open as a rational option. Indeed, this is how I understand the Catholic position. This is just not how the Reformed tradition has historically accounted for belief in Scripture’s authority. : “In vain, Calvin writes, were the authority of Scripture fortified by argument, or supported by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other helps, if unaccompanied by an assurance higher and stronger than human judgment can give.” (Inst. I.8.1)

    Again, Calvin writes, “Calvin wrote, “We feel a divine energy living and breathing in it [the Bible] – an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it.” (Inst. 1.7.5)”

    And finally, “By the power of the Spirit, Calvin explains, Scripture overwhelms the worshipper, causing him to feel “as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself” (non secus asci ipsius Dei numen illic intueremur).”

    And the Gallican Confession: “We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books upon which, however useful, we can not found any articles of faith.”

    I just don’t see Calvin or the Reformed theologians ever making this argument. On the contrary, the whole idea of reason in the unregenerate mind being drawn to acknowledge the motives of credibility runs, I believe, flat contrary to their whole apologetic.

    But it is reasonable to say that they aren’t appealing to feelings or subjective experience as evidence of revelation so much as the basis of certitude in a conclusion for which there (albeit arguably) sufficient motives of credibility.

    Agreed. But I don’t see Calvin making this argument. He does think Scripture as a whole has admirable qualities which should be sufficient to persuade the unbeliever, but he denies that this actually happens. No one is actually persuaded by these motives of credibility.

    I suppose the answer might be “it doesn’t matter, so long as it was known by Israel at the time of Jesus’s ministry.” In other words, if one is bootstrapping the authority of the Old Testament based on the authority of the New Testament, then it doesn’t matter how Israel got there by that time, so long as they did, in fact, get there.

    But isn’t your argument based on the fact that Israel was rationally warranted in accepting the Old Testament based on some objective criteria? Merely to say they believed in the Old Testament (which, by the way, is a dicey proposition insofar as the Jews had not agreed on a canon in Jesus’ day), does not mean they were rationally justified in doing so.

    There was some-or-other set of criteria that Israel knew or should have known in Jesus’s mind (e.g., Luke 24:44, referring to the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets). And if Israel could do it absent some formal mechanism for doing so, then one might reason that something analogous could take place for the New Testament, with the criterion essentially being apostolic authorship.

    This is an interesting point you make. However, is this how the Reformed tradition handles the question? Calvin, again, does address the question of how the Patriarch’s recognized divine revelation. In the ’39 Institutes, he explains that revelation had to be accompanied by “manifest signs of God’s presence.”

    In the Genesis commentary, he explains:

    “Visions were a kind of symbols of the Divine presence, designed to remove all doubt from the minds of the holy fathers respecting him who was about to speak . . . a clear and unambiguous mark was engraven on the visions of God, by which the faithful might certainly distinguish them from those which were fallacious, so that their faith should not be kept in suspense.”

    In other words, Calvin finds the warrant for belief in the quality of the experience, not in its material content, not something that could be rationally assimilated and communicated to another.

    Let’s suppose for argument’s sake that here the Protestant says “the same thing that Israel thought it was for.” For example, it was to provide a regulative set of principles commanded by God for human obedience, or something like that.

    But, of course, Catholic’s don’t deny that Scripture carries divine authority and that its commands are to be obeyed. This doesn’t address what’s at issue between Catholics and Protestants.

    In essence, the Protestant argument would be this:

    Is this what Reformed Protestants have argued, generally?

    we have in OT Israel an example of a public people of God who successfully, albeit via providence, identified the canon of Scripture

    Did they?

    and understood what function it was supposed to serve.

    And what function was that? What evidence do you have that “Israel” viewed the 39 book Protestant canon as “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest?”

    If that argument holds, then the response to the question you’ve raised as to whether Christ instituted Sacred Tradition as a means of divine revelation could be “why would He need to do so when He had left Scripture?”

    This is a non-sequitur. Assuming Israel did identify the 39 books of the Canonical OT as the sole rule of faith which, however, I think they did not, the argument: “Why would we need anything else?” Would just as easily invalidate the need for the incarnation. But, of course, Hebrews tells us that the Old Testament Revelation was woefully insufficient and was necessary that God speak to us in a distinctly non-scriptural way.

    Generations may be more or less successful at following it, but the mere existence of Scripture means that God’s commands are available to follow.

    Again, not at issue between Catholics and Protestants.

    That seems to create a need to break this parallel between Israel and the Catholic Church

    “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

    in order to convince a similar-thinking Protestant of the need for the Church. Do you have any thoughts on how to respond to that concern?

    Yes. But, first of all, I wonder if the apologetic you’ve sketched is really faithful to the Reformed tradition? For the reasons I’ve outlined above, I don’t think this is actually how Calvin constructed his apology for Scripture’s authority. I also think the premises are untrue. It simply isn’t the case that Israel reliably identified the Protestant OT canon of Scripture, or that they recognized it as a sufficient rule of faith. Also, Jesus himself did not treat the Old Testament in this way, but was willing to abrogate its commands in radical ways. Finally, even if everything you said were true, it would not follow that Christ did not institute sacred tradition or the magisterium. Nor would it follow that Christ authorized the composition of a New Testament canon to supersede the authorities he did establish.

    Peace,

    David

  101. Hi Markesquire,

    The answer to you question is yes, sort of. The Catechism of the Catholic Church distinguishes, “The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. the first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.”

    and then,

    “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.”35 Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition”

    So, we have tradition received from the apostles, then we have tradition in the sense of everything the Church does to transmit the faith.

    And the two bleed together. Consider, for instance, the Church’s canonical tradition in which she issues juridical decisions. The record of those decisions is tradition in the 2nd sense, but it also draws on tradition in the first sense. This is very relevant to the current discussions about marriage, divorce, and communion in the Catholic Church. The Church has a record of actually ruling on marriage and communion and that record reflects her understanding of Jesus’ commands on marriage and the interpretation of Matthew 19 – that interpretation being a part of tradition in the first sense.

    Is there an exhaustive list of tradition(s) in either sense?
    On principle,there couldn’t be an exhaustive list in the second sense, because it’s a living tradition. The list expands in every successive generation as the Church continues to rule and guide and decide matters of controversy.

    Is there an exhaustive list in the first sense? Yes. It’s contained in . . . “The sayings of the holy Fathers [which are] are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.” (Catechism 78). So, the sum total of the patristic writings, ancient liturgies, and so forth.

    Is this practical? I know some Protestants get frustrated with this answer, because they want to be able to easily exegete the “traditions,” and this answer seems unwieldy. On that, would you look at my article “On the Usefulness of tradition.”

    Peace,

    David

  102. David,

    Agreed. But I don’t see Calvin making this argument. He does think Scripture as a whole has admirable qualities which should be sufficient to persuade the unbeliever, but he denies that this actually happens. No one is actually persuaded by these motives of credibility.

    It’s because the Reformed believe that unregenerate man is actually at war with God. This doesn’t seem to be the RC position.

  103. Robert,

    You are correct. I agree that Calvin believes unregenerate man to be at war with God and therefore unable to reason validly to conclusions about moral and theological matters. For this reason, Calvin doesn’t care much to provide rational motives for the credibility of Christian faith, but relies on the witness of the Holy Spirit. He describes that witness, phenomenologically, as “feeling divine energy” present in the texts of Scripture. Hence, my comment that Calvin relies on feelings, rather than reason, ultimately, to ground his doctrine of Scripture.

    -David

  104. Re: Robert (#94) and Eric (#97) ,

    The problem with the argument you present is that the living Magisterium can only give words that must still be interpreted. The problems of language and possible misinterpretation are still there. When the Magisterium corrects a misunderstanding, that correction must still be interpreted and the Magisterium does not guarantee that misunderstanding won’t happen. It can’t.

    I agree with your “tu quoque” objection in a sense. Scripture is written with the natural limitations of human language, and the Magisterium speaks with these same limitations. When the Magisterium intervenes to correct misunderstandings of the faith, these words can also be misunderstood. And it would be fair to acknowledge that it seems sometimes that Catholics are pretty bad at understanding our faith. (Or denying our faith, but that is a different issue.)

    However, this tu quoque objection is compatible with the argument. The objection would be a problem only if the Church could not continue to respond to misunderstandings of what the Church teaches. But remember, Christ said about the Holy Spirit: “He will guide you into all truth”. Because the Holy Spirit is a living guide, and because He works supernaturally through the Magisterium of the Church, God can continue to teach all the faithful as One Voice to One Body.

    Eric –

    But the Magisterium, when confronted by a similar problem, didn’t follow the course you outlined. Vatican I […] simply renewed the written decree of Trent when rash speculation wrongly interpreted the decree.

    We should agree that sometimes it is necessary to reaffirm what has already been said. If you’re a parent, then you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes things get forgotten or people interpret the teachings of the Church with a “hermeneutic of discontinuity”.

    Any continued response of the Church will be inadequate to answer all possible questions and all possible misunderstandings. But I’ll restate – the Church can and does continue to address challenges to the faith.

    For instance, the Church taught against the heresy of Pelagianism at the Council of Ephesus. Some misunderstood the Church’s response to allow the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism. But the Church was able to respond to that challenge as well, and She subsequently responded against Semi-Pelagianism at the Council of Orange.

    Guys, does this address your objections to the argument I presented?

    I pray God blesses you in abundance today.

    Jonathan

  105. Jonathan @104,

    However, this tu quoque objection is compatible with the argument. The objection would be a problem only if the Church could not continue to respond to misunderstandings of what the Church teaches. But remember, Christ said about the Holy Spirit: “He will guide you into all truth”. Because the Holy Spirit is a living guide, and because He works supernaturally through the Magisterium of the Church, God can continue to teach all the faithful as One Voice to One Body.

    I’m not sure how this is much different from Protestantism. I, for one, don’t deny that God works supernaturally through the church to lead us into all truth. The question is how we recognize when that has happened. For Rome, it has happened whenever Rome says it has happened. Even then, however, it isn’t clear WHEN this has happened, as our continual request for that infallible list of infallible statements keeps getting ignored or shunted aside.

    The Spirit is a living guide who works through His church, but how does one recognize when this has happened? Ultimately, for the Reformed at least, one recognizes this through the faithful interpretation of Scripture under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This is a bit more subjective, in paper, then just referring to a decree from the church, but ultimately it really isn’t. The Holy Spirit must convince the 1 billion professing RCs of the truth of the church’s teaching. When he doesn’t, eventually those teachings are changed or rejected. See the use of coercion to advance Rome’s interests, for example.

    In theory, the Magisterium has the final say. In practice it is the laity. This is why so many of us don’t recognize any real-world validity to the kind of RC apologetic promoted here. It is completely disconnected from the reality on the ground.

    For the Reformed, it is a continual holding together of the objective (the revealed Word) and the subjective (the interior illumination of the Holy Spirit). Ultimately, only the Spirit persuades. It’s not a radical subjectivism, because the Spirit does not work to persuade apart from the written Word. But it is subjective to a degree—just like all human knowledge.

    All that’s to say is that you guys don’t escape the problem of interpretation simply by having a living voice that claims to be infallible. We have a living voice as well, he just hasn’t set up shop in the Vatican.

  106. David,

    I agree that Calvin believes unregenerate man to be at war with God and therefore unable to reason validly to conclusions about moral and theological matters.

    But Calvin’s point (and indeed the point of the Reformed in general) is not that unregenerate people are unable to reason validly to conclusions about moral and theological matters—at least in some cases. The point is that having come to valid conclusions, unregenerate persons suppress the true knowledge they have come to. The inability is moral, not primarily rational, although sin does affect our rational faculties.

    IOW, natural man can reason to the conclusion that the Bible is the Word of God. But the irrationality of sin is that apart from the work of the Spirit, he’ll suppress that conclusion. There is no such thing as a true atheist. Everyone knows there is a God; they suppress that knowledge or turn him into a God of their own making.

  107. Hi Robert,

    But Calvin’s point (and indeed the point of the Reformed in general) is not that unregenerate people are unable to reason validly to conclusions about moral and theological matters

    This is very debatable. Kenneth Kantzer, for one, (the evangelical theologian who helped found Trinity Div. School), in his doctoral dissertation on Calvin’s theory of religious knowledge, argues that the knowledge of God suppressed by the unregenerate (for Calvin) is not the rational knowledge derived from valid reasoning, but is rather innate knowledge. This also seems to be Plantinga’s interpretation of Calvin.

    To illustrate, Calvin writes:

    “we are involved in such perverse errors and opinions, that that spark which would illumine us for the contemplation of divine majesty is suffocated and exstinguished, lest it lead us to true knowledge. There still remains that seed, which can never be completely uprooted, which would lead us to some knowledge of divinity, but it is so corrupted that it produces nothing but the worst fruits. (CO 1: 283-4)

    Does Calvin believe the natural knowledge of God provides a basis for rational discussion with non-believers? This is a contentious subject in Calvin scholarship, going back to the Barth/Brunner debate. Brunner had argued that the image of God in man afforded a meaningful basis for theological discussion with non-believers. He appealed to Calvin in support of this position. Barth, however, insisted that Calvin allowed no room for such knowledge of God.

    There is an extensive bibliography in Calvin scholarship on this very issue.

    Calvin’s skepticism extends not just to rational knowledge of God, but even to the understanding of something much clearer: divine revelation. He writes:

    And this bare and external proof of the Word of God should have been amply sufficient to engender faith, did not our blindness and perversity prevent it. But our mind has such an inclination to vanity that it can never cleave fast to the truth of God; and it has such a dullness that it is always blind to the light of God’s truth. Accordingly, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word can do nothing. (Inst. 3.2.33)

    -Peace,

    David

  108. Markesquire,

    “Is there a way to define the contents, scope, and limits of Sacred Tradition and Magisterial Teaching in the same way that Sacred Scripture can be (and has been) defined by the canon?”

    As I said above, “in the same way” would seem to reduce T and M to simply “more Scripture”. But the concern seems to be that if it’s not delineated in such a way, then anything goes (there’s no scope or limit). But that doesn’t follow. A classic definition of Tradition is given in Dei Verbum:

    “Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes. This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down.”

    Councils, creeds, encyclicals, liturgy, devotional practice/prayer, patristic writings, etc all witness to such Tradition: “The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church.”

    But just as Scripture requires authoritative interpretation, so to Tradition: “But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.”

    Hence the 3-legged stool – parallel mutually interdependent/attesting authorities. Modern arians can appeal to Arian councils and writings as Tradition (just as they could with Scripture), but that doesn’t mean Arianism is part of Tradition. That also means RCism can’t just pretend Nicea never happened, or reinterpret Orange to say it actually endorsed semi-Pelagianism, just as RCism can’t just take books out of the canon or add books to it – hence it is still a servant to both, even as it remains its authoritative guardian/interpreter.

    “But, once he turns to Sacred Tradition, is there a way that Catholics have identified the exact scope of what belongs?”

    As David said (and above from DV), tradition is *living* – hence development. The “exact scope” is the common life, worship, teaching handed down through the generations. It (as part of the deposit) could never be exhaustively defined given its nature as divine revelation (nor could one cannot exhaustively define the teaching/meaning of Scripture).

    Think about it in a secular example. I above gave the example of “America” but you can use whatever illustration – how would you define the exact scope or canon of something that has unwritten tradition as one of its components? America has a vital written canon of foundational documents, but it also has a vital tradition component that is necessary in defining “America”. So how do you know all that “American” tradition contains, and all it doesn’t? Or take your family. The “written canon” that defines your family can be found in birth records, tax/school records, employment info, etc. But your family presumably also has a “tradition” that defines it yes? So how do you exhaustively know all that “markesquire family tradition” contains?

    An interesting citation from Ratzinger he wrote as peritus while Dei Verbum was being crafted:
    “But the Fathers did not see this as a set of affirmations being passed on alongside Scripture. In fact, they simply denied the existence of such statements. For them tradition was the insertion of Scripture into the living organism of the Church and the Church’s right of possession of Scripture, as Tertullian formulated in classic fashion in The Praescription 0f Heretics. For them, tradition is simply scriptura in ecclesia
    [Scripture in the Church]. Scripture lives in the midst of its vital appropriation by the Spirit-filled Church and only so is it truly itself. ”
    and
    “In spite of such texts, neither Bonaventure nor Thomas are scripturalists, since they both know well that revelation is always more than its material principle, the Scripture, namely, that it is life living on in the Church in a way that makes Scripture a living reality and illumines its hidden depths. So we are back at the beginning. If one identifies revelation with its material principles, then tradition has to be set up as a proper material principle in order to keep revelation from being totally in Scripture. But if revelation is prior and greater, then there is no trouble in having only one material principle, which even so is still not the whole, but only the material principle of the superior reality revelation, which lives in the Church. This means, to be
    sure, that the three realities, Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium are not static entities placed beside each other, but have to be seen as one living organism of the word of God, which from Christ lives on
    in the Church.”

    This touches on the whole partim-partim/material sufficiency issue but it’s just something to be kept in mind when discussing Tradition and its relation to Scripture and the Church (Ratzinger’s commentary on Dei Verbum is also worth reading – both it and his pre Vat2 address above are available online).

  109. Robert,

    I’m not sure how this is much different from Protestantism.

    The difference is that the Catholic Church identifies an objective mechanism endowed with divine authority for distinguishing theological dogma from opinion and falsehood. Nicaea is not just correct interpretation of Scripture, it is authoritative interpretation of Scripture. Under the Protestant paradigm, by contrast, when two protestants disagree about the deposit of faith and appeal to the same authorities to do so, there is no objective way to adjudicate this dispute. This is especially true when the dispute is between ecclesial families – like Lutheran and Reformed, for example.

    -David

  110. David and Jonathan,

    If I may add a few thoughts to your exchange. Firstly, I agree with David that the Jews did not, in fact, have anything like an agreed upon canon; and in that situation they certainly were not making the sort of claims respecting some delimited set of writings (inspiration and inerrancy of “the” 39 books for example) which Reformed theology makes for the 66 books in the WCF.

    Moreover, even if first century Jews had made the claim: “this, and only this collection of 39 writings is inspired, inerrant and functions as the sole rule of faith binding upon on all Jews”; in order to avoid a legitimate charge of fideism, they too would have needed to provide a rational justification for that assertion. At a basic level, and from what I can tell, there are only three broad means by which a first century Jew might have attempted a rational justification for the conclusion that only “these 39 wittings are inspired, inerrant, and the sole rule of faith”.

    1.) By affirming that some person or group of persons, other than God, had conveyed this doctrine concerning the nature of the 39 books to the first century Jew, or . . .
    2.) If the first century Jew were to appeal to some motive(s) of credibility whose direct object was to accredit the 39 book codex per se as bearing a divine message, or . . .
    3.) By asserting that God had privately and directly conveyed this doctrine concerning the nature of the 39 books to the first century Jew

    (1) The (non-divine) person or persons involved in settling upon the 39 books as the inspired, inerrant and sole rule of faith, were either known to be providentially protected from error while coming to that identification, or they were not known to be protected from error while coming to that identification. If they were thought to have been providentially protected from error, then the first century Jew would have to admit that the 39 books are not the “sole” inerrant and binding rule of faith, since embrace of the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of “the” 39 books would logically require a concomitant embrace of the inerrant and authoritative (extra-canonical) human decisions by which the 39 books were identified. That admission would require – at a minimum – a reformulation of the first century Jew’s rule of faith. If, however, the person or persons involved in settling upon the 39 books as inspired, inerrant and the sole rule of faith, were acknowledged as not having been providentially protected from error, then there seems to be no rational justification for the claim that “these, and only these, 39 books are inspired, inerrant and authoritative”. For not only might some inspired and inerrant writing(s) have been left out of the collection, the possibility of error entails that some non-inspired, non-inerrant book(s), might have been included as well. The strong claim to inspiration and inerrancy of the 39 books would have no adequate rational foundation. The claim would have to be downgraded to a probable claim at best.

    (2) Suppose the first century Jew did not wish to acknowledge any inerrancy or authority in the persons or decisions tied up with the identification or veneration of the 39 books within the historical Jewish community because he wished – at all costs – to preserve his OT version of sola scriptura. Rather than appeal to any historical person(s) or process by which the 39 writings might have been identified, he appeals instead to some motive(s) of credibility unrelated to that process. Firstly, it should be noted that nowhere within the 39 books can one find a reference to the list of 39 books per se as being inspired and inerrant. And even if there were such a written statement within the codex, such statement would provide no rational justification for assent to the claim, since accepting the inerrant and inspired status of a codex based solely on a textual claim internal to that codex is to embrace a conclusion which does not follow from the premise. Otherwise, any group of writings containing a statement attesting its own inspiration or inerrancy would have to be regarded as inspired or inerrant on that basis alone – which is absurd.

    But that means, in order to secure rational justification for the original claim, the first century Jew will have to point to some motive(s) of credibility over and above any mere statement(s) found within the text. Now a motive of credibility, by very definition, must be a motive which is open to public inspection, otherwise it serves as a motive only for the one making the assertion (which would entail fideism). Moreover, as I’m sure you both already know, a motive of credibility is primarily ordered to making credible the claim that some agent speaks on God’s behalf. It is not directly intended to make the content of the agent’s message credible (though it does so indirectly); but rather, its principle function is to provide reasons for thinking that the agent in question is authorized by God’s to speak on His behalf. Once one has reasons for thinking that some agent speaks for God, then it follows that the message is to be received as God’s message, even if the content of the message is not directly open to reason’s vision. Hence, if an apostle after Christi’s ascension performs a miracle before an on looking crowd, that miracle serves as a motive of credibility for thinking that the apostle’s message is a message from God. Accordingly, if the apostle asks the crowd to believe in Christ’s divinity or the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead (realities which human reason cannot discover on is own), the crowd has justifiable reason to believe those revealed truths, not because the crowd can see the intrinsic truth of those revelations in themselves, but because the crowd has a justifiable reason for taking the apostle’s word for it; namely, the miracle that was performed. The miracle accredits the messenger directly, and the message indirectly, by giving a third party reason to think that the messenger speaks for God.

    Now here is the main point I want to add to the discussion. In the Church’s traditional apologetic method – say as systematically articulated within the neo-scholastic tradition by writers such as Lagrange and incorporated within the teaching of Vatican Council I – what makes a motive of credibility capable of sustaining an inference to divine sanction of an agent’s message, is that the motive itself be explicable only on the supposition of direct divine action. In other words, the motive in question must be what the neo-scholastics termed “modally” supernatural in order to warrant the inference that the motive was produced by God. For unless we have good reason to think that some given motive of credibility could only have been produced by the direct intervention of God, we have no inferential warrant for thinking that the motive in question provides any divine accreditation of the agent with whom the motive is associated. That is why both prophecy and miracles have always held a privileged place within the Church’s apologetic methodology. The fulfilling of prophecy is a modally supernatural motive of credibility because it involves foreknowledge of nondeterministic future events which depend upon multiple intersecting lines of free will agency. Successful prediction of such events is a feat which no known secondary cause, or aggregation of secondary causes, can accomplish. Hence, it must be the work of God’s primary causality – its “mode” of occurrence entails the super-natural. Likewise miracles, whether miraculous by their very nature (such as a bodily resurrection), or miraculous through the manner in which they are accomplished (instantaneous, rather than gradual, healing) are, in either case, happenings which no known secondary cause, or aggregation of secondary causes, can accomplish – miracles too are modally supernatural. The supernatural modality of the motives of credibility is what provides the inferential warrant for thinking that the agents with whom such motives are associated have been sealed with God’s approval to speak a message in His name.

    Now when I look at the motives of credibility for the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative status of the 66 books which are put forward within the WCF (such as the “heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole . . ., the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies . . .”), it seems that none of them require an appeal to God’s primary causality to explain. Every one of them – as far as I can see – could be equally predicated of the Summa – which no one takes to be inspired or inerrant (even if Thomas came close to the latter :>)). Given as much, they provide no rational warrant for the strong claim which the Reformed theologian wishes to make. I am not even sure what a modally supernatural motive of credibility underwriting a collected codex of writings as a bearer of God’s message would look like. Perhaps if every sick, lame, or blind person that ever touched a Protestant bible was immediately healed of their infirmity? I don’t know, but I doubt anyone has ever offered an account of a modally supernatural motive of credibility whose object was the affirmation of a 66 book canonical codex as such. In any case, as the matter stands, and under close inspection, the WCF appeal to motives seems unable to escape the charge of fideism.

    (3) God could have privately and directly revealed the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the 39 book OT codex to a first century Jew. In such a case, that Jew would, himself, certainly know the truth concerning the 39 books. But as I have been arguing, if that personal experience alone was the sole ground for his assertions concerning the 39 books, that Jew’s argument could not possibly be recognized by a third party as anything other than a fideistic appeal. To avoid the charge of fideism, the first century Jew would have to either advert back to the historical process by which the 39 books were identified and communicated to him, or else offer some other motive(s) of credibility for his claim (options 1 & 2 already explored).

    I deeply appreciate Jonathan’s attempt to think in Reformed terms and try and find a way to present the strongest possible Protestant argument by which an appeal to fideism might be avoided. I tried very hard to do that myself prior to conversion, and I have tried to work it out as a matter of logic several times thereafter. I surely do not want to criticize a straw man. But given the argument above, I don’t see how anything about the development of the OT Hebrews scriptures or the situation of a first century Jew provides an analogy which saves the Reformed position. From the standpoint of reason, and without any willingness to modify sola scriptura, I see no way in which the Reformed position avoids the charge of fideism. I realize that is a serious charge and I am happy to have my conclusion proved wrong. Obviously, even if the Reformed position were not ultimately fideistic, that would not resolve the question concerning the truth of the Protestant paradigm. Also, as David has been pointing out, the power of natural reason is a contested issue within Reformed theology. It may be that some are perfectly happy to bite the fideistic bullet. Nevertheless, as far as I can tell, from a third party perspective, the Reformed position is ultimately fideistic. (once the details have been unpacked and explanations exhausted through circumlocution).

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  111. Robert,

    You rote:

    I’m not sure how this is much different from Protestantism. I, for one, don’t deny that God works supernaturally through the church to lead us into all truth. The question is how we recognize when that has happened. For Rome, it has happened whenever Rome says it has happened. Even then, however, it isn’t clear WHEN this has happened, as our continual request for that infallible list of infallible statements keeps getting ignored or shunted aside.

    I addressed the objection you raise in this article which I wrote for CTC in 2012, and especially within the comment thread following. It may be worth a read (if you have not read it already) if for no other reason than to get a good feel for the Catholic response to the infinite interpretive regress objection.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  112. Ray #110,

    In response to what you’ve written and the charge the the sola scriptura is fideistic, I’d be interested to know what means you believe the Church appeals to in order to recognize Scripture as God’s Word that are not ultimately likewise fideistic. We’re agreed that Scripture is ontologically God’s Word apart from the recognition of the Magisterium, but it is your contention (as I understand it) that this ontological reality is inaccessible to the natural mind because it is a supernatural claim.

    Would you be willing to affirm that, the Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God?

  113. Jonathan (re: 104),

    I’m a parent and know exactly what you’re talking about. Sometimes we need to reaffirm what has already been said. I guess my issue is with premise #2 and #3.

    2. God knows the limitations of human language, and foresaw that humans would misunderstand the written word. (for instance, 2 Peter 3:16, and the evidence of the modern fracturing of Protestant Christianity)
    3. So that His truth would continue to be understood as He revealed, He therefore instituted a supernatural way by which all can come to know His revelation despite human misunderstandings. (John 16:13, 1 Tim 3:15)
    ————————-

    If we replace “written word” with “written church decree”, then #3 would have God instituting a supernatural way that is not identical to RC magisterium. Do you find this replacement fair ? If not, why ?

  114. Ray (re: 110),

    You wrote:
    I don’t know, but I doubt anyone has ever offered an account of a modally supernatural motive of credibility whose object was the affirmation of a 66 book canonical codex as such. In any case, as the matter stands, and under close inspection, the WCF appeal to motives seems unable to escape the charge of fideism.

    Response:
    We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection…

    I think the testimony of the church is intended to be correlative with the “motives” listed here. Reformed believers may be able to adopt these words from Vatican I: The Church herself…is a kind of great and perpetual motive of credibility and an incontrovertible evidence of her own divine mission. This is not a full endorsement, but it does seem relevant. Modally supernatural MoC appear to be restricted to prophecy and miracles. I say this because they are considered first and foremost among external indications of revelation.

  115. Robert, (re: #99)

    Actually, I don’t much care in the abstract. What bothers me are assertions like Donald’s that presume to falsify sola Scriptura by pointing to divisions among Protestants. If that falsifies sola Scriptura, it falsifies Roman Catholicism as well.

    That particular objection has been addressed in “The “Catholics are Divided Too” Objection.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  116. Robert:

    You said:

    Without consistent discipline, there is no clear way to identify sin and dissension. Even when there is more consistent discipline, it’s not that easy.

    First, which is it? Second, my point, and the one you keep making for me, is that Roman Catholic orthodoxy is not hard to understand, that you get it, and that even in your talk of probability, you continually dance around the bullseye that you can see.

    and accepts pro-choicers…

    From one of your comments you acknowledge that the Catholic Church teaches it is a mortal sin, and of course mortal sin separates us objectively from Christ and His Church. So, fallible disciplinary action withstanding, those person who promote the killing of unborn children are not accepted. Jesus said we would have wheat and tares in the Church.

    The notion of self-excommunication by rejecting Roman teaching even though one might remain a communing member of the Roman church doesn’t help you guys either. Any Protestant can say that an individual self-excommunicates himself by rejecting the teaching of Scripture. So much for the advantages of an infallible church.

    And if you did, we would share that in common. That certain sects take a rigorist position, is of little import.

    This assumes that bureaucratic unity trumps all.

    No, it does not. This is a post hoc evaluation. I did not need to assume anything to come to my conclusion.

    Further, I would characterize the unity you describe as intellectual. However, intellectual unity only means that like minded people have come together. We call that forming a club. And, as the history of protestantism goes, when one dissents a new sect is born. The beauty of Catholic unity is that despite our human differences, even our inclination to dissent, through the Eucharist, submission to The Church, and by the power of the Holy Spirit we are One in Christ.

    May you know the peace that comes from trusting in Christ alone and what He did in His life and death and resurrection.

    Yes, and when He was one the earth, He called Apostles, laid His sacred hands on them, gave them authority, and they did the same. And so too did those after. And I follow their teaching because I believe in Jesus Christ.

  117. Hi Brandon,

    In response to what you’ve written and the charge the the sola scriptura is fideistic, I’d be interested to know what means you believe the Church appeals to in order to recognize Scripture as God’s Word that are not ultimately likewise fideistic.

    I am currently out of town for the weekend, so I am not in a position to layout a detailed account. However, if I get some free time, I’ll try and at least sketch the skeleton of that argument.

    We’re agreed that Scripture is ontologically God’s Word apart from the recognition of the Magisterium, but it is your contention (as I understand it) that this ontological reality is inaccessible to the natural mind because it is a supernatural claim.

    Just to be clear, my position is that the inspiration of scripture (as well as the identification of which writings precisely constitute inspired scripture) is inaccessible to the unaided natural intellect. If, however, God should reveal that some set of religious writings enjoyed the quality of divine inspiration, then the natural intellect will have become aware of this truth which it would otherwise be unable to attain through its own resources and natural objects. Moreover, God might reveal the inspiration of scripture immediately to the natural intellect, through a direct and private revelation, or through the mediation of some agent(s) bearing credentials attesting their divine authorization to speak to the issue of an inspired codex on God’s behalf. I have also maintained that the scenario of immediate revelation of the identity and fact of an inspired codex, while sufficient to achieve knowledge of the identification and inspiration of scripture for the one receiving that direct revelation, would nevertheless remain an epistemologically inadequate basis for seeking assent to that proposition from any third party.

    Would you be willing to affirm that, the Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God?

    I affirm that the 73 religious writings emerging within the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage, which the Catholic Church presents to me as having been inspired by God; are, in fact, inspired by God. That entails that those 73 writings have God as their principle Author and have human beings as real, but instrumental, authors. And because God is the principle author of those 73 writings (and God cannot deceive or be deceived), wherever a judgment is affirmed as true within those writings (so long as it is really affirmed), there can be no error in judgment – hence, the 73 writings are “inerrant” as a logical consequence of their inspiration.

    So while we are agreed that scripture is ontologically God’s Word independent of the Magisterium’s identification of that fact (although it should not be forgotten that we are not agreed about precisely which set of religious writings comprise inspired scripture); the question I have been raising, and which we can expect any third party to rightly raise, is: “what is the epistemological justification or means by which that strong claim concerning the inspired nature of some specific set of religious writings is secured?”

    Pax Christi.

    Ray

  118. #99
    Robert (noting Bryan’s response above, and noting that mine is different and serves a different purpose)
    “Actually, I don’t much care in the abstract. What bothers me are assertions like Donald’s that presume to falsify sola Scriptura by pointing to divisions among Protestants. If that falsifies sola Scriptura, it falsifies Roman Catholicism as well.”

    We do know that there was a Hebrew canon and a Greek Septuagint canon, and that the Church chose the Greek Septuagint canon when it came time to made that decision. When I was reading a history of scripture it occurred to me that when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles on the first Pentecost of the Church, at that moment the Church was both able (authority) and bound (a legitimate problem to be addressed) to make such decisions as to which version of the Hebrew bible it would insert in the canon.

    The magisterium’s decision at the Council under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was the only position that counted. What the synagogue did would not affect what the Church did. What Protestantism later did would not affect what the Church did. There is a very real and historical sense in which Scripture came from the Church, not vis-a-versa.

  119. Brent,

    You haven’t answered my question and critique. Apart from consistent discipline, I only have a high probability of what Rome teaches. It is highly probable that Rome says abortion is a mortal sin. It’s by no means a certainty because the Magisterium doesn’t seem to care that Roman Catholics in high positions love to promote abortion.

    You guys love to talk about the certainty of faith as something only Rome can provide. Until Rome takes a firm, consistent position on abortion, which must include discipline either of prolifers or pro abortionists, no one can be certain of Rome’s true position.

    You are a prolife RC because you agree with that position. Joe Biden is a pro abortion Roman Catholic because he agrees with that position. Both of you are members in good standing. I’m supposed to defer to Rome? Rome doesn’t discipline, so I can’t really know for certain what Rome’s position is. At best, I have my fallible opinion.

    Rome is probably prolife and just being inconsistent if I read Rome in the most conservative manner possible. Probably, not certainly. Don’t laud the certainty and authority of Rome when in actual practice you give me a system that acts with less certainty and less authority than my little “sect.”

  120. Hi Eric,

    2. God knows the limitations of human language, and foresaw that humans would misunderstand the written word. (for instance, 2 Peter 3:16, and the evidence of the modern fracturing of Protestant Christianity)
    3. So that His truth would continue to be understood as He revealed, He therefore instituted a supernatural way by which all can come to know His revelation despite human misunderstandings. (John 16:13, 1 Tim 3:15)
    ————————-

    If we replace “written word” with “written church decree”, then #3 would have God instituting a supernatural way that is not identical to RC magisterium. Do you find this replacement fair ? If not, why ?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “fair”. However, I do think if you make this replacement, then the argument still holds, because the Magisterium doesn’t speak only to correct misunderstandings of scripture. The Church also speaks to correct misunderstandings of her own writings.

  121. Donald,

    We do know that there was a Hebrew canon and a Greek Septuagint canon

    This is completely incorrect. There was no “Septuagint Canon.” The Jews did not see the Apocrypha as Scripture, and when Jesus Himself refers to the Old Testament Scriptures, he referred to the traditional Tanakh, which is the Protestant canon. (Law, Prophets, Psalms). The later acceptance of the Apocrypha was made by a church almost completely disconnected from its Hebrew roots. Those who knew these roots the best, such as Jerome, stood against the Apocrypha’s inclusion and only later relented because of their bad ecclesiology.

    One could say that Scripture comes from the church in that it is the believers who wrote the books of Scripture, but the actual revelation that birthed the church is Scripture. It has both logical and historical priority.

  122. Robert #119

    Hi Robert-

    It is very easy to determine the Magesterium’s position on abortion. All you need to review is the Catechism #2271. This gives you a definitive answer on what the Church teaches on the evil of abortion. Whether or not Joe Biden or other Catholics claim otherwise is irrelevant. The Church has definitvely spoken on this issue. The Magisterium is there for those who have ears. The Church is not going to “force” somone to believe what she teaches, that is up to the Holy Spirit. If a person claims to be Catholic but does not believe in core teachings of the Church then we as Catholics need to pray for that person and witness the truth to them. Whether or not the person believes the teaching does not negate the truth of the teaching. The Church is made up of sinners. There are many people in many churches who don’t agree with core teachings but still claim membership. Not sure what you expect? If you expect a heavy handed response to everyone who disagrees with Church teaching I think that is unrealistic. As a Catholic who knows and agrees with what the Church teaches that is enough for me. If others disagree and call themslves Catholic that is for God to judge.

    Dave

  123. Eric (#114),

    If we replace “written word” with “written church decree”, then #3 would have God instituting a supernatural way that is not identical to RC magisterium. Do you find this replacement fair ? If not, why ?

    I don’t see why this is a problem with premises #2 and #3. Premise #2 could say that God had foreknowledge of human misunderstandings of written scripture and written church decree. Premise #3 assumes God intends ensure the integrity of His revelation throughout the ages (that all men may know Christ).

    The conclusion is the same: a supernatural authority identical to the RC magisterium. The Church doesn’t speak only to correct misunderstandings of scripture. The Church also speaks to correct misunderstandings of her own writings.

    For example, when Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was issued, many who hoped for the ordination of women misunderstood this statement to be a matter of discipline, not a matter of faith. In response to this challenge, the CDF issued this response.

    BTW, Ray’s article linked in #111 discusses the “tu quoque” objection in depth.

  124. Robert (#121)

    …the actual revelation that birthed the church is Scripture. It has both logical and historical priority.

    Hmm… Not sure what you mean by ‘logical priority’ but surely the New Testament does not have historical priority over the Church – unless you don’t think the Church was born at Pentecost (or, from another point of view, with the Incarnation, or, from yet another, with the creation of Adam).

    Why would you say that the Scripture has historical priority over the Church?

    jj

  125. Jonathan (re: 123),

    You wrote:
    …The Church also speaks to correct misunderstandings of her own writings.

    For example, when Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was issued, many who hoped for the ordination of women misunderstood this statement to be a matter of discipline, not a matter of faith. In response to this challenge, the CDF issued this response.

    Response:
    Adding written church decree doesn’t cause a problem. In fact, any Magisterial written form can be substituted without a problem. The “fair” question was asked because “written word” can precede this instituted authority, but church writings always follow in time. The problem, from my perspective, is when you try to maintain a distinction between the “Church speaking/voice” and any magisterial written form. I grant a distinction between the living, supernatural authority itself and its speech or writings.

    You provided an example of a written form responding to a written form. It is not clear to me how speaking and writing are distinct for handling misunderstandings. No real distinction here means the RC Mag. cannot be identical with the authority in P#3-6. All RCC “speaking” terminates in writing when consciences are bound.

  126. Dave @122

    You’ve given a very Protestant answer to my question. Any Protestant could say the same thing about the Bible. My issue is that the typical RC apologetic tack moves by attempting to disprove sola scriptural by pointing to diversity if interpretation. That approach also falsifies RCism. It is no easier to determine Rome’s position on abortion than it is to determine the Bible’s position.

  127. Robert, (re: #126)

    My issue is that the typical RC apologetic tack moves by attempting to disprove sola scriptural by pointing to diversity if interpretation. That approach also falsifies RCism.

    This objection has been addressed in the link I provided in #115 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  128. Robert:

    In #119, you claim I have not answered your question/critique. However, in my last comment, I asked you a question (with a question mark) and you did not respond. The reason for my question was to disambiguate your comments about “consistent discipline,” something that would be required in order to understand and coherently respond to what I’m guessing is the unanswered portion of your critique. However, noticing Bryan Cross’s recent comment, I think I will choose to bow out of the conversation and let you dialog with one less person. I think it will be more fruitful. I think some of our conversations are overlapping.

  129. Bryan @127,

    I’m sorry, but your thousands of words do nothing of the sort.

    1. You posit a difference between persons and texts that denies the fact that you as an individual have to interpret the Magisterium and that, at least according to modern Rome, your interpretation is just as valid as the radical liberals who run the Council of Women Religious. Neither one of you have been excommunicated, and until that happens, both of you are valid expressions of RC belief.

    2. Your difference between persons and texts also denies that the Scriptures are living and active. The Bible is no less alive than the Magisterium. In fact it is more so.

    3. Your answer denies that Protestants have valid organs for settling disputes. In my circles they’re called general assemblies. The fact that general assemblies make decisions that people don’t like and then leave doesn’t invalidate their authority any more than what you refer to as RC dissension invalidates Rome’s authority. We’re just more honest than Rome and admit that our assemblies can err. And we’re also more consistent than Rome in kicking out our heretics instead of letting their poison take root and produce, well, popes that say Kenneth Copeland is an orthodox brother in Christ.

    4. Because of your insistence on being able to point to just one community as the church Christ founded, you reduce Christian unity to unity of bureaucracy and cannot adequately account for the diversity of practice that was evident even in Apostolic times.

    If the Protestant perspicuity thesis were true, then over the past five hundred years we should expect to see not an explosion of fragmentation into various Protestant sects, but a coalescing into one body of all persons who in good faith attempt to discern the meaning of Scripture. In this way the history of Protestant fragmentation over the last five hundred years is incompatible with the truth of the Protestant perspicuity thesis.

    This statement, as is wont to happen around these parts, completely ignores the diversity of faith within Romanism. In your article, you talk about those who submit in good faith to the Magisterium and those who do not. I’m sorry, but you have no authority to tell us who these people are that are doing this. If Roman Catholicism is true, then only the Magisterium has that authority, and the Magisterium stopped exercising this function round about V2. Until the Magisterium excommunicates you or someone like Joe Biden, I have no way of being certain as to which one of you is submitting in good faith to the Magisterium.

    This idea that you can empirically determine who is submitting in good faith to the Magisterium but that you can’t do that in regards to submission to Scripture illustrates the Roman tendency to deny the living and active nature of Scripture and replace it with the Church.

  130. Robert, (re: #129)

    You posit a difference between persons and texts that denies the fact that you as an individual have to interpret the Magisterium …

    Nowhere do I deny that individuals have to interpret the Magisterium, nor does anything I said entail such a denial.

    your interpretation is just as valid as the radical liberals who run the Council of Women Religious.

    If you want to get to the heart of this, you’ll have to pick a particular doctrine, rather than merely hand-waving at various groups, and failing to point to a particular doctrine affirmed by one group and denied by another.

    Your difference between persons and texts also denies that the Scriptures are living and active.

    No, it doesn’t. Nowhere do I deny this, nor does anything I wrote entail such a denial.

    Your answer denies that Protestants have valid organs for settling disputes. In my circles they’re called general assemblies.

    I never denied that particular Protestant institutions have organs for resolving disputes within those particular institutions. All clubs and societies have such organs.

    The fact that general assemblies make decisions that people don’t like and then leave doesn’t invalidate their authority

    I agree that that fact doesn’t invalidate the type of authority they have. That is fully compatible with everything I have said.

    We’re just more honest than Rome and admit that our assemblies can err.

    That simply begs the question, i.e. presupposes the point in question regarding the infallibility of general councils.

    And we’re also more consistent than Rome in kicking out our heretics instead of letting their poison take root and produce, well, popes that say Kenneth Copeland is an orthodox brother in Christ.

    Pope Francis did not say that Kenneth Copeland is an “orthodox” brother in Christ.

    Because of your insistence on being able to point to just one community as the church Christ founded, you reduce Christian unity to unity of bureaucracy

    No, I do not reduce the unity of the Church to “unity of bureaucracy,” nor does anything I have said entail this.

    and cannot adequately account for the diversity of practice that was evident even in Apostolic times.

    Sure I can. Keep in mind that mere assertions are not arguments.

    This statement, as is wont to happen around these parts, completely ignores the diversity of faith within Romanism.

    That “diversity of faith within Romanism” is fully compatible with the truth of the statement of mine that you quoted. If you disagree, you’ll need to make an argument showing the contradiction between the two.

    I’m sorry, but you have no authority to tell us who these people are that are doing this.

    I did not base my claim on some authority I have.

    Until the Magisterium excommunicates you or someone like Joe Biden, I have no way of being certain as to which one of you is submitting in good faith to the Magisterium.

    That’s not true. But again, mere assertions are not arguments.

    This idea that you can empirically determine who is submitting in good faith to the Magisterium but that you can’t do that in regards to submission to Scripture illustrates the Roman tendency to deny the living and active nature of Scripture and replace it with the Church.

    That claim presupposes the impossibility of there being a qualitative difference between the perspicuity possible through in a living person, and the actual perspicuity of the divinely-inspired text. In this way, the claim presupposes precisely what is in question.

    If you wish to discuss this further, please do so in the combox of the “Catholics are Divided Too” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  131. John @124

    Why would you say that the Scripture has historical priority over the Church?

    If we take Pentecost as the birth of the church then you have at least the Old Testament in existence before the church. I’m hard pressed to find anything taught in the NT that is not taught in the OT. You’ve got a certain fullness in the NT that you don’t have in the Old in the sense that what was shadowy is not in the full light. But every single thing that the Apostles and Christ taught is in the OT. I can’t really think of an exception off the top of my head. From love being the fulfillment of the law to the atonement and resurrection of the Messiah to the temporary nature of at least certain aspects of the Mosaic law incorporation of the Gentiles, all of it is taught in the OT.

  132. Robert,

    Your claim that anyone who claims that Scripture is not a person is denying that Scripture is living, entails that to affirm that Scripture is living is to affirm that Scripture is a person. This notion, in turn, entails either that this “person” is a fourth member of the Trinity, or the position depicted in the video in comment #104 of the “Calvin on Self-Authentication” thread.

    If, however, you deny both (i.e. that the Bible is a fourth Person of the Trinity, and that the Bible is the Second Person of the Trinity), then it is possible for the Scripture to be living (in the sense taught in the Tradition) and yet not a person.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Update: You wouldn’t be the first Reformed person to equivocate on the “Word of God.” See the paragraph that begins “Of course as a Catholic, I agree …” in my reply to Michael Horton in comment #165 of “Some Thoughts Concerning Michael Horton’s Three Recent Articles on Protestants Becoming Catholic.”

  133. Hi Robert,

    I find this an intriguing statement:

    But every single thing that the Apostles and Christ taught is in the OT.

    Do you find the necessity of Trinitarian Baptism taught in the Old Testament?

    How about the institution of the Eucharist?

    How about the power of the Church (John 20:21) to forgive or retain sins?

    How about the doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth would be born of a virgin named Mary, wedded to a man named Joseph?

    And what about that doctrine which St. Paul said had been hidden until the coming of Christ? Ephesians 3: ” to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,”

    How about the abrogation of the dietary laws?

    -David

  134. #121
    Robert
    “Donald,

    We do know that there was a Hebrew canon and a Greek Septuagint canon

    This is completely incorrect.”

    The canon in use with the Hebrew synagogues was smaller than that in use by the Greek-speaking Jews. The canon was used in the synagogues for the readings and lessons. You are assuming that the Temple had taken a position on the rightness of one version or the wrongness of the other version but in fact by use they were both being treated as canon by the respective communities.

    You seem to be reading the position of your church into your understanding of how the Jews were handling the canons that they used. That is incorrect.

  135. Hi David (@133),

    Do you find the necessity of Trinitarian Baptism taught in the Old Testament?

    -I find the necessity of applying the covenant sign of initiation to believers and their children. The outward form changes, so I suppose in that respect one might say it is new. But the new covenant reality is the same as the old covenant reality. Baptism accomplishes in a plainer way the ingrafting into the covenant community and the sealing of the purification and forgiveness of sins than circumcision did, but the reality is the same. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    How about the institution of the Eucharist?

    -I find the Passover pointing us forward to the fulfillment of the feast in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. The Eucharist accomplishes in a plainer way the strengthening of the union with Christ that the old covenant believer enjoyed under the old covenant via the Passover meal and the fellowship offerings. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    How about the power of the Church (John 20:21) to forgive or retain sins?

    -The new covenant church enjoys a fuller awareness of the forgiveness of sins, but priests had the same authority under the old covenant to declare a believer’s sins forgiven upon their profession of repentance and faith. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    How about the doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth would be born of a virgin named Mary, wedded to a man named Joseph?

    -see Isaiah 7. The old covenant believer did not know here name would be Mary, so in that respect there is a greater clarity. But it was not a new teaching that Messiah would be born of a virgin. And there was nothing about Mary that made her the only choice God could have made. He could have chosen any other Jewish girl to bear the Messiah. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    And what about that doctrine which St. Paul said had been hidden until the coming of Christ? Ephesians 3: ” to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,”

    -Depends on what you consider the mystery to be. I think that Paul is referring to the mystery that Gentiles would have all the same privileges in Jews that Jews have in the church. This, again, is not unknown in the OT. It’s just clearer in the New. God says in the prophets that he will take some Gentiles and make them priests. That’s pretty much saying that Jews will enjoy no privileges that Gentiles won’t. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    How about the abrogation of the dietary laws?

    -The dietary laws are clearly not in place before the flood, and the letter of the dietary laws are not followed often enough (David eating the showbread, for example). This shows that such things were never meant to be permanent. Again, there is more clarity on this under the new covenant, but it’s not a brand new thing either. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    The substance of the new covenant existed before the formal institution of the new covenant. And it’s all revealed in the OT Scriptures. Moreover, some of the things we might say seem newer, such as baptism and the Eucharist, are revealed before the church is born at Pentecost or even before the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, Scripture predates the liturgy.

  136. Robert,

    Do you find the necessity of Trinitarian Baptism taught in the Old Testament?

    -I find the necessity of applying the covenant sign of initiation to believers and their children. The outward form changes, so I suppose in that respect one might say it is new. But the new covenant reality is the same as the old covenant reality.

    I agree that the form of the sacrament changes and that in order to obey the command of Christ with regard to the form, the Old Testament is not sufficient. As to whether the new covenant reality is the same as the old, Jeremiah 31 says no.

    Baptism accomplishes in a plainer way the ingrafting into the covenant community and the sealing of the purification and forgiveness of sins than circumcision did, but the reality is the same.

    for the moment, we were not discussing the efficacy of baptism, but whether or not Christian baptism was revealed in the OT. You admit now that it was not.

    How about the institution of the Eucharist?

    -I find the Passover pointing us forward to the fulfillment of the feast in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. The Eucharist accomplishes in a plainer way the strengthening of the union with Christ that the old covenant believer enjoyed under the old covenant via the Passover meal and the fellowship offerings. Plainer, not brand new or unknown beforehand.

    Again, the question of efficacy was not under discussion, but rather revelation. Of course the passover points to the eucharist. But you have not made the case that we could have known the particulars of the eucharist from the data of the Old Testament.

    How about the power of the Church (John 20:21) to forgive or retain sins?

    -The new covenant church enjoys a fuller awareness of the forgiveness of sins, but priests had the same authority under the old covenant to declare a believer’s sins forgiven upon their profession of repentance and faith.

    Would you care to point me to a passage of the OT in which priests are given the authority to declare sins forgiven?

    How about the doctrine that Jesus of Nazareth would be born of a virgin named Mary, wedded to a man named Joseph?

    -see Isaiah 7. The old covenant believer did not know here name would be Mary, so in that respect there is a greater clarity.

    And the identity of the Virgin Mary is an article in the creed so, again, you agree that we could not have known the contents of the Creed apart from New Covenant revelation.

    But it was not a new teaching that Messiah would be born of a virgin. And there was nothing about Mary that made her the only choice God could have made.

    So, you do not think Mary was predestined to be the Mother of God?

    And what about that doctrine which St. Paul said had been hidden until the coming of Christ? Ephesians 3: ” to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,”

    -Depends on what you consider the mystery to be. I think that Paul is referring to the mystery that Gentiles would have all the same privileges in Jews that Jews have in the church. This, again, is not unknown in the OT.

    Paul seems to say otherwise.

    How about the abrogation of the dietary laws?

    -The dietary laws are clearly not in place before the flood, and the letter of the dietary laws are not followed often enough (David eating the showbread, for example). This shows that such things were never meant to be permanent.

    This is a non-sequitur.

    The substance of the new covenant existed before the formal institution of the new covenant.

    Whether or not this is the case (and I think it is not the case), this is a different question from whether “everything in the NT was revealed in the OT.” By differentiating “substance,” from accidents? Inessentials? you admit elements of the NT that were not revealed in the OT.

    And it’s all revealed in the OT Scriptures. Moreover, some of the things we might say seem newer, such as baptism and the Eucharist, are revealed before the church is born at Pentecost or even before the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, Scripture predates the liturgy.

    No, they were not revealed scripturally before pentecost. Can you show me one piece of NT Scripture that was written before Pentecost?

    -David

  137. David,

    No, they were not revealed scripturally before pentecost. Can you show me one piece of NT Scripture that was written before Pentecost?

    Using a non-Scriptural source, can you show me words and practices from the Apostles?

    You continue to confuse the issue. Nobody denies that we don’t have a written NT before Pentecost. That’s irrelevant to whether Scripture has primacy over the liturgy or whether Scripture came before liturgy. Completely irrelevant. If revelation births the church—and it does—then revelation has priority to liturgy. You have to prove that we have access to that revelation apart from the NT. You have yet to do so. Again I ask, where do we find the words and deeds of the Apostles apart from the NT? Where is that infallible list of tradition? Where was the epiclesis revealed? At Cana? Jerusalem? Who said it? Where and how did they say it is mandatory practice for the church of all time? Prove it.

    everything in the NT was revealed in the OT.

    The point is that the substance of the NT was given prior to the establishment of the church. That substance is revealed to us in the OT Scritpures. Scripture has logical priority over liturgy. Revelation has logical priority over liturgy. You aren’t dealing with the actual Protestant view. You just keep coming back to “well, nobody wrote any of this down before the first Eucharist was celebrated” type argumentation. That’s just not convincing or compelling unless you’ve already bought into the idea that the Bible is a dead letter and hopelessly confusing and that the Magisteirum is crystal clear and far superior to all else.

  138. Donald,

    The canon in use with the Hebrew synagogues was smaller than that in use by the Greek-speaking Jews. The canon was used in the synagogues for the readings and lessons. You are assuming that the Temple had taken a position on the rightness of one version or the wrongness of the other version but in fact by use they were both being treated as canon by the respective communities.

    You seem to be reading the position of your church into your understanding of how the Jews were handling the canons that they used. That is incorrect.

    Sorry. Yes we have copies of the Greek Bible that also include some of the Apocryphal books. That says absolutely nothing about whether the Jews who had such copies in their possession viewed those extra books as inspired Scripture. It has far more to say about the fact that paper was expensive and you used it to its full extent. The idea of an Alexandrian vs. Palestinian canon was pretty thoroughly demolished by Roger Beckwith, and more importantly, not one of the Apostles quotes from the Apocryphal books as graphe.

    The one who is reading the position of the church into the evidence is Rome. Jerome’s arm had to be twisted out of its socket to accept the Apocrypha, and you don’t have a definitive proclamation on the extent of the OT canon for Rome until Trent. The acceptance of the Apocrypha is one of the best examples of what happens when the word of the church becomes more important than the words of the Apostles.

  139. Robert (#131)

    If we take Pentecost as the birth of the church then you have at least the Old Testament in existence before the church. I’m hard pressed to find anything taught in the NT that is not taught in the OT. You’ve got a certain fullness in the NT that you don’t have in the Old in the sense that what was shadowy is not in the full light. But every single thing that the Apostles and Christ taught is in the OT. I can’t really think of an exception off the top of my head. From love being the fulfillment of the law to the atonement and resurrection of the Messiah to the temporary nature of at least certain aspects of the Mosaic law incorporation of the Gentiles, all of it is taught in the OT.

    I see. OK, so you don’t mean that the Scriptures are historically prior to the Church. But could you please explain why you said that the Scriptures have logical priority over the Church. The complete Scriptures – the New Testament, which, I think, has a lot more than mere fulness of revelation by contrast with the OT (Trinity; dual natures of the Messiah; even resurrection from the dead) – the New Testament was, after all, produced by the Church (again, taking the birth of the Church as at Pentecost).

    jj

  140. “If revelation births the church—and it does—then revelation has priority to liturgy.”

    Sure, but that doesn’t mean Scripture has priority to liturgy as you keep assuming. Ratzinger:

    “The reversal by which the composed and formulated expressions of revelation, Scripture and tradition, are made sources and revelation becomes something following from them, probably became common in the early phase of historicism, when people everywhere were asking about sources and Christians came to call Scripture and tradition the sources in which they found revelation. This way of speaking is flawed in failing to distinguish the order of reality from the order of our knowing. Scripture and tradition are for us sources from which we know revelation, but they are not in themselves its sources, for revelation is itself the source of Scripture and tradition. Accordingly, it was traditional in the Middle Ages to call Scripture fons scientiae [the source of science], but never fons revelationis [the source of revelation]. While it is right that theological work have Scripture and tradition as its <>, it is dangerous and one-sided to use here the title of a theological treatise on Scripture and tradition in a way wholly centered on the knowing subject, which does not depict the order of reality but instead only that of our approach to reality. This brings with it the danger of conceiving revelation wrongly. For revelation is not something following upon Scripture and tradition, but is instead God’s speaking and acting which comes before all historical formulations of this speaking, being the one source that feeds Scripture and tradition.”

    “In this case, giving priority to revelation as the one source of its historical forms of transmission, Scripture and tradition, can have a series of significant consequences for how this schema takes shape. If revelation comes first, with Scripture and tradition proceeding from it and only being understood from it, then one cannot simply begin a presentation of revelation with Scripture and tradition. The latter order fits with historicism, but not with faith. Before speaking of the documents, one has to say something about God’s action from which the documents come; otherwise, while they may be tools of historians, they will not be wellsprings of faith and of life welling up to eternal life. In a word, one has to speak here first of revelation in itself before saying anything about the witnesses to revelation.”

    “Characterizing Scripture and tradition as the sources of revelation means in effect that one identifies revelation with its material principles. This brings with it the acute danger of slipping into <<scripturalism», that is, holding sola Scripture and identifying Scripture and revelation. One only has to affirm that tradition adds no supplementary content to Scripture and the outcome is that Scripture is the whole of revelation, that Scripture and revelation are identical in extent, and so you have sola Scriptura in a strict and exclusive sense. This is an inevitable danger of the special kind of positivism that identifies revelation with its concrete attestations….But there is no danger at all of scripturalism, once you grasp that revelation comes before its material attestations. Then it is clear that revelation itself is always more than its formulated witness in Scripture, for revelation is the living reality that surrounds Scripture and expands it…. revelation itself is the source of Sacred Scripture and divine tradition, but Scripture and tradition are not sources of revelation itself, but only sources of knowing revelation…we can say that the relation between the two realities Scripture and tradition can be only be grasped rightly when one subordinates them to a third reality, which actually comes first, namely, revelation itself, which precedes its positive attestations and transcends them. Scripture and Tradition are material principles of our knowing revelation, not revelation itself."

  141. Robert,

    Nobody denies that we don’t have a written NT before Pentecost. That’s irrelevant to whether Scripture has primacy over the liturgy or whether Scripture came before liturgy. Completely irrelevant. If revelation births the church—and it does—then revelation has priority to liturgy.

    I’m glad we seem to be getting back to the thesis of the article – namely, that the liturgy – as a bearer of divine revelation – predates the completed canon of Scripture. You have acknowledged that above. “Nobody denies . . . ”

    Now, you claim that this fact is of no relevance strikes me as odd. My argument in the paper was that Christ instituted the Eucharist (orally) as a bearer of divine revelation and commanded that the Eucharist be celebrated in perpetuity. The infant Church carried out this command before the Scriptures were completed or recognized and the Church continues to do so. This is a paradigmatic case of what the Church means by tradition.

    Does revelation have priority over the liturgy? (Your claim.) The liturgy is revelation. Christ revealed it, so I don’t know how to make sense of your question. It’s like asking if revelation has priority over the sermon on the mount.

    Peace,

    David

  142. David,

    Does revelation have priority over the liturgy? (Your claim.) The liturgy is revelation.

    And the issue that we must keep coming back to is this: How do you know that Christ instituted the liturgy and what words he used to do so except from Scripture?

    The problem is this—Yes Christ instituted the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Yes Christ did so before the NT was written down. (For all that we know, someone could have been writing down his words as he gave them, but I digress…). If you want to say the words of institution are the bearers of divine revelation, fine. The issue is that the only way YOU have access to them is through the Scriptures. And I agree that whatever Christ actually said is divine revelation.

    You want to jump from the fact that Christ instituted the Eucharist before Mark was written to an ever growing stream of tradition that includes things that Jesus never Himself actually said and then impose things such as the epiclesis upon all people for all time upon pain of damnation. (Well, maybe you don’t, but the Magisterium sure does.) If you want to do that, you need to at least be able to show us where Jesus or the Apostles instituted such a thing, but you can’t and because you can’t you keep sidestepping the question about what is tradition and where has Rome infallibly declared all that it has so far infallibly pronounced. Unless Rome is going to infallibly say Denzinger is an exhaustive list of tradition, handing over Denzinger is not the answer to the question.

    The liturgy that Christ actually instituted does not exist apart from the Scriptures. We know what it is because of Scripture. Rome comes along with all sorts of beliefs that exist completely apart from Scriptures and wants us to believe Jesus taught them. Sorry, but no dice.

    The fundamental issue is that Protestants believe the teaching of Christ and the Apostles have the final say. From the discussion that has ensued, unless I have been mistaken, it doesn’t appear that you are prepared to grant even that, even if we differ on where that teaching can be found. I don’t see how that position is meaningfully Christian in any sense.

    If the teaching of Christ and the Apostles have the final say, then we have to ask where it is found. If there is this vast body of tradition that contains things Jesus and the Apostles taught that were never written down in the canon, Rome should be able to point us to it. Rome can’t. We get a complaint that we want a canon of tradition. Yes we do. Rome evidently has a canon of tradition of some kind, because it is certainly able to tell us what is NOT tradition when it wants to. But Rome isn’t forthcoming with this information. I’m sorry, but that makes it look like Rome has something to hide.

  143. Cletus,

    That lengthy quote from Ratzinger puts him in good company with Karl Barth and all the people that Machen was fighting against. Don’t tell us your church isn’t well on the way to full-on Protestant liberalism.

  144. Hi Robert,

    The problem is this—Yes Christ instituted the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Yes Christ did so before the NT was written down. (For all that we know, someone could have been writing down his words as he gave them, but I digress…). If you want to say the words of institution are the bearers of divine revelation, fine.

    Thank you Robert. You have affirmed my thesis.

    The issue is that the only way YOU have access to them is through the Scriptures.

    This is not true. Are you saying that we have no record of the Church’s liturgy or Christ’s institution apart from Scripture? This is just blatantly, historically, false. We have REAMS of historical data, early liturgies, patristic testimony, archeological and artistic evidence, canonical evidence, even the witness of Pagans.

    And I agree that whatever Christ actually said is divine revelation.

    So the celebration of the liturgy is a communication and handing on (paradosis) of divine revelation.

    You want to jump from the fact that Christ instituted the Eucharist before Mark was written to an ever growing stream of tradition that includes things that Jesus never Himself actually said.

    First, nothing in my article does what you claim.
    Second, can you point me to one piece of tradition I have alleged either in or out of the article and demonstrate to me that Christ never said it or instituted it?
    Can you, for instance, prove that Christ did not invoke the holy spirit in the celebration of the eucharist, or that the apostles did not invoke the Spirit with Christ’s authority?

    In any event, I am glad that we agree on the fact that 1) Christ instituted the Eucharist before the canon of the New Testament was written, and that 2) the Eucharist is a bearer of divine revelation.

    So whether we ever agree on anything else, we can agree that this is at least one oral tradition instituted by Christ the authority of which is not derived from its inscripturated form, but from Christ’s institution.

    Peace,

    David

  145. Robert wrote:

    “all of it is taught in the OT”

    Prior to Scripture there was the people of God, Israel, the Church…..oral Traditions.

  146. Robert,

    “We get a complaint that we want a canon of tradition. Yes we do. Rome evidently has a canon of tradition of some kind, because it is certainly able to tell us what is NOT tradition when it wants.”

    Rome does not have a secret cache of documents in the Vatican vault it is pulling out when defining a dogma. You want an exhaustive canon for this: “the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes. This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth.”
    That seems a strange request. Tradition is not an infallible exhaustive commentary on Scripture or set of propositions, nor is it hidden – her life, worship, teaching throughout the generations is witnessed to in many avenues.

    So I’m still trying to understand this request for a canon of Tradition. Can you do this for anything you consider a tradition? For example, Presbyterianism has a tradition – it’s not infallible for you of course but tradition nonetheless – so can you give me an exhaustive canon of Presbyterian tradition? If not, are you hiding something?

  147. Re: Eric (#125)

    The problem, from my perspective, is when you try to maintain a distinction between the “Church speaking/voice” and any magisterial written form. […] You provided an example of a written form responding to a written form. It is not clear to me how speaking and writing are distinct for handling misunderstandings. No real distinction here means the RC Mag. cannot be identical with the authority in P#3-6.

    Eric,

    I have read your post a few times and I can’t understand. Why does this distinction (between written words and spoken words?) have bearing on P#3-6? Or, are you saying that I made this distinction and you think this invalidates the argument? Or something else?

    Regarding this distinction between the authority and the written words – the _Church_ is not identical with the _words of the Church_. The Church is the supernatural “authority”; she is infallible (with respect to the faith). The words are not “the authority”, but they are “authoritative”. When I think of the Church “speaking”, I am primarily thinking of words which are written down somewhere by someone. The words of an authority have weight, either when written or spoken; but written words can endure longer than the fleeting memory of what is spoken.

    Jonathan

  148. Cletus,

    The difference is that we don’t define dogma based on tradition. Our source of dogma is accessible to all—the canon of Scripture.

    Rome pulls dogma out of air based on practices that no one knows how they originated. “Gee, some people are believing that the Virgin was bodily assumed. we have no idea where the Apostles taught this, but since some people are incorporating it into their worship, it must be true. Let’s impose it as a doctrine that must be believed upon pain of damnation.”

    This discussion is getting nebulous, and that is because Rome simply does not believe Apostolic tradition is a fixed body of content. It is an amorphous, ever growing body of whatever Rome says it is. Meanwhile, the NT views Apostolic tradition as a fixed body of teaching. We end up talking past each other because we have radically different understandings of tradition The question that hasn’t been addressed but I’ve raised it earlier is this:

    What do the Apostles mean when they talk about tradition?

  149. David,

    So whether we ever agree on anything else, we can agree that this is at least one oral tradition instituted by Christ the authority of which is not derived from its inscripturated form, but from Christ’s institution.

    You are making a false distinction. And I’ll point out yet again that turning to Scripture to find something that Christ instituted before it got written down does not help your case.

    There is no meaningful difference between the inscripturated form of the words of institution and Christ’s institution. Your doctrine of Scripture is too low. To have Scripture is to have Christ’s institution. To have Christ’s Word is to have Christ.

    And I’m not even sure that any Protestant believes that the authority of something derives from the fact that it is inscripturated. I don’t even know what that means. It has authority because it is God’s Word. The onus is on you to prove that we have God’s Word somewhere else than in the Bible. It’s an issue you keep ignoring. The onus isn’t on me to prove that Christ didn’t institute the epiclesis. The onus is on you to prove that he did because we have no evidence for it. If we’re going to start having to prove a negative around here, you might as well prove to me that Jesus never played hide and seek or that Jesus never said the moon is made of green cheese.

  150. One thing that struck me, when I began to probe the claims of the Catholic Church, was the establishment of the liturgy among the various churches with Apostolic paternity. Without email or fax machine, these Churches – in India, Iraq, Egypt, and elsewhere – all had liturgies that were strikingly similar. And, these liturgies were not found in Scripture per se. Why did they all develop such a similar pattern of worship? It was not possible that they conspired to undermine the true teachings of Christ – they had no recourse for such collaboration. Rather, the only plausible explanation was that these liturgies represent an authentic teaching of Christ, not found in Scripture in total, but passed on to the Apostles and part of the Sacred Tradition.

    As Ratzinger points out, the revelatory act precedes the attestation. We put our faith in Christ crucified, not in the attestation. The attestation is the window that allows us to see that for which our faith adheres. The Word is Christ. Similarly, the Sacred Tradition hands on to us the liturgy, but it is in our worship of the true God, and in the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood in the Eucharistic feast, that our faith adheres.

  151. #148
    Robert
    “The difference is that we don’t define dogma based on tradition. Our source of dogma is accessible to all—the canon of Scripture.”

    Which came first: The Liturgy or the Scripture, was the question provided to us by the author of this thread.

    It was in my reading that I learned that scripture was part of the liturgy, both in Judaism and in the Church. The Scripture in-formed the hearer (not the reader) of God’s purpose and of our shared history with Him. At various times through His agents in both Palestine and in the Church, people have been cut to the heart, and responded accordingly.

    We do know that the apostles, whether directly or through an agent, put the gospels into a written form, for our benefit. Those gospels, and the letters to the universal Church or to particular Churches, were promulgated in order to be used in the liturgy, where they would be heard.

    So there is a history of this particular Tradition which comes to us from antiquity.

    What happens when this Tradition is cut off, and all that remains is the Scripture?

    AME
    AME Zion
    Anglican

    Lutheran
    Lutheran ELCA
    Lutheran Missouri Synod
    ..
    Presbyterian
    Presbyterian PCA
    Presbyterian USA

    These are all groups of people who lack the Tradition which was handed on. They have a truncated, borrowed Book which they all interpret differently (interpret being the operative word) because they have rejected the Tradition which caused the apostles and their agents to write the Gospels and Epistles which are read at the Liturgy, as a prelude to the Passover of the New Covenant intended for the salvation of souls.

    It won’t work to blame Catholics for their failures on this item because failure in this item does not belong to the Catholics; nor will it buttress anyone’s case for remaining outside of the Church Jesus founded to find fault in Catholics even when there is fault to be found.

  152. Brent,

    Be consistent now. The fact that the early churches in various locales know nothing of submitting to the pope as the final jurisdictional and infallible authority must therefore mean that Christ never taught that, right?

  153. Robert,

    “The difference is that we don’t define dogma based on tradition. Our source of dogma is accessible to all—the canon of Scripture.”

    I understand. But if tradition can be defined through an exhaustive canon as your demand presupposes – then it should not be difficult to produce a canon for any type of tradition, be it a source of dogma or not. So I’m asking if you can fulfill your same request for any type of tradition – Presbyterian tradition, American tradition, whatever. If you cannot, it may be an indicator the question might be malformed (as well as the conclusion that if such a canon cannot be defined, it means there must be “hiding” going on).

    “Meanwhile, the NT views Apostolic tradition as a fixed body of teaching.”

    The NT itself (and its identification) came through tradition – it is written tradition. That does not mean tradition then reduces to the NT or that one can reduce the “common life, teaching, worship of the church handed down through the generations” to some written canon – that would be putting the cart before the horse, which is part of David’s point with the liturgy.

  154. Cletus,

    The NT itself (and its identification) came through tradition – it is written tradition. That does not mean tradition then reduces to the NT or that one can reduce the “common life, teaching, worship of the church handed down through the generations” to some written canon – that would be putting the cart before the horse, which is part of David’s point with the liturgy.

    Clever, but doesn’t answer the question. What did the Apostles mean when they spoke of the tradition they received. Was it a fixed body of content or not?

    I understand. But if tradition can be defined through an exhaustive canon as your demand presupposes – then it should not be difficult to produce a canon for any type of tradition, be it a source of dogma or not. So I’m asking if you can fulfill your same request for any type of tradition – Presbyterian tradition, American tradition, whatever. If you cannot, it may be an indicator the question might be malformed (as well as the conclusion that if such a canon cannot be defined, it means there must be “hiding” going on).

    No dice. If you can’t produce a canon of tradition, then by definition the deposit has not been given once for all. It continues to grow. You equate the church’s later understanding of the Apostolic tradition with the Aposotolic tradition itself. The question is, was that Apostolic practice? What did the Apostles mean when they spoke of receiving and handing on tradition. If they mean a fixed body of content, then a canon of some kind is absolutely required.

    I don’t think Rome is so much hiding it as they just make it up as they go along. Typically, it sees people doing something, and if enough people do it, it suddenly becomes apostolic whether or not it can be shown to go right back to Peter or Paul or Jesus. Case in point: the bodily assumption of Mary.

    In my mind it would be helpful to the discussion if you RCs would just admit that for Rome, when the Apostles referred to Apostolic tradition, they were not referring to a fixed body of content that they themselves delivered but to what they taught and to whatever else the future church says is Apostolic tradition.

    Let me ask the question again: When the Apostles spoke of receiving and handing on tradition, were they referring to a fixed body of content—i.e., what they actually said and did—or not?

  155. Because most of our conversations are so abstract, perhaps the current Catholic discussion of communion for divorced-and-remarried people can provide a good specific example to discuss these issues, where the scope of the Church’s possible interpretations are being debated. I am extremely grateful to have been born and raised in an Evangelical home, but having been through two church-splits before I even left for college, I can’t help but think that monitoring the upcoming Synod could be a good joint exercise, not only in how Scripture/Tradition/Magisterium are applied, but also in how unity can and must be preserved in the face of disputes much larger than the ones that split the churches of my childhood.

  156. Donald,

    It won’t work to blame Catholics for their failures on this item because failure in this item does not belong to the Catholics; nor will it buttress anyone’s case for remaining outside of the Church Jesus founded to find fault in Catholics even when there is fault to be found.

    So we can blame sola Scriptura for Protestant division but we can’t blame the Magisterium for the same Roman Catholic division. Got it.

  157. Robert,

    When the Apostles spoke of receiving and handing on tradition, were they referring to a fixed body of content—i.e., what they actually said and did—or not?

    They were referring to a fixed body of content. A definite amount of teachings and propositions. The gospel has been once for all delivered and all special and public revelation has ceased.

  158. Jonathan (re:147),

    Thanks for trying to understand me.
    You asked: Why does this distinction (between written words and spoken words?) have bearing on P#3-6?

    Response:
    Allow me to add to the argument.

    1. God loves the world, and wants His revelation in Jesus Christ to be known by the world, so that we will be led into all truth. (John 3:16, Matthew 28:18-20, John 16:13)
    2. God knows the limitations of human language, and foresaw that humans would misunderstand the written word. (for instance, 2 Peter 3:16, and the evidence of the modern fracturing of Protestant Christianity)

    [ And authoritative Church writings]

    3. So that His truth would continue to be understood as He revealed, He therefore instituted a supernatural way by which all can come to know His revelation despite human misunderstandings. (John 16:13, 1 Tim 3:15)
    4. In order that this supernatural authority might correct misunderstandings in every age, it is necessary that this authority be a living voice which can infallibly speak against misunderstandings of His revelation.

    [This living voice must speak in a way distinct from the written word and church writings ]

    5. This supernatural authority must possess conscience-binding authority over the entire Church.
    6. This supernatural authority must possess conscience-binding authority over all ages of the Church.

    7. The RCC does not infallibly speak in an authoritative-conscience-binding way distinct from its writings. Therefore, the RCC can’t be identical to the authority in P#3-6.
    ——————————-

    You wrote:
    When I think of the Church “speaking”, I am primarily thinking of words which are written down somewhere by someone. The words of an authority have weight, either when written or spoken; but written words can endure longer than the fleeting memory of what is spoken

    Response:
    The word “primarily” tells the story. It shows how you maintain the distinction between writing and speaking. Subsequent ages require, if I’m truly following your argument, the authority to be able to speak like the Apostles. I don’t think your church qualifies based on the argument. Provide an example of the Church “speaking” that is not primarily written.

  159. Kenneth,

    They were referring to a fixed body of content. A definite amount of teachings and propositions. The gospel has been once for all delivered and all special and public revelation has ceased.

    Finally, someone to answer the question! But this is precisely what Rome ends up denying. Where in the teachings and propositions that the Apostles give us do we find such things as the bodily Assumption of Mary.

    BTW, I’m pretty sure that at least some Roman Catholics will disagree with you. I’ve had Roman Catholics tell me that the church fathers believed they could add to the deposit. If there is a fixed amount of teachings and propositions, that necessitates a canon, and it also necessitates a distinction between what the tradition is and the interpretation of the tradition. That, I submit, is a distinction that Rome does not have.

  160. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for clarifying –

    4. In order that this supernatural authority might correct misunderstandings in every age, it is necessary that this authority be a living voice which can infallibly speak against misunderstandings of His revelation.

    [This living voice must speak in a way distinct from the written word and church writings ]

    You’ve added an assertion here in brackets, but this assertion doesn’t follow from the premises.

    What satisfies P4 is an authority who can both listen to questions, misunderstandings, and challenges, and respond infallibly. Whether that response is written, unwritten, or takes some other form, makes no difference.

    All language is limited, and therefore allows ambiguity. It’s clear that God allows this ambiguity in the scriptures which He has revealed to us. For in His providence, He intends at this time to lead us into all Truth rather than to immerse us in the Truth. (Whereas, in the Beatific Vision, the Church will at that time be immersed into The Truth, because the communion of the faithful will both know fully, and be fully known).

    But just because God allows ambiguity does not mean He will allow the Church to corrupt what has been given to her through a critical misunderstanding. God does not lead us away from the Truth, but towards Himself. Therefore, when His revelation is challenged, we trust He can and does respond through the Holy Spirit to conserve what has been given, and to deepen her understanding of what has been given.

    So, God does not see it fitting to remove all ambiguity in His revelation. What is fitting to Him is that He acts to resolve the ambiguity which is in question. A living voice can respond to a specific question with a specific response which is fitting to that question. In this way, a written response of human language can be sufficient to remove ambiguity, even though such a response cannot answer all questions.

  161. Robert,

    “No dice. If you can’t produce a canon of tradition, then by definition the deposit has not been given once for all. It continues to grow.”

    If this is true, then you should be able to produce a canon of tradition for something that is no longer growing. There are many examples of expired empires or cultures/movements. So can you give an exhaustive canon for their tradition? Let’s say the Roman Empire, or the Confederacy, or the Presbyterian church from 1600-1900. To quote Princess Bride re Tradition, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    “You equate the church’s later understanding of the Apostolic tradition with the Aposotolic tradition itself. The question is, was that Apostolic practice? What did the Apostles mean when they spoke of receiving and handing on tradition. If they mean a fixed body of content, then a canon of some kind is absolutely required.”

    Public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle (a teaching of Tradition), but was the fixed body of content in place when they were speaking of receiving and handing on tradition? This again is part of David’s point with the liturgy and NT. You equate tradition in the NT with solely the apostolic witness as recorded in the NT, but the apostolic witness was not complete when those words were being uttered/written so how could it mean what you assert?

    “I don’t think Rome is so much hiding it as they just make it up as they go along. Typically, it sees people doing something, and if enough people do it, it suddenly becomes apostolic whether or not it can be shown to go right back to Peter or Paul or Jesus. Case in point: the bodily assumption of Mary.”

    Rome didn’t just make up that there was a universal feast day for Assumption in both the east and west in the 6-7th century. Part of tradition is the “common teaching, worship, life handed down” – a universal feast day for over a millennium before the definition is obviously not foreign to that. And no, the sensus fidelium is not just isolated laity rule as both Benedict and Francis have mentioned – many people wanted women priests but ordinatio sacerdotalis said no-can-do. Just as I’m sure many people will want the teaching on homosexuality overturned.

    “Let me ask the question again: When the Apostles spoke of receiving and handing on tradition, were they referring to a fixed body of content—i.e., what they actually said and did—or not?”

    Let me ask a question I asked above – do you think the Apostles all had full-orbed completely developed understandings of all teachings of the deposit of faith? Most protestants acknowledge a form of development of doctrine – you presumably consider WCF and other confessions to reflect developed doctrines and still to be faithful to the DoF – in that case if the Apostles of 1st century were presented with WCF/Reformed doctrine/essentials – would they immediately accept it or would they possibly have to reflect and think on it before accepting it?

    Markesquire,

    I agree the upcoming synod might be useful in taking some of these ideas out of the abstract. The potential meeting in Nicea in 2025 between Rome and some Orthodox (not affirmed as a council right now) could also be helpful if it actually develops into a full-on ecumenical council.

  162. Re: Robert (#154)

    What did the Apostles mean when they spoke of receiving and handing on tradition. If they mean a fixed body of content, then a canon of some kind is absolutely required.

    How can you assert this when you previously admitted that the liturgy preceded the canon of scripture?

    It seems a more productive discussion would be along these lines:

    1. If the apostles transmitted something which is not entirely written down, and if no “canon” of this full revelation exists, then how did the early Christians distinguish between authentic divine revelation and teachings which were “made up”?

    2. How can Catholics today reasonably distinguish between authentic divine revelation and teachings which are “made up”?

  163. Cletus,

    We are talking about the sources that are used to give us dogma, we’re not talking about regional preferences for Apple Pie over Cherry Pie (which is the kind of thing that you want to include in American tradition based on the examples you keep demanding). If that source is Apostolic tradition, then it is either a fixed body of content or not. If it is a fixed body, then there is a canon.

    No one is denying development of the understanding of doctrine. What I am talking about is the necessary distinction between the tradition and the understanding of it. If there is no distinction, then there is no fixed body of tradition. Just admit that Rome denies a fixed body of tradition. It’s not hard. The fact that you can go from no mention of the Assumption at all for centuries to feast days celebrating it demonstrates that Rome does not see the Aposotolic deposit as something that was fixed or even necessarily given by the Apostles. You have a practice that just comes up, that cannot be traced historically back to the Apostles in any way. At least something like Apostolic succession has a longer train you can follow historically even if you can’t make it back to the first century. The Assumption is proof positive that for Rome, Apostolic tradition is not a fixed body of content. It’s whatever Rome says it is today.

  164. How can you assert this when you previously admitted that the liturgy preceded the canon of scripture?

    I can assert this because at this point I’m really not even talking about the canon. I’m talking about the tradition that becomes the canon. Tradition in the sense of the preaching of the gospel precedes the canon. It also precedes the liturgy. Presumably, the Lord’s Supper was being separated before all the tradition was delivered, but that is largely irrelevant because there is no liturgy without the preaching of the Apostolic tradition first. All of it has logical priority even if the book of Revelation, for example, may have been written after the first Lord’s Supper was celebrated.

    It seems a more productive discussion would be along these lines:

    1. If the apostles transmitted something which is not entirely written down, and if no “canon” of this full revelation exists, then how did the early Christians distinguish between authentic divine revelation and teachings which were “made up”?

    I would say that at some points the early Christians did a poor job of making this distinction. Today, Christians in all traditions do a bad job of distinguishing between authentic divine revelation and teachings that are “made up” or better yet, imposed without Scriptural warrant. Rome does it with the papacy. Those Reformed of Puritan heritage do it with strict iconoclasm. Arminians do it on the subject of libertarian free will.

    2. How can Catholics today reasonably distinguish between authentic divine revelation and teachings which are “made up”?

    You can’t because you have no right to. You have to give bare fideistic assent to whatever Rome says is authentic divine revelation and whatever it is ays it isn’t. Case in point: papal infallibility.

    Actually, you “reasonably” make this distinction by following your own personal opinion of whatever the Magisterium says.

  165. Robert,

    Finally, someone to answer the question! But this is precisely what Rome ends up denying. Where in the teachings and propositions that the Apostles give us do we find such things as the bodily Assumption of Mary.

    Pius XII gives us the key to the definition in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus

    “We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been presented by the Holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was most closely associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal enemy which, as foretold in the protoevangelium, was to result in that most complete victory over sin and death, which are always correlated in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Wherefore, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so also that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her Son had to be closed by the ‘glorification’ of her virginal body” (AAS 42. 768)

    In other words, the definition was a development of the Tradition of Mary as the new Eve. I am sure that you will agree that, given Roman Catholic presuppositions on the authority of the magesterium, this is well within the Churches right. There were other considerations and arguments presented in the bull as well. For more information Robert, I would point you to the writings of Fr. William Most who summarized Pius XII arguments quite well. The link is below

    https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/marya5.htm

    BTW, I’m pretty sure that at least some Roman Catholics will disagree with you. I’ve had Roman Catholics tell me that the church fathers believed they could add to the deposit. If there is a fixed amount of teachings and propositions, that necessitates a canon, and it also necessitates a distinction between what the tradition is and the interpretation of the tradition. That, I submit, is a distinction that Rome does not have.

    you are conflating ontology with epistemology. A fixed amount of teachings and propositions necessitates a canon of sorts exist ontologically speaking. However, I do not see how it necessitates that we can all know them perfectly. Similarly, there exists, ontologically speaking, a specific amount of teachings and propositions in scripture, but it does not follow that we will all somehow come to know and list all of them in this life.

    For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I have been known.

  166. Robert,

    Could you please submit a comprehensive list of every single thing taught, not in Tradition, but in the Bible? It should be easy for you as it is already written down and everything is arranged nicely in chapter and verse.

  167. Jonathan (re:160),

    You wrote:
    You’ve added an assertion here in brackets, but this assertion doesn’t follow from the premises.

    What satisfies P4 is an authority who can both listen to questions, misunderstandings, and challenges, and respond infallibly. Whether that response is written, unwritten, or takes some other form, makes no difference.

    Response:
    Ok, I will give it to you along with this:

    If someone accepts premises #1, #2, and #3, then what these premises necessitate is that the Church possess something identical to what we find in the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. And the words of this Church are preserved as part of Sacred Tradition.
    ————————-

    I will move forward if you’re willing.

  168. Jim,

    Nice try. We grow in our understanding of the tradition and what it teaches, but that does not mean there are no parameters. I can give you the parameters of Apostolic tradition if not a perfect understanding of it. The NT. Rome can’t tell me what the tradition is because Rome has no parameters for tradition. You guys keep proving it.

    The issue is that you have a Magisterium that is accountable to no one. If you have the fideistic belief that the Magisterium can do no wrong, that’s okay. But recognize it for what it is. Embrace your bare fideism. Embrace your belief that it doesn’t matter what Rome said in 325. It only matters what Rome says today.

  169. 1. If the apostles transmitted something which is not entirely written down, and if no “canon” of this full revelation exists, then how did the early Christians distinguish between authentic divine revelation and teachings which were “made up”?

    I would say that at some points the early Christians did a poor job of making this distinction.

    Perhaps some did a poor job of making this distinction, but early Christians could distinguish between true teachings and false teachings based on the teacher. Jesus Christ gave divine authority to particular men, namely the apostles, to teach. Christians in Jerusalem who knew Jesus Christ also knew those to whom He gave authority. So, when the apostles taught with their authority, the faithful could know that their authority came from God and that what they taught was true. If the teaching came from someone without authority (e.g. from Simon Magus, the father of Gnosticism), then the teaching could be known to be false.

    In cases where the apostles traveled into foreign lands, their authority was revealed in a number of ways.
    1. Witness of credible friends who had been in Jerusalem
    2, Miracles performed by the apostles
    3. Supernatural revelation given to the apostles to be able to explain the OT prophecies and show their fulfillment.
    4. The content of the message, which sometimes spoke to their hearts.

    After early Christians were convinced (by motives of credibility and by the Holy Spirit) that the apostles had authority from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, then they were bound in their conscience to believe and to hold the entire apostolic message taught by these men – regardless of whether it was taught by word of mouth, or by written letter.

  170. Kenneth,

    In other words, the definition was a development of the Tradition of Mary as the new Eve. I am sure that you will agree that, given Roman Catholic presuppositions on the authority of the magesterium, this is well within the Churches right. There were other considerations and arguments presented in the bull as well. For more information Robert, I would point you to the writings of Fr. William Most who summarized Pius XII arguments quite well. The link is below

    If the Aposotlic tradition consists of a fixed body of content, namely, what the Apostles actually taught and did, then you should be able to give me those teachings from which this understanding was derived. Vague statements that the Fathers believed in Mary as the new Eve don’t count unless, of course, you can demonstrate that the Apostles said it.

    you are conflating ontology with epistemology. A fixed amount of teachings and propositions necessitates a canon of sorts exist ontologically speaking. However, I do not see how it necessitates that we can all know them perfectly. Similarly, there exists, ontologically speaking, a specific amount of teachings and propositions in scripture, but it does not follow that we will all somehow come to know and list all of them in this life.

    No it’s not a conflation. You are conflating the church’s understandings of said propositions with the propositions themselves. I want the words the Apostles spoke and the acts the Apostles did. Forget, for a moment, our interpretation of it. The tradition, objectively speaking, is what the Apostles said and did. The propositions they delivered, the practices they instituted. They all only lived for a few decades. If they delivered a fixed body of propositions and practices intended to govern the church for all time, the church better know that canon.

    The issue is this—Rome doesn’t believe that the actual words and intent of the Apostles have any final say in dogma. Whatever the church says today is what matters. Without a canon of propositions and practices, the church can’t be held accountable. That’s fine if you have a fideistic system by which Rome, although lacking the same kind of inspiration as the Apostles, nonetheless is always golden whenever it says it is golden. Like I’ve said, that’s fine if you want to believe it, just don’t pretend there is any more ground for that than for the Protestant perspective.

    As David has said, in Roman Catholicism the church is the rule of faith, not the Apostles. Sola Ecclesia.

  171. Perhaps some did a poor job of making this distinction, but early Christians could distinguish between true teachings and false teachings based on the teacher. Jesus Christ gave divine authority to particular men, namely the apostles, to teach. Christians in Jerusalem who knew Jesus Christ also knew those to whom He gave authority. So, when the apostles taught with their authority, the faithful could know that their authority came from God and that what they taught was true. If the teaching came from someone without authority (e.g. from Simon Magus, the father of Gnosticism), then the teaching could be known to be false.

    In cases where the apostles traveled into foreign lands, their authority was revealed in a number of ways.
    1. Witness of credible friends who had been in Jerusalem
    2, Miracles performed by the apostles
    3. Supernatural revelation given to the apostles to be able to explain the OT prophecies and show their fulfillment.
    4. The content of the message, which sometimes spoke to their hearts.

    After early Christians were convinced (by motives of credibility and by the Holy Spirit) that the apostles had authority from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, then they were bound in their conscience to believe and to hold the entire apostolic message taught by these men – regardless of whether it was taught by word of mouth, or by written letter.

    I actually largely agree with this statement, but I’m not sure its relevance. Yeah, the Apostles had authority. Yeah the Apostles taught some things orally. Yeah, the church must believe whatever the Apostles taught. The issue is where we, without any Apostles running around any more, find what the Apostles taught. Rome wants to tell us it is in the written Word and tradition. Okay. What is that tradition? The answer Rome gives is that tradition is whatever Rome says tradition is or, for bolder popes, “I (the pope) am the tradition.”

    We ask for a canon of all the propositions and practices the Apostles intended for the church to hold to for all times. And we get crickets. We ask for an infallible list of everything Rome has so far taught infallibly. We get crickets. There is no way for anyone to know all that Rome teaches, and even once we get some examples, there’s no way to know with certainty what these examples really mean because there’s no discipline. The best we can get is probability. And Protestants are then accused of having no principled means to distinguish probable opinions from the certainty of faith, and we’re supposed to believe Rome is the answer ? Sorry.

    And I’ll add again that these things do not validate apostolic authority apart from Apostolic interpretation. There is no neutral set of criteria by which we verify the authority of an institution. For miracles to prove the authority of the Apostles, one must accept the Apostolic teaching that true Apostles are verified by miracles. It has come up before in this thread that the motives of credibility do not prove anything unless you are predisposed to accept what the one putting forth the motives says they mean. In the case of Roman Catholicism, one must first accept that Rome is right that the motives of credibility function to prove what Rome says they prove if you are to receive them as proofs for Rome. If one does not accept that, all you have are a bunch of unexplainable events.

  172. Robert,

    “We are talking about the sources that are used to give us dogma, we’re not talking about regional preferences for Apple Pie over Cherry Pie (which is the kind of thing that you want to include in American tradition based on the examples you keep demanding). If that source is Apostolic tradition, then it is either a fixed body of content or not. If it is a fixed body, then there is a canon.”

    We are *first* talking about whether the question of defining an exhaustive canon for something reflecting the concept of tradition even makes sense in the first place. That you have not been forthcoming in defining an exhaustive canon of tradition for something you should be pretty familiar with like the Presbyterian church indicates as I said above the presupposition in your question is flawed. The “common life, teaching, worship handed down through the generations” – please describe how that can be reduced to some exhaustive canon or code of formulas.

    “No one is denying development of the understanding of doctrine.”

    So, again, would the Apostles have had to reflect on WCF before accepting it? If so, does that mean WCF does not reflect the DoF or apostolic tradition? No, and so it is with RC development – as Newman wrote:
    “What then is meant by the Depositum? is it a list of articles that can be numbered? no, it is a large philosophy; all parts of which are connected together, and in a certain sense correlative together, so that he who really knows one part, may be said to know all. . . . Thus the Apostles had the fullness of revealed knowledge, a fullness which they could as little realize to themselves, as the human mind, as such, can have all its thoughts present before it at once. They are elicited according to the occasion. A man of genius cannot go about with his genius in his hand: in an Apostle’s mind great part of his knowledge is from the nature of the case latent or implicit… I wish to hold that there is nothing which the Church has defined or shall define but what an Apostle, if asked, would have been fully able to answer and would have answered, as the Church has answered, the one answering by inspiration, the other from its gift of infallibility; and that the Church never will be able to answer, or has been able to answer, what the Apostles could not answer…”

    “What I am talking about is the necessary distinction between the tradition and the understanding of it. If there is no distinction, then there is no fixed body of tradition.”

    Of course there’s a distinction. The deposit is fixed. Our understanding develops. That does not mean Tradition has to be reduced to an explicit canon that can be written out.

    “Just admit that Rome denies a fixed body of tradition.”

    That Tradition is *living* as Dei Verbum states in no way necessitates the deposit is not fixed or public revelation did not end.

    “The fact that you can go from no mention of the Assumption at all for centuries to feast days celebrating it demonstrates that Rome does not see the Aposotolic deposit as something that was fixed or even necessarily given by the Apostles. You have a practice that just comes up, that cannot be traced historically back to the Apostles in any way. At least something like Apostolic succession has a longer train you can follow historically even if you can’t make it back to the first century. The Assumption is proof positive that for Rome, Apostolic tradition is not a fixed body of content. It’s whatever Rome says it is today.”

    Tradition has to be interpreted authoritatively just as Scripture does (heretics in past have appealed not only to Scripture but their “tradition” as well). As to the Assumption, Ratzinger:
    “What here became evident was the one-sidedness, not only of the historical, but also of the historicist method in theology. “Tradition” was identified with what could be proved on the basis of texts. Altaner, the patrologist from Würzburg (who also had come from Breslau), had proven in a scientifically persuasive manner that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was unknown before the fifth century; this doctrine, therefore, he argued, could not belong to the “apostolic tradition”. And this was his conclusion, which my teachers at Munich shared. This argument is compelling if you understand “tradition” strictly as the handing down of fixed formulas and texts [That’s for you Robert]. This was the position that our teachers represented. But if you conceive of “tradition” as the living process whereby the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what previously we could still not grasp (cf. Jn 16:12-13), then subsequent “remembering” (cf. Jn 16:4, for instance) can come to recognize what it had not caught sight of previously and yet was already handed down in the original Word. But such a perspective was still quite unattainable by German theological thought.”

    And I’ll ask what I asked you above again:
    Public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle (a teaching of Tradition), but was the fixed body of content in place when they were speaking of receiving and handing on tradition? This again is part of David’s point with the liturgy and NT. You equate tradition in the NT with solely the apostolic witness as recorded in the NT, but the apostolic witness was not complete when those words were being uttered/written so how could it mean what you assert?

  173. Robert,

    As David has said, in Roman Catholicism the church is the rule of faith, not the Apostles. Sola Ecclesia.

    This misrepresents what I said. Yes, the Church is the Rule of faith. But the Church is apostolic and it is by the succession of apostolic authority that the Church rules. So, there is not conflict between “church” and “apostles.” The apostles were of the Church; the church is from the apostles.

    -David

  174. R0bert:

    Be consistent now. The fact that the early churches in various locales know nothing of submitting to the pope as the final jurisdictional and infallible authority must therefore mean that Christ never taught that, right?

    Your comment is a red herring because an argument from silence is not the same thing as an argument from evidence – so I agree, let’s keep things consistent. Moreover, if your argument were to hold, then we get (a) something you affirm (no papacy) but (b) something you don’t affirm (apostolic liturgy). Do you go to a church that worships like the Coptic Catholic Church? If so, good for your consistency! And if you do, I am glad that you embrace the fact that the liturgy is an example of something Christ taught the apostles that is not written explicitly in Scripture but is a part of the deposit of faith. Or, do you disagree and have an alternative explanation for my comment above?

    For your convenience, you can find all the articles on the papacy on this site here. Feel free to engage them in those comboxes.

    In Christ,

    Brent

  175. Robert,

    If the Aposotlic tradition consists of a fixed body of content, namely, what the Apostles actually taught and did, then you should be able to give me those teachings from which this understanding was derived. Vague statements that the Fathers believed in Mary as the new Eve don’t count unless, of course, you can demonstrate that the Apostles said it.

    They are derived from the early church fathers teaching on Mary as the new Eve, which is firmly rooted in Tradition. Unfortunately, I don’t have an audio recording of one of the apostles teaching this concept and so won’t be able to “demonstrate” that they orally passed these teachings on. However, it is found in Tradition which fulfills your original and more reasonable request. Bryan Cross has recommended an excellent lecture by Lawrence Feingold on the patristic understanding of Mary as the new Eve. You can listen to it at the link below.

    http://principiumunitatis.blogspot.com/2009/11/early-church-fathers-on-mary-as-new-eve.html

    No it’s not a conflation. You are conflating the church’s understandings of said propositions with the propositions themselves. I want the words the Apostles spoke and the acts the Apostles did. Forget, for a moment, our interpretation of it. The tradition, objectively speaking, is what the Apostles said and did. The propositions they delivered, the practices they instituted. They all only lived for a few decades. If they delivered a fixed body of propositions and practices intended to govern the church for all time, the church better know that canon.

    I understand that “Sacred Tradition” doesn’t look like and operate in the way that you imagine it should. Many people feel that same way about scripture. Its not quite the “divine book” they imagine it ought to be. It doesn’t quite live up to the standards that they have made up for divine works in their own imagination. They imagine that there should be no textual variation. No discrepancies of any kind. No missing original manuscripts etc etc. Many protestants have lost their faith due to the Word not living up to their imaginations demands from God. What can be said to reason with these people? I don’t know the answer. You either have eyes to see and ears to hear or you do not. All I can do is pray for you Robert, and hope that one day you see that your imaginations demands on Tradition are not binding on the Lord. He gave us what He gave us and I am happy to take it all. In whatever form they have come to us.

    The issue is this—Rome doesn’t believe that the actual words and intent of the Apostles have any final say in dogma. Whatever the church says today is what matters. Without a canon of propositions and practices, the church can’t be held accountable. That’s fine if you have a fideistic system by which Rome, although lacking the same kind of inspiration as the Apostles, nonetheless is always golden whenever it says it is golden. Like I’ve said, that’s fine if you want to believe it, just don’t pretend there is any more ground for that than for the Protestant perspective.

    The Church has been held accountable by Tradition for 2,000 years. Nearly every crisis the Church has ever faced was defeated by sacred Tradition. It is the Churches anchor. It seems to me that you have taken up the position of doubting Thomas. You will not believe until you audibly hear the very apostles themselves teaching out loud. One has to wonder how you accept scripture even though you didn’t see them pen the words with your own eyes?

  176. Robert,

    First ill quote some notes in a evangelizationsation.com:

    When God chose to reveal his plan of salvation he did not even speak in words; he sent his Son, Jesus Christ. He revealed a person. Christ is the messenger and the message. Revelation is not only what Christ taught by words, but what he taught be his actions, by his very presence among us. Often the Apostles would learn by being with Christ without forming clear concepts and judgments. They were open to the mystery of Christ, and would learn only gradually and would see him in different ways. For St. Paul, he was the Redeemer, for St. John, the Word, the truth and the light. It is the totality of all the impressions Christ made that forms the deposit of faith. In this would be included his mother Mary. The Apostles witnessed the unique relationship of Jesus and Mary and her mediation at Cana, her faith, her fidelity to Christ as she stood at the foot of the Cross, and her association with them as they prayed waiting for the Holy Spirit after his resurrection and ascension. They were in some way aware of her place in his life and mission. The mystery of Mary is contained in the mystery of Christ.

    With the death of the last Apostle, the deposit of faith came to a close. This deposit is rich but no detailed inventory of all the truths revealed and referred to was ever made by the Apostles. Some truths more evident than others were quickly formulated and proclaimed in the Church, but even more would be formulated and proclaimed in the future because of the richness of the mystery of Christ. As time goes by, the understanding of Christ and his mission will become even more perfect in the Church.

    So the parameter of the Tradition is the inexhaustible richness of the encounter of the apostles with the Second Person of the Trinity. The parameter is Christ Himself. And the understanding with the encounter with a person cannot be written in a list, because a person is an infinite being. This understanding in the encounter with Christ has been passed down through out the ages in the family.

  177. Hi Robert,

    I’ve been sort of following the interaction as best as I can when time permits and your charge of fideism on the part of Catholicism really stood out to me, and so I have a question. And that is, without apostolicity, how do you account for the scriptures that eventually became one Scripture( or bible) if there is no concrete living tradition?
    The reason, I bring this up is that I am currently reading Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s book, “Called to Communion”, and while I’m only half way through, he shows how Jesus founded “a church” and gave to it apostolic succession for the reason that it would bear testimony of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, as well as being the place where the Eucharistic would united all. This goes hand in hand with the Petrine Office, since the office began with Peter(as the NT bears out) for the reason that each subsequent office filler perpetually fills the office apostolically to the end of time so that the witness of Peter’s faith gets beyond being “only” Peter’s faith. Apostolicity is “Peter’s faith” passed on in a guaranteed way, otherwise what would be the point. The tradition of the Apostles means that the tradition of their witness stays with one church( church logically precedes tradition and scripture) to prove to the world that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are all true because they saw it and ask us to accept it on their witness……Peter’s witness.
    Let me give you a little bit from his book that pertains to the topic of this article:
    “ Harnack, a witness who cannot be suspected of pro-Roma bias, has remarked in this regard[that assembling of the writings into a single scripture is the work of tradition] that it was only at the end of the second century, in Rome, that a canon of the “books of the New Testament’ won recognition by the criterion of apostolicity-catholicity, a criterion to which the other Churches( Antioch and Alexandria; Jerusalem as apostolic see had since moved with Peter) subscribed ‘for the sake of its intrinsic value on the strength of the authority of the Roman Church’. We can therefore say that Scripture became Scripture through tradition, which precisely in this process included the potentior principalitas—the preeminent original authority—of the Roman see as the constitutive element.
    Two points emerge clearly from what has just been said. First, the principle of tradition in its sacramental form—apostolic succession—played a constitutive role in the existence and continuance of the Church. Without this principle, it is impossible to conceive of a New Testament at all, so we are caught in a contradiction when we affirm the one while wanting to deny the other.”

    Without this unbroken succession and one breaking of bread, Apostolicity would be meaningless. Laying on of hands would also be meaningless if it is done without actual apostolic succession as well. Sola scriptura is neither biblical nor does is keep away bare fideism, because without the testimony of the Church,**through apostolic succession** all we have today is a compilation of books that may or may not be part of the deposit, may or may not be a complete inscripturation of tradition( there may be more written words as witness to the faith….as long as it’s not contrary to what we now have) because we have no authority to vouch for it any of it, if we do not have the Church that Christ gave.

  178. Kenneth,

    They are derived from the early church fathers teaching on Mary as the new Eve, which is firmly rooted in Tradition. Unfortunately, I don’t have an audio recording of one of the apostles teaching this concept and so won’t be able to “demonstrate” that they orally passed these teachings on. However, it is found in Tradition which fulfills your original and more reasonable request.

    But the entire point of my questioning is to get us to what the Apostles actually said. This is exactly my point, and that is that Rome denies that Apostolic tradition consists only in what the Apostles said and did. It is what the Apostles said and did plus Rome’s understanding thereof. In practice, that ends up with whatever the Magisterium says Apostolic tradition consists of.

    I’m glad you brought up the “audio recording” because that shows the failings of the Roman position. If we don’t have an audio recording or any other words from the Apostles on this, then the only way it can be authenticated as Apostolic is if it is the good and necessary consequence of the actual Apostolic teaching that we do have, namely, Scripture.

    So, if you can’t prove that Mary is the new Eve from Scripture—and you can’t for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that the bride of the second Adam is not Mary but rather the entire church—you’re going to have to present some teaching that clearly is Apostolic beyond “well, a bunch of early fathers taught it” because even for Rome that isn’t enough.

    I understand that “Sacred Tradition” doesn’t look like and operate in the way that you imagine it should.

    That’s because you really don’t believe there was a fixed amount of content delivered by the Apostles. If you did, there would be a canon forthcoming to include Scripture plus x sermon of Mark delivered at Ephesus, plus x proverb of Paul spoken in Jerusalem, plus x version of the liturgy given by John at Damascus, or whatever.

    Again, if the Apostles delivered a set body of instruction, of words spoken and deeds did that the church is to abide by for all time, there should be a canon. None of them were infinite. Even if there is an infinite depth of meaning to their words, there is an objective, fixed form from which the church derives this meaning. I’m still waiting for this fixed form. Rome can’t give it because it doesn’t really believe in a deposit of faith once delivered.

    Many people feel that same way about scripture. Its not quite the “divine book” they imagine it ought to be. It doesn’t quite live up to the standards that they have made up for divine works in their own imagination. They imagine that there should be no textual variation. No discrepancies of any kind. No missing original manuscripts etc etc. Many protestants have lost their faith due to the Word not living up to their imaginations demands from God. What can be said to reason with these people? I don’t know the answer. You either have eyes to see and ears to hear or you do not. All I can do is pray for you Robert, and hope that one day you see that your imaginations demands on Tradition are not binding on the Lord. He gave us what He gave us and I am happy to take it all. In whatever form they have come to us.

    Comparing me to a King James Onlyist might be rhetorically persuasive but its silly. I want to have what God gave us, and I have plenty of warrant for believing that God intended for all people to know the boundaries of what was given to us, not the least of which is that even the Apostles themselves wanted the church to hold them to the gospel that was delivered. If I can’t know the boundaries of what the Apostles taught, I can’t know the gospel.

    You assume that God wants us to have more than Scripture. But that is an assumption that has not yet been proven. David undercuts his own argument to that regard by appealing to Scripture to show us the Apostles intended for us to be governed by liturgy. You tell me there was a fixed body of content delivered but then don’t care what that body consists of—just surrender your mind to the church; whatever it says must be right because it must be right, Rome’s lies and abuses throughout history notwithstanding. Others say, look at all the commonalities in the early church, therefore nebulous oral tradition, while ignoring the commonalities that go against Rome’s case. And on it goes.

    I’m not surprised that you all read everything through a Roman Catholic grid. What amazes me is that none of you seem to see that.

  179. Robert,
    At this very moment I am listening to Dave Anders’ archived show from the 23rd. He is speaking to you. He is addressing a caller about all the sinners ( pro-choice politicians ) in the Church. Dave says that Jesus said to let such people be until the end of the world when the angels with separate the wheat from the chaff. He is explaining how every attempt throughout history to make a pure church has ended in puritanism.
    I hope you find this as interesting as I do.

  180. I don’t think Robert’s main concern here has been answered. He is looking for the criterion through which one today can know was the tradition of the Apostles. Many of you have answered that the Tradition is not limited to what one can re-hash through documentary evidence, nor is it Scripture alone, but that it is a “living” tradition which the Church “remembers” from prior “realities”. And as far as this “living Tradition” being validated as such, the Church herself validates it. So from his perspective, the criterion you are offering for knowing what is the full Christian faith is the Church herself, for the “tradition” lives within her and she “remembers” and “knows” and then “defines”. And since, once again, it is not limited to paperwork, nor the Scriptures, nor can it be encapsulated in the Vincentian Canon (what has been believed everywhere at all times by all), you are simply saying to him “The Church knows the Tradition”, over and over again.

    There is essentially no problem with this. But the bold answer to Robert’s concern here is Catholic ecclesiology. When human reason has met its threshold in pursuit of a criteron for the full Christian faith, one has to be realize that this pursuit has no purely human criteria, and requires one to “fall under”, as it were, to learn from something “higher”.

  181. Re: Robert (#178)

    I’m glad you brought up the “audio recording” because that shows the failings of the Roman position. If we don’t have an audio recording or any other words from the Apostles on this, then the only way it can be authenticated as Apostolic is if it is the good and necessary consequence of the actual Apostolic teaching that we do have, namely, Scripture.

    “If it’s not in scripture, then the apostles didn’t teach it” is fundamentally an argument from silence. But that’s a logical fallacy. Just looking at their writings is not good way to determine _all_ that the apostles taught, if we have other evidence as well.

    In fact, if we were examining evidence from the early church in a court of law, then a written document (any book of scripture), by itself, wouldn’t be sufficient evidence. Before we could accept the scriptures, we would need a person who knew the source of those writings to vouch for their validity. We would need witnesses.

    For instance, in his writing against the Gnostics, St. Irenaeus is the first known witness to record the names of the four authentic gospels.

    The personal testimony of a credible witness is sufficient evidence in a court of law. If a person was known to actually have known the apostles, and known to be taught what they taught, then this person’s witness to their teachings would have credible weight. Likewise, what the church fathers write stands by itself as evidence of apostolic teaching. And we can show the credibility of these men – for they were disciples of the apostles, and they were given authority to teach what the apostles taught. They received not only the written words, but the oral preaching of their teachers. And we know the strength of their convictions, shown by their willing martyrdom for the gospel.

    Hope this helps,
    Jonathan

  182. A Brief Note,

    We need to disambiguate the word “tradition,” which has several senses in Catholic theology. For purposes of this article, the main sense of “tradition” is everything handed on by Christ and the apostles to successive generations as the deposit of faith. The liturgy, as I note, is part of that “tradition,” established by Christ as a distinct mode of transmitting the gospel and a means of grace.

    We know this tradition from both inspired and uninspired documents, through ritual and prayer (think ‘the sign of the cross,’ for example), and the Church’s collective memory expressed in canonical decisions and even in art, archaeology, and architecture. This tradition does not grow or change. It is the deposit of faith, the objective content of revelation handed on to the Church.

    But, secondly, there is Tradition in a broader but equally authoritative sense – the authoritative interpretation of that deposit of faith handed on by the Church’s Magisterium. The Nicene definition or the Chalcedonian definition, for example, are explications of the deposit of faith, but obviously not found literally within that deposit. But they are now fully authoritative Tradition. Not because Christ delivered the Nicene Creed, but because those authorized to speak in his name did so.

    Finally, there is “small-t” tradition, which are simply cultural or regional accretions, prayers or rituals or writings which are witnesses to the “great tradition,” but do not themselves possess the authority either of the Magisterium or the apostles. Such tradition is valuable – because it is a witness to the great tradition, but it can be dispensed with or changed at the discretion of the Magisterium.

    For the discussion to proceed, I think it is very important to identify which type of tradition is under discussion. We need to avoid equivocation.

    Thank you,

    David

  183. David Anders,

    I think there should also be another question answered here. Does the popular phrase “Development of Doctrine” and its main force articulated by either a Cardinal Newman or Manning require that the “Tradition” of the Church must always retain the same meaning for the Church at all times, from her inception w/ Holy Spirit coming via Jesus’ baptism, his selection and forming of the 12, and the Spirit-empowered commission of Pentecost all the way to the consummation of his earthly age w/ the Parousia of Christ.

    For example, I’ve been told that there are distinctions to be made in a particular teaching, doctrine, formulation, or definition. There is the final “definition” or “teaching”, and then there is the “meaning” and “practical application”. So for example, earlier Popes made clear declarative statements that outside of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, with a clear distinction from the Greeks of that day (Eastern Orthodoxy today) as well as general believers in Christ who die in martyrdom (shed their blood for Jesus Christ), there is no absolutely no salvation. However, modern Catholic Theologians will submit to the dogma that there is no salvation outside of the Church, but the meaning of Church as used by the aforementioned Popes can be changed.

    So in other words, is there a distinction to be made between the “dogma” and what it “meant” to those who declared such “dogma”. Can Tradition change in its meaning, but not in its codification?

  184. Eric,

    Think about how the dogma of Christ’s divinity was understood in antiquity. Did Nicaea change the meaning of the dogma? I really suppose that depends on how you understand the question. The orthodox party (both then and now) would say that Nicaea defined nothing that was already not implicit in the concept. But did Nicaea alter what the terms meant to the faithful? I don’t think there can be any doubt that the definition was pretty hard for many people to swallow and seemed to run flat contrary to what some of the fathers had implied. In all honesty, Nicaea proved a much harder pill to swallow than Vatican II. The post-nicene controversy makes Post Vatican II seem remarkably tame.

    The appearance of discontinuity is unavoidable in any paradigm. I remember texts in my evangelical seminary on “unity and diversity in the New Testament.” How many harmonies of the Gospels have been written? When faced with a contradiction, make a distinction. This is the way analysis and synthesis take place in any system.

    -David

  185. Robert,

    “If we don’t have an audio recording or any other words from the Apostles on this, then the only way it can be authenticated as Apostolic is if it is the good and necessary consequence of the actual Apostolic teaching that we do have, namely, Scripture.”

    Cart before horse again. We don’t have an audio recording from the Apostles on this, nor do we have written words from the Apostles on the canon of Scripture. You continue to jump the gun.

    “So, if you can’t prove that Mary is the new Eve from Scripture—and you can’t for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that the bride of the second Adam is not Mary but rather the entire church—you’re going to have to present some teaching that clearly is Apostolic beyond “well, a bunch of early fathers taught it” because even for Rome that isn’t enough.”

    So if you can’t prove that public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle from Scripture or the identification of what constitutes the scope and extent of Scripture from Scripture – and you can’t for all sorts of reasons – you’re going to have to present some teaching that clearly is Apostolic beyond “well inner witness teaches me” because for non-fideists that is not enough.
    And it’s a false dichotomy that the new Eve cannot be both Mary as well as the church – that’s why the woman in Revelation is interpreted as pointing to both, just as the rock in Matthew can be considered Peter, Christ, and Peter’s confession of faith.

    “Again, if the Apostles delivered a set body of instruction, of words spoken and deeds did that the church is to abide by for all time, there should be a canon.”

    How can there be a canon of “deeds”? Please give me a canon of deeds of the Presbyterian church from 1600-1800 or 1970-2013. You are correct that Tradition is multifaceted – as DV says:
    “This commission was faithfully fulfilled by the Apostles who, by their oral preaching, by example, and by observances handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with Him, and from what He did, or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”

    “there is an objective, fixed form from which the church derives this meaning. I’m still waiting for this fixed form… If I can’t know the boundaries of what the Apostles taught, I can’t know the gospel.”

    Okay, so presumably you have this fixed form. What is it precisely? You can’t just say “what the Apostles wrote” – you said if you can’t know the boundaries then you can’t know the gospel, so it’s an epistemological not ontological question. So what are the boundaries – is it the current Protestant canon? Which asterisked passages are included? Which passages that are disputed in academia but not yet asterisked count? Are they just put on standby until a definitive consensus is reached? Do you “know” what is authentic now won’t be put under doubt in the future due to developments in textual criticism, historical study, archaeology, philology, etc?

    “You assume that God wants us to have more than Scripture. But that is an assumption that has not yet been proven. David undercuts his own argument to that regard by appealing to Scripture to show us the Apostles intended for us to be governed by liturgy. ”

    Scripture witnesses to Tradition (the church was operating as it was being written – it came out of Tradition) – that is hardly undercutting the argument for Tradition. It’s not Tradition over Scripture (indeed as I cited Ratzinger above “But the Fathers did not see this as a set of affirmations being passed on alongside Scripture. In fact, they simply denied the existence of such statements. For them tradition was the insertion of Scripture into the living organism of the Church and the Church’s right of possession of Scripture, as Tertullian formulated in classic fashion in The Praescription 0f Heretics.”) – they are parallel authorities.

  186. Dr. Anders,

    Thank you for your response.

    I ask this because when we read Cardinal Newman on his theory of Doctrinal Development, and this whole concept seemed to be a bit dangerous, since many things can be considered “in continuity” or made to seem “in continuity” which is not essentially or necessarily “in continuity”. And thus, the whole Catholic Church tradition, as I said, when it cannot answer questions related to the origin of certain teachings by pointing to documentary evidence in either the Church Fathers, the Scriptures, the Ecumenical Councils, etc,etc…..it supernaturally “remembers” (John 14-16) what Christ taught, and thus she is the only criteria for what is Tradition and what is not. Since this “remembering” grace promised by Christ is within the confines of the “Ekklesia” (visible), then outside neutral inquirers, or even internal inquirers who wish to see some “objective” evidence, or something of the like, are not going to be satisfied as long as they restrict the scope of credibility to something that exists outside of this “remembering” ability. And so, at the end of the day, the Church herself is the criteria for knowing what her Tradition is.

    And it would appear, that the early Church understood its role in a strictly “guardianship” role of what she had received, and that even the “meaning” of the Sacred Deposit cannot be altered along the whole trajectory of the world transmission of the gospel (Matt 28:18-19). Thus, some council Fathers would respond to the definitions @ Chalcedon , “So Paul taught, So the Apostles taught….Peter spoke through Leo…..” , etc,etc.

  187. David Anders (#184)

    Did Nicaea change the meaning of the dogma?

    The idea of the Deposit of Faith as a kind of fixed set of statements in human language seems to me a really common misconception – and an attractive one. It means we, in whose language these statements are written, are in control. I (for reasons having to do with my background) read my New Testament in Greek. “What wonderful insights that must give you!’ exclaim the odd friend. Doesn’t work that way.

    Nicaea declared that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. When, some sixty years later, Constantinople said from the Father and from the Son, the East, especially, cried, “You are changing the Tradition!”

    For the matter of that, Arius, at Nicaea, accused the Fathers of going beyond Scripture.

    The Tradition is a Person. He lives through His Body, the Church. He can be expressed in human words – but never exhaustively.

    jj

  188. Robert,

    But the entire point of my questioning is to get us to what the Apostles actually said. This is exactly my point, and that is that Rome denies that Apostolic tradition consists only in what the Apostles said and did. It is what the Apostles said and did plus Rome’s understanding thereof. In practice, that ends up with whatever the Magisterium says Apostolic tradition consists of.

    I’m glad you brought up the “audio recording” because that shows the failings of the Roman position. If we don’t have an audio recording or any other words from the Apostles on this, then the only way it can be authenticated as Apostolic is if it is the good and necessary consequence of the actual Apostolic teaching that we do have, namely, Scripture.

    I see no problem with the RC understanding of Tradition being “in practice” whatever the magesterium says that it is. I would expect the Church established and protected by Jesus Christ to tell me what the Traditions of God are. Who else would decide? In the end, you are merely rehashing James White’s syllogism for sola ecclesia. The argument is:

    1. the Church tells us what Tradition is
    2.the Church tells us what Tradition means
    3. the Church tells us what Scripture is
    4. the Church tells us what scripture means
    5. Therefore sola ecclesia

    However, it is worth noting that I can run the same argument from Tradition

    1. Tradition tells us who the Church is (apostolic succession)
    2. Tradition tells us what the Church teaches
    3. Tradition tells us what Scripture is
    4. Tradition tells us what Scripture teaches
    5. Therefore RCs actually operate under “Tradition alone” (whatever that would be in latin)

    I could run a third argument for “scripture alone” and it would work in the exact same way. Thus, you can see how each leg of authority identifies, supports, and expounds upon the others. Roman Catholic authority claims are all grounded and propped up by divine sources. Our arguments “terminate” in the divine and thus command the assent of our faith. Hence, the epistemic advantage, once viewed through the eyes of faith. I want to make the point clear. At the end of the day all that your argument proves is that the Church recognizes and expounds upon Tradition. Which is just exactly what we are all so happy to admit. The Church does recognize and prop up our claims for “Tradition”. So does Sacred Scripture. Thats kind of the whole point.

    So, if you can’t prove that Mary is the new Eve from Scripture—and you can’t for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that the bride of the second Adam is not Mary but rather the entire church—you’re going to have to present some teaching that clearly is Apostolic beyond “well, a bunch of early fathers taught it” because even for Rome that isn’t enough.

    I believe that I can in fact show that Mary is the new Eve from scripture. Unfortunately, that would side track the conversation and take us farther than I am willing to stray. Perhaps another conversation though.

    For now, I would like to focus on your other point that “because a bunch of early church fathers said so” isnt enough. As you know, the Church teaches that the unanimous consent of the fathers is in fact “enough”. This is because the “unanimous consent of the fathers” is a sure sign of Sacred Tradition. I would like to issue a challenge. Can you provide evidence for the canon of scripture that doesn’t ultimately boil down to “because a bunch of early church fathers said so”? Have you considered that several of the Marian dogmas that you protest are far more accepted in Tradition than certain books of the bible (2 Peter, Revelation)? I don’t see how you can apply such selective skepticism. Scripture is more reliable than Tradition even though your arguments for canon all boil down to Tradition? In the words of Dr. Hart “you’ve got some splainin to do”.

    That’s because you really don’t believe there was a fixed amount of content delivered by the Apostles. If you did, there would be a canon forthcoming to include Scripture plus x sermon of Mark delivered at Ephesus, plus x proverb of Paul spoken in Jerusalem, plus x version of the liturgy given by John at Damascus, or whatever.

    I would like for you to demonstrate how the existence of a divine teaching necessarily entails a written word for word record of said teaching. Why can the teachings not be passed down through other modes (the life, worship, and practice of the Church)? If we wanted to learn the game of basketball, would we have to learn from a manual explaining each and every facet of the game? Couldn’t we also equally learn from just watching the game take place? The Catholic teaching is that Christ left us a “materially sufficient” manual for the sport AND ALSO a full blown league already in play. We have a commissioner, a board of directors, referees, and generations of players giving us advice. You seem to say that all of this is useless and we can only really learn from the manual. I just don’t see how thats necessarily the case

  189. John Thayer Jensen,

    So you would argue that not only does doctrine develop, but that the meaning or understanding that the Church has at a given time and change (in the sense of being incompatible w/ prior belief) from the points prior to development to points after development?

  190. Eric Y. (#189)

    So you would argue that not only does doctrine develop, but that the meaning or understanding that the Church has at a given time and change (in the sense of being incompatible w/ prior belief) from the points prior to development to points after development?

    No.

    jj

  191. The “Declaration on Procured Abortion”, ratified by St. Pope Paul VI 1974, shows how the witness of Tradition serves as a light to the faithful.

    7. In the course of history, the Fathers of the Church, her Pastors and her Doctors have taught the same doctrine – the various opinions on the infusion of the spiritual soul did not introduce any doubt about the illicitness of abortion. It is true that in the Middle Ages, when the opinion was generally held that the spiritual soul was not present until after the first few weeks, a distinction was made in the evaluation of the sin and the gravity of penal sanctions. Excellent authors allowed for this first period more lenient case solutions which they rejected for following periods. But it was never denied at that time that procured abortion, even during the first days, was objectively grave fault. This condemnation was in fact unanimous. Among the many documents it is sufficient to recall certain ones. The first Council of Mainz in 847 reconsidered the penalties against abortion which had been established by preceding Councils. It decided that the most rigorous penance would be imposed “on women who procure the elimination of the fruit conceived in their womb.”[9] The Decree of Gratian reported the following words of Pope Stephen V: “That person is a murderer who causes to perish by abortion what has been conceived.”[10] St. Thomas, the Common Doctor of the Church, teaches that abortion is a grave sin against the natural law.” At the time of the Renaissance Pope Sixtus V condemned abortion with the greatest severity.[12] A century later, Innocent XI rejected the propositions of certain lax canonists who sought to excuse an abortion procured before the moment accepted by some as the moment of the spiritual animation of the new being.[13] In our days the recent Roman Pontiffs have proclaimed the same doctrine with the greatest clarity. Pius XI explicitly answered the most serious objections.[14] Pius XII clearly excluded all direct abortion, that is, abortion which is either an end or a means.[15] John XXIII recalled the teaching of the Fathers on the sacred character of life “which from its beginning demands the action of God the Creator.”[16] Most recently, the Second Vatican Council, presided over by Paul VI, has most severely condemned abortion: “Life must be safeguarded with extreme care from conception; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”[17] The same Paul VI, speaking on this subject on many occasions, has not been afraid to declare that this teaching of the Church “has not changed and is unchangeable.”[18]

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