Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fulford on sola scriptura, Part I


At The Calvinist International, Andrew Fulford replies to my recent post on Feyerabend, empiricism, and sola scriptura.  You’ll recall that the early Jesuit critique of sola scriptura cited by Feyerabend maintains that (a) scripture alone can never tell you what counts as scripture, (b) scripture alone cannot tell you how to interpret scripture, and (c) scripture alone cannot give us a procedure for deriving consequences from scripture, applying it to new circumstances, etc.  Fulford says that these objections “essentially rely on a caricature of the teaching,” and offers responses to each point.  Let’s consider them in order.

In response to point (a), Fulford cites some arguments made by 17th century Protestant theologian Francis Turretin which, Fulford claims, “[explain] how Christians can rationally come to know that the Bible is divinely authoritative.”  The interested reader is advised to consult Fulford’s post to read in their entirety the passages from Turretin that Fulford quotes. Here I’ll quote what seem to be the most relevant lines.  First, Turretin says:

The Bible proves itself divine, not only authoritatively and in the manner of an artless argument or testimony, when it proclaims itself God-inspired... The Bible also proves itself divine ratiocinatively by an argument artfully made… from the marks which God has impressed upon the Scriptures and which furnish indubitable proof of divinity. For as the works of God exhibit visibly to our eyes by certain marks the incomparable excellence of the artificer himself and as the sun makes himself known by his own light, so he wished in the Bible… to send forth different rays of divinity by which he might make himself known…

[B]efore faith can believe, it must have the divinity of the witness to whom faith is to be given clearly established and certain true marks apprehended in it, otherwise it cannot believe.  For where suitable reasons of believing anyone are lacking, the testimony of such a witness cannot be worthy of credence.

And what exactly are these reasons Turretin says make scripture worthy of credence?  Fulford adds:

Turretin provides extensive arguments from historical evidence for the reliability of the apostles and Moses as historical witnesses; this established, when they testify to miraculous confirmation of their message, and then claim to be divinely inspired, they are credible witnesses to this divine confirmation of their claim to inspiration. They thus provide a rational basis for belief in the divine authority of their own writings.

End quote.  The overall argument, then, seems to be this:

1. Historical evidence shows the reliability of the writings of Moses, the apostles, etc. 

2. Among the things which Moses, the apostles, etc. report are miracles.

3. So these miracle reports are reliable.

4. These writings also claim to be divinely inspired, a claim which would be supported if backed by miracles. 

5. So the claim to divine inspiration is reliable.

6. Faith in testimony as divinely inspired is well grounded when supported by evidence of the sort in question.

7. So faith in these writings as divinely inspired is in fact well grounded.

Now, there are grave problems with this considered as a response to point (a) of the Jesuit critique.  First and foremost is that it simply is not really even a prima facie response at all, because it changes the subject.  The subject is the question of exactly which writings are to be counted as part of scripture; what Turretin and Fulford are addressing instead is the different question of what defense can be given of the divine inspiration of certain specific writings typically claimed to be scriptural

Hence, suppose we ask questions like: Are what Catholics call the deuteroncanonicals (and Protestants call the Apocrypha) to be counted as part of the Bible?  Should purportedly non-canonical books like the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, etc. also have been included?  Should purportedly canonical works like Esther, the Epistle of James, and the Apocalypse have been left out?  Is the Quran divinely inspired?  How about the Book of Mormon?

The Turretin-Fulford argument doesn’t answer such questions at all, as is evidenced by the fact that both Protestants and Catholics could accept the specific points Turretin makes in the passages cited and still disagree about the deuterocanonicals.  Mormons could also agree with the Turretin-Fulford argument, as could advocates of books like Thomas and the Acts of Paul and Thecla.  They would just add that there are yet other books that Catholics and Protestants should accept.  Even Muslims could accept the Turretin-Fulford argument with qualifications.  They could say that Moses, the apostles, etc. really were divinely inspired and their words backed by miracles, and that the writings Christians regard as scriptural reflect these facts.  They would just add that those writings include errors mixed in with the historical facts they report, and that the Quran corrects the record where these errors have crept in. 

Suppose there’s a room full of piles of what is purportedly U.S. currency, some of which is genuine and some of which is counterfeit.  Suppose different people take bills from different piles and stuff them into bags.  Each person claims his own bag of cash contains only genuine money and that other people’s bags contain either all counterfeit money or a mixture of genuine and counterfeit money.  Suppose some particular person claims to be able to show that his bag is the one that contains only genuine cash.  He supports his claim by taking a few bills from the bag and arguing that they show certain marks of genuineness.  Obviously he will not thereby have shown what he claims to have shown.  He will at best have proven the genuineness only of those particular bills, and will not have shown either that his own bag contains only genuine bills or that other people’s bags are wholly or partly counterfeit. 

The Turretin-Fulford argument has the same problem.  At best it would show that certain specific writings (such as those associated with Moses and the apostles) are divinely inspired.  It would not tell us whether or not other books are scriptural.  And, crucially, it certainly would not show that scripture itself tells us which books are scriptural.  Yet that was the issue that point (a) of the Jesuit critique of sola scriptura cited by Feyerabend was addressing: Exactly which writings count as scripture, and how could scripture alone tell us?  The Turretin-Fulford argument doesn’t even address this problem with sola scriptura, much less solve it.

So the Turretin-Fulford argument would fail as a response to point (a) even if it sufficed to establish the scriptural status of the specific writings it discusses.  But another problem is that it does not suffice to establish even that.  Suppose a skeptic agreed that the books traditionally associated with Moses and the apostles contained solid evidence about various historical events, including even miraculous events, and about the teachings of the prophets who performed the miracles.  Such a skeptic could still ask, in a way that is perfectly consistent with that acknowledgement: How does that show that those books are themselves divinely inspired, infallible, etc. in their entirety

Suppose Christ appeared to me today -- that I was not hallucinating, etc. but that it really happened -- performed certain miracles in my presence, and revealed certain future events to me and certain teachings of a moral and theological nature.  Suppose some of these events would take place decades from now, but that among the things revealed was who would win the 2016 U.S. presidential election, what would be the exact state-by-state tally of electoral votes, etc.  Suppose I recorded all this as an entry in a daily diary I keep as a file on my computer, alongside the other events I recorded for that day.  And suppose that there was solid evidence afterward that all this had happened.  For example, suppose that there were credible witnesses who reported observing Christ’s appearing to me and performing miracles, that the events of the 2016 election turned out exactly as predicted, etc.   Certainly we’d have good evidence in that case that I had really witnessed a divine revelation and certainly we’d have reason to believe that everything Christ said to me was infallible. 

But would this show that all the files on my computer -- the various blog posts, journal articles, book manuscripts, etc. -- are divinely inspired?  Would it show even that just the diary as a whole is divinely inspired?  Indeed, would it show even that the entire single entry for that particular day is divinely inspired (including the events recorded from earlier in that day, which involved me giving such-and-such financial advice to a friend, such-and-such moral advice to one of my children, etc.)?  How exactly would it show any of that?  Indeed, how would it show even that I’d gotten Christ’s words exactly right?  Maybe I recorded the part about the 2016 election correctly, but made certain mistakes when recording what Christ said about the other matters.

By the same token, how would establishing that the writings associated with Moses and the apostles are accurate in their record of such-and-such miraculous events, their record that certain prophets and apostles taught such-and-such, etc. show also that the writings themselves -- as opposed to some of the events and teachings they record -- are in their entirety divinely inspired and thus scriptural?  Perhaps instead (a skeptic might suggest) they contain accurate information about certain miracles that actually occurred and certain teachings that really were divinely revealed, but in such a way that various errors are mixed in with this otherwise accurate reporting.  Maybe (the skeptic continues) it isn’t really the writings themselves which have divine backing, but rather only certain events and teachings reported by these otherwise flawed documents that have it.

Hence the Turretin-Fulford argument fails even to show that the specific scriptural writings it deals with (Exodus, John’s gospel, etc.) are in their entirety divinely inspired -- let alone showing that every book Fulford and Turretin would regard as scriptural is divinely inspired.  And the argument certainly fails to show that scripture alone suffices to show us that these books really are divinely inspired.

Which brings us to a third problem with the Turretin-Fulford argument.  Suppose the argument could be developed in a way that would get around the first two problems.  How would that show us that scripture alone suffices to tell us what counts as scripture, or that scripture alone suffices to tell us even that the writings associated with Moses, the apostles, etc. count as scripture?  For the Turretin-Fulford style of argument makes use of historical evidence, criteria for evaluating such evidence, general logical principles, etc. which are not found in scripture itself. 

Now, sola scriptura tells us that scripture alone suffices to tell us what we need to know in matters of faith and morals.  Well, the question of whether a certain book is scriptural is itself certainly a matter of faith and morals.  But the Turretin-Fulford argument, in making use of historical evidence, criteria for evaluating such evidence, general logical principles, etc. -- evidence, criteria, and principles which cannot themselves be found in scripture -- in order to settle this matter, thereby violates sola scriptura in the very act of defending it.  For it uses extra-scriptural information and principles in order to settle a matter of faith and morals.  In other words, it does precisely what the Jesuit point (a) cited by Feyerabend says a defender of sola scriptura implicitly has to do.  So how exactly does the Turretin-Fulford argument constitute even a prima facie answer to point (a), or show that (a) is aimed at a “caricature”?

Notice that I am not denying that the specific writings the Turretin-Fulford argument makes reference to are divinely inspired.  I think they are divinely inspired.  But I think that in arguing for their divine inspiration, it is a mistake to start with scripture itself.  Rather, what comes first in the order of apologetics is an argument for the necessity of an infallible and authoritative institutional Church.  We know that such-and-such purportedly scriptural writings are in fact infallible and authoritative only if we first know that there is an infallible and authoritative institutional Church, and that this Church has herself judged those writings to be infallible and authoritative.  As St. Augustine wrote, “I would not believe the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church moved me.”

Of course, Fulford will disagree with this position, but neither this post nor the previous one are about the reasons for the Catholic position.  What they are about is the problems with sola scriptura, and those problems remain whatever one thinks of the Catholic alternative.   Some readers of my post on Feyerabend responded to the Jesuit criticisms Feyerabend cites by criticizing the Catholic position.  This is fallacious for two reasons.  First, I was not trying to give an exposition and defense of the Catholic position in the first place.  That’s a separate topic.  Second, even if the Catholic position were wrong, that would not show that sola scriptura is correct.  It might only show instead that both positions are false.  So, critics of the points summarized by Feyerabend should try to answer those points, rather than changing the subject by attacking the Catholic view.

Anyway, Fulford does try to answer the Jesuit points.  However, as we have just seen with respect to point (a), he does not do so successfully.  Neither does he succeed in answering points (b) and (c), as we’ll see in a follow-up post.

231 comments:

1 – 200 of 231   Newer›   Newest»
Timocrates said...

To be fair, isn't the original source of the Sola scriptura dogma rather the idea that the sources of Christian doctrine can be authoritatively grounded in or by scripture alone? And that anything not manifested or taught or grounded in the scriptures could not conscientiously bind the faithful to belief or religious adherence?

In effect, of course, this does make the scriptural texts a sort of Magisterium (and a problematic one at that for reasons already well covered) but I don't think it's quite the same as asking whether or not the scriptures should be believed in the first place.

To me, Sola scriptura sounds more like a method for doctrinal justification and development. Indeed, many Catholic theologians to this day reflect almost exclusively on the scriptures for sources of theological guidance and inspiration. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. The big difference for me is really that the Catholic also believes that the Church really does have a charism of authority on matters of faith and morals (and including interpretation of the scriptures at the end of the day) and understands his being in communion with the Church as necessary for his salvation. To be sure, Catholics have always conjoined theology with scripture study (without, of course, abandoning natural theology - not everyone already accepts the scriptures as the word of God).

Protestants seem to have separated themselves from the Church in belief or understanding in part when they stopped seeing the unity of the Church as absolutely sacred. The Church Fathers never failed to condemn in the harshest terms anyone who would presume to divide or split the Church.

All that being said, your arguments are quite spot on. The reply did indeed missed the points raised in the 'Jesuit critique' of Sola scriptura.

Edward Feser said...

To be fair, isn't the original source of the Sola scriptura dogma rather the idea that the sources of Christian doctrine can be authoritatively grounded in or by scripture alone?

Well, the claim that "the sources of Christian doctrine can be authoritatively grounded in or by scripture alone" is itself (purported by the Protestant to be) a Christian doctrine. So how do we ground that doctrine? If we appeal to scripture, the "grounding" is circular and thus no grounding at all. If we appeal to something other than scripture, it is self-refuting and thus no grounding at all. Either way, the doctrine cannot even account for itself. And if it cannot do even that, it's obviously useless as a guide to anything else.

So, I don't think I'm being less than fair to sola scriptura. Indeed, I've been far more polite about it than I think the doctrine actually merits. In my view it's like Hume's fork, or the positivist's verification principle, or eliminative materialism -- complete non-starters, not for a moment worth the energy some people put into defending them, and where the attempts to patch them up always end up committing the same basic fallacy over and over again in ever more convoluted ways.

Timocrates said...

@ Ed,

Thanks for your reply. You make your point powerfully, quickly and succinctly.

I still think though that at least there remains some shared ground in Sola scriptura for, as it were, practical Catholic purposes as it is used or understood by Protestants generally. Catholics never denied the authority or inspiration of scripture or its pre-eminent merit or value as a source of theological and doctrinal guidance and inspiration. In part, I think that's why we are seeing a good deal of converts today in the USA from Protestantism; that is, exactly because of this redoubled effort to convince on the basis of the authority of scripture the truths or beliefs of the Catholic Church.

But to be sure, the above procedure cannot neglect the demands of human reason, natural theology as a legitimate branch of learning and investigation or fall into the same logical problems involved in Sola scriptura (as that would just repeat the problem).

Thank you Ed for another great post!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Protestants are misunderstanding the criticisms, but I found one of the responses curious. Could a more sophisticated Catholic thinker confirm my suspicions: the Protestant argument on offer for the divine inspiration of Scripture collapses the distinction between faith and reason. For us, the divine inspiration of Scripture is an article of faith. We believe it because Christ speaks through his Church. But these Protestant friends are trying to give rational arguments for the divine inspiration of Scripture. Surely, this is the rationalist heresy, though?

If so, this points to something really rotten at the core of (this particular strain of) Protestant theology.

Clayton said...


"Now, sola scriptura tells us that scripture alone suffices to tell us what we need to know in matters of faith and morals."

Who claims Sola Scriptura tells us that Scripture alone suffices to tell us what we need to know in matters of faith and morals? Sola Scriptura is, fundamentally, an authority claim. Scripture is the only infallible authority on these matters, leaving it the only binding authority on these matters, but this does not mean it is fully sufficient to tell us everything we need to know regarding the faith. I'm not seeing how this is self-refuting.

Of course, there is a follow up question to this. If Scripture is not sufficient in this way, what else that we need to know has been left out of Scripture, and how is it we come to know it? To this, I have no response other than, "I don't know."

Steven Dillon said...

It seems to me that "Scripture" can reasonably be taken to be formally and materially sufficient as a regula fidei for the Church if it is the only extant revelation from God for the Church. So, I'd argue that by putting pressure on Catholics and Orthodox to identify anything in "Tradition" that is not materially or formally in "Scripture", Protestants can bolster their claim.

However, while they may not ultimately be able to show that the Bible is Scripture, that doesn't mean they don't know it is. Their reliance upon the testimony of the Holy Spirit may only yield uncertain confidence that they have correctly identified the Bible as Scripture, but so too does reliance on historical argumentation only yield uncertain confidence that Catholics have correctly identified various papal and conciliatory statements as magisterial.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask fellow theists, if someone knows this book: http://www.amazon.com/Natural-History-Theology-Cognitive-Philosophy/dp/0262028549. I would like to read a theistic response to it. Thank you very much.
Wenzeslaus C.

Omer said...

Hi,

I am Omer, an avid reader of Professor Feser's writings. I am not a trained theologian or a trained philsopher but I find many of Feser's writings to be intellectually and at times spiritually blissful.

I am a practicing Muslim. I do not identify as Sunni or Shia but as just a Muslim.

I do find Ed's comments about the status of claimed scripture such as the Qur'an to be very problematic for a Pauline Christian to hold the sola scriptura doctrine for the reasons he cites.

However, the solution that is given of handing the juridistiction to an infallible institution can only work if there is an institution that is infallble.

Is the Catholic Church infallible?

For it to be infallible, I assume that every teaching that came from it over the many centuries to be without any error...at the least, without any serious error.

I request all who are open to philsophical interest to check out the Qur'an and to consider whether it is of divine origin or not.

The Qur'an does not claim to be just of divine inspiration but in fact claims clearly, explcitly, and repeatedly that every chapter (surah) and verse (ayah) is revealed by the same God who revealed the Torah to Moses and the Evangel to Jesus.

The Qur'an also states in 4(2) that "Do they not reflect on the Qur'an? Had it not been from God, you would find many contradictions within it."

I would say that if the Qur'an is from the imagined or lied teachings of a 7th century person from Arabia, one would find numerous contradictions not only within verses with other verses but also contradictions with moral and ethical principles, science for hundreds of verses that speak of natural phenomena (many verses in quite detail of the origin, mechanism, etc of the phenomena , with many historical events (many in detail) that it references, of the future prophesies it mentions such as the major victory of the Roman Empire over the Persian Empire within less than 10 years (Surah 30), etc.

In an earlier post regarding the implications of removing one of the four causes from the natural world, Ed refers to a post by a writer (I will try to find that post to find his name) who is a member of the Academy of France who thinks that Islam tends towards occassionalism.

I do not agree with him but I wish to a member of the Academy of Science of France, who has died some years ago... Dr. Maurice Bucaille.

Dr. Bucaille did an extensive study of the Bible and the Qur'an in terms of its compatibility with scientific facts.

His conclusion was that the Bible has numerous contradictions with science but the Qur'an is in complete harmony with numerous scientific facts, including many issues discovered recently such as the Big Bang theory (21:30).

The disagreement over sola scriptura, although not as serious within Islam, still exists to a certain degree.

Many Muslims say that the hadith which are statements that are attributed to Prophet Muhammad, rather than God, are needed to fully interpret the Qur'an.

These hadith attributed to the Prophet were written down decades, if not centuries after the death of Prophet Muhammad.

Interestingly, Dr. Bucaille also looked at one of the most authoritative hadith collections for the Sunni Muslims...and he found that the hadith like the Bible are peppered with many errors contradicting established scientific facts.

Bucaille explicitly state in his seminal book, "The Bible, the Qur'an, and Science," that he thinks that the only rational explanation for the harmony of the Qur'an with numerous scientific facts discovered many centuries after Prophet Muhammad can only be explained if he really received revelation from God.

Sorry for the long post.

But I do send it in sincere friendship to all.

Peace.

Omer

R Gillmann said...

The backstory for sola scriptura is the excesses that the Reformers complained about in Catholicism. So the emphasis was on excluding. Did they exclude a tad too much? Of course. That has been solved in various ways, most notably by referencing creeds and confessions.

The question of miracles and the like is important for an apologetics that supports the scriptural status of the Bible. Can it be made into a philosophical argument? Not exactly, but something like it perhaps.

BB said...

Omar,

But we do find contradictions in the Quran, both within itself and with science. Plenty of them. See, for example,

http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/

Plus there is a lack of evidence that Mohammed was a prophet. The miracle accounts attributed to him are recorded late -- the earliest hadith were not compiled until over a century and a half after the time (compare with the gospels, written by the eyewitnesses) -- and not central to his history (his life makes perfect sense without them, unlike (say) Jesus. Most dammingly, the Quran itself testifies that it is not the work of God, not only in the various contradictions alluded to above, but in terms of the poor literary quality (one dimensional characters, frequent repetition), sometimes peurile theology (such as the Islamic conceptions of Heaven and Hell); character of God opposed to what we expect from natural theology (e.g. his fits of violence and calls for evil actions, against natural law; plus statements on God being a deceiver, abrogation and so on); mode of revelation (why go through an angel rather than directly as in the Biblical prophets or in the person of Jesus) and lack of understanding when criticising Biblical doctrines such as the Trinity (as though Christians worshipped three Gods or set partners alongside God).

That is not to say that I don't respect the work of Muslim scholars in the middle ages; Thomas Aquinas would not have made the progress he did without the like of Averroes and Avicenna (and others) preparing the way. However, in sincere friendship, I would suggest that you examine the Quran and life of Mohammed more critically, as those (informed) rejectors of Islam see it, and also more closely look at the life and teachings of Jesus, as recorded in the gospels.

BB said...

But going back on topic, I would mention that it is important to state what sola scriptura means, at least to the more mainstream of reformed theologians. It means that scripture is the only infalliable authority, or only wholly trustworthy authority available to us (leaving aside God, since any direct revelation from God has to be separated from those of our own imagination, and Jesus, since we don't live in first century Judea), as apposed to the Roman view that the councils and magesterium of the church is also infallible. This does not mean that only scripture is inerrant. We can, for example, and should, trust our reason if based on sound premises and historical surveys. For example, the records of the ecumenical councils are inerrant, being based on scripture in terms of the definitions and philosophical structure of neo-platonic philosophy. Similarly, the festal letter of Athanasius can be viewed as inerrant, with the criteria for the selection of scripture being derived from the ideas in scripture -- most particularly Jesus' divinity and thus infallibility --, and historical analysis (with the testimony of the church as part of the historical evidence) confirming how those criteria should be applied. Do protestants have to rely on private judgement? Only in the same sense that Roman Catholics do when they accept the infallibility of the magesterium. Once that initial acceptance is made (for the divinity of Jesus, his Resurrection etc. first, and from that for the inerrancy of scripture, when properly interpreted and following the accepted canon) on the overwhelming balance of evidence, then everything else follows.

And as for those who wish to argue for the infallibility of the Roman Church, I give you as exhibit A) the Medici popes. No institution that supported that degree of corruption can be considered infallible in principle.

Scott said...

@BB:

And as for those who wish to argue for the infallibility of the Roman Church…

I don't know who "those" would be. Certainly the Catholic Church doesn't claim to be infallible, full stop. But in any event…

…I give you as exhibit A) the Medici popes.

…this alleged counterexample doesn't have anything to do with "infallibility" anyway. If Popes couldn't sin, they'd be "impeccable," not "infallible." But no one has ever claimed that they were, and of course they pretty obviously aren't. So I'm not sure who you're arguing with here.

You might as well argue against the inerrancy of Scripture by pointing out a typo in one edition of a translation.

Anonymous said...

If the Church is strictly necessary, then I wonder about the situation before she existed. Old testament situation probably wasn't sola scriptura, but what authority outside the Scriptures do we have to accept for that period then? The Talmud problematic to say the least.

Vincent Torley said...

Some links for interested readers:

(1) Sola Scriptura need not be circular
https://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/04/responding-to-an-objection-about-sola-scriptura/

(2) How Protestants go about interpreting Scripture
http://www.faithfacts.org/bible-101/interpreting-the-bible

(3) Church Fathers who appeared to accept the self-attesting authority of Scripture
http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/2206-Self-Attestation-of-Scripture-or-Circular-reasoning?s=89b438bc9bcdbebbf22991849ba7ddcd&p=33848#post33848

(4) The Protestant case against the deuterocanonicals (warning: it's surprisingly strong)
http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2012/is-the-apocrypha-scripture/
https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/111-the-apocrypha-inspired-of-god

(5) The Catholic case for the deuterocanonicals
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Canon_of_the_Old_Testament (best of the bunch)
http://scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html (Quotes from deuterocanonicals in the New Testament and in the early Church Fathers)
http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/5-myths-about-7-books.html (Mark Shea)
https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/DEUTEROS.HTM (Jimmy Akin)

(6) Fairly balanced articles on both sides
http://evidenceforchristianity.org/the-deuterocanonocal-book-wisdom-has-a-fairly-obvious-messianic-prophecy-why-is-it-not-included-in-the-protestant-bible/
http://www.godrules.net/articles/deutero.htm
http://www.biblequery.org/Bible/BibleCanon/WhatAboutTheApocrypha.htm (has a list of deuterocanonicals quoted by the early Church Fathers)

Hope that helps. Thanks for the post, Ed. Bye for now.

Mr. Green said...

Clayton: Scripture is the only infallible authority on these matters, leaving it the only binding authority on these matters, but this does not mean it is fully sufficient to tell us everything we need to know regarding the faith.

Well, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Suppose the Scriptures were written in a secret code — how useful would it be for someone to come to you and offer to decode it... if that person had no guarantee of infallibility or inerrancy in the matter? The infallibility of Scripture doesn't get you very far if your only access to it is a fallible interpretation, after all.

But note that Scripture is written in a secret code! (Almost?) nobody here has ever actually read the Scriptures themselves — only translations of them. And every translation is an interpretation. Nobody will ever again be a native of first-century Palestine, with the linguistic and cultural context that brings. Thus without some kind of guaranteed interpreter, the infallibility of Scripture becomes a theoretical technicality. And perhaps fallible Scriptures would have been good enough, but apparently God decided otherwise, which is something all sides agree on. So there must be something more to it (whatever that may be, internalist or ecclesiastical, and probably a discussion for another day).


Anonymous: If the Church is strictly necessary, then I wonder about the situation before she existed. Old testament situation probably wasn't sola scriptura, but what authority outside the Scriptures do we have to accept for that period then?

We have to accept the Church, which fortunately is easy to do since we do not live before she existed. The situation before that was... well, incomplete. I don't even know that Jews would claim otherwise; the Christian position is clearly that the Scriptures, including the Old Testament, can only be fully and properly understood in light of the New, and the Jews are of course still waiting for the end of the story. It's not possible to understand any kind of story if you know the beginning and middle, but not the end (or at least to be sure that your understanding is correct).

(That's also the problem with the emphasis on what the Jews may or may not have considered canonical in one of articles to which Vincent Torley linked.)

Clayton said...

Mr. Green,

"Well, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Suppose the Scriptures were written in a secret code — how useful would it be for someone to come to you and offer to decode it... if that person had no guarantee of infallibility or inerrancy in the matter? The infallibility of Scripture doesn't get you very far if your only access to it is a fallible interpretation, after all."

Fallible interpretation takes place in all situations. You fallibly interpret councils and papal statements in the same way we fallibly interpret Scripture. The purpose of Scripture's infallibility is to give it a binding nature. One cannot disagree with what it says. It is left up to us, as with anything else, to figure out what it says.

"But note that Scripture is written in a secret code! (Almost?) nobody here has ever actually read the Scriptures themselves — only translations of them. And every translation is an interpretation. Nobody will ever again be a native of first-century Palestine, with the linguistic and cultural context that brings. Thus without some kind of guaranteed interpreter, the infallibility of Scripture becomes a theoretical technicality. And perhaps fallible Scriptures would have been good enough, but apparently God decided otherwise, which is something all sides agree on. So there must be something more to it (whatever that may be, internalist or ecclesiastical, and probably a discussion for another day)."

Could you clarify what you mean by claiming it is written in a secret code?

I have trouble seeing the problem here. We read different translations of Plato and Aristotle, but nobody seems to claim we have no idea what they were saying. How is it different with Scripture? It is a text with an intended meaning provided by its authors, and I don't see why we can't come to know what it means apart from some other infallible authority.

Further, I struggle to see how this has anything to do with Dr. Feser's post regarding a response to his point on Sola Scriptura and the Canon.

Scott said...

@Clayton:

I have trouble seeing the problem here. We read different translations of Plato and Aristotle, but nobody seems to claim we have no idea what they were saying. How is it different with Scripture? It is a text with an intended meaning provided by its authors, and I don't see why we can't come to know what it means apart from some other infallible authority.

Then why does it matter that "Scripture is the only infallible authority on these matters, leaving it the only binding authority on these matters"?

Glenn said...

Clayton,

Further, I struggle to see how this has anything to do with Dr. Feser's post regarding a response to his point on Sola Scriptura and the Canon.

The OP addresses Fulford's response to point (a). It further states that Fulford's responses to points (b) and (c) will be addressed in a follow-up post.

This, however, didn't check you from raising an issue mentioned by Fulford in his response to point (c).

But now that there is a good response to the issue you raise, you want to say, "But what has that got to do with the OP?"

Thanks for the laugh.
;)

Step2 said...

Infallibility claims without critical analysis are unwarranted demands for obedience. It doesn't really matter what or who the authority is.

Glenn said...

Step2,

Infallibility claims without critical analysis are unwarranted demands for obedience.

You could be wrong. If you are, that might be a good thing.

"I have gone over this ground many times, but apparently one cannot say it too often. The claim that truth is absolute, and cannot be relative to individuals or groups or historical epochs or races, or anything else, is a claim about the nature of truth. It is a claim about what truth is." (Here.)

Glenn said...

(s/b, "You and Deutsch could be wrong.")

Timocrates said...

@ Anon.,

For us, the divine inspiration of Scripture is an article of faith. We believe it because Christ speaks through his Church.

Right. Or perhaps better: the Church speaks with the authority of Christ, which authority Christ gave to his Church as he is present in her. To recognize the unique authority of the Church is to recognize Christ's own authority:

"The people were astonished at [Jesus’] teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes."

Lk 10:16 "“He who hears you hears me".

And this is relevant to the quote that Ed shared from St Augustine, "For I would not have believed the Gospel had not the authority of the Catholic Church moved me."

Timocrates said...

@ Anon.,

For us, the divine inspiration of Scripture is an article of faith.

I would add however that the Catholic certainly has no problem giving rational non-scriptural arguments for the unique authority not only of the Scriptures themselves (e.g. by citing history and fulfilled prophecies) but also for the Church (e.g. by citing historically recorded miracles or her consistency in teaching and holding fast to what is true). For the Catholic, this is not a question-begging enterprise nor does it bring into doubt Catholic dogma as Ed has (I think successfully) shown that it does for the dogma of Sola scriptura.

Step2 said...

Glenn,
Sorry, but my trust in Bill Vallicella is nonexistent. On the other hand I think the world of Kathryn Schulz.

Timocrates said...

@ Omer,

Thank you Omer for your post. It is rather lengthy and needs time to consider; however, I return to you also your sincerity and share your spirit of friendship. Welcome to Ed's blog and his comment box!

Take care,
Timo.

Glenn said...

Glenn,
Sorry, but my trust in Bill Vallicella is nonexistent. On the other hand I think the world of Kathryn Schulz.


That's twice now, and in a very short time, that you've indicated the value of being wrong, yet insist that you're right. Hm...

Step2 said...

Glenn,
If you'll point to the comment where I've insisted I was right it would be much appreciated. Also, I would say instead that the value is to be open to the possibility of being wrong, or having room for doubt, and that this is best resolved by critical analysis instead of blind faith.

Glenn said...

If you'll point to the comment where I've insisted I was right it would be much appreciated.

Okay. You have only suggested that what you convey might be right. So, I was wrong and you corrected me, I've acknowledged the correction and we have a better idea of where you were coming from. I guess it is true, after all, that we can learn from our mistakes. (But it's probably also still true that that people can make mistakes is a poor reason for thinking that something said or done by another person, or by other people, is, for that, reason likely to be mistaken.)

Timocrates said...

@ R Gillmann said:

The backstory for sola scriptura is the excesses that the Reformers complained about in Catholicism. So the emphasis was on excluding. Did they exclude a tad too much? Of course. That has been solved in various ways, most notably by referencing creeds and confessions.

As a lover of history I cannot stand for this. The excesses complained about by the Reformers were in fact exaggerated by them as well. Further, the theology behind indulgences is perfectly sound and orthodox and at least one Pope already gave a proof from scripture about the reality of Purgatory from the lips of Christ as recorded in the Gospel. The subsequent development of this thinking was therefore normal and natural.

The very historical fact that Martin Luther began his campaign after hearing a confession from a person who was worried they had sinned after purchasing an indulgence believing more or less they had purchased a license to sin does not help the Protestant cause at all. It demonstrates the conscience and Sensus fidei of lay people who already knew at least intuitively that to do so or use indulgences in that manner was sinful. Had anyone actually believed it was a legitimate Catholic practice Martin Luther wouldn't have had the pretext of line ups of disturbed and troubled Christian souls coming to him in Confession to use to launch his radical campaign in the first place. People knew it was an abuse. Martin Luther wrongly tied to this issue too many of his own private theological points and considerations and thus muddled the waters. Had he merely campaigned against the abuse as such rather than attaching arguments that attacked the orthodoxy of the underlying and already settled and established theology for that practice than he would truly have been a traditional Church reformer and possibly today numbered even among the saints who fought to stop corruption, abuse and vice in the Church.

I give especially modern Protestantism all due credit whenever it is deserved. I am not hostile to Protestantism; notwithstanding, I am not willing to sacrifice historical truth or doctrinal orthodoxy to accommodate mutual cooperation and friendship.

Glenn said...

(What a muddled mess that parenthetical statement of mine above is. People can, and do, make mistakes. But these two facts, in conjunction with not liking or agreeing with something said, held or done by others, does not constitute a sound reason for thinking that that something said, held or done by others is likely to be or probably is wrong.)

Anonymous said...

Step2, that is funny, because my trust in the random, barely on-topic links you seem to like to post, as if they carry any weight or anything to the discussion is also non-existent.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Timocrates

I don't think I would have in mind "Scholastic shenanigans" or "indulgent indulgences" per se. Sola Scriptura, as a principle to reform Catholic practice, does make sense in a time of obsessive superstition. Since all are invited to become members of the Church, many superstitions from ignorant people are brought in as well. That's just how it is. I'm in one sense ashamed to be associated with a Catholic how argues against evolution, bit on the other hand I realize that Christianity is not a Gnostic religion for the educated elite.

Furthermore, Bishops in the early Church seem like they sheparded smaller groups of people, so I can see people arguing for a "parish Bishop" rather than a "city Bishop," and none of this contradicts Catholic doctrine, although I would argue against such teaching on other grounds.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Step2

If God came down, founded an organization, and then promised that with His power He would keep it from erroring, would you nod and give you OK? Or would you disobey God?

Christi pax.

Timocrates said...

@ Daniel D.D.,

"I don't think I would have in mind "Scholastic shenanigans" or "indulgent indulgences" per se. Sola Scriptura, as a principle to reform Catholic practice, does make sense in a time of obsessive superstition."

This is a myth. The need for imagining "excessive superstition" is a convenience for Protestant apologetics to justify the chaos caused.

Please read what I wrote. What I wrote is an inescapable historical fact. Martin Luther's own Causus belli was proof there was no need for radicalism. It was Catholics who felt they had done something wrong because of their Catholicism. Their Catholic sense was correct: they participated in an abuse (even if it was systemic). Was that the "excessive superstition," then? If not, what was? Whatever it was, Martin Luther didn't mind it either, Daniel.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Anonymous (7/18/15 at 20:51):

Surely, this is the rationalist heresy, though?

I'm still trying to understand how some Protestants deal with the contradiction of, on one hand, arguing that human nature, and thus the human intellect, is so broken as to be useless in matters of God at least, and on the other hand, arguing that Scripture can be interpretated by anyone.

If Scripture can be interpreted by anyone, then why do Protestants disagree with each other? If Scripture can't be simply interpreted, than who can do so?

Since we know Scripture can't be interpretated by anyone, and we reject a priori Church authority, there is no way we can know True doctrine. Doctrine becomes relative to how each congregation, how each individual interprets.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

The 1500-1600s were a very superstitious time. What do you think witch hunts were about?

Luther's problem is that the Church actually put a check on this sort of nonsense. When his new religion started to be imposed, all hell broke loose, and superstition got worse, due to the chaos of a religion breaking down.

Erasmus, like Luther, had problems with these superstitions. However, unlike what Luther eventually went to do, Erasmus stayed with trying to reform the Church, rather than start a new religion.

Remember, reform is just repentance on a large scale, and the Church is all about repentance.

Christi pax.

Clayton said...

Scott,

'Then why does it matter that "Scripture is the only infallible authority on these matters, leaving it the only binding authority on these matters"?'

What do you mean why does it matter?

The purpose behind it being infallible Scripture is binding as a result. As I said above, Sola Scriptura is a claim about authority.

Now, the reason I brought this up is simple. Given this definition, the claim that Scripture is self-refuting because Scripture alone cannot provide the Canon of Scripture misses the mark. The only thing that follows from this definition of Sola Scriptura and the Canon issue is that the Protestant comes to his conclusion regarding the Canon fallibly, as he has no infallible authority to determine the Canon.

Now, I may be misunderstanding what you are trying to argue here, Scott. So, if you think I am, please clarify.

Glenn,

While what I said does apply to all three points Feser made in the original post (the Feyerabend post), what I said above was directed at this particular post of Feser's. So, if you think my post was off-topic, please point out where and explain how.

Timocrates said...

@ Daniel D.D.,

Which is what I meant when I said whatever superstition there was Martin Luther didn't have a problem with it.

And witchcraft was and is a reality. Demonic possession can result from it. People's ridiculous overreaction to the problem was just that; what it resulted in was real human crimes (of injustice), not so much superstition. That kind of injustice is so transparent that it ironically causes almost every society to develop more disciplined norms of justice. Regardless, Martin Luther did not protest against this and, further, the problem of witch hunts, for example, were scarcely a real social problem. Sort of like the modern problem of people today who watch too much CNN in America worried their next door neighbour just might be a terrorist for stupid reasons.

Anonymous said...

Morally degrading patterns of behavior are spread through a small, perhaps closed or isolated, community through subtle means and suggestions: This is witchcraft.

Poisons are used against persons for a variety of ends and they are not necessarily fatal poisons (or at least not immediately fatal): This is witchcraft.

Secret groups are formed in order to perpetuate harmful and subversive doctrines amongst a select membership resulting in a variety of external operations: This is witchcraft.

Malicious rumors and gossip are spread in a socially engineered manner in order to achieve psychic and social harm of certain persons for whatever ends: This is witchcraft.

Various rituals and incantations are used to impress upon certain persons as part of the overall process signified by the above statements: This is witchcraft.

There may proceed a certain utilization of music and other modifications of pre-existing cultural elements for vicious purposes: More witchcraft.

It must also be said that there are certain sexual operations which are at the core of all serious witchcraft. These operations involve groups of women working together and making an extremely efficient use of sex for an orchestrated end; usually the degradation and destruction of certain prominent families and other types of scandals. Often the destruction of certain families is more important than the particular blackmails involved. These processes can be remarkably well-orchestrated and are no laughing matter. There is often a motivating cause beyond the witches themselves who are always mere instruments.

Timocrates said...

@ Anon. above,

What you wrote is probably not appropriate for a public forum. Why did you write it anonymously?

Anonymous said...

Timocrates,

Although my brief statements may appear quite general, if you or some other reader were to analyze them privately then you would understand the phenomena to which I am referring. I imagine that you are referring to the last portion of what I had written? That is very important. What is most important is that these statements be made together and at once such that the understanding lights up and even begins to understand common facts which are everyday before the eyes. Keep safe.

Timocrates said...

@ Anon.,

Yes, fine. But you forget a few things.

For example, it is a natural vice of women to desire to be 'home wreckers' at times.

Again. Such determination to cause scandal is typically only effective in rare cases where the people in question have already become so bad friends or family will not protect them and, those same people (and the knowledge of their existence) doesn't cause would-be malefactors to 'back off'. Men sin all the time, even the best of them. Old families that are frequently natural leaders of societies are terribly notorious for their vices and infidelities. These can't and don't get the better of them until they start sacrificing the virtues that made their families great in the first place (e.g. virtue and fidelity).

Yes, I know what you speak of. Also, I know that the people involved in them are all bluff, which is why the typical outcome in human society is an overreaction to them. The points you listed are deadly to human friendship and society, which is exactly why they cause paranoia. I named already the modern hype of terrorism, I could also name the Red Scare and any number of other things. It was and is not that these things had merit - they did. But witchcraft is a problem first and foremost for those who participate in it and, if we are to be a humane society, we must work against witchcraft for the sake of its victims, who are primarily those who participate in it, typically social outcasts or those who are already victims of societal prejudices, hatred or neglect.

Glenn said...

Clayton,

While what I said does apply to all three points Feser made in the original post (the Feyerabend post), what I said above was directed at this particular post of Feser's. So, if you think my post was off-topic, please point out where and explain how.

I think you may have missed the main point of my comment.

Mr. Green hadn't remarked upon the OP, but replied to your post. And I quoted the conclusion of your response to Mr. Green's reply (to your post) as follows: "Further, I struggle to see how this has anything to do with Dr. Feser's post regarding a response to his point on Sola Scriptura and the Canon."

If your post was off-topic, then, yeah, I find it funny you didn't have trouble seeing the relevance of Mr. Green's reply to your post (which is what Mr. Green had replied to), only trouble seeing the relevance of Mr. Green's reply to the OP (which Mr. Green hadn't remarked upon).

And if your post was on-topic, then, yeah, I find it funny you didn't have trouble seeing the relevance of Mr. Green's reply to your post (which is what Mr. Green had replied to), only trouble seeing the relevance of Mr. Green's reply to the OP (which Mr. Green hadn't remarked upon).

Patrick said...

Timocrates: “I would add however that the Catholic certainly has no problem giving rational non-scriptural arguments for the unique authority not only of the Scriptures themselves (e.g. by citing history and fulfilled prophecies) but also for the Church (e.g. by citing historically recorded miracles or her consistency in teaching and holding fast to what is true).”

To historically recorded miracles can also be pointed to with respect to other churches. The miracle worker who in my view comes closest to the miracle workers described in the New Testament is the Lutheran pastor and theologian Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-1880). Accounts about miraculous events accompanying the work of Blumhardt can be found in the following biography of him:

Dieter Ising, Johann Christoph Blumhardt: Life and Work: A New Biography, Translated by Monty Ledford, Eugene 2009.

As for the claim that the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is consistent I think it’s not difficult to find contradictions with respect to its doctrinal development. One example of such inconsistency is the fact that there were councils that proclaimed a doctrine called “Conciliarism” and others that rejected it. As for this doctrine and its treatment by councils the following excerpt from the Wikipedia article “Conciliarism” is very informative:

“Conciliarism was a reform movement in the 14th-, 15th- and 16th-century Catholic Church which held that supreme authority in the Church resided with an Ecumenical council, apart from, or even against, the pope. The movement emerged in response to the Great Western Schism between rival popes in Rome and Avignon. The schism inspired the summoning of the Council of Pisa (1409), which failed to end the schism, and the Council of Constance (1414–1418), which succeeded and proclaimed its own superiority over the Pope. Conciliarism reached its apex with the Council of Basel (1431–1449), which ultimately fell apart. The eventual victor in the conflict was the institution of the Papacy, confirmed by the condemnation of conciliarism at the Fifth Lateran Council, 1512–17. The final gesture however, the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, was not promulgated until the First Vatican Council of 1870.”

Another example of such inconsistency is the fact that in 1447 the Council of Florence announced that all those who don’t belong to the Roman Catholic Church go to Hell, whereas the Second Vatican Council announced that even people who are not Christians can get saved.

Patrick said...

“Suppose Christ appeared to me today -- that I was not hallucinating, etc. but that it really happened -- performed certain miracles in my presence, and revealed certain future events to me and certain teachings of a moral and theological nature. Suppose some of these events would take place decades from now, but that among the things revealed was who would win the 2016 U.S. presidential election, what would be the exact state-by-state tally of electoral votes, etc. Suppose I recorded all this as an entry in a daily diary I keep as a file on my computer, alongside the other events I recorded for that day. And suppose that there was solid evidence afterward that all this had happened. For example, suppose that there were credible witnesses who reported observing Christ’s appearing to me and performing miracles, that the events of the 2016 election turned out exactly as predicted, etc. Certainly we’d have good evidence in that case that I had really witnessed a divine revelation and certainly we’d have reason to believe that everything Christ said to me was infallible.

But would this show that all the files on my computer -- the various blog posts, journal articles, book manuscripts, etc. -- are divinely inspired? Would it show even that just the diary as a whole is divinely inspired? Indeed, would it show even that the entire single entry for that particular day is divinely inspired (including the events recorded from earlier in that day, which involved me giving such-and-such financial advice to a friend, such-and-such moral advice to one of my children, etc.)? How exactly would it show any of that? Indeed, how would it show even that I’d gotten Christ’s words exactly right? Maybe I recorded the part about the 2016 election correctly, but made certain mistakes when recording what Christ said about the other matters.”

I think this is a good point. After all, not even all letters that the apostle Paul wrote were included in the Canon of Scripture (1 Corinthians 5:9, 2 Corinthians 2:4, Colossians 4:16). Moreover unless one would have in every New Testament writing a note that was beyond any reasonable doubt written by an apostle and which announced that the respective writing is divinely inspired and part of the Canon of Scripture it seems indeed to be the case that any appeal to the authority of Scripture without at the same time acknowledging the authority of the institution that confirmed this authority in incoherent. But I don’t think that the Roman Catholic position is in a better shape. In my previous comment I pointed to contradictions within the doctrinal development of the Roman Catholic Church which in my view makes the view that the Magisterium is infallible questionable.

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

Yes, thank you for refreshing my mind for the Protestant complaints I had heard long before I converted to Catholicism.

You ignore my main points. Martin Luther started his revolution based on Catholic conscience. He ended up destroying the same sentiment he exploited as a pretext for his revolution. Catholics felt guilty for exploiting the abusive indulgent system and Martin Luther launched his crusade based on Catholic guilt, which (rather notoriously) Martin Luther couldn't deal with. He wanted absolute assurance of his own salvation, which is impossible.

But further you failed to appreciate Dr. Feser's main point about the impossible contradiction between the doctrine of Sola scriptura and the necessity to rely upon extra-biblical evidence to prove it, which is the very proof that Protestantism is a Fideism. You rail against me by citing, ridiculously, supposed Protestant miracle workers. I'm sorry, but your alleged miracle workers aren't found in the Bible, which my Church told you is the Bible.

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

Finally, I have already cited many times the scriptural warrant for Catholicism:

"He who hears you hears me"

And

"The Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth."

Protestantism must of necessity deny these claims. It has no proof in itself of them. Protestantism is exactly the idea that one can ignore the Church on the basis of "He who hears you hears me" because at the end of its day Protestantism is just the belief in the Magisterium of "I" and a man's own wit.

Patrick said...

“The Turretin-Fulford argument doesn’t answer such questions at all, as is evidenced by the fact that both Protestants and Catholics could accept the specific points Turretin makes in the passages cited and still disagree about the deuterocanonicals. Mormons could also agree with the Turretin-Fulford argument, as could advocates of books like Thomas and the Acts of Paul and Thecla. They would just add that there are yet other books that Catholics and Protestants should accept. Even Muslims could accept the Turretin-Fulford argument with qualifications. They could say that Moses, the apostles, etc. really were divinely inspired and their words backed by miracles, and that the writings Christians regard as scriptural reflect these facts. They would just add that those writings include errors mixed in with the historical facts they report, and that the Quran corrects the record where these errors have crept in.”

As far a I can see none of the writings mentioned here fulfill the requirements of the Turretin-Fulford argument.

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

At some point you are going to make an argument rather than reliance on your "As far as I" goes, which only publicly proves everyone's point against you.

Patrick said...

Timocrates: “Martin Luther started his revolution based on Catholic conscience. He ended up destroying the same sentiment he exploited as a pretext for his revolution. Catholics felt guilty for exploiting the abusive indulgent system and Martin Luther launched his crusade based on Catholic guilt, which (rather notoriously) Martin Luther couldn't deal with. He wanted absolute assurance of his own salvation, which is impossible.”

As I pointed out in the thread of the previous blogpost the idea of “sola scriptura” is older than the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. It can be traced back at least to the 12th century, and in my view it was formulated because by that time the Roman Catholic Church had accumulated so many doctrinal innovations that have no basis in Scripture or are even contrary to basis that the idea of “sola scriptura” suggested itself.

Patrick said...

Timocrates: “Finally, I have already cited many times the scriptural warrant for Catholicism:



"He who hears you hears me"”

But “you” refers to the apostles and not to the apostles and their (supposed) successors. As I pointed out in the thread of the previous blogpost in view of the fact that the apostles expected the imminent return it is rather unlikely that they held the doctrine of apostolic succession.

As for the doctrine of the apostolic succession it seems to me that it is a doctrinal innovation of the 2nd century. In that era adherents of a Christian variant of Gnosticism created a number of writings, including Gospels and letters, claiming to have been written by apostles, such as the Gospel of Thomas. When people like Irenaeus fought against this Christian Gnosticism they could not refer to the New Testament writings in order to do so, as the Gnostics could point to their supposedly apostolic writings as well. So arguing by appealing to Scripture was blocked. What was left was to say that one was right because the leader of one’s church was a direct successor of an apostle.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Patrick

As for the claim that the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is consistent I think it’s not difficult to find contradictions with respect to its doctrinal development. One example of such inconsistency is the fact that there were councils that proclaimed a doctrine called “Conciliarism” and others that rejected it. As for this doctrine and its treatment by councils the following excerpt from the Wikipedia article “Conciliarism” is very informative:

The canons that supported Conciliarism were not accepted by the Pope. Not everything that comes out of a Council is infallible. It also must be approved by the Bishop of Rome. This is not new; Pope Leo the Great did the same thing too.

Another example of such inconsistency is the fact that in 1447 the Council of Florence announced that all those who don’t belong to the Roman Catholic Church go to Hell, whereas the Second Vatican Council announced that even people who are not Christians can get saved.

I've seen this explained far too much in our present age: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means

Christi pax.

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

Yes, the "He who hears you hears me" does mean the Apostles. But prove from the Scripture that it was not intended to continue throughout time.

I can point to a Church where "He who hears you hears me" is true. Can you?

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

Also, point to a Protestant church that is "the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." Find me it.

George LeSauvage said...

@Patrick:

The Catholic position on councils is that they are infallible only when the pope consents to their results. This goes back to the Latrocinium at Ephesus; which did overthrow Chalcedon, but was rejected by Rome. Most of your examples fall under this category, and are no problem for Catholics.

The best place I know of, on more arcane arguments on development is Newman's Essay.

On the general topic, it's worth noting that the pushback against strict Sola Scriptura, within protestanism itself, began pretty early. Richard Hooker went a fair way toward the Catholic position here.

(A final anecdote: the man who married me was then a Lutheran pastor, and is now a Catholic. In our college days, we had argued Lutheran vs Anglican - which I was then - constantly. Last time I spoke to him, he said "If they'd had prozac, all this could have been avoided.")

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

And lastly - since you continually avoid the facts I pointed out, e.g., the fact that Martin Luther started his war against Catholicism based on the deeply Catholic conscience of those who felt guilty abusing indulgences;

Do tell me which Protestant church is unfailingly emphatic about the absolute and inviolable sacredness of the Church's unity, which every Christian worth the name taught for the first millennium of the Christian dispensation? All of the Church Fathers taught emphatically that Christian unity was paramount and sacred. The Church simply was the seamless garment of Christ. To rend it was impossible. Why don't Protestant churches share the same sentiment?

Daniel D. D. said...

@Patrick

But “you” refers to the apostles and not to the apostles and their (supposed) successors.

Who do you know such interpretation is correct.

As I pointed out in the thread of the previous blogpost in view of the fact that the apostles expected the imminent return it is rather unlikely that they held the doctrine of apostolic succession.

So, Christianity is false. I don't see who the Apostles are trustworthy if they got something like that wrong.

Anyway, even if we assume your (IMO false) thesis, Catholic doctrine is still compatible. Apostolic Succession would be a doctrine that appeared late in the (remaining) Apostles' lives, when they realized Christ was not coming back in a week, and that they would be dead soon.

Patrick, you seem to have this idea that if you prove that sola Scriptura was taught by the early Church, and that Apostolic Succession was an accident of the times, than you would have proved Catholicism false, and Protestantism true. But as Dr. Feser points out, the doctrine of Scripture alone is so illogical that if you successfully proved that the Apostles taught it, you would have successfully shown that the Apostles were ignorant and illogical, thus proving Christianity itself false.

Christi pax.

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

And I yap now, but frankly I don't care. I don't believe you are even a true Protestant; and the cause of this is your ridiculous belief that the Apostles' believed in an imminent return of Christ, which apparent difficulty is easily contradicted by the fact that we have entire epistles in the New Testament directed toward the instruction of new bishops, who were meant to continue the minister of the Apostles.

Further, to this day Christian and Catholic doctrine is that we are living in an age of Grace. At any time the good Lord can chose to return or end human history as we have known it. The apparent Apostolic belief in an imminent return of the Lord has been the reality of the Church's existence ever since. We are all on "borrowed time." This actually makes being faithful to the Gospel ever the more paramount, as the Lord's teaching is such as to restore things as they were "in the beginning." This is why Christians have always revolted against attempts to paganize them or their society.

Your belief that the Apostles believed that Christ was to return during their lifetime is in fact proof of disbelief. Not one Apostle said as much, but that should have been the most obvious fact of reality on their minds; e.g., "You had better behave as goodly Christians because I could die at any time and once we Apostles are dead - at the latest - then be assured Christ is going to return and judge you all!" Where is that in Scripture, Patrick?

Every decent Christian scholar of the scriptures will readily admit that - based on the words of Christ himself - we are also in a state of suspense alongside the state of grace. They go hand in hand. There are no problems with this in Catholicism and, frankly, most Protestants I know wouldn't doubt or deny it either. But no Protestant I know of actually believes the Apostles expected Christ to return necessarily during their lifetime or at the expiration thereof. So where do you really get your beliefs from?

Daniel D. D. said...

As for the doctrine of the apostolic succession it seems to me that it is a doctrinal innovation of the 2nd century.

I would say you are in a sense correct, as the doctrine was not necessary when the Apostles themselves were alive. It only really became important when they were all dead, and St. John seems to have died in the beginning of the second century.

In that era adherents of a Christian variant of Gnosticism created a number of writings, including Gospels and letters, claiming to have been written by apostles, such as the Gospel of Thomas. When people like Irenaeus fought against this Christian Gnosticism they could not refer to the New Testament writings in order to do so, as the Gnostics could point to their supposedly apostolic writings as well. So arguing by appealing to Scripture was blocked.

St. Irenaeus was the first Father to give a "table of contents" for the New Testaments, which includes the Gospels, and most of the letters we see in it today. If he was "ideologically Scripture alone," but "practically Apostolic Succession," why did he never say anything about Scripture alone, but a whole lot about Apostolic Succession?

And if the Bishops can be wrong about Apostolic Succession, why are they right about "three hypostasis in one ousia?"

What was left was to say that one was right because the leader of one’s church was a direct successor of an apostle.

Yep. What's the problem? All Churches who can trace back to the first few centuries of the first millennium believe in Apostolic Succession.

If the early Christians had to be practically Apostolic Succession advocates, then why is it that, after persecution, they called a Ecumenical Council to define doctrine, rather than define it by Scripture alone? The fact that even the Arians agreed to the Authroity of Bishops is damning to your view.

Remember that St. Ignatius also taught the doctrine too, and he was trained by St. John himself, and appointed to Antioch by Peter and Paul. Are you saying, like the Mormons, that everyone but the twelve got it wrong?

Patrick, why don't you see that the denial of Apostolic Authority has always been clear heretics, all of history supports early Christians believing in the Authroity of Bishops, and that the Protestant version of denying Bishops is based on a rebellion against the the political authority of Luther's time? Don't you see that the only reason Protestants could even have the Bible is because of the Church?

Don't you see that your teaching that the early Church "really" believed in sola Scriptura despite the clear evidence against you is nothing better than the 9/11 is "really" an inside job, despite the evidence? To continuously say it over again: "to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."

Does it not make you feel uneasy that it took Protestantism two centuries to turn a strong Christian culture of a thousand years into the mess we see today, at least?

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

If Christ taught His imminent return, then why does He say "you neither know the day nor the hour?"

Just as Timocrates pointed out, we have Christians today who speculate on the coming of the coming end of the world, and those who don't. I expect the situation was similar in the first century.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

Protestants don't define the Church in the same way, that's why.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

^ The post above is responding to Timocrates.

Christi pax.

Timocrates said...

@ Daniel D.D.,

"Protestants don't define the Church..."

With that much I can agree. And I don't hate them for it. In fact, in American society, there is no shortage of great goodness that comes from Protestants. My beef with "Patrick" is that he doesn't actually represent any Protestant I know of; that, and insofar as I have learned some philosophy, I really detest his method of ignoring points or actually addressing arguments made. That latter part really ought to disqualify him from even being here. His failure to break any obvious rules of civility notwithstanding.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Timocrates

And I don't hate them for it. In fact, in American society, there is no shortage of great goodness that comes from Protestants.

Yes.

However, I do think their denial of the Apostolic understanding of the Church is one of the big reasons Christianity is in such a mess right now in Western culture.

Christi pax.

Timocrates said...

@ Daniel D.D.,

Protestantism didn't work to really undermine Western society and culture. It took something further. Protestantism as the man who believes in scripture and was raised in, e.g., a baptist church is hardly the problem today. The problem in the West specifically is that too many of its sons and daughters are playing the prodigal in an ironic hope or belief - no, confidence- that God will rescue and salvage them.

And Christianity isn't confined to the West. It exists in the East too and as the West plays tyrant the Church will naturally move toward the more sober East - indeed, that was already indicated at Vatican II if one studies the influential bishops at it. And, of course, there is the 'global South'. We in the West have this terrible habit of thinking that we are somehow fundamental in the world, largely due to past history. We are not. We need that myth more than anything else.

And thank you Daniel for the reply. Peace be with you too, brother.

Timo.

Glenn said...

Timocrates and Daniel D.D.,

Food for thought,

"The real crisis came with Luther, who changed doctrine from top to bottom by repudiating the principle on which it rested...

"Inasmuch as it is a rejection of Catholic first principles, Lutheranism is theologically irrefutable. When confronted with Lutheranism, Catholic apologetic finds itself in the position neatly outlined by St. Thomas [10]: it can solve the opponent's objections, but not to the opponent's satisfaction, since he rejects the principle on which the argument refuting him is based. For Luther was not merely rejecting this or that article within the body of Catholic doctrine, (though of course he did do that as well) but rather rejecting the principle underlying them all, which is the divine authority of the Church. Bible and tradition are only authorities for the believer because the Church possesses them; and possesses them not simply materially or philologically, but possesses the meaning of them, which she historically unveils little by little.

"Luther, on the other hand, places both the Bible and its meaning in the hands of the individual believer, rejects any mediating role for the Church, entrusts everything to the individual's private lights and replaces the authority of an institution by an immediacy of feeling which prevails over all else. The conscience is detached from the teaching office of the Church, and an individual's impressions, especially if they are vivid and irresistible, are made superior to any other rule and are held to establish a right both to believe, and to proclaim what is believed. What the ancient Pyrrhonism does to philosophical knowledge, Protestant Pyrrhonism does to religious knowledge. The Church, which is the historic and moral continuation of Christ the God-Man, is deprived of its native authority, while the liveliness of an individual's impressions is called 'faith' and declared to be an immediate gift of grace. The supremacy of this individual conscience removes the foundation of all the articles of faith, because they stand or fall according to whether the individual conscience assents to, or dissents from them. Thus divine authority, which is the sustaining principle of Catholicism, is extirpated and with it go the dogmas of the faith: it is no longer the divine authority of the Church which guarantees them, but subjective individual impressions. Thus, if heresy consists in holding a truth to have been revealed, not on the authority of its having been revealed, but because it accords with a subjective perception, one can say that in Lutheranism the whole concept of faith is converted into the concept of heresy, because the divine word is accepted only inasmuch as it receives the form of an individual conviction. It is not the thing which demands assent, but assent which gives value to the thing." -- Amerio, Romana, Iota Unum (15. and 17. of Chapter 2)

[10] Summa Theologica, l,q.l,a.8.

Scott said...

Timocrates writes:

My beef with "Patrick" is that he doesn't actually represent any Protestant I know of; that, and insofar as I have learned some philosophy, I really detest his method of ignoring points or actually addressing arguments made. That latter part really ought to disqualify him from even being here.

I've lost count of the number of points (mine and others') Patrick has simply ignored, never mind the ones he's deflected with irrelevancies. That's a large part of why I stopped bothering to reply to him even when he makes egregious errors (like the one on extra ecclesiam nulla salus not far above, where he claims in effect that Lumen gentium represented a significant change in the Church's historical teaching).

Whether he should be here or not, he's at least disqualified himself from participation in reasoned discourse (and shouldn't expect reasoned replies) until he decides to shape up.

Anonymous said...

Omer,

I second Timocrates' sentiments. Welcome to this blog post and may God bless and keep you and your loved ones.

Scott said...

@Clayton:

What do you mean why does it matter?…Now, I may be misunderstanding what you are trying to argue here, Scott.

I'm not making an argument, just asking a question. In reply to Mr. Green, you wrote:

We read different translations of Plato and Aristotle, but nobody seems to claim we have no idea what they were saying. How is it different with Scripture? It is a text with an intended meaning provided by its authors, and I don't see why we can't come to know what it means apart from some other infallible authority.

Your implication was clearly that we can do the same with Scripture. If that's the case, then why does Scripture need to be "infallible" (let alone "inerrant") in order to be authoritative? If our interpretive process, though fallible, is "close enough for folk music," then why do we need to invoke infallibility to confer authority on the text we're fallibly interpreting? Why not just say it's authoritative and be done with it? If we can't (and needn't) infallibly ascertain its meaning anyway, what does "infallibility" add?

Sobieski said...

@Glenn

Sounds like incipient Modernism to me. Luther's principle of private judgment is one of, if not the root causes, of today's apostasy. Bryan Cross at Called to Communion has shown how solo and sola scriptura boil down to the same same thing. Now this principle has infected many of the members of the Church and hierarchy.

Glenn said...

Sobieski,

Thanks. Yes indeed (on the incipient Modernism). I found (what I think is) the Bryan Cross article to which you refer. I'll read it more slowly and carefully later, but in skimming through it just now, it was easy to come up with a name for what has been quite active, and rather tenacious, in the comments sections of this and the prior OP - 'Mathison By Proxy'.

Glenn said...

(I really shouldn't have done that... publicize my mental shorthand (MBP) for certain evident goings on in the comments sections here, as doing so runs contrary to the intent of the site on which the Cross article was found. I can't delete my comment; I can only apologize for having inappropriately publicized my mental shorthand.)

Sobieski said...

@Glenn

Sorry, here's the article I was thinking of. I think Mathison made a reply, and the CtC folks made a further response, etc.

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

I'm glad to see some interaction between this site and CtC in comments, etc.. I noticed Dr. Cross referenced Dr. Feser's previous article in one of his posts. Two great Thomists...

Daniel D. D. said...

@Glen

Yes, the logic of Protestantism leads them to ultimately to claim that Christ's Church failed, which is just Atheism. That's why modern atheists often sound like Protestants: they are Protestants, but just ones that simply pick and choice different Church doctrines to believe than traditional Protestants. Another way of saying this is that Modern atheists are often Protestants that have thought their theology to its logical conclusion.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

I won't even bring up relativism; I'm sure those reading here are intelligent enough to abstract from your article why such beliefs that Protestants hold lead to relativism.

Christi pax.

Daniel G. Fink said...

Sola Scriptura is impractical.

Dr. Robert Boomsma, B.A., PhD., employs a Reformed worldview in the matter of embryonic stem cell experimentation..."This paper...

http://tcc.trnty.edu/faculty/boomsm...SCFstemcell.pdf

...will utilize a Christian world view from the Reformed tradition in assessing stem cell use. Its focus is to develop a Reformed Christian perspective on hES cell
use". After tapping into his biblically informed tradition (" As John Calvin asserts, the Bible provides us with the 'spectacles' through which we can
understand God and his creation"), Dr. Boomsma arrives at the "prayerful" conclusion that spare embryos can be experimented on, as long as the motives are "pure".

Dr. Frank Young, Ph.D., VP of Reformed Theological Seminary (Wash/Balt.), and a molecular biologist, in testimony before a 1999 Senate hearing on the issue, contended that "killing embryos by disintegration to harvest stem cells
is illegal, immoral, and unnecessary".

(Page 5)... http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-1...06shrg61422.htm

We know that he relied upon his Reformed, biblically informed tradition, as he walks us through the process regarding cloning elsewhere...

http://rq.rts.edu/winter01/young.html

They would agree it is a very serious issue- each taking paragraphs or pages to lay the groundwork. Where is it mentioned in scripture? Chapter and verse? Which individual did the Holy Spirit personally inspire to arrive at the correct doctrinal conclusion, in a matter of grave importance, that has meaning for future generations?

With regard to 2 Tim 3:16-17, which individual above is "the man of God"?
__________________

Glenn said...

Sobieski,

That is the article I had found.

(It was the section B. The Contradiction Internal to the Sola Scriptura Position that had made it "easy to come up with a [spur of the moment] name" for reasoning similar to or reminiscent of Mathison's (even though Mathison isn't the first to engage in it).)

Daniel G. Fink said...

addendum:

Fixing broken links...

http://tcc.trnty.edu/faculty/boomsma/research/PSCFstemcell.pdf

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-106shrg61422/html/CHRG-106shrg61422.htm

http://rq.rts.edu/winter01/young.html

Glenn said...

(...for reasoning similar to or reminiscent of Mathison's (even though Mathison isn't the first to engage in it).

(It is obvious that Mathison is the first to engage in his reasoning. It is also obvious, at least I hope it was, that I meant to refer to a pattern of reasoning engaged in by Mathison, and only meant that Mathison wasn't the first to engage in that pattern of reasoning.)

Scott said...

@Sobieski:

Luther's principle of private judgment is one of, if not the root causes, of today's apostasy.

Speaking as one who is in the process of becoming Catholic, I can add, I hope pertinently, that the exact moment at which I realized I had received the gift of faith was when I realized that I didn't merely believe what the Church taught, I believed it because the Church taught it.

Glenn said...

Daniel D. D.,

Another way of saying this is that Modern atheists are often Protestants that have thought their theology to its logical conclusion.

Interesting point.

(Though, of course (and as you did acknowledge by way of not having said that "Modern Atheists always are..."), non-Potestants have been known to be finagled by others, and to have finagled themselves, into atheism.)

thefederalist said...

@Patrick,

"As for the doctrine of the apostolic succession it seems to me that it is a doctrinal innovation of the 2nd century."

It may be a 2nd century doctrinal innovation, but it seems to me also to be a practical innovation from about, oh, three days after Christ's ascension. The book of Acts doesn't record whether the remaining eleven apostles actually obeyed their Lord in praying for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit (I presume they did), but it does record that they appointed Matthias to succeed Judas Iscariot.

Plus other men later referred to in the letters as "apostles", but that was after Pentecost.

Patrick said...

Timocrates: “Also, point to a Protestant church that is "the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." Find me it.”

In my view “the Church” is not the Roman Catholic Church, but it isn’t any other religious institution, either. Rather it is the “Invisible Church”. It consists of all those who belong to Christ and consequently are driven by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9). If the members of the Church are driven by the Holy Spirit then this also applies to the Church as a whole.

If one rejects the idea of the Invisible Church and maintains that the Church is a certain religious institution – here the Roman Catholic Church – such a view entails one of the following statements, both of which are in my view quite problematic:

(1) Those who don’t belong to the Roman Catholic Church are no Christians.

(2) There are two kinds of Christians, those who belong to the Church and those who don’t.

For all I know the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t hold (1). As for (2) I’m not sure what the position of the Roman Catholic Church is. If it doesn’t hold it, then it also accepts the idea of the Invisible Church.

I’m also of the opinion that the Canon of Scripture was created by the Church. It’s just that for me “the Church” is not the Roman Catholic Church, but the Invisible Church. And this Invisible Church is “the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth”.

Clayton said...

Scott,

'Your implication was clearly that we can do the same with Scripture. If that's the case, then why does Scripture need to be "infallible" (let alone "inerrant") in order to be authoritative? If our interpretive process, though fallible, is "close enough for folk music," then why do we need to invoke infallibility to confer authority on the text we're fallibly interpreting? Why not just say it's authoritative and be done with it? If we can't (and needn't) infallibly ascertain its meaning anyway, what does "infallibility" add?'

The authority it has is a result of its infallibility. My point was all of these texts are understandable. Our dealing with translations, etc., does not make it the case that we cannot understand the text. That was my point. If Scripture were fallible, it could be wrong, and as such one would be able to disagree with its claims. This would make it the case that the individual is left as the judge of whether or not Scripture is truthful in its claims. It would not require the assent of the believer. If Scripture is infallible, it speaks the truth on all matters, and as such it is binding on the believer. The believer is left to interpret it, however. Just as the Catholic is left to fallibly interpret Papal statements and the declarations of the Ecumenical Councils. This doesn't undercut the authority these sources have. They are authoritative sources whether or not one properly understands them.

Patrick said...

In the following I’m presenting the excerpt from the decrees of the Council of Florence that contains the views concerning the salvation of non-Catholics or lack therof mentioned above:

“It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church.”

(Source: http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/FLORENCE.HTM)

The following excerpt is taken from the Constitution “Gaudium et spes” of the Second Vatican Council concerning the same issue:

“The Christian man, conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers,(27) received "the first-fruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23) by which he becomes capable of discharging the new law of love.(28) Through this Spirit, who is "the pledge of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of "the redemption of the body" (Rom. 8:23): "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the death dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also bring to life your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).(29) Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope.(30)”

All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way.(31) For, since Christ died for all men,(32) and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.

(Source: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html)

In my view the respective contents of these two passages contradict each other.

Scott said...

@Clayton:

The authority it has is a result of its infallibility.

But without an infallible way to interpret the text, the infallibility of the text itself has no way to gain any purchase on us; we might always be interpreting it incorrectly. What good does it do, what difference does it make, to have an "infallible" source if we can't ever be sure we know what it says? How does that situation differ practically from the situation in which the authoritative text itself is fallible?

And for that matter, how do we know the text is "infallible"?

Scott said...

@Patrick:

In my view the respective contents of these two passages contradict each other.

Yes, Patrick, we know the texts, and we know you think they're contradictory. The Church doesn't and never did. EENS has never been understood to mean that all those "joined to the Catholic Church" and saved through the Church are expressly, explicitly members thereof.

Salvation has always been, and is still, through the Church, and (as the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed) it is denied to anyone who, "knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it."

Now, if you have some more substantial to add than "it seems to me" or "as far as I know" or "in my view," have at it.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Scott and Patrick

Speaking as one who is in the process of becoming Catholic, I can add, I hope pertinently, that the exact moment at which I realized I had received the gift of faith was when I realized that I didn't merely believe what the Church taught, I believed it because the Church taught it.

"Our Father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naivete he was deceived and said, "The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol." Two old men having learnt that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, "Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol." The old man said, "It is I who have said that." Then the old men exhorted him saying, "Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ and that the cup itself is his blood and this in all truth and not a symbol. But as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ." The old man said to them, "As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced." So they said, "Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us." The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed in these words, "Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ." The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed God, saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward." God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child's blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel also cut the child in pieces. When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, "Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood." Immediately the flesh which he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, "God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith." Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labour. So all three returned with joy to their own cells."

Daniel D. D. said...

It is here, when reading the Desert Fathers, that I finally understood the difference between sola Scriptura and the Apostolic Churches (that, and reading St. Ignatius of Antioch). We believe in doctrine because the Church teaches them, the one Christ founded. Christ talked about founding a Church, not a book.

I bring this up, Patrick, also because the idea of a "mere symbolic" communion is utterly unheard of before the 9th century. The New Testament itself clearly teaches transubstantiation. So, why do Protestants reject it?* If Protestants are truly loyal to infallible Scripture, and even fallible tradition, surely you wouldn’t reject this? Protestants who reject it seem to me to have failed even to follow Sola Scriptura!

Christi pax.

*I'm willing to give Luther slack, because he seems to reject the doctrine more because of the Aristotelian language used to define it, rather than the "essence" of the doctrine itself.

Daniel D. D. said...

The Desert Fathers are Coptic, which is neither Greek nor Latin. However, in the second century, all three were in communion.

That's why I refer to all of them as Apostolic. Anyway, Sola Scriptura doesn't even make sense to early Christians.

Christi pax.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Patrick writes,

As I pointed out in the thread of the previous blogpost in view of the fact that the apostles expected the imminent return it is rather unlikely that they held the doctrine of apostolic succession.

And then you went on to ignore counterpoints, such as he fact Apostolic succession is about geographical as well as temporal continuity and the witness of the Apostolic Fathers and early Church, not to mention this point about the Apostles expecting the imminent return of Christ seems to be a flat contradiction your constant assumption that doctrine and belief cannot change from the original beliefs of the Apostles.

At the moment, as others have said, it is hard to take your arguments seriously.

Tony said...

In my view the respective contents of these two passages contradict each other.

It is bad enough that the Church is attacked for what it actually believes. It's rather irritating to be attacked for what she does not believe.

As Scott says, there never was any contradiction between these accounts. For witness, I call to the stand St. Thomas Aquinas Ia IIae, Q89, A6:

Now the first thing that occurs to a man to think about then [reaching the age of reason], is to deliberate about himself. And if he then direct himself to the due end, he will, by means of grace, receive the remission of original sin: whereas if he does not then direct himself to the due end, and as far as he is capable of discretion at that particular age, he will sin mortally, for through not doing that which is in his power to do.

There is no doubt that his teaching here encompasses ALL men, and therefore his teaching is that there can be men who will, by means of grace, receive the remission of original sin without _outward_ baptism, and can thus be saved without visible entry into the Catholic Church.

And yet:

I answer that, Sacraments are necessary unto man's salvation for three reasons...

There should be no doubt on this: nobody can be united to God in heaven without that grace that is God Himself residing in the soul, and whose effects constitute the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love ("everyone who loves is born of God"). And yet, everyone who has this grace is "of the Church of Christ" in a valid sense, for 2 reasons: first, because it is by Christ's salvific death and resurrection that they have this grace; and secondly, by this grace they are constituted as "members of body of Christ", which is the Church. For there is ONE Spirit, not many. And there is one Vine, apart from whom any branch must wither. All who abide in God, and God in them, are united in that one body, the Church.

That Church is the one Church that Christ founded, which is not separate from the Catholic Church. Anyone who, therefore, knowingly refuses to become an _explicit_ member of that Church, knowing that Church is the one Church founded by Christ for the salvation of men, cannot remain in the grace by which God Himself inhabits their soul (since they have rejected His commandment regarding same), and they cannot be saved in that state.

Sobieski said...

Congrats, Scott. Great to have you on board the Ark.

Wash212 said...

Completely off topic, but I would love to see a response to Bill Vallicella's post on potentiality and the substance view of persons.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2015/07/potentiality-and-the-substance-view-of-persons.html

Clayton said...

Scott,

'But without an infallible way to interpret the text, the infallibility of the text itself has no way to gain any purchase on us; we might always be interpreting it incorrectly. What good does it do, what difference does it make, to have an "infallible" source if we can't ever be sure we know what it says? How does that situation differ practically from the situation in which the authoritative text itself is fallible?'

While I disagree with your statement here, rather than explain why, I would like to simply turn the question back on you?

What good are Ecumenical Councils and Papal statements if one has to interpret them fallibly? Of course, we are left to interpret them fallibly, so surely their infallibility is of no use, right?

'And for that matter, how do we know the text is "infallible"?'

I don't. You'll notice above I never claimed to hold Sola Scriptura. I don't reject it either. My position is that of Skepticism here. It could be true. It could be false. I simply do not know.

Sobieski said...

@Wash212

Let's not thread jack, but briefly, rationality is a power of the soul, which requires properly disposed matter to function. The fact that a person can't reason due to brain damage, defect, etc., doesn't mean the person isn't human or doesn't have the power of reason, merely that said power can't be actualized due to the indisposition of matter to function. From an A-T point of view, at least, this blogger doesn't understand what he is criticizing, at least in this instance.

Wash212 said...

Thanks, Sobieski. I wasn't trying to thread jack, I was trying to get a whole new post. Here's hoping!

Daniel D. D. said...

What good are Ecumenical Councils and Papal statements if one has to interpret them fallibly? Of course, we are left to interpret them fallibly, so surely their infallibility is of no use, right?

The Church is alive. The Shepards God appointed are alive as of right now.

Furthermore, you seem to hold the "stuff" view of Tradition. Tradition is not merely "stuff" that Christ passed on to today, but it is also form: it is a Pattern God gave us. Tradition is a way of thinking, of praying, of serving. In a way, Tradition is Grace and Revelation passed on to each generation. Tradition, specifically unwritten, is living the Divine Life. It is the Pattern of the Divine Life.

The Divine Life itself is a Pattern, but I perfer the term Liturgy to Pattern. The Mass is then the perfect Incarnation of Tradition. The Mass, for example, fulfils the law, as when one received the Eucharist, he enters communion with God (love God), and enters communion with the Church (love your neighbor as yourself). Continuing on Tradition being Grace handed down to us, that is what the Sacraments are, including the Sacraments of Sacraments, who is Sacrificed and Resurrected and even Returned. The Mass is salvation history in its completeness, including what is left to come.

Christi pax.

Tony said...

As for the doctrine of the apostolic succession it seems to me that it is a doctrinal innovation of the 2nd century

Wait, it is in Acts and St. Paul. Even though Paul received his calling to be an apostle by Christ directly,

I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ,

he still waited for the ones already in authority to confer authority on him: First Ananias in Damascus:

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 9:17)

Later in Antioch Peter did it:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2)

And Paul refers to this in Galatians:

and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; 10only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.

Paul conferred apostolic authority on Timothy:

Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy With the laying on of the hands of the eldership.

Paul and Barnabas did this in other churches too:

Then, with fasting and prayer, they appointed presbyters for them in each of the churches, and commended them to the care of the Lord in whom they had learned to believe. (Acts 14:22)

The succession of authority is completely clear in the New Testament.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

The closest we Catholics can come to "Sola Scriptura" is the theory that all doctrine can at least materially be found in scripture but not clearly or formally found there To be sure some doctrines seem clear in the text and others require inference.

But what makes Sola Scriptura a problem doctrine is the same as what makes Positivism a problem doctrine. Neither concept can stand the test of itself. You can't prove Positivism true by Science nor can you show where Scripture defines or teaches Sola Scriptura.

As a Catholic I have heard the same argument all my life. Catholic doctrine X(insert Papacy, Sinlessness of Mary, Assumption of Mary, Bingo night etc) is not taught in the Bible thus it can't be true. But Sola Scriptura by the same standards isn't there either.

So why does Sola Scriptura get a pass that the Immaculate Conception does not?

BTW I can infer the IM from Scripture. But whenever I see a Protestant attempt a Biblical case for Sola Scriptura often it too is an argument from inference.

BTW the Church is a Living Entity so if the words of an Ecumenical Council are ambiguous the living Church can clarify them.

EENS(Session 6 Florence) for example does not exclude the salvation of invincibly ignorant non believers who follow whatever extra-ordinary grace God gives them(Pius IX, Vatican II).

Daniel D. D. said...

@Son of Ya'Kov

Yes, we can continue clarifying Councils with new ones. We also need to interprets Councils in unison with Tradition, which I think is the problem with those who "follow the Spirit of Vatican II" and those who reject Vatican II: both sides don't read the Council in context and with all the other Councils and teachings.

Also, Jesus Himself taught for inference from Scripture: for example, He infered the Resurrection a fortiori from the Torah statement "I Am the God of Abraham" rather than "I was the God of Abraham."

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Tony

I don't know if I would say use the words "completely clear." Our interpretation is not the only one, but ours is based on history and, more importantly, the Church of Christ, which makes it correct.

Christi pax.

Tony said...

D.D., fair enough, it isn't beyond a shadow of doubt, there is room for debate. But at least this is true: there is good, solid reason to say it isn't a 2nd century invention.

Tony said...

And while there is inference going on to find in these passages the whole meaning of "apostolic succession", it isn't all much of an inference: that what we see explicit examples of multiple times, and for which we find no explicit counterexamples, was the general practice and norm.

Patrick said...

Tony: “he still waited for the ones already in authority to confer authority on him: First Ananias in Damascus:”

But Ananias was not an apostle.

Tony: “Later in Antioch Peter did it:”

Peter was not one of those who laid his hands on Paul and Barnabas, and those who did were not apostles (see Acts 13:1-3).

Tony: “Paul conferred apostolic authority on Timothy:”

The passage says that it was the hands of the ELDERSHIP and not Paul’s that was laid on Timothy. Of course it could be that at least one of these elders was also an apostle, but I don’t see any indication that this was the case.


Tony: “Paul and Barnabas did this in other churches too:”

From the fact that Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters it doesn’t follow that these presbyters had apostolic authority. After all, looking at the Roman Catholic Church, the fact that a bishop appoints a priest doesn’t mean that according to the Roman Catholic view the priest has the authority of a bishop.

Patrick said...

Adherent of the idea of apostolic succession it is not enough to show that the apostles provided people with the authority to carry out specific tasks within the Church but that these people had the same authority as the apostles.

Glenn said...

Patrick,

I keep wanting to ask you, and I guess I'm finally going to:

Do you know, realize and understand that it is possible for a person who has been born in the United States, and who has have never left the United States, to live his entire live in Mexico?

Do you further know, realize and understand that that possibility does not involve a violation of either the Law of Non-Contradiction or any known law of physics?

Patrick said...

Glenn: “Do you know, realize and understand that it is possible for a person who has been born in the United States, and who has have never left the United States, to live his entire live in Mexico?

Do you further know, realize and understand that that possibility does not involve a violation of either the Law of Non-Contradiction or any known law of physics?”

I guess you refer to the fact that Mexico is also called “United States” (“Estados Unidos Mexicanos”). Could you tell me what you want to explain to me by using this analogy?

Curmudgeon said...

Omer:

Maurice Bucaille was of course not a member of the French Académie des sciences.

Daniel D. D. said...

Yes, even if we claim that Scripture is ambiguous (that is, Apostolic Succession can be supported by the text, but other theories can equally be as well), then, by looking at the immediate students of the Apostles themselves, like St. Ignatius, we can see that they unambiguously understood that the correct interpretation of those passages to be regarding Apsotolic Succession, and so that the other theories can be ruled out by appeal to the earliest Traditions of the Church.

All we then have to do is explain why Scripture was ambiguous on this topic (assuming it very much is: in reality, it's a little ambiguous on this topic, but not so much that sola Scriptura can't be ruled out without appealing to the Fathers). I would say it is ambiguous because 1) we are influenced by Protestantism in our culture, 2) we are not experienced the language or culture in which the text was written, as St. Ignatius or St. Irenaeus was, and 3) we were not taught Oral Traditions by the Apostles themselves, like St. Ignatius. We are taught Oral Traditions of the Apostles indirectly through their Successors though, so Protestantism also has to deny unwritten Tradition, which is clearly understood in Scripture. The prologue in GLuke confirms this, as well as St. Paul's teachings on Tradition. So, Scripture does unambiguously appeal to outside Tradition, even if we claim, for the sake of argument, that it is ambiguous regarding Apostolic Succession (which I woukd argue against anyway). So, even if Apostolic Succession is wrong, sola Scriptura is still false from a historical perspective, not even bringing up the logical perspective.

Personally, from my readings of the Fathers and Scripture, I find that sola Scriptura is utterly make believe, and the implicit parts of the text clearly reject such thinking. The fact that all Churches from the first few centuries of the Church all accept Apostolic Succession, seven Sacrements, etc., also demonstrates that Protestants do not possess a historical continuity with the early Church.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

^ to Tony

Christi pax.

Scott said...

@Sobieski:

Congrats, Scott. Great to have you on board the Ark.

Thank you. I'm delighted to be coming aboard.

Glenn said...

Patrick,

I guess you refer to the fact that Mexico is also called “United States” (“Estados Unidos Mexicanos”).

What behooved you to think that by "United States" I might have been referring to "United Mexican States"? I wasn't. I was, in fact, referring to "United States of America".

Now that that has been cleared up, let me repeat the question (with the above clarification included):

Do you know, realize and understand that it is possible for a person who has been born in the United States of America, and who has have never left the United States of America, to live his entire live in Mexico?

Do you further know, realize and understand that that possibility does not involve a violation of either the Law of Non-Contradiction or any known law of physics?

Glenn said...

Patrick, I should have first thanked you for attempting to answer the question before I said anything else. It was an oversight on my part not to have done so. And as was the case with the question as originally posed, there is no need to be hesitant in attempting to answer the question in its new, slightly modified form.

Terence M. Stanton said...

AMDG

I recommend "100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura" by Dave Armstrong: http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2011/07/books-by-dave-armstrong-150-biblical.html

Anonymous said...

Adherent of the idea of apostolic succession it is not enough to show that the apostles provided people with the authority to carry out specific tasks within the Church but that these people had the same authority as the apostles.

The apostles ordained Mathias (Acts 1:20) to be of their rank, with the same authority that they possessed from Christ ("as the Father has sent me [with full authority], even so I send you" [with that same authority] John 20: 21). If Christ could ordain the apostles to be his priestly ministers sharing in and exercising his full authority, than the apostles since they possess Christ's full authority can do the same: that is, ordain other men to share in that same ministry of Christ. Possessing Christ's full authority, the apostles and their ordained successors could bestow plenary (bishop) or partial (priests and deacons) apostolic authority to men so that Christ's Mystical Body, his Church, could extend Christ's Incarnation (i.e., his salvific presence and ministry) in time and space.

Anonymous said...

Just pondering the following, and throwing it out there as a general question. Is the natural law itself an authentic God given form of revelation, that exists outside of Scripture? St. Paul spoke of God's law written on the heart (Rom. 2:15), possessed even by the Gentiles who had not divine Scripture. But they possessed a revelation by God (i.e. his law inscribed in our nature) nonetheless, and according to St. Paul some could come to know it through conscience and thereby establish a right relation with God through following its precepts (Rom. 2:26-27). Would this revelation be an authentic salvific authority (albeit a moral one) outside of Scriptures for the invincibly ignorant non-Christian, thereby violating sola scriptura? Thanks in advance for any answers on this one. Feel free to ignore it if it doesn't warrant a reply.

Anonymous said...

s/b instead of "thereby violating sola scriptura", "serving as a counter-example to sola scriptura".

Anon 11:41 AM

Anonymous said...

Sorry, mixing how God reveals his law in general to men and the specific doctrine of sola scriptura for Christians. I take back my previous question and will go back to lurking. Thanks.

Anon 11:41 am and 11:44 am

Vincent Torley said...

I've just been reading a Ph.D. dissertation by Jeroen Laemers (University of Iowa) titled, "Invincible ignorance and the discovery of the Americas: the history of an idea from Scotus to Suarez", which is available online at http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5190&context=etd . It's a must-read.

Laemers' thesis explodes the claim made above that salvation, on the Catholic view, is only denied to those who, "knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it." Very briefly, Laemers shows that while the concept of "invincible ignorance" goes back to ancient times, it was not until the late 13th century that some theologians (notably Scotus and later on, Durandus and Holcot) came to accept that someone could be invincibly ignorant of the truths of the Christian faith. And it was not until the mid-sixteenth century that some Spanish Scholastic theologians (Soto and Cordoba) began to teach that someone could be saved merely through implicit faith in Christ, and that explicit faith was not required.

I'd also urge readers to have a look at the 11-part treatise "No Salvation Outside the Church" by the Catholic bishop George Hay of Scotland (1729-1811), which is taken from his widely acclaimed book, "The Sincere Christian." The treatise is available online at http://www.catholictradition.org/Classics/salvation-text.htm . Please take a look at questions 7, 8 and 14. Bishop Hay acknowledges that someone who is invincibly ignorant of the true faith of Christ will not be condemned on account of that ignorance; but that does not imply that invincibly ignorant individuals will be saved:

"And, indeed, if even the children of Christian parents, who die without Baptism, cannot go to Heaven, how much less can those who, besides being unBaptized, live and die in ignorance of the true God, of Jesus Christ and His Faith, and, on that account, may be supposed to have also committed many actual sins. Nay, to imagine that heathens, Mahometans, or Jews who live and die in that state can be saved, is to suppose that ignorance will save worshipers of idols, of Mahomet, and blasphemers of Jesus Christ, in the guilt of actual as well as Original Sin; which is putting them upon a better footing than Christians themselves and their children. The fate of all such the Scripture decides as follows: 'The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven, with the Angel of His power, in a flame of fire, yielding vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His power,' [2 Thess. 1: 7]. This is precise, indeed - a clear and decisive answer to the present question."

Vincent Torley said...

(Continued)

In question 14, Bishop Hay discusses the case of someone growing up in a heretical sect who is validly baptized, but prevented from hearing anything good about the Catholic faith. This individual nevertheless strives to please God, and continues to live an innocent life, free from mortal sin. He reaches adulthood and then dies, without having had the Catholic faith preached to him. Bishop Hay remarks that "there is the strongest reason to doubt if there ever was, or ever shall be, such a case," adding that "There is not the smallest ground in Scripture to suppose it." The bishop remarks that it would be quite extraordinary for someone to reach adulthood without committing a mortal sin. In question 15, he replies to the question, "But can none who are in heresy, and in invincible ignorance of the truth, be saved?" as follows:

"God forbid we should say so! All the above reasons only prove that if they live and die in that state they shall not be saved, and that according to the present providence they cannot be saved; but the great God is able to take them out of that state, to cure even their ignorance though invincible to them in their present situation, to bring them to the knowledge of the True Faith..." In other words, according to Bishop Hay's presentation of Catholic teaching, Protestants could only be saved by God somehow making them explicitly aware of the truth of the Catholic faith, before they die. (Aquinas, by the way, held a similar view.)

In short: the view that people dying in a state of invincible ignorance may be saved is a relatively new one: it was not proposed until the mid-sixteenth century, and commonly denied by theologians in the early 19th century. When the Fathers at the Council of Florence decreed in 1441 that all heretics, schismatics, Jews, Muslims and pagans go to Hell, they really meant it.

How do I resolve this theological conundrum? Simple: by restricting the scope of infallibility. The Church has the authority to tell us what we are obliged to believe and do, for our salvation; but she has no authority to set limits to the mercy of God and declare who is or is not saved.

Daniel D. D. said...

"Next, the devil took him into the holy city, and there set him down on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down to earth; for it is written, He has given charge to his angels concerning thee, and they will hold thee up with their hands, lest thou shouldst chance to trip on a stone. Jesus said to him, But it is further written, Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the proof."

If Scripture is interpretable by anyone, than why could the Devil manipulate it? Unlike Christ, we do not have a unclouded mind (nor a Divine Mind), so how can we know we are interpreting correctly, and not under the influence of the Devil? The Holy Spirit through the Church of course is the answer, as it is written: "on this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail."

Christi pax.

Step2 said...

@Daniel D.D.
If God has the power to speak directly to all humans then he should. Your question assumes that an absolutely omnipotent God prefers to work by promises and proxy which I have no good reason to accept. As for disobeying an order it would depend on how unjust the command seems. Even Moses argued with God about justice.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Vincent

"We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus"

-St. Justin the Martyr (between AD 125-150), First Apology, Chapter 46

The idea that there are "hidden Christians" can be traced at least to the second century.

Christi pax.

Omer said...

BB,

I hesitate to respond comprehensively to the many criticisms you list to the Qur'an.
It would not be entirely out of topic because the issue of sola scriptura does call into question other books asserted to be revelations from God.

After all, the Bible is not a book but a library of books and there has been and there currently are disagreements over what is canonical and what is in a pure condition.

However, since most of the discussion in the combox is on the differing Catholic and Protestant views, I will just respond briefly to each of your claims.

I had earlier seen the specified link you sent that asserts contradictions in the Qur'an and read the examples it gives.

I disagree with every example it cites. I think most do not merit a response but there are many adequate responses written by Muslim scholars to all of those verses that also easily available in the internet.

By the way, I was mistaken in the chapter and verse I gave...it is not 4(2) but 4 (82).

I also disagree with all the reasons you cite against the Qur'an. For instance, the afterlife is not described in a puerile manner.

The Qur'an in Chapter 2 cites wisdom itself as a bountiful gift. In the Quranic paradise, closeness to God is described as the greatest reward. And one Quranic verse explicitly talks about an "allegory" of paradise.
God (or so Muslims believe) states explicitly that punishment will be proportional and there will be no injustice in the hereafter and also states that while the punishment of hell is proportional, the reward in paradise will be above the reward due to God's generosity.

There is much misunderstanding about the Qur'an and paradise. There is not one verse about 72 virgins for martyrs, etc.

I resonate with the Qur'anic view in 2(111-112) below that paradise is not the exclusive privelage of those of a certain religous grouping.
"And they say, "None will enter Paradise except one who is a Jew or a Christian." That is [merely] their wishful thinking, Say, "Produce your proof, if you should be truthful. Yes [on the contrary], whoever submits his face in Islam to Allah while being a doer of good will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve."

The Qur'an is a little smaller than the size of the New Testament and thus quite easy to read in its entirety. I prefer translations and commentaries by Muhammad Asad (the brilliant late Austrian journalist known as Leopold Weiss who was of Jewish heritage) or by Professor Thomas Irving at Princeton U.
There are also scholarly writings on the life of Prophet Muhammad that is accessible to non scholars such as by Karen Armstrong, Martin Ling, etc.

Since the last few decades, there has been much scholarship produced in the english literature by not only Muslim academics but also by non-Muslim academics on the Qur'an such as on the purpose and originality and mastery of Arabic literary features, etc.

Interestingly, in Chapter 29, the Qur'an reminds readers including Prophet Muhammad's contemporaries that the Prophet was not a reader or writer before...a claim which the Arab pagans did not challenge.

I implore all with an open heart to explore this literature on the Qur'an in not only available peer reviewed journal articles that is accessible to highly literate people such as those on this combox but also books that is very easily readable.

Peace,

Omer

Omer said...

BB,

Thank you for your respect to Muslim scholars of the middle ages.

Interestingly many profound and penetrating essays on God are attributed centuries before to Prophet Muhammad and his descendants known as the 12 Imams that the majority of Shia Muslims follow. I am not a Shia (nor am I a Sunni but nondenominational Muslim) and I regard the Shia hadith to be in general weaker than Sunni hadith but many of these sermons are brilliant and unprecedented and there is evidence that the Prophet's family did indeed teach concepts such as Divine Simplicity and other ideas connected with Classical concepts of God.

There is evidence of the early dating and thus probable authenticity for at least some of these amazing sermons.

Many who appreciate Aristotelian and Thomistic writings would be delighted to read these sermons available at

http://www.al-islam.org/a-shiite-anthology-muhammad-husayn-tabatabai/unity-god

BB, I thank you for your friendship and care in recommending me to examine the Qur'an and the life of Muhammad, son of Abdullah, more critically but I believe that despite my bias as a Muslim, I have been undertaken a critical reading.

As you suggest, I also did look read about the life and teachings of Jesus as attributed to him in the Gospels.

My reading makes me sympathetic to many academics on their understanding of the historical Jesus.

What many academics say what Jesus taught is precisely what I see as what the Qur'an says Jesus taught.

I love the parables attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels which I find to be very Qur'anic in its approach.

I completely resonate with what Jesus is attributated to say is the greatest commandment.

I remain open minded to any statement as long as it is logically coherent, not immoral/unethical, and not against vast evidence.

Peace,

Omer

@Timocrates

Timo, thank you for your spirit of friendship and for welcoming me.

I usually read most of the posts on this website but unfortunately, I don't usually read most of the combox posts....but will do for this post since I commented on it.

@Anonymous,

Thank you for welcoming me and also for your kind blessings. May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones as well.

May God guide us all to higher wisdom and goodness and happiness.

Peace,

Omer

Scott said...

@Vincent Torley:

Laemers' thesis explodes the claim made above that salvation, on the Catholic view, is only denied to those who, "knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it."

No one has made the claim that salvation is denied only to those persons.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Step2

If God has the power to speak directly to all humans then he should.

No, He shouldn't. God doesn't handle things the same way you would.

Your question assumes that an absolutely omnipotent God prefers to work by promises and proxy which I have no good reason to accept.

Except for the historical information that points that He does so.

You seem to reject the very concept of faith; how can you possibly exist in any real personal relationships, let alone a martial one?

Furthermore, if faith itself is invalid, then science is incoherent, as one must trust scientists that they stay true to the facts. I haven't seen the evidence for evolution: have you?

Even Moses argued with God about justice.

Then you don't understand the literary genre in which the text was written. When Moses "debates" God regarding Justice, it is actaully a teaching on the mercy of God and the Intercession of the Saints, at least.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Omer

Sometimes you'll find nonsense in the combox, but most of the time you will find very informative commentary on Dr. Feser's articles, and many questions answered.

I offer my welcome as well :-)

Christi pax.

Scott said...

Daniel D. D. writes to Vincent Torley:

The idea that there are "hidden Christians" can be traced at least to the second century.

Precisely. And it's this claim—that there are such "hidden Christians"—that has been at issue in this thread, not (as Vincent misconstrues it) that only those who, "knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it" fail to qualify as such.

Step2 said...

No, He shouldn't.

You understand that God is therefore creating the condition in which doubt is very reasonable, right? If I told you I am speaking on behalf of the US President and promised every reward and award possible for dedicated service it would be completely absurd for you to accept my claim if I also said my entire proof of such was a testimony written by my friends and family.

You seem to reject the very concept of faith; how can you possibly exist in any real personal relationships, let alone a martial one?

Not at all, I simply adjust my standards for faith based on the claims being made.

When Moses "debates" God regarding Justice, it is actaully a teaching on the mercy of God and the Intercession of the Saints, at least.

No, that is a total projection of meaning onto the text.

Peace to you as well.

Daniel D. D. said...

Another point to remember is that we are not Gnostics; we aren't saved by knowledge, but faith. Most Catholics probably don't know Vatican I teaches that God is simple, yet that fact doesn't threaten their salvation in itself. Ignorance is not in itself a fault.

BTW, another phrase that Christians use to refer to "hidden Christians" is virtuous pagans.

Another point that people forget is that Catholics don't believe we are saved by works. Sanctifying Grace saves us, poured out for us from the wounds of Christ. Baptism saves us because Christ made it infuse habitual Grace to the participant. We might say that the ritual is the ordinary means, with the Grace as the goal. God can then, through His Mercy, provide habitual Grace extraordinarily. He can provide the Goal by means other than Baptism known to Him alone (see the Catechism for details). We are bound by the Sacraments, but God is not. Otherwise, if God is bound by the Sacraments, Saint Dismas wouldn't be saved.

Christi pax.

Patrick said...

Glenn

I’m not so fond of solving riddles and I don’t see what you are aiming at, but nonetheless I’ll try again:

If there is in the United States a town called “Mexico” and someone lived in that town and never lived anywhere else and also never left the United States, then one can say that he never left the United States and lived his entire life in Mexico.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Step2

You understand that God is therefore creating the condition in which doubt is very reasonable, right?

No, because doubt is only reasonable if faith is rejected a priori. Thus, the Orthodox Jewish interpretation of the Torah is reasonable, when faith in Jesus, son of Joseph, is rejected.

It is reasonable to believe that Jesus Josephson is Messiah. However, it is a truth that cannot be proven by reason.

The Gospel is transmitted through testimony. You either trust those who testify or you don't. Historically speaking, what they Testify to has not been proven false. And since we trust ancient testimonies that are far less trustworthy, a fortiori, the Testimonies of the Apostles are trustworthy.

In a sense, faith in Christ's Divinity can't be proven by reason, but neither can doubt.

No, that is a total projection of meaning onto the text.

I sense this is simply the "literal or lies" false dichotomy.

To relate this to the article's topic, one of the basic arguments against sola Scriptura is that one cannot read a text, let alone Scripture, without projecting context. The text does not and cannot "speak for itself." Tradition simply hands on the correct context to each generation of Christians.

Christi pax.

P.S. What was Step1? ;-)

Patrick said...

Scott: “Salvation has always been, and is still, through the Church, and (as the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed) it is denied to anyone who, "knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it."”

I guess the vast majority of non-Catholic Christians don’t hold the view that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ. So to most of these Christians salvation is not denied. But this means that according to the Roman Catholic Church there can be true Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church who go to Heaven. However, in what relationship are these Christians with the Roman Catholic Church? If the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church this means that these Christians don’t belong to the Church. But is this from a Biblical point of view possible? Can one be a Christian without belonging to the Church?

Scott said...

@Patrick:

I guess the vast majority of non-Catholic Christians don’t hold the view that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ. So to most of these Christians salvation is not denied.

You repeat Vincent Torley's error. See my previous two posts.

As for the rest, I have nothing of significance to add to Tony's post (July 20, 2015 at 4:27 PM) other than a recommendation that, before posting questions, you read the previous responses to see whether they've already been addressed.

Scott said...

(Or, to be fair, you almost repeat Vincent Torley's error; by using the phrase "most of" you fall into a variant of it. But no one has made any claim about the proportion of the saved to the unsaved among those who have not visibly entered the Church.)

Daniel D. D. said...

Scott,

But no one has made any claim about the proportion of the saved to the unsaved among those who have not visibly entered the Church.

Actaully, many Saints claim that most people (Baptised or not) are going to Hell, but these claims were never official. They are pious opinions, although I think these sermons serve as a good warning.

Christi pax.

Anonymous said...

Why do you keep saying "Roman" Catholic Church? You know there is more than one Rite in the Catholic Church, right? Are us Melkites off the hook?

Anonymous said...

Why do you keep saying "Roman" Catholic Church? You know there is more than one Rite in the Catholic Church, right? Are us Melkites off the hook?

Timocrates said...

@ Patrick,

But this means that according to the Roman Catholic Church there can be true Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church who go to Heaven.

No because they are not outside of the Church. They are true Christians and exactly so are inside of the Church. Indeed, I cannot remember Book, Chapter or Verse, but I am fairly certain somewhere in the Scripture it is said something to effect that,

'Those who seek him and strive to do his will are not rejected by him.'

Timocrates said...

@ Anon. above,

It's the presumed cultural context. It was the English Catholics at Vatican I who wanted 'Roman' added officially; but by this they only meant what the Church Fathers said when they declared that unity with the Roman Church was necessary. Actually, I think that's an important point: Even during, say, periods where there is no Holy Father, the ancient teaching is that it is necessary to keep communion with the Roman Church.

Brandon said...

'Roman Catholic' in colloquial conversation often means 'The Latin Church', though, and none of the things Patrick has attributed to the 'Roman Catholic Church' make much sense at all from a Melkite Catholic point of view. (To take just one obvious example, Melkites have saints on their calendar, with the approval of Rome, from centuries when the Melkites weren't in communion with Rome. Actually, this is true of Latin Catholics as well -- St. Isaac of Nineveh, St. Kaleb of Axum, and, more recently, St. Gregory of Narek being obvious examples -- but they are front and center and hard to ignore in the Melkite tradition. It becomes even more obvious when one considers the common Eastern-Orthodox-in-communion-with-Rome self-image among Melkites, which has a strong historical foundation.) They sound very much like an outsider's view of the Latin Church in particular, not the Catholic Church in all its manifestations. So I think it's a fair question to ask.

Scott said...

@Daniel D. D.:

Actaully, many Saints claim…

I meant "no one in this thread." At any rate, if even one person is saved without visibly entering the Church, the "strict," Feeneyist interpretation of EENS is false.

Glenn said...

Patrick,

I'm not so fond of solving riddles and I don't see what you are aiming at, but nonetheless I'll try again:

Well, you've been a good sport about this, and I appreciate it. So, thank you.

If there is in the United States a town called "Mexico" and someone lived in that town and never lived anywhere else and also never left the United States, then one can say that he never left the United States and lived his entire life in Mexico.

This is a good inference. It is also a correct inference. There indeed is a town in the U.S. which goes by that very name: Mexico, NY. Interestingly, within the town of Mexico are a number of hamlets and a village, and this village within the town of Mexico is also named Mexico.

Anyway, and to shift gears, while 'Catholic Church' is frequently taken to refer to or is used as shorthand for 'Roman Catholic Church', the fact of the matter is that the Roman Catholic Church is not the entirety of the Catholic Church.

So, one narrow, restricted way of answering this question from you to Scott...

But this means that according to the Roman Catholic Church there can be true Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church who go to Heaven. However, in what relationship are these Christians with the Roman Catholic Church?

...is to point out the simple fact that not every Christian who isn't Roman Catholic is for that reason necessarily non-Catholic.

If we go back to the document for which you provided a URL, i.e., if we go back to the 'Council of Florence' (which, let it be noted (and without subsequent explication or qualification), makes no reference to either the 'Roman Catholic Church' or 'Roman Catholics'), we can cherry-pick some excerpts other than the one you had cherry-picked.

For example, we might cherry-pick those excerpts which indicate, and rather clearly at that, that it is the body of Christ which is the church, and then reason therefrom in either of two ways: a) to be outside the church is to be outside the body of Christ; or, b) to be outside the body of Christ is to be outside the church.

We might also cherry-pick the excerpt dealing with what makes the difference between a departing soul going to heaven or going to hell -- which excerpt would include the following: "But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell[.]"

with that mind, would it be too much of a stretch to reason that to be in mortal sin is to be outside the body of Christ? And that one in mortal sin is outside the body of Christ, and therefore the church, even though one should happen to still be a member of the visible church? Personally, I don't that would too much of a stretch.

At any rate, given what it is that the Council of Florence says constitutes a departing soul's ticket to hell, I think Tony was right (to put it mildly) to:

a) "call to the stand St. Thomas Aquinas Ia IIae, Q89, A6: Now the first thing that occurs to a man to think about then [reaching the age of reason], is to deliberate about himself. And if he then direct himself to the due end, he will, by means of grace, receive the remission of original sin: whereas if he does not then direct himself to the due end, and as far as he is capable of discretion at that particular age, he will sin mortally, for through not doing that which is in his power to do." And,

b) go on to say, "There is no doubt that his teaching here encompasses ALL men, and therefore his teaching is that there can be men who will, by means of grace, receive the remission of original sin without _outward_ baptism, and can thus be saved without visible entry into the Catholic Church."

Glenn said...

(Oh, boy. I see now that several others were making the point that the RCC is not the entirety of the CC while I was busy pecking at the keyboard. Still, no harm in the point having been repeated yet again. I guess.)

Daniel D. D. said...

Omer,

There is a part of the Quran, at least this is what I have heard, where Muhammad teaches that Christians believe the third Person of the Holy Trinity is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Quran also condemns, at least what I've been told, the Holy Trinity on the basis that God cannot have a Son, in the sense of God physically having a Son.

Are these rumors true, misunderstood, or completely unfounded? I'm not familiar with the Quran (if I learn classical Arabic one day I will definitely read it), so I'm not sure if these are real teachings of the Quran or if they are false understandings.

Also, what are most Muslims opinion on Sufism? What is yours?

Thank you!

Christi pax.

Chad Handley said...

Doesn't the Catholic church depend on a self-interpreting scriptural given for its own claim to authority, specifically, Matthew 16:18?

Otherwise, what is the basis for thinking that the only escape from Sola Scriptura is the "Big C" Catholic church, rather than the "small c" catholic church?

Tony said...

"But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell[.]"

Not trying to be obnoxiously picky, but I have always objected to this formulation in English. Here's why: in the different cultures of the ancient world, there were different "geographies" of the afterlife. To the Christian Latins of the late classical period, the term usually translated as "hell" roughly meant "the place of afterlife not in God's presence". This means that according to their "geography", Limbo was IN HELL. However, this geography is particular to the meaning of "hell" to the Latins - you could not use the Greek "Hades" for that meaning (unqualified) because Hades had both the place of pain and punishment, AND the place of deliverance and peace - it was the whole enchilada of afterlife, with different parts for good and for bad people.

Now I don't know how far back in the Germanic and English culture this goes, but today you cannot use the term "hell" for a place that means "peace and contentment and no suffering". But St. Thomas says this is exactly the state of unbaptized infants who die only with original sin: they suffer no positive pains at all for they have no actual sin. So, unless you want to carefully specify that "hell in this (Florentine) context" simply means "all those places without God," includes Limbo, and thus for some includes no suffering, we cannot in English translate the Florence dictum that those (infants) who die in original sin alone go straight to hell.

That is why I always say, rather, that only those who have received grace can be received into the presence of God - this leaves as a default that those who die in original sin alone do not enter into heaven but does not say they are "in hell" with the resulting confusion.

Tony said...

@ Vincent Torley, responding solely to the stance that "all heretics go to hell": The full definition of "heresy" is an act of obstinately persisting in error about a doctrine of faith as proposed by the Church. It requires, as the "form" of the act, actual knowledge that the doctrine is being proposed for belief by the church of God. A Catholic raised to know that the Catholic Church is the church of God, cannot fail to know that when the Catholic Church proposes its doctrines for belief, they are being proposed by the church of God. A young Protestant, being told all his life that the Catholic Church is not the church of God, has not the wherewithall in which to commit the SIN of heresy by refusing to believe what the Catholic Church teaches. For there is no obstinacy in his refusal, not recognizing in the Catholic Church the church he is obligated to submit to in faith.

Since such a young Protestant cannot (yet) commit the sin of heresy by his refusal to believe Catholic teaching, he is not condemned by the judgment that all heretics go to hell. He is not a formal heretic, only a material one. And (luckily since most of us good Catholics err once in a while) material heresy (i.e. having the error but not the formal aspect of obstinate persistence) is not a sin and not an impediment to salvation, this is sufficient to qualify the statement.

Brandon said...

Doesn't the Catholic church depend on a self-interpreting scriptural given for its own claim to authority, specifically, Matthew 16:18?

This confuses the claim of authority of the Catholic Church with the claim of authority for the office of the papacy in particular. The claim of authority made by the Catholic Church is not merely Petrine, and not merely papal; the whole Catholic Church has apostolic authority and the papacy is only one way in which it exercises it, however important it may be. It therefore could not rest solely on a verse about Peter, even if it were based on Scripture.

However the authority the Catholic Church claims is specifically that of the apostles and their successors, and thus precedes in time even the writing of the Scriptures. But the Church authoritatively recognizes the in-its-own-right authority of the Scriptures, which it authoritatively interprets as recognizing its own authority; both forms of authority are received from prior authority (the apostles in time and the Holy Spirit in principle), and neither can be completely isolated from the other. Thus the verse is not "self-interpreting"; it only gets its fully authentic interpretation insofar as it is preached, practiced, and prayed by the Church, which is moved by the Holy Spirit.

Catholics would not ever call any Scriptural verse self-interpreting, in any case; one of the longstanding complaints of Catholics about the way Protestants talk about Scripture is that they talk about it as if it had the functions of the Holy Spirit, to whom it is only the pedagogical instrument. As authoritative, it is interpreted by the Holy Spirit, not itself, through the individual fallibly and through the whole Church infallibly.

Daniel D. D. said...

@Chad

The Church uses that statement as a historical witness. We don't argue that Scripture is infallible at this point, but that it is historically reliable, at least for this saying.

And Matthew 16 is one of Jesus's most likely sayings, from an atheist point of view, because otherwise, we can't explain why Simon was called Peter. Outside the Gospel, Paul even called Simon "Cephas," which is the Aramaic word for rock (petros is Greek for rock), indicating that Paul, being around eyewitnesses of Jesus and Peter himself, knew of the original language which the statement was made, as Jesus probably taught much in Aramaic, the language of the region at the time. Since we have records of Cephas, it indicates that there is a direct connection of Matthew 16 with the language Jesus taught in, and so makes it one of his most likely sayings.

Furthermore, we have other historical evidence as well (like other early Christian writers, pagan writers, Joesphus, and the Talmud), with a paper trail leading all the way to today. In fact, the fact that the Church continues to exist today, and is clearly historically testified to be teaching the same Gospel today as in the first century, is evidence enough that it was founded by Christ.

Note that one can know from reason alone that Jesus, son of Joseph, found the Catholic Church, period. We cannot know from reason alone that Jesus is Messiah, and so we can't prove that the Church is Divine. However, the fact that it has survived, teaching the same doctrine for 2000 years despite being governed by men, points to its guiding by God as well.

We can also logically deduce the existence of the Church, as an interpreter at least, from Scripture "alone":
1) God revealed universal Truth in Scripture;
2) Scripture alone cannot interpret itself. 2) is easily defensible; just look at how the Protestants splinter, as they cannot distinguish between a correct or incorrect interpretation.
3) thus there must be an non-Scriptural interpretive authority., otherwise we cannot know the Truth in Scripture, making 1) false.

Since many modern atheists have been taught to reject Catholicism a priori (being in a sense "another sect of Protestantism"), and since there is too much evidence now for 2), to avoid 3), they reject 1). In other words, Christianity stands and falls with the Catholic Church: Protestants are simply picking and choosing by their own will what Catholic doctrines they will accept: they were Cafeteria Catholics before it was cool! ;-p

Couple this argument with the historical record regarding Christ's premisses to the Church (remember, Christ promised to protect His Church from Hell, not a book), and I can't find a way to defend Protestant doctrine.

I love Protestants (my mother is Presbyterian and my best friend a Methodist), but I hate Protestantism, because it not only messed up Western civilization, but more importantly, it causes Protestants, most who are Baptized members of the Church, to wonder around literally as lost sheep without a Shepard, lost in their unfullfilling and dangerous subjectivity, rather than the Church Christ founded. Many of them love Christ, but are separated from the Eucharist because of historical contingency :-(

Christi pax.

Bill said...

Clayton, for me, an obvious question is, "What or who decided what books belonged in the Bible, and was the decision infallible?" Read Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History because it'll tell you that some scholars disagreed about what books it included. Then the Third Council Carthage taught that the Sacred Scripture included the deuterocanon, the seven Old Testament books that Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles always include. The 1611 edition of the King James Version keep them in an appendix. They're in some other Protestant Bibles, too, but only Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox believe those books are canonical.

To know the Early Church didn't believe sola scriptura, read the Historical Introduction to the Council of Ephesus, where you'll discover that its Council Fathers thought that it taught infallibly and that Pope Celestine taught with St. Peter's authority. The second link will take you to that council's documents translated by Protestant scholars, Dr. Philip Schaff, say.

http://www.bible-researcher.com/carthage.html
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.x.i.html

Suppose ancient Jews believed sola scriptura before God inspired anyone to write any New Testament book. Then they would have thought the Old Testament was the whole Bible. So if anyone told them that the New Testament books were canonical, they would have disagreed, wouldn't they?

Timocrates said...

@ Chad,

You typically do better than that in your inculcating of doubt. I am almost worried you might be experiencing a conversion.

Timocrates said...

And Chad, the Church doesn't point to the Scripture as if it were a warrant. It points to it as evidence and proof. Big difference.

Patrick said...

Anonymus: “The apostles ordained Mathias (Acts 1:20) to be of their rank, with the same authority that they possessed from Christ ("as the Father has sent me [with full authority], even so I send you" [with that same authority] John 20: 21). If Christ could ordain the apostles to be his priestly ministers sharing in and exercising his full authority, than the apostles since they possess Christ's full authority can do the same: that is, ordain other men to share in that same ministry of Christ. Possessing Christ's full authority, the apostles and their ordained successors could bestow plenary (bishop) or partial (priests and deacons) apostolic authority to men so that Christ's Mystical Body, his Church, could extend Christ's Incarnation (i.e., his salvific presence and ministry) in time and space.”

But the apostles couldn’t just appoint anyone to be an apostle. Rather he had to fulfill the requirement that he had been with Jesus and the apostles from the time of John’s baptism until Jesus’s Ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Patrick said...

As for the term “Roman Catholic Church” I use it because there is also the Old Catholic Church, whose members also regard themselves as Catholics.

Patrick said...

Timocrates: “No because they are not outside of the Church. They are true Christians and exactly so are inside of the Church. Indeed, I cannot remember Book, Chapter or Verse, but I am fairly certain somewhere in the Scripture it is said something to effect that,



'Those who seek him and strive to do his will are not rejected by him.'”

Glenn: “Anyway, and to shift gears, while 'Catholic Church' is frequently taken to refer to or is used as shorthand for 'Roman Catholic Church', the fact of the matter is that the Roman Catholic Church is not the entirety of the Catholic Church.

So, one narrow, restricted way of answering this question from you to Scott...

But this means that according to the Roman Catholic Church there can be true Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church who go to Heaven. However, in what relationship are these Christians with the Roman Catholic Church?

...is to point out the simple fact that not every Christian who isn't Roman Catholic is for that reason necessarily non-Catholic.”

So we obviously agree that “the Church” is not identical with the Roman Catholic Church.

Patrick said...

The connection between the Church and the canonization of Scripture may be described as follows: The (Invisible) Church consists of two groups of people, namely of the Old Testament Saints and of those that according to Romans 8:9 belong to Christ and according to Romans 8:14 are driven by the Holy Spirit. Biblical proof-texts of such a view may be Romans 2:25-29 and Galatians 6:15-16. The first group was responsible for the canonization of the Old Testament writings and the second group for the canonization of the New Testament writings.

Brandon said...

So we obviously agree that “the Church” is not identical with the Roman Catholic Church.

You keep using words in such a way that it is difficult to determine how you intend them to be taken, making it difficult to discuss the matter. 'Roman Catholic Church' is a phrase that is highly ambiguous, especially in this context, and you have not enlightened anyone as to how you actually define it. In certain, usually technical and restricted, contexts, it means every church in communion with Rome. In more common contexts it means the Latin West. Because the 'Roman' adjective is usually used to restrict the meaning, it is not usually used to indicate all Christians who could be considered as being in the Catholic Church in its complete sense, of which the Catholic Church has always recognized there can be at least some who are not obviously in the Church but are so through no fault of their own and at some point attain to an appropriate relationship with Christ. By you insist on repeatedly using the 'Roman' adjective in a context in which it makes very little sense to be restricting the reference. Thus everybody is having to guess at what you could mean.

Brandon said...

Sorry, that should be 'But you insist'

Glenn said...

Patrick,

Further to what Brandon says: There cannot be two or more 'universal' churches. That would be oxymoronic. Either there is no church, or there is a one universal church. Catholic means universal. Thus, the Catholic Church is the church.

Glenn said...

(s/b "Further to what Brandon says, which I agree with, and approaching your remark from a different angle:...")

Chad Handley said...

I guess what I was trying to ask is, what is the support for the Church's claim to infallibility? When you add up all the arguments for apostolic succession, and for Christ's having established the church, etc, it still seems to fall well short of a justification for the belief that the bishops and the pope cannot err in matters of faith and practice. I might, if completely convinced by the aforementioned arguments, at best agree that listening to the pope and the bishops might be the best we can do to avoid error, but that doesn't come close to making them infallible. Is that doctrine ultimately a matter of faith?

This might have been covered, but I'd also like to know how things like indulgences, Inquisitions, and Crusades (where Salvation was promised to participants) do not count as errors.

Curmudgeon said...

Omer:

Within the islamic system, one can indeed state that the Qur'an is free from contradictions, as you say. The reason is that whenever such a contradiction would seem to arise, the reader is told (by God Himself, within the Qur'an itself) that he is bound to apply what is often known as the principle of abrogation. Abrogating verses are of considerable interest to non-muslims, for instance the remarkable nâsikh 9:5.

The Qur'an is a fascinating book, in that it contains within itself its own instructions for use, making it possible to dispose of its own contradictions. All of this is directly God's Own Word, in pure Arabic language, so that not only are its contents guaranteed completely, but even its style is insuperable.

Why should God be a native speaker of Arabic is left unexplain, though. Theologically this is blasphemous, because Arabic is a human language, like all languages, and God is not a human being. Have ulemas put forward any explanation for this puzzle?

Scott said...

@Chad Handley:

[W]hat is the support for the Church's claim to infallibility?

Start here.

I'd also like to know how things like indulgences, Inquisitions, and Crusades (where Salvation was promised to participants) do not count as errors.

Generally speaking, the way things "do not count as errors" is by not being wrong. Can you be a bit more specific about what you think is wrong with "things like" indulgences, Inquisitions, and Crusades? And if it's that precise list that you have in mind, then are you sure you know what indulgences, Inquisitions, and Crusades are?

At any rate there's no reason in principle that some pretty egregious errors couldn't be associated with those specific items, and I doubt anyone would deny that they were.

Scott said...

(Sorry to send you chasing after links, but if you're genuinely interested in answers to such questions, a little bit of organized reading/study will serve you much better than a buckshot approach on a blog. And even if you just want to argue about some of this stuff, you'll do better if you've done your homework first. "But the Inquisition!" isn't much of a counterargument—to anything, let alone the dogma of infallibility.)

Scott said...

By the way, the second issue of Theodicy was as good as the first. What are the prospects for the publication of the third? (Off topic, I know, but we'll keep this brief.)

Chad Handley said...

Not at all, Scott, I appreciate the links, and I'm working through them.

The prospects of a third issue of Theodicy are certain, but delayed. As I think I mentioned before, I lost my penciler (he didn't die or anything, he just quit freelance comics to teach art). I have an artist working on a different comic that I want to bring over, but we have to fulfill our obligation to the current comic before going back to Theodicy. So, it will happen, but not soon.

Also, not that I'm complaining, but the book doesn't pay for itself. Every issue costs me thousands of dollars that I never see again. So quite honestly, sometimes I'm delayed because I'm trying to put the money together. Self-publishing comics might be one of the world's most expensive hobbies.

John West said...

Chad,

This might have been covered, but I'd also like to know how things like indulgences, Inquisitions, and Crusades (where Salvation was promised to participants) do not count as errors.

If you haven't already read it, you may find Edward Peters's book on The Inquisition interesting, where he draws a distinction between The Inquisition, which is as much the product of essayists, authors, poets, playwrights, and propagandists, and the inquisitions (Spanish, Sicilian, Roman, etc.) which were often much more complicated, and moderate, than the The Inquisition would lead us to believe.

There was still some bad stuff (of course), but nothing like what people typically think if Peters paradigm is right. The Church often sent in inquisitors to raise the standards of evidence (the Church authorities were much better about this than the secular authorities) and decrease the likelihood of false sentencing.

Peters seems a proper historian, though there doesn't seem to be much historical work strictly on the inquisitions (ie. Napoleon scattered Rome's documents, and they took a while to recollect). Anyway, it might be worth checking out some time if you haven't already.

Chad Handley said...

I feel the same way about the arguments advanced for infallibility on New Advent as I feel about the arguments provided here. They in no way rise on their own merits to anything close to a full philosophical or theological justification of infallibility.

In keeping with our discussion of Feyerebend and Kuhn, I think the scriptural observations in the article are thoroughly "theory-laden." Specifically, they read some clear concept of "The Apostles and their successors" into Jesus's words when, absent some prior commitment to a theory of unique ecclesiastical successive authority , such concept isn't referenced in the text.

Regarding Matthew 28, t's not even clear that only the apostles were present when Jesus gave the great commission (the passage in Luke describing the same event (24:33) says the apostles and their followers were present), so that it's problematic to conclude that the commission was given exclusively or uniquely to the Apostles.

Now, if Jesus meant what the Catholic Church says he meant, he could have made this abundantly clear. He could have said "I am giving you 12 apostles unique authority over and above the rest of the body of Christ, such that you and your appointed successors will forever be prevented from ever teaching in error." But he never said that, and again, unless you are already operating under some kind of theory of successive unique ecclesiastical authority, none of the texts purporting to show that he did say that are the least bit convincing.

The only guarantor of truth Jesus explicitly promised was the Holy Spirit, but that was given to all who were present at Pentecost (and to every subsequent believer) equally , and there is no indication from Scripture that it was given in some uniquely or exclusively infallible way to the Apostles, much less their successors, forever.

In terms of the arguments from tradition, those all amount to many of the Church Fathers more or less saying "Man, if the Church isn't infallible, then we might have made a lot of terrible mistakes!" Well, yeah. But that's not an argument for infallibility.

The article further argues that without the doctrine of infallibility, it's possible that the entire religion of Christianity is completely mistaken. Well, yes that possibility follows from rejecting infallibility, but its actuality doesn't. Just because the Church occasionally gets some things wrong, that's no reason to believe it's always gotten everything wrong. We manage to get along knowing that other sources of knowledge like testimony, science, etc are generally trustworthy and reliable sources of knowledge without having to have some body guaranteeing the infallibility of these sources. But even granting that denying infallibility admits the possibility of total error, so what? That's still not a justification for believing in infallibility. That's a textbook argument from consequences. Any religion or belief system could make the same claim, and the claim would be equally implausible in all of those cases as it is in this case.

To my mind, the most reasonable conclusion is to reject both Sola Scriptura and infallibility as separate but equal mistakes both springing from the same human desire to find some impregnable refuge from error. But no such refuge exists, and no such refuge is necessary. We can all do our best in the light of our best use of reason, our best understanding of tradition, our best understanding of Scripture, and our best understanding of the witness of the Holy Spirit. But even with all of that, we're pretty much guaranteed to occasionally make mistakes as finite beings contemplating the infinity of God. But God's fully capable of saving us despite our errors, so our real recourse ought not to be to Scripture alone or to ecclesiastical authority but to absolute trust in the living God.

Brandon said...

The only guarantor of truth Jesus explicitly promised was the Holy Spirit, but that was given to all who were present at Pentecost (and to every subsequent believer) equally , and there is no indication from Scripture that it was given in some uniquely or exclusively infallible way to the Apostles, much less their successors, forever.

This is the same kind of confusion I noted before. The Catholic view is that the Church when taken as a whole is infallible, so trying to restrict it to the Pope or the apostles as opposed to the whole Church is an incorrect characterization. The authority of the apostles and their successors is that they have authority as grounding and representing the whole Church (as represented, to take just one of several examples, in the Council described in Acts 15, when the apostles literally represent themselves as speaking for the Holy Spirit as well as for their authority). Thus, as noted previously, you are beginning in entirely the wrong place for understanding the Catholic account of infallibility.

Daniel D. D. said...

Patrick,

But the apostles couldn’t just appoint anyone to be an apostle. Rather he had to fulfill the requirement that he had been with Jesus and the apostles from the time of John’s baptism until Jesus’s Ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Your interpretation cannot be right, as Jesus didn't gather His disiples until after His Baptism. In other words, none of the Twelve (nonwithstanding) were at Jesus's baptism.

The (Invisible) Church consists of two groups of people, namely of the Old Testament Saints and of those that according to Romans 8:9 belong to Christ and according to Romans 8:14 are driven by the Holy Spirit. Biblical proof-texts of such a view may be Romans 2:25-29 and Galatians 6:15-16. The first group was responsible for the canonization of the Old Testament writings and the second group for the canonization of the New Testament writings.

The invisible Church doesn't exist, unless one accepts the visible Church. Not only is this Protestant position lack historical truth (although many Gnostics taught it), but to accept only the Invisible Church is to claim that Christians reject Jesus's teaching:

"You are the light of the world; a city cannot be hidden if it is built on a mountain-top. A lamp is not lighted to be put away under a bushel measure; it is put on the lamp-stand, to give light to all the people of the house; and your light must shine so brightly before men that they can see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)"

Christi pax.

Chad Handley said...

If the infallibility is in the entire church, and the entire church somehow includes Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox, and the majority of Roman Catholics who openly disagree with the some of the supposedly infallible teachings of the pope and bishops, then there's no clear meaning as to what "the church" teaches.

If the pope and the bishops do not have some special, final authority, then if anything, infallibility is more incoherent than Sola Scriptura.

Daniel D. D. said...

Chad,

I can't give you a better response right now, but I would recommend, if you have time (and perseverance) to dive into the documents of Vatican I and II.

Christi pax.

Chad Handley said...

Sorry, that previous poll only referenced US disagreement with the bishops, but this poll shows that this kind of disagreement with the hierarchy, specifically on contraception and abortion, is worldwide.

So, if it's the entire church that's infallible, not just the pope and bishops, and the majority of actual church members disagree with the pope and bishops' position on a specific subject, what is "the church's" position on that subject?

Brandon said...

So, if it's the entire church that's infallible, not just the pope and bishops, and the majority of actual church members disagree with the pope and bishops' position on a specific subject, what is "the church's" position on that subject?

Your argument makes very little sense. How is it even relevant? No rational person thinks you can measure the work of the Holy Spirit by polling. On what view of surveys does anyone think they can establish stable and enduring truths by survey? In what non-bizarro universe do you get results in a survey that could conceivably be deemed infallible? Polling is the wrong line of inquiry, because it doesn't capture people as a church -- or any kind of community, actually. It's a bunch of individual opinions estimated and summarized for a particular point of time given a particular method of estimating and summarizing them. Individual opinions are fallible; they are by definition not the opinions of the whole. Moreover, the whole Church does not extend only geographically; it extends through time as well. Today's doctrine must take into account yesterday's; circumstances and vocabularies can change but principles by nature cannot. So unless you're hopping into a time machine and having Augustine and Catherine of Siena filling out survey forms, your polling is missing a significant number of people. Further, no one thinks that Joe who was baptized thirty years ago and has never seen the inside of a church again has the same insight into the teaching of the Church as St. Alphonsus Liguori; how is your argument taking into account the very, very obvious fact that not every individual is equally even a fallible authority in matters of teaching? For that matter, no one has ever regarded every opinion as teaching. How are you distinguishing between mere opinions and things actually taught as part of the Catholic faith?

Further, as you should recall, since it was just a few comments ago, the particular authority in question is supposed to be the same authority in teaching fundamental truths as that of the apostles. How is your argument taking this into consideration?

At least some of the ways in which infallible teaching in the Church is exercised have been mentioned in this thread and the previous one. Practice -- not just any practice, but practice as a Church -- is the most common and general way in which the Church teaches infallible; for instance, we all know that praying for grace is worthwhile and effective because we all receive it, not as individual opinion, but precisely in the way in which we come together as a Church, praying together as a Church. This has not, as far as I can recall at this particular moment, ever been officially defined, but it doesn't need to be: it is an infallibly taught truth. The consensus of the Church Fathers on Scripture is to be accepted as a guide to our own interpretation: this follows from the fact that they, as Church Fathers, can reasonably be said to represent the Church as a Church. All of the bishops throughout the world in their everyday practice, particularly the sacramental practices that unify us as a Church, or united as an ecumenical council, the Pope acting specifically in the office of St. Peter and thus as confirming the brethren and feeding the sheep of Christ, and anything else one might identify as a candidate for infallible teaching: it cannot be an authority applying to the whole Church except insofar as it integrates people into a Church. And, of course, the Church has authoritatively received the Scriptures as authoritative revelation, so whatever is taught has to take Scripture into account.

Matteo said...

Chad,

The Church is not a democracy or a golf club. The "majority" can think what it wants and act as it pleases, but the Magisterium remains unchanged (there is a progressive, infallible definition of doctrine and teachings, but never an overturning of them).
The "majority" is not the Church, and neither Our Lord nor the Scriptures nor any Church document gives any role to a "majority" in relation to the mission of the Church.
In several historical circumstances, the dogmas and moral teachings of the Church faced the hostility of a "majority". One only needs to remember that most Christian Barbarians were Arian in fifth- and sixth-century Europe. Yet, the Holy Spirit protected the Church from error.

There is also another problem with your question. You (and the pollsters) seem to assume that baptised Catholics who openly deny either dogmas or moral teachings of the Church are still to be considered (and polled as) "Catholics". But these people are Catholics in name only.
As a Catholic, if I sin, I remain within the Church as long as I do not deny the sinfulness of my sinful action. I can go to Confession, etc. But if I intellectually and stubbornly deny the fact that a certain act which is deemed sinful by the Magisterium is indeed sinful, then I am no longer a Catholic in good standing.
In other words, I would suggest that the alleged confusion about what counts as "the church's" position is due to your assumptions and flawed categories. Throughout 2000 years, the Church has consistently denounced homosexual acts and artificial contraception as mortal sins. This is the historical perspective that you need to see what we mean by infallibility, not a poll or a news headline.

Brandon said...

If the pope and the bishops do not have some special, final authority, then if anything, infallibility is more incoherent than Sola Scriptura.

This is muddling up several distinct issues. On the Catholic view, the pope and bishops have authority even when they aren't teaching infallibly; laity don't automatically have even that authority, but only insofar as they come together with the bishops, whether they intend to or not, as part of the Church that comes from the Apostles and thus from Christ. The episcopacy is an active teaching position with respect to the life of the Church itself; laity primarily only passively teach -- by example in united prayer, for instance -- or only supplement the active teaching of the bishops -- by orthodox evangelism for instance -- and even then only insofar as they in doing so are working as one with the whole Church. Very different kinds of things. Authority is not all of the same kind; it is not all of the same degree; and it does not all work in the same way, or even at times address the same questions.

What is more, legitimately exercised authority defers to legitimately exercised authority, as the apostles, each of whom had authority in his own right, made efforts to defer to each other, as the whole Church defers to the legitimate authority of Scripture as something to be received, as laity defer to bishop. This is all true even in fallible matters; it could not be less true when we are taking about infallible teaching authority.

Brandon said...

I should add, as well, on this:

If the infallibility is in the entire church, and the entire church somehow includes Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox, and the majority of Roman Catholics who openly disagree with the some of the supposedly infallible teachings of the pope and bishops, then there's no clear meaning as to what "the church" teaches.

Quite obviously the Catholic view is that these things are not equal. There are different views on exactly how they would relate. But take one of the more generous ones. Truly devout and validly baptized Protestants praying to God and affirming Scripture to the best of their ability arguably share in the teaching authority of the Church in some ways as witnesses of Christ; but it does not in any way follow that they could possibly share in it in the same way or to the same degree as truly devout members of the apostolic churches, who have not only Scripture but valid sacraments and traditions from the apostles to assist them in their teaching. And quite obviously the next point would be that not all of the apostolic churches can participate it in the same way and to the same degree; Catholics have the papacy as an additional supplement to their participation. And again, true devotion matters; and again, this is all a matter not of where we stand as individuals, but of how we stand insofar as we are united by the Holy Spirit to Christ and thus make a unified Church.

Also, it's worth noting that if any of the routes of infallible teaching are legitimate, sola scriptura is wrong. The rest from there is just determining which view of the Church is the correct one.

Anonymous said...


On sola scriptura-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura

Vincent Torley said...

Tony writes:

" A young Protestant, being told all his life that the Catholic Church is not the church of God, has not the wherewithal in which to commit the SIN of heresy by refusing to believe what the Catholic Church teaches. For there is no obstinacy in his refusal, not recognizing in the Catholic Church the church he is obligated to submit to in faith."

Tony, I agree with you, but in the early 19th century, Bishop Hay (whom I cited above) didn't see it that way. In Question 11 of his 11-part treatise "No Salvation Outside the Church" at http://www.catholictradition.org/Classics/salvation-text.htm , he declares that a Protestant, being brought up in one of the "sects of perdition" (as Scripture calls them) who "has heard of the True Church of Christ, which condemns all these sects, and sees their divisions and dissensions has always before his eyes the strongest reason to doubt the safety of his own state." If such a person, witnessing the divided state of Protestantism, never doubts his own faith, then "this evidently shows either that he is supinely negligent in the concerns of his soul, or that his heart is totally blinded by passion and prejudice." Hence, according to Hay, he is justly damned.

Daniel D. D., St. Justin does indeed write that "those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus." However, his opinion would have been condemned as heretical by later theologians. To say that living reasonably is enough to make you a Christian is Pelagianism. And I might add that Socrates committed suicide, while Heraclitus, who asserted that no-one steps into the same river twice, denied the reality of substances - which makes him an atheist, in my book.

Scott alludes to virtuous pagans, such as Socrates, Cicero, Trajan, and Virgil. The important thing to note is that these pagans all died before the death of Christ. The Roman Catechism issued by the Council of Trent, based on the opinion of Thomas Aquinas, asserted that these souls were waiting in a limbo between heaven and hell, and were freed at Christ's Harrowing of Hell. Such an option would not be available to people who died after 33 A.D.

The simple fact is that until the mid-sixteenth century, all theologians agreed that explicit faith in the essential truths of Christianity (e.g. the Trinity and Incarnation) was essential for the salvation of each and every human being who lived and died after Christ had redeemed the human race.

Finally, a couple of thoughts on sola scriptura and the canon of Scripture. Objecting that it's not found in Scripture is a dumb argument. A Protestant could reply that he/she isn't asserting it as a true proposition, but as a default position: until someone can show me a reliable source of revelation outside Scripture, I will only trust Scripture as a source of revelation. There's nothing self-contradictory about that. Likewise, the objection that the Bible doesn't come with a table of contents misses the mark. Just as Catholics hold that there are marks (one, holy, catholic and apostolic) which distinguish the Catholic Church, a Protestant could hold that there are marks which distinguish books belonging to the canon of Scripture: they should be (i) authentic, (ii) well-attested as having been recognized by Christians from the beginning, (iii) consistent with the Christian message that Jesus is God made flesh Who died for our sins, (iv) free from obvious doctrinal, moral and historical errors, and (v) internally consistent. That's a consistent position. The best way to hit Protestantism, in my view, is to show that even in basic matters such as the Trinity, Scripture is not self-interpreting.

Daniel D. D. said...

Just as Catholics hold that there are marks (one, holy, catholic and apostolic) which distinguish the Catholic Church, a Protestant could hold that there are marks which distinguish books belonging to the canon of Scripture: they should be (i) authentic, (ii) well-attested as having been recognized by Christians from the beginning, (iii) consistent with the Christian message that Jesus is God made flesh Who died for our sins, (iv) free from obvious doctrinal, moral and historical errors, and (v) internally consistent. That's a consistent position.

Actaully, its not :-)

Vincent, how does the Protestant determine who "Christians" are, what the "Christian message" is, and what "obvious doctrine error" is? Either the Protestant is 1) smuggling in his theology a priori, or 2) is accepting the Catholic position, as they are appealing to sacred Tradition, and thus abandoning sola Scriptura.

For example of 1), what if I point out that St. Ignatius and the Didache fullfil all that criteria. They uncontroversially fulfil (i), (ii), (iii), and (v). I would say they fulfil (iv) as well. However, the Protestant would probably claim that it doesn't, because it teaches the doctrine errors of Transubstantiation, Apostolic Succession, etc. What determines what true doctrine, and thus doctrine error, is? An Protestant assumption. In other word, what true doctrine is actually the Protestant smuggling in what he assumes is true doctrine, which makes it a relative term. A Gnostic could use this argument to reject most of the Bible, as they all reject the "true doctrine" of secret knowledge, malice of matter, etc. A Catholic can use this argument, as I pointed out, to accept St. Ignatius, who teaches Apsotolic Succession, which justifies the Catholic position.

Furthermore, not only is "true doctrine" defined by smuggling, but who a "Christian" is and what the "Christian message" is also defined by smuggling in.

Finally, 2): if the Protestant is to use Sacred Tradition to define Scripture as an Authority, Sacred Tradition must itself by an Authority by necessity, and thus the Protestant is accepting the Catholic position, and rejecting Scripture alone.

The more consistent Protestant position would be that most of Scripture is, historically, the writings of the Apostles, and since the Apostles are infallible, their writings by extension are. No need for the Church then. However, this rejects Modern scholarship. I also reject Modern Scholarship, but I think the reason Modern Scholarship is so frustrating to Protestants is because their position is based on a rejection of most modern theories. The Catholic position seems to work with much more theories.

Christi pax.

Anonymous said...

Brandon said:

Your argument makes very little sense. How is it even relevant? No rational person thinks you can measure the work of the Holy Spirit by polling.

Perhaps in the same manner that one may seek to find some transcendent experience by searching the net on Mufon.

Catholics have the papacy as an additional supplement to their participation. And again, true devotion matters; and again, this is all a matter not of where we stand as individuals, but of how we stand insofar as we are united by the Holy Spirit to Christ and thus make a unified Church.

The consequences of such rebellion to these facts, can only be seen by the conversion and free for all within the ranks of Protestant Church Fathers allowing same-sex relationships.

--

Several years back, I had joined a Protestant church that professed a belief in 'the One Holy Universal Catholic Church' in their creed. How many times I wondered why the Doxology followed the offertory, lacking the mystical union representative of the Eucharist, a tradition that I had learned earlier in my Catholic upbringing. I had read to find several of the same churches, 'in communion' with each other's doctrine, but never once knew the depth of what was the matter between they and the Catholic faith.

Back at that time, in the matter of same-sex, within one particular church, the UCC (as the first to do so as I recall)- when they had voted through the synods to approve laity in same sex relationships to preside, did the congregation lose it's vote within the synod when they crossed over to elect a Pentecostal minister as an objection. This corruption is an overall part of a free for all. Some of the other Protestant churches do not have the convertablility to exercise this option. This was not a reason for my joining, but this issue puts a big crack in many, to what we are experiencing today. Thank God I have the free will to be chaste and not be judged nor explain.

The Sola Scripture dessicates the Trinity. By my ignorance have I come to thankfully be back in participation with the living Body of Christ.

---

After several years away, the realization emerged after much wrongdoing - a very different sense of knowing and understanding my journey through the faith of the Church.

As to the empirical scripture interpreting scripture, there are consequences in that you may forget the meaning of the song.

Daniel D. D. said...

In that case, to counter the "Bible is the Apostles' writings" argument, you appeal to the "interpretation crisis" argument (which you point out), and you point out that Scripture itself points to the infalliblity of the Church.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

Chad,

The members of the Church as a whole are infallible when they hand on sacred Tradition (both written and unwritten). As such, from the outside, the Church together is infallible. However, from the inside, when a conflict within the Church is sowed, the Bishops work together, through Council approved by the Petrine Office, to "judge" the conflict, and determine what is Sacred Tradition and what is not. In other words, all the Baptised, both laymen and Bishops, are infallible when they "passively" observe Tradition and simply teach it, but Bishops only are infallible also when actively judging Tradition and Heresy. Does that make sense? Everyone is infallible when observing, but only the Bishops are when judging.

Christi pax.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Daniel D.D.,

A quick response. Re my list of "marks" for authentic books of the Bible, perhaps I should have been clearer about condition (ii). When I said "recognized by Christians from the very beginning," I meant: recognized as being part of Scripture. The Gospels and St. Paul's letters were certainly recognized as such by the early second century, and although a few books of the New Testament (Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Revelation) took longer to win general acceptance, they were not doctrinally controversial. On the other hand, no-one ever proposed that St. Ignatius' letters had the status of Holy Scripture, and the Didache, while recognized as Scripture by a few Christians, never achieved widespread recognition.

Re my condition (iii), that a book which is in the canon of Scripture should be consistent with the Christian message that Jesus Christ is God made flesh Who died for our sins, you ask where I got that from. Basically I was relying on 1 John 4:1-3, where it is proposed as a litmus test for discerning the spirits:

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God." Obviously, that's a very minimal condition.

Re condition (iv), freedom from obvious doctrinal error would certainly exclude the so-called "Gospels" of the Gnostics, who died the reality of the Incarnation. They fail the condition laid down in 1 John 4. As to how one might know that the four Gospels we have, rather than the Gnostic Gospels, genuinely reflect the teaching of Christ, the simple answer is that they're older.

I would also add that a book claiming to be inspired by God shouldn't contain acknowledgements by the author that he might be mistaken. Nor should it contain obvious factual errors (although determining what counts as one can sometimes be tricky).

As I said, I don't accept the Protestant view of Scripture: a critic could point out that eve the doctrine of the Trinity can't be derived from Scripture in a straightforward manner. I'm just saying that some Catholic arguments against the Protestant position are simplistic and should be dropped.

Anonymous said...


Daniel, some on both sides of these arguments are mistaken about the part played by tradition in the first generation of the Reformation. The Augsburg Confession (1530), first confession of the Reformation and the founding document of Lutheranism, does not have any article on the scriptures.

http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php

Rather, it appeals to the hierarchy of sources within the tradition of the ancient church. The scriptures are the highest authority, but they are interpreted in the light of the fathers as here in Article XX--

And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. For 13] Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. 14] And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of man's works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.

--and here in Article XXI--

This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. 6] There is, however, disagreement on certain abuses, which have crept into the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed; because even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere, neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same; 7] although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. 8] For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. 9] But it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some extent corrected... 10] Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience.

Dennis said...

Wonderful to see you here again, Vincent Torley. I'm glad.

Patrick said...

Brandon: “You keep using words in such a way that it is difficult to determine how you intend them to be taken, making it difficult to discuss the matter. 'Roman Catholic Church' is a phrase that is highly ambiguous, especially in this context, and you have not enlightened anyone as to how you actually define it.”

For me “Roman Catholic Church” is simply the church that has the Pope as its head.

Patrick said...

Glenn: “Further to what Brandon says: There cannot be two or more 'universal' churches. That would be oxymoronic. Either there is no church, or there is a one universal church.”

I agree with you that there cannot be more than one universal church. However, where we disagee is what this universal church consists of. My view is that it consists of the total number of true Christians.

Glenn: “Catholic means universal. Thus, the Catholic Church is the church.”

It’s not really clear what for you the Catholic Church consists of. Above you wrote that the Roman Catholic Church is not the entirety of the Catholic Church. But what then is the entirety of it?

Patrick said...

Daniel D. D.: “The invisible Church doesn't exist, unless one accepts the visible Church. Not only is this Protestant position lack historical truth (although many Gnostics taught it), but to accept only the Invisible Church is to claim that Christians reject Jesus's teaching:

"You are the light of the world; a city cannot be hidden if it is built on a mountain-top. A lamp is not lighted to be put away under a bushel measure; it is put on the lamp-stand, to give light to all the people of the house; and your light must shine so brightly before men that they can see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)"”

That the Church is invisible doesn’t mean that it cannot have visible effects, which consists of the deeds of its members and of what God works visibly in it.

Brandon said...

For me “Roman Catholic Church” is simply the church that has the Pope as its head.

This is not "simply". The standard Catholic view is that there are degrees of membership in the Church. On Catholic principles, everyone who is validly baptized and does not apostasize is in some sense part of the church that has the Pope as its head whether they intend to be or not, because baptism joins you to the Church and the Church has the Pope as its head; you quite clearly cannot mean this, although it is sometimes quite clearly relevant to the question. Are you including (say) those Melkite Catholics, for instance, who as Melkites are in actual communion with Rome and think such communion essential, but would deny vehemently that the Pope is their head? Not all Melkites take exactly this view, but, as was previously said, you often say things about the 'Roman Catholic Church' that don't make any sense applied to Melkite Catholics, who are undeniably Catholic. Are you including (say) Polish National Catholics and papalist Anglo-Catholics, who are not actually in communion with Rome but who would often agree that the Pope is the head of the Church?

Glenn said...

Patrick,

I agree with you that there cannot be more than one universal church. However, where we disagee is what this universal church consists of. My view is that it consists of the total number of true Christians.

Oh, that's cute. Is it also your view is that it is easy to tell whether a Christian is a true Christian? If he subscribes to Sola Scriptura, he’s a true Christian; and if he doesn’t, he isn’t?

Glenn said...

Vincent Torley,

Objecting that [Sola Scriptura i]s not found in Scripture is a dumb argument. A Protestant could reply that he/she isn't asserting it as a true proposition, but as a default position: until someone can show me a reliable source of revelation outside Scripture, I will only trust Scripture as a source of revelation.

It is not unusual for an objection to be raised against a claim in order that the claimant might retreat from his claim. And if an objection is raised against a claim for that purpose, and the claimant is motivated by the objection to retreat from his claim, would not the objection be successful?

The argument constituting the objection might be logically invalid or unsound, true.

But you don't seem to be saying that it is "dumb" to make an argument which is logically invalid or sound, only that it is "dumb" to make an argument which succeeds in accomplishing an objection's intended purpose -- to make a claimant retreat from his claim.

Glenn said...

(s/b "invalid or unsound"

((Also, I wasn't suggesting that any objection against Sola Scriptura raised in the two most recent OPs was made for the purpose of encouraging subscribers to Sola Scriptura to retreat from it, and I don't see that any of those objections might have been made for the purpose of "hit[ting] Protestantism". It seems evident that the purpose of the objections to Sola Scriptura in the prior OP was to lay a foundation for a critique of empiricism, and that objections to Sola Scriptura in the above OP are in keeping with a reiteration or clarification of things said in the prior OP and were made in rebuttal to Fulford's response to one particular point.))

Anonymous said...

Daniel, Jeremy--

This thread is far from the OP, but then the OP was confused from the outset by Feyerabend's error in confusing 'perspicuity' (the patristic doctrine that the scriptures are intelligible) with 'sola scriptura' (the Reformation doctrine that the Church cannot create a belief that souls must believe to be saved). Meanwhile, the Calvinist International is blogging with forked tongue, defending different sola scriptura doctrines in different posts, which has only led the philosophical discussion here further astray.

OP: "Now, sola scriptura tells us that scripture alone suffices to tell us what we need to know in matters of faith and morals."

Close. A tighter formulation from actual Reformation language--

(SS-1) Scripture contains all things that God requires a soul to believe for salvation.

Compare this to the language of Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England--

"Article VI. Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation

"The Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church."

Kindly note that SS-1 is not a restriction on tradition-- which it explicitly cites (cf the first Jesuit objection)-- but a restriction on church authority: it limits what beliefs may be required of believers for salvation. The proponents of SS-1 logically could and historically did (cf Augsburg Confession above) avail themselves of tradition in understanding the scriptures. For that reason, the three Jesuit objections urged by Feser were not and still are not relevant to SS-1. SS-1 makes no demand on perspicuity that the Jesuits themselves did not make because it is with them on the side of tradition.

Anonymous said...

In this confused quarrel, Fulford's reply to Feser does however supply a reason for believing SS-1 and maybe the Jesuits too. The Holy Spirit speaking to the believer in scripture is the Creator; anyone else speaking to the believer is a creature. Reading the scriptures, the believer knows from the Spirit's 'testimonium internum' that God speaks-- Turretin's point-- and there is no morally safe way for the believer to doubt speech from God for the sake of speech from anything that is not God. Whether and how the Roman Catholic view of moral safety differs at this point is left as an exercise for the diligent reader.

The non-Reformed reader-- Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, etc-- will also note that this pure sola scriptura does not preempt the post-biblical tradition or doctrinal development of his or her own faith. It could even be said to secure the base for such development for that was its actual historical effect. This is why there are Reformation churches with patristic traditions and Wesleyan ones with more modern traditions. Indeed, it explains why it is not rare for clergy in SS-1 churches to cite modern papal teaching in explaining positions in their own churches. Why not? A work like John Paul II's Theology of the Body can be persuasive and, as an explication of tradition, authoritative without being an article of belief required for salvation.

However, SS-1 does deny that the fruits of such development, however excellent, can be required for salvation by any authority on earth. Most Protestants are consciously following some sort of tradition while simultaneously believing that because of SS-1 their standing before God does not depend on their doing so. They have no ground for denying that other Protestants or Catholics might do the same thing, *provided* that later developments are not presented as beliefs that God requires a soul to believe for salvation. On this thread, Jeremy Taylor is, I think, an Anglican greatly influenced by Orthodox tradition. Sola scriptura-- in the original sense of SS-1-- makes this hybrid vigor possible. In practice, SS-1 can be usefully compared to the Second Vatican Council's distinction between the 'apostolic deposit' and the 'hierarchy of truths.'

But Patrick (like Andrew Fulford at the Calvinist International) follows a more stringent Reformed (= Calvinist when the R is upper-case) or Swiss interpretation of sola scriptura that can be best stated thus--

(SS-2) Scripture contains all things that God commands the visible Church to believe, teach, and do; in sacred things, all that is not there commanded is forbidden.

The pre-emption of tradition per se is the whole point of SS-2, and this Reformed opposition extends to all other Christian traditions whatsoever just because they are traditions-- Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, etc. Reformed churches usually hold the 'Regulative Principle of Worship' in which all forms of worship (and a fortiori polity etc) must be derived from the text of the scriptures. For example, some Reformed churches hold that non-scriptural hymns may not be sung in services. SS-2's opposition is not Protestant v Catholics; it's Reformed v Everybody Else in Christendom.

Anonymous said...

Close readers will note that even SS-2 is still not the same thing as the perspicuity (the patristic doctrine that the scriptures are intelligible) that Feyerabend was in fact talking about. But common sense will show that SS-2 demands more of perspicuity in practice than either SS-1 or the Second Vatican Council's notion of the apostolic deposit. The apostolic regula fidei (eg Apostle's Creed) and patristic heritage that are available to SS-1 Protestants and to Vatican II Catholics are at best helpful hints to SS-2 Bible scholars who are bound to the plain sense of the original text. Giving credit where credit is due, the Bible actually is much more intelligible and coherent than anybody would have expected without their labor in that task. SS-2 churches are not in fact as chaotic as an uncritical reader of Feyerabend would expect, showing that the Bible is at least somewhat perspicuous. Nevertheless, because of SS-2's "in sacred things, all that is not there commanded is forbidden," the three Jesuit objections *are* directly relevant. SS-2 answers to those objections probably take us into the phenomenology of reading sacred texts. One can, like the rabbis who complied the Talmud, or like patristic and medieval Christian exegetes, embrace the undecidability of a text as itself a meaningful speech from God. If an SS-2 believer finds in scripture a God who reveals himself intelligibly, but does not care to do so univocally, why should he be troubled?

Anonymous said...

Not all Roman Catholics as greatly value closure, of course, but some here on the thread plainly do. In either SS-1 or SS-2, they see an authority vacuum that they personally find distasteful-- little central organization, only skeletal consensus, diverse pieties, revised moral teachings, lots of democracy, etc. But SS-2 Christians and even some of their SS-1 brothers can see in this same setting that "there is still light breaking forth from God's holy word" (John Robinson to those boarding the Mayflower). The papacy certainly maximizes authority; whether it optimizes seems to depend on one's point of view.

For what it is worth here, the standing Orthodox criticism of the West is that its polarization into charismatic individualists and papal authoritarians reflects a weak theology of the Holy Spirit at both poles. The Reformation happened in the West because nobody in the East thought to posit an independent authority able to bind the consciences of believers, bringing forth SS-1 as a response.

"... neither this post nor the previous one are about the reasons for the Catholic position. What they are about is the problems with sola scriptura..."

So, alas, no, they aren't. Although Feyerabend was a wonderful philosopher of science he was in this case appealing to a stereotype, not being, say, a reliable historical theologian specializing in the Reformation. To discuss that, it would have been wiser to engage its actual documents, just as Richard Dawkins should really have engaged actual religious knowledge rather than his stereotypical view of it. What has pulled the thread away from the serious philosophy of the OPs is a general failure to acknowledge the relevant distinctions between perspicuity and sola scriptura and between between SS-1 and SS-2. The failure began in the OP itself.

"...and those problems remain whatever one thinks of the Catholic alternative."

The recent encyclical from the "four hands" of Benedict and Francis was warmly received in evangelical circles. One suspects that Joseph Ratzinger would have reframed the matter thus-- SS-1 simply anticipates the later catholic doctrine of the apostolic deposit, and Catholics have no reason to begrudge an obvious Protestant stimulus to restate patristic doctrine, even as they prefer the Council's way of doing it; SS-2 is latently a Logos doctrine whose virtues and vices require further consideration and is not yet ripe for a similar reformulation.

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