Epistemolgical Problems with the Catholic critiques of Sola Scriptura

Here is a quote that demonstrates the Catholic’s challenge to Protestants.

“The implications of Roman Catholic approach on the question of canon become immediately clear. When faced with the dilemma of how we know which books should be in or out of the canon, the Roman Catholic model claims a quite simple solution. As H. J. Adriaanse observes, “Catholic Theology . . . has solved the canon problem with a plea to the authority of the Church.” Thus, the canon is ultimately community determined. The fundamental challenge from Roman Catholicism is that in order to have an infallible Scripture, we need to have an infallible guide (namely, the church) to tell us what is, and what is not, Scripture. As Karl Rahner asserts, “[Scripture] exists because the church exists.” Thus, it is argued, the Protestant claim of sola scriptura is inevitably hollow—you cannot have Scripture as the ultimate authority if you have no certain way of knowing what Scripture is. (Michael J. Kruger (2012-04-05). Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books.)

The question is “how do we know, with certainty, which books are properly deemed inspired scripture?” Many protestants use three criteria to answer this question: canon as reception (exclusive), canon as use (functional), and canon as divinely given (ontological). But, in using these criteria to establish our beliefs as warranted and justified, the question comes with the first two criteria. How can we know that the “right” canon was received? How can we know that the “right” canon functioned as the authoritative foundation of the early church?

The problem with these questions are the espistemological difficulties that plagues them. So I will issue critiques on the Roman Catholic critiques.

Let me start by asking a simple question and demonstrating their complete inability to answer simple questions with the amount of certainty they expect from us, which will be followed by a demonstration that their amount of certainty in the magesterium fairs no better, in fact much worse, than the Protestant position of Sola Scriptura.

Question: How do you know that the earth is spherical?
Answer: the evidence proposed from reliable sources (like Nasa) lends more credibility to spherical than flat, and therefore I believe that it is round.

Question: How do you know Nasa is reliable? How do you measure credibility? How did you identify reliable sources to begin with?
Answer: Well I have seen pictures, and seen the unanimity of the global scientific community.

Question: How do you know the pictures were real, and how do you know that the global scientific community is reliable?
Answer: They demonstrate proficiency in other matters and have therefore won my trust.

Question: How do you know that your criteria for judging reliability are not themselves flawed, and how do you know that they (your sources) are not intentionally deceiving you? As a matter of fact, what basis do you have to place so much confidence in your ability to spot authentic reliability? How can you be certain until you have seen for yourself? Even if you have seen for yourself, how can you be certain that your vision itself is reliably relaying information to your brain that properly correlates to that which is in world? How do you know that you are not mentally insane, and therefore totally unable to interpret any form stimuli received via your sense perception? How do you know that you are actually able to think correctly about anything?

See, the point is this: The problem is really based on the difficulty of the epistemological process. Do we formulate “true” truths, and when we do, how do we know? And how do we formulate “false” truths?

In the end, we operate with a unit of fallible equipment searching through fallible evidences looking for the source of infallible truth. This is true, both for the Protestant and for the Catholic. I will demonstrate this point with some quotes from Kruger.

“How does the Roman Catholic Church establish its own infallible authority? If the Roman Catholic Church believes that infallible authorities (like the Scriptures) require external authentication, then to what authority does the church turn to establish the grounds for its own infallible authority? Here is where the Roman Catholic model runs into some difficulties. There are three options for how to answer this question. (1) The church could claim that its infallible authority is authenticated by (and derived from) the Scriptures. But this proves to be rather vicious circular reasoning. If the Scriptures cannot be known and authenticated without the authority of the church, then you cannot establish the authority of the church on the basis of the Scriptures. You cannot have it both ways. [And the Tu Quoque response doesn’t solve this epistemic problem] Moreover, on an exegetical level, one would be hard-pressed to find much scriptural support for an infallible church (but we cannot enter into this question here). (2) The church could claim that its infallible authority is authenticated by external evidence from the history of the church: the origins of the church, the character of the church, the progress of the church, and so forth.

“Rahner seems to argue on historical grounds that the Catholic Church is the true church (and therefore rightly bears authority). He states that Roman Catholicism is the true church because “it possesses in the concrete a closer, more evident and less encumbered historical continuity with the church of the past” (357). However, if our assurance of the church’s authority is only as certain as the historical evidence, then how is that an improvement over those Protestants who claim that the extent of the canon can also be determined by historical evidence (as opposed to being determined by the church)? Are not both claims as certain as the historical evidence? How then can it be claimed that only Roman Catholicism avoids the problem of uncertainty regarding the extent of the canon?”

“However, these are not infallible grounds by which the church’s infallibility could be established. In addition, the history of the Roman Church is not a pure one—the abuses, corruption, documented papal errors, and the like do not naturally lead one to conclude that the church is infallible regarding “faith and morals.”

“This language of “faith and morals” comes right from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, or “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” and also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 891. The history of papal errors has been well documented. Examples include Pope Liberius, who signed an Arian confession condemning Athanasius; Pope Honorius, who was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople for the heresy of being a monothelite; Pope Boniface VIII, who declared salvation to be impossible outside of Rome, but then the opposite was taught by Vatican II (Unitatis Redintegratio 1.2–3, makes this clear), and on it goes. For more, see Hans Küng, Infallible? An Unresolved Inquiry (Edinburgh: Continuum, 1994); and Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962), 248–53. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church attempts to mitigate some of these errors by suggesting that the pope is infallible only in a very narrow sphere, that is, when he speaks ex cathedra (Catholic Catechism, par. 891). Since the Roman Catholic Church has no infallible list of ex cathedra statements, however, one wonders how the church can know which statements of the pope hold infallible authority and which do not (Powell, “Canonical Theism” 202–3).”

3) It seems that the only option left to the Catholic model is to declare that the church’s authority is self-authenticating and needs no external authority to validate it. Or, more bluntly put, we ought to believe in the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church because it says so. The Catholic Church, then, finds itself in the awkward place of having chided the Reformers for having a self-authenticating authority (sola scriptura), when all the while it has engaged in that very same activity by setting itself up as a self-authenticating authority (sola ecclesia). On the Catholic model, the Scripture’s own claims should not be received on their own authority, but apparently the church’s own claims should be received on their own authority. The Roman Catholic Church, functionally speaking, is committed to sola ecclesia. If so, then this presents challenges for the Catholic model. Most pertinent is the question of how there can be a canon at all—at least one that can genuinely challenge, correct, and transform the church—if the validation structure for the canon, in effect, already presupposes that the church bears an authority that is even higher? On the Catholic system, then, the canon’s authority is substantially diminished. What authority it does have must be construed as purely derivative—less a rule over the church and more an arm of the church, not something that determines the church’s identity but something that merely expresses it. Even Lienhard, when discussing Rahner’s expression of the Roman Catholic view, expresses his discomfort with its implications: “For Rahner, the Church produces the Bible; it is difficult to see how the Church is not primary, the Scriptures secondary.”
(Michael J. Kruger (2012-04-05). Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books.)

Kruger’s point is this: The Catholics problem with Sola Scriptura is that there is no way of knowing “for sure” that we have the right canon. But, there is no way of knowing “for sure” that the magesterium is infallible. When we end up discussing the criteria for judging the magesterium itself, you find the same sort of appeals to historical and fallible evidences that the Catholics chide us protestants for using.

There can be no more certainty in the infallibility of the magesterium itself than there can be of the “right” scriptural canon when considered apart from the authenticating process of the magesterium.

When the Catholics go about proving the magesterium, they use the same criteria that a protestant uses to affirm Sola Scriptura, and then turns right around and tells the protestants “oh, you can’t use that criteria because it is self-defeating.”

I could say, “Prove the magesterium is true.” They would appeal to scriptures; which scriptures the “magesterium has established” to prove the point (though there is an apparent lack of exegetical evidences). Logically, one cannot appeal to the scirptures as authoritative if one cannot know what constitutes scripture until one has a magesterium to constitute it; so the Catholics must go elsewhere. Then they will point to the divine occurence in history. Then I will ask: according to whose account? Then our certainty of the magesterium hinges on the reliability and the “actual meaning” of the sources they quote to us. Their evidence ends up being only as good as their sources, and authoritative sources cannot be biblical if the magesterium itself is what determines what is actually constituted as scripture. You must have the magesterium before the scripture, logically. And to prove the magesterium you must use fallible evidences to establish any amount of certainty.

Therefore epsitemelogically, the stance on the magesterium is no better off than the Protestant stance of Sola Scriptura; except that the stance on the scriptures as the sole infallible authority is much more accounted for by the scriptures themselves. And, in this scheme you don’t need the magesterium to decide what constitutes scripture.

Josh

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208 Comments

  1. Garrison

     /  July 17, 2012

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/son-of-a-tu-quoque/
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

    I would like to point out that Rahner’s argument from history does not deny that the Magisterium is authoritative in itself. History is used to illustrate, teach, and defend the Magisterium from its detractors, but the Church’s authority does not rest on such explications. Truth exists regardless of if anyone recognizes it. The Church’s (and thus, the Magisterium’s) authority derives from Christ; Scripture and the writings of the Fathers attest to it, but that authority does not “derive” from any of them. The Church could (and did!) teach authoritatively, even infallibly, without the complete Scriptures, therefore, the Church is necessary to the Christian faith.

    The main problem with the Protestant model isn’t precisely one of epistemology (though it does have one: your argument basically reduces the Faith to science and rationalism, “what is most probable”), but rather one of authority. The Catholic, like the Protestant, has no problem saying that the Scriptures do not derive their authority from the Church. But unlike the Protestant, the Catholic reserves to the Church, not to the individual, the ultimate discernment of what is and is not part of the Faith. How do we see the Church acting throughout history? We see the Church meeting in council (not just local synods, mind you, but councils binding on the whole Church) and, through the Holy Spirit, discerning what is part of the Deposit of Faith. I, like Rahner, defend the Church with quotations from the Scriptures, the Fathers, and the historical practice and belief of the Church.

    IC XC NIKA

    Garrison

    Reply
    • Garrison: “I would like to point out that Rahner’s argument from history does not deny that the Magisterium is authoritative in itself.”

      Response: Rahner was used to demonstrate that what I was arguing against was not a straw man.

      Garrison: “The Church’s (and thus, the Magisterium’s) authority derives from Christ; Scripture and the writings of the Fathers attest to it, but that authority does not “derive” from any of them.”

      Response: This statement is loaded with issues. First, How do you know that the magesterium or the church is infallibly authoritative?
      By whose account did the church receive this authority?

      If the content of the Scriptures cannot be known apart from the magesterium, then how can the magesterium look to the scriptures for its own authority seeing as the content of the scriptures is unkown apart from their ecclesiastical decision.

      How do you know that the Father’s said did not err with regard to the magesterial authoirty? Seeing as you cannot look to the magesterial decision on the matter since its their authority under investigation, what criteria do you have to determine whether or not the Fathers have erred with respect to the magesterial authoirty.

      Garrison: “The Church could (and did!) teach authoritatively, even infallibly, without the complete Scriptures, therefore, the Church is necessary to the Christian faith.”

      Response: You said the Church is necessary to the Christian Faith. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the Church could not exist without the Christian Faith? Going back to Matt. 16:18, if the Church is necessary to the Christian Faith, then Peter is necessary for Christ being the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” No you have it backwards my friend: the Christian faith is necessary to the Church.

      The question remains: How can you know that the magesterium is authoritative? (Remember in answering this that logically, the magesterium, according to Catholics, is necessary to identify the content of the scriptures, and therefore there can be no appeal to scriptures, seeing as without them you don’t know what to look to.)

      How can we know that the magesterium is authoritative any more than a protestant can know that the NT is the inspired word of God apart from any aid from the ecclesiastical.

      This is how we identify the Canon: If we are to be balanced, it seems we need three aspects to our definition of canon: canon as reception (exclusive), canon as use (functional), and canon as divinely given (ontological).

      How do you know that the magesterium is true. Recognize that I am not asking you to prove it. I am asking you how you can be certain. This is a different question. How can you be certain that they are infallible.

      Here is an illustration of the Catholic dilemma.

      Protestants are in disagreement with these 10 truths (call them x; so 10x). We cannot reach any unanimity concerning our certainty of which view is best in a way so as to result in unified belief in what we all perceive to be “certain” truth.

      The Catholics gallop in with confidence to settle the matter. You all offer the opportunity to experience unified certainty on these 10 truths (10x).

      Now the certainty that y’all offer is contingent upon one prime truth: the infallible authority of the magesterium. Now, epistemologically y’all can be no more certain of this prime truth (the infalliblity of the magesterium), which determines these other 10 truths, than we can about the ten truths themselves. And, since this prime truth is no more certain than the others, then in itself it can’t offer any real, reliable, significant certainty regarding the disputed 10 truths (10x) than the Protestants themselves have. Though they can offer unity, they cannot garuntee that this unity is “unity in the truth.” After all what good is “unity in falsehood.”

      Uncertainty with the prime truth cannot yield a justified or warranted certainty with regard to the 10 truths (10x) which are later determined by the uncertain prime truth (infallible magesterium).

      Reply
  2. xpusostomos

     /  July 17, 2012

    A number of problems with this treatise.

    Firstly, if you ask a Protestant what the canon is, and to prove it, you will immediately be deluged with a lot of historical and ecclesiastical citations. So if the Protestant rule of faith as all stemming from scripture were rational, this should not be!! If you want to go down this path, you’ll have to just claim self-authentication, and end it there. Of course I would then point to Mormon burning in the bosom, then we would go down that road.

    Secondly, the problem with the Protestant approach is that the canon question is fundamentally not an historical one, it is a theological one. History can tell you what the church thought was inspired, not what was actually inspired. If you conflate the two, then you have already admitted that there was a legitimate, historical, identifiable, authoritative body of people to which we need to pay attention to. Then your argument against our position fails on its own terms. But if you cast doubt on the historical, identifiable, legitimate church, you are left with nothing. Just an infinite number of books that may or may not be inspired, and the necessity to read every one and look inside your heart to decide their status.

    The problem then is one of provenance. Jesus existed. Not many dispute that. He appointed apostles. Again, not really disputed. A church was founded. Again, not in dispute. That church preserved certain texts which it claims are divinely inspired. Still not disputed. But the reason for taking that claim seriously is about that chain of links back to Jesus, and that the chain has plausibility. Lots of people and groups in history have claimed they have the truth about Jesus, all the way from Gnostics to Mormons. Often they had their books to prove it. All claims are equal without a belief in the one, real, legitimate, identifiable church. Reject that premise if you wish, but then realise you cut off your own feet in the process.

    So then, you claim to have a canon. Where’s your provenance that gives you sound links back to Jesus? I hear a lot of talk about some Jews said something, but that doesn’t cut it. I hear talk about this or that church father, but this takes you onto our turf with an admission your position relies on there being one identifiable true church, of which a particular man was a bishop thereof.

    Can you win this epistemological debate WITHOUT cutting off your own feet?

    Reply
    • Not so fast! You wrote: “So if the Protestant rule of faith as all stemming from scripture were rational, this should not be!”

      I just wrote: If we are to be balanced, it seems we need three aspects to our definition of canon: canon as reception (exclusive), canon as use (functional), and canon as divinely given (ontological).

      Your statement baffles me! The protestant rule is to subordinate other evidences. Example: “And whenever the Scripture is applied to an issue, it is perfectly appropriate (and necessary) to use extrabiblical “facts.” For example, if we want to apply the teachings of Scripture to, say, the field of bioethics (stem-cell research, human cloning, etc.), then we cannot just read the Bible only; the Bible does not speak directly of these things. It does not tell us what cloning is and what it entails. We actually have to acquire some outside information about these bioethical issues before we can reach biblical conclusions about them.) Michael J. Kruger

      So your premises are jacked up.

      Also as far as self-attesting: The Divine nature of the scriptures gives occasion to their acceptance by the ecclesiastical authority and to what would become the historical evidences. I must ask you at this point. How did the magesterium make thier decision. Did they shut their eyes and gamble, or did they look at evidences and such. The same evidences that they looked at are considered by protestants. Their very acceptance of these book is an evidence (though fallible) in favor of “which” books belong.

      “Jesus existed. Not many dispute that. He appointed apostles. Again, not really disputed. A church was founded. Again, not in dispute.”

      You cannot be totally certain of this. Disputed or not. “Can you win this epistemological debate WITHOUT cutting off your own feet?” My goal here is to put certain questions to rest; i.e. the Catholic critiques. I don’t think you have 100% certainty in the magesterial infalliblity, nor do I think you can; as I can’t have a 100% certainty in the “right” books of scripture; which is due to the epistemic limitations brought about by the noetic effects of sin. Nevertheless, my belief and confidence in the right books of scriptures as in the NT is warranted and justified. That is sufficient grounds and I want a Catholic to admit that to me, seeing as that is their same degree of confidence in the magesterium.

      Once we agree on this point, then a rational justification of my position becomes more powerful. I don’t have to prove to you that I am right. I simply need to demonstrate that my position is warranted and justified; just as much as yours is. From that point, we can discuss the evidences of particular truths. Also, the lack of 100 % certainty in the infallible magesterium, leaves you just as uncertain on the matter of Justification as I am (though I am totally confident that I am right, I acknowledge my fallibility and my limited certainty in my own ability to recognize truth infallibly. When you do this with the magesterium then we can learn together as two fallible people, i think better; better only if the magesterium isn’t fallible of course.)

      So, You attach yourself, in uncertainty, to the magesterium who claims infallibility and could actually not be (3 strong evidences to the contrary in my original post); and I attach myself to what I am uncertain to be infallible; namely, the scriptures, and I struggle with uncertainty (the same uncertainty you have with the magesterium itself) with many other doctrines; although I am reassured by the church body as a whole developing together over long periods of time and guiding me in my own attempts to understand the scriptures.

      Here is an illustration of the Catholic dilemma.

      Protestants are in disagreement with these 10 truths (call them x; so 10x). We cannot reach any unanimity concerning our certainty of which view is best in a way so as to result in unified belief in what we all perceive to be “certain” truth.

      The Catholics gallop in with confidence to settle the matter. You all offer the opportunity to experience unified certainty on these 10 truths (10x).

      Now the certainty that y’all offer is contingent upon one prime truth: the infallible authority of the magesterium. Now, epistemologically y’all can be no more certain of this prime truth (the infalliblity of the magesterium), which determines these other 10 truths, than we can about the ten truths themselves. And, since this prime truth is no more certain than the others, then in itself it can’t offer any real, reliable, significant certainty regarding the disputed 10 truths (10x) than the Protestants themselves have. Though they can offer unity, they cannot garuntee that this unity is “unity in the truth.” After all what good is “unity in falsehood.”

      Uncertainty with the prime truth cannot yield a justified or warranted certainty with regard to the 10 truths (10x) which are later determined by the uncertain prime truth (infallible magesterium).

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  July 17, 2012

        Ok, I wasn’t sure that you were personally supporting exclusive, functional and ontological arguments. You only said Protestants use those arguments.

        But when we analyse these we can dismiss ontological, since it doesn’t actually tell us what is inspired, it only tells us what it means to be inspired. Reception and functional arguments collapse to almost the same thing, which is “what say the church?”

        And that’s my main problem with this treatise, that the Protestant argument, upon examination, immediately collapses into the catholic/orthodox position, which is that we must look to the church to solve the problem. The Problem is that the Protestant draws a line in the sand, imagining that beyond some completely arbitrary (and wildly varying) point in time, no longer can the church be trusted in such matters.

        I disagree with your characterization of the problem purely in probabilistic terms. For one thing, I go back again to provenance. It is the provenance of the church of Jerome, Athansius, Chrysostom and others which makes their opinion significant compared to some random gnostic or other heretic. It is the provenance of that link that gives you SOMETHING between you and Jesus and the presumed authority by which Jesus instituted a canon. Without that link, as disputable as that link may or may not be, you don’t have anything at all. You could pick any ancient documents with the word Jesus in them, and have just as much claim to truth as your canon.

        Furthermore, all your arguments reduce to an argument for agnosticism. You’re not convinced of the authority of the church, so better to reject that authority, and fall back to scripture. But then if you have doubts about scripture, better to fall back to nothing, rather than be wrong? So the agnostic (apparently) has equal certainty as you, because he is just relying on his fallible mind to make sense of the world and do what’s right in his own eyes, right?? That’s one argument, but it’s not a Christian position. The Christian position is that God is in contact with his creation, but not only that, but that historically he came to earth at a place in time, at a place in the world, and that this is documented. But a document is only as good as its provenance. The authoritative link between things that happened a long time ago and now still exists. This incarnational principle, that God’s authority is physically manifest in the world is what should separate Christianity from any old religion’s truth claims, whether it be a religion that names Jesus, or not. If you don’t acknowledge the tangibility of that link, then you are just one more voice stating an opinion.

        Let’s put it another way. You and I may both have a Picasso painting hanging in our houses. Both of us might harbor doubts about their authenticity. Both of us might be able to field evidences why they are authentic, and why they are not. But if I have a plausible story about who owned that painting, all the way from Picasso till today, I’ll sell my painting for a lot more than you. That’s why your argument fails, and why it is not equal. Yes everyone has doubts, but not all doubts are equal.

      • The dismissal of the three criteria so quickly by totally straw man arguments is a bit ridiculous. It seems that you have not considered these things very much. You said: “And that’s my main problem with this treatise, that the Protestant argument, upon examination, immediately collapses into the catholic/orthodox position.” That is totally ridiculous.

        1. Ontology refers to the ontological characteristics that emanate from a source as exhibiting divine inspiration. These characteristics are what ultimately lead to its acceptance by the church. The function of these books in say 100 A.D. were such that these people excluded many books, while accepting a few, as possessing intrinsic authority so as to govern one’s life. The borders of the canon were shady, yes. But, the rejection of most other writings, and the acceptance of some is itself a loose definition of canon that was operating from the very beginning. So, function refers to how it functioned before the “official” canon of Trent, or even Carthage. The ontological characteristics of the book are what caused this functional effect. Books are not canonical because they are recognized; they are recognized because they are already canonical intrinsically.

        “Roman Catholics consider the church’s reception of these books as the only means by which a person can know the canon. However, the self-authenticating model considers the church’s reception of these books as just one means of knowing the canon.” Michael J. Kruger

        “The argument of the self-authenticating model so far is that we can know which books are canonical because God has provided the proper epistemic environment where belief in these books can be reliably formed. This environment includes not only providential exposure to the canonical books, but also the three attributes of canonicity that all canonical books possess—divine qualities, corporate reception, apostolic origins—and the work of the Holy Spirit to help us recognize them. Thus, contra the de jure objection, Christians do have adequate grounds for affirming their belief in the canon. By way of example, if we want to know whether, say.” Michael J. Kruger

        A book like 1 John bears divine qualities: for example, it is a powerful writing, bears the beauty of the gospel message, and also stands in harmony with other scriptural books (this latter point has to do with the issue of “orthodoxy,” which will be discussed more below). It has clear apostolic origins: for example, we have good historical reasons to date it to the redemptive-historical time period and to link it to the apostle John (including textual similarities to both the Gospel of John and Revelation). It has been received by the corporate church. Not only has it been widely affirmed throughout the history of the church, but it was also recognized at the earliest stages in the development of the canon and was even included in the second-century Muratorian fragment. And in all of these attributes, the Spirit is at work helping the believer rightly recognize their presence and validity.

        “The Catholic model insists that the church’s reception of these books is the sole grounds for the canon’s authority. In the self-authenticating model, however, the church’s reception of these books proves not to be evidence of the church’s authority to create the canon, but evidence of the opposite, namely, the authority, power, and impact of the self-authenticating Scriptures to elicit a corporate response from the church. Jesus’s statement that “my sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me” (John 10:27) is not evidence for the authority of the sheep’s decision to follow, but evidence for the authority and efficacy of the Shepherd’s voice to call.” Michael J. Kruger

        In the end, and i could continue to mount up explanations that are not adequately dealt with by your straw man attack up above. Simplistically, the decisions of councils are under the authority of the scriptures; which does not collase into the Catholic view; in the least. Last quote to demonstrate the point: Barth agrees: “The Bible constitutes itself the Canon. It is the Canon because it imposed itself upon the Church.” In this way, then, the role of the church is like a thermometer, not a thermostat. Both instruments provide information about the temperature in the room—but one determines it and one reflects it.” Michael J. Kruger

        You wrote: “For one thing, I go back again to provenance. It is the provenance of the church of Jerome, Athansius, Chrysostom and others which makes their opinion significant compared to some random gnostic or other heretic.”

        We go back to the provenance of the Scriptures themselves and based on their authority the Gnostic heresy is a heresy. You said: “It is the provenance of that link that gives you SOMETHING between you and Jesus and the presumed authority by which Jesus instituted a canon.” That link is the apostolic canon itself. The writings are the link, and when an institution steps outside of what they teach, then they are subject to its authoritative correction, whereas the Catholics claim exemption in cases.

        We have two different paintings my friend. The Scriptures, the inspired divine apostolic scriptures on one hand, and what appears to be a fallible magesterium on the other. You said: “But if I have a plausible story about who owned that painting, all the way from Picasso till today.” So do we, and it is the Scriptures. The church exists and is built on the apostles, and the “original” apostolic teaching is in the scriptures. I do not have absolute certainty in the content, as you do not have absolute certainty in the magesterium.

        “The argument of the self-authenticating model so far is that we can know which books are canonical because God has provided the proper epistemic environment where belief in these books can be reliably formed. This environment includes not only providential exposure to the canonical books, but also the three attributes of canonicity that all canonical books possess—divine qualities, corporate reception, apostolic origins—and the work of the Holy Spirit to help us recognize them. Thus, contra the de jure objection, Christians do have adequate grounds for affirming their belief in the canon.” Michael J. Kruger .

      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        This is completely a case of theological naval gazing, and really doesn’t add anything to the question of “what is the canon”. Whether the church is a thermometer or a thermostat is a fascinating question for academics to discuss over a glass of cognac, but the end result is the same – I.e. the temperature is discovered by referring to the church. All the many words expended in saying that the church recognizes canon, but does not create canon, is really neither here nor there for the man in the street who just wants an answer,

        One might also observe that you had to abandon sola scriptura during this exercise. So the three attributes of canon are divine qualities, corporate reception, and apostolic origin. Maybe, but can you show me chapter and verse on that? Or have you just admitted you have an extra-biblical rule of faith here?

        And who is going to evaluate them anyway? Divine qualities is very vague. You can really tell that 3 John has it? What does it say about James that Luther called it a book of straw?Corporate reception begs the question of “by whom?” and “how many?”. Apostolic origin begs the question of what that even mean, given that a lot of books in the NT don’t even claim to be written by apostles. Many if the ones that purport to be don’t have the individual provenance that would stack up at Christies or Sothebys. You can date a book to the “redemptive period”? When is this period, chapter and verse please that there is such a thing and when it began and ended.

        You say that the writings themselves are the link to the apostles, but what writings? That is the question. Before you can claim the writings as your link to Jesus, you have to have to know which ones. That’s the problem. And it’s not a problem you can obfuscate by just saying, oh well I have doubt and you have doubt. All the certainty that you have, such as it might be, is entirely derived by looking to the church in history, and by admitting there was one true church over and against many false churches and sects. Thats why the gnostic writings are not in your bible. Deep down you’ve already admitted that it all falls apart without the concept of one true church. You talk about reception, but really you only believe in reception in the One church, and not any old group. You piggy back on the epistemology that you later repudiate, leaving yourself hanging in mid air. Under those circumstances, our respective uncertainties are not equal.

  3. Would you admit then, that you are no more certain of the magesterium than protestants are of the content of the canon? That much seems clear to me.

    You still haven’t demonstrated why you are certain of their infallibility. You have only gave fallible evidences that you chide me for doing without the magesterium when i defend my belief in the scriptures.

    Reply
    • I see that you are much better at standing back and pointing at flaws than you are at defending you own beliefs.

      You have not given any infallible evidence of the infallibility of the magesterium.

      You do not know what sola scriptura is and I’m tired of reminding and claifying it for you. Sola scriptura leads us to the investigations of extra biblical sources. Like apostolicity is a criteria established by scripture, and we investigate to see what is properly apostolic. Totally consistent.

      The church chose these books for a reason. They were Distinct from the others. This distinction was recognized by the church.

      Your doubt about the magesterium means you can’t know, with certainty, that they chose rightly.

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        I’m curious who you directed this question to.

      • My belief in the canon is warranted without your magesterium, in fact it is not aided by it.

        Belief in the canon of scriptures is more warranted than belief in the magesterium.

        Again, no infallible evidence for the magesterium has been presented.

        Your certainty in the canon is unwarranted bc it’s based on the magesterium which has insufficient evidence for its infallibility. My certainty in the right books is warranted for the reasons I gave; which reasons were the basis of the magesterium acceptance in the first place.

        Your avoiding the main issue here. I will repost the main issues tonight. Seeing as you are responding in a manner so a to beat around the bush.

        The question is: why is belief in the magesterium more warranted than belief, apart from any infallible decision, in the “right 27 books of te NT canon? It’s not.

        Most people limit responses to their original post. I must do the same.

        I can only ask that your responses become more direct. The whole question of the original thread was with the epistemic basis of the catholic position of the magesterium; contrasted with the epistemic basis of the Protestant position of the scriptures. I did not anticipate a total void of the Protestant position and my need to explain the base matters. Appeals to extra biblical evidences in no way contradicts our belief so long as the scriptures govern our interpretation of those evidences. Again, I am not referring to de facto arguments to prove my point to a skeptic, but de jure arguments that justify my beliefs as warranted and grounded beliefs. I’m asking for you to employ a de jure arguement in the magesterium that justifies and warrants your belief in them as superior to my belief in the scriptures apart from them. That is what hasn’t even been attempted.

        If that is too much to ask them you an just respond to this post however you would like and we can let it stand. Obviously we are not coming to terms with one another and making progress though. In which case I would prefer leaving off here.

      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        You seem to want to characterize the situation like this: Church hierarchies choose canons based on the same criteria you choose based on. Therefore, why not cut out the middle man?

        There’s two problems with this. Firstly, that is not really how things work. Church hierarchies aim to codify what the church already believes and practices. Lex orandi, lex credendi, and all that. This is rational because church hierarchies know where the church is, and know as well as anyone can, what goes on therein. You however use the same basic criteria – reception, except that you don’t know where the church is, what its boundaries are, and you make arbitrary cut offs about when the ancient church died, then you rely overly on your skills at discerning what it used to believe based on what providence preserved to you (through the church you reject). Then for good measure, you accuse the bishops you quote on the canon, of heresy in other areas, just to cap off the inconsistency. In other words, church hierarchies practice what you claim to do, except that they do it with better knowledge and less epistemological inconsistency than you.

        Secondly, the idea that each individual is supposed to resolve that kind of stuff themselves is really grossly inconsistent with the New Testament message. We could talk about Acts 15 again where the elders saw fit to gather together. But really there is a consistent theme throughout the NT of the church cooperating to agree things, to maintain unity. Whether it be Paul going to visit Peter to sort out disagreements, or Paul’s admonition to “agree on everything”, the message to communicate and come to agreements is everywhere. But everyone choosing their own canons as you suggest is just a recipe for confusion and disagreement. Even if you reckon you can do a better job than church hierarchies at figuring this stuff out ( and I see no reason to think this should be so ), it doesn’t actually result in a church. It’s partly working for you now because you stole the result of our process, while abandoning the method, although it isn’t working for you in other areas of theology. If we think about how many disagreements in Protestantism there are, that gives you an idea how many canons there would be if you hadn’t stolen our canon.

      • Sory, I don’t know your name.

      • And I on iPhone. Tedious.

  4. Garrison

     /  July 18, 2012

    I must point out that your (and Kruger’s) critique of Catholic theology on this point is an utter strawman. Catholics are not intellectual babies that must be spoon-fed everything by the Magisterium to have confidence in Truth. (If you haven’t noticed, theological debates still happen and will happen till the end of time.) The problem is, humans as individuals and collectively have the capacity to be wrong. We need Objective Faith, not subjective faith.

    The Catholic Church actually does have the doctrine of a sensus fidelium, where truth is recognized by the faithful without a top-down enforcement (which is exceedingly rare in the Church’s history); the canon is one of those issues.

    As you note, the majority of the canon was known and accepted at all times and places, but as you also point out, there were several books (even those that made it into your canon) that were extremely controversial. For example, Revelation was one of those controversial books to such an extent that Eusebius recorded that several groups rejected it, language I have never seen used in reference to a book of the deuterocanon. To this day, Revelation is not read in the Byzantine liturgy because of this controversy, but the deuterocanonicals are.

    Sometimes disputes work themselves out in time without any official action by the Church (ecumenical councils, etc.) as the issues over the New Testament canon did. Other times, heresy is so pervasive and glaring that definitive rulings must be issued. Take the example of Arius: the Church did not see a need (and was occupied with surviving various persecutions) to rule as a whole on what the precise definition of the Trinity was before Arius got it so terribly wrong.

    “Belief in the canon of scriptures is more warranted than belief in the magesterium.”

    Unproven assertion. There’s been much more controversy over the canon that the teaching authority of the Church.

    “Again, no infallible evidence for the magesterium has been presented.”

    Unless you can produce infallible evidence that the Scriptures much less the canon is infallible, we have no such burden of proof.

    The arguments that the Church is infallible and that Church has its center in Rome have been given before, but they will be given again. These are the ones solely from Scripture:

    1. Christ refers to Peter as the Rock on which the Church is built, gives him the keys and (in addition to the other Apostles) the ability to bind and loose “in heaven and on earth”. He also promises that the Church will never fail. (Matt. 16:18, 18:18) The keys and “binding and loosing” are in reference to the royal steward (Isaiah 22:15-22) and teaching authority, a position entailing a succession.

    2. Peter is told to “strengthen his brothers” (Luke 22:32)

    3. Peter alone is told to “feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19)

    4. The Holy Spirit descended on the Church at Pentecost. Question: did He leave? No. (Acts 2)

    5. The Church met in council to resolve a dispute concerning the admittance of Gentiles into the Church. The Council was in chaos before Peter’s speech, but afterward listened to Paul, and Jame’s pronouncement recognizes Peter’s testimony as pivotal. Finally, the letter sent to the Gentiles invokes the Holy Spirit as guiding the decision. (Acts 15)

    These show clearly what the early Church believed about both Peter and Christ’s promises to her. Christ’s Body also cannot be divided or corrupted (Acts 31), so there is only one visible Church. If the Holy Spirit has not left us (he hasn’t), and the Apostles passed on their authority (they did), the Church can continue to hold authoritative and infallible ecumenical councils. Due to Protestantism’s fractured nature and that few denominations (if any) in it claim that they are the Church (none can claim apostolic succession), that cannot be the Church. None of the other separated ancient Churches continue to hold councils resolving controversies which are binding on all the faithful (even those who are separated). What is the only Church that holds and continues all of this? The Catholic Church.

    “No you have it backwards my friend: the Christian faith is necessary to the Church.”

    No, you are the one separating the Faith from the Church. This cannot happen.

    “This environment includes not only providential exposure to the canonical books, but also the three attributes of canonicity that all canonical books possess—divine qualities, corporate reception, apostolic origins—and the work of the Holy Spirit to help us recognize them.” Kruger

    As has been noted before: “divine qualities” is a nebulous and subjective term. It is little more than the “bosom burning” of the Mormons. I can also appeal to this in defense of the deuterocanon. “corporate reception” is how the Catholic Church also determines its canon. “apostolic origins” is problematic in the face of mounting scholarship questioning Paul’s authorship of at least 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus in addition to, possibly, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians. Also, what do we do with Hebrews? We don’t have an attribution to Paul before Jerome (hey, look, another thing concerning the canon Jerome was, in fact, wrong on) and the author is still unknown. The Church still received it, anyway.

    I think this discussion’s done because you wish to at least put the Protestant and the Catholic on the same level with no real way of adjudicating this dispute. I personally don’t want to continue arguing with other Christians concerning defined dogma till the end of time. For me, the controversy is over because the Holy Spirit has spoken through the Church; it can never be so for you.

    It seems we are at an impasse; if we can actually know Objective Truth, then we can continue, but if there’s only a subjective knowing of Truth, there’s no point in this argument because that position is relativism and is incompatible with the Faith.

    IC XC NIKA

    Garrison

    Reply
    • First, Garrison, as the title implies, this is my critique of the Catholics “by whose authoirty” question put forward to dismantle Sola Scriptura. Your eagerness to answer has caused you to miss the point of this article. It was to show that the certainty that y’all demand from us is unattainable.

      There is objective faith, in the scriptures, and it continually judges our subjective interpretations.

      “Unless you can produce infallible evidence that the Scriptures much less the canon is infallible, we have no such burden of proof.”

      No, I am satisfied with “reasonable certainty” the same certainty that I as a protestant have. I am just as certain in the NT books as the magesterium was with the 27 books when they decided.

      “divine qualities” is one of three criteria, and it this (ex:divine quality of apostolicity) that led to their acceptance by the church in the first place.

      AGain, you appealed to Scripture’s but you can’t know what belongs in the scriptures without the magesterium, so how can you point to them to determine the magesterium if you don’t know what belongs until they decide.

      Logically one must be affirmed before the other. AFfirm the scriptures without them and you prove my point. You must assume the authority of the scriptures to prove the magesterium.

      My statement: I as a Protestant do not need an infallible magesterium to have a warranted, well-grounded, justified belief in the 27 books as the proper canonical books; nor does this belief contradict Sola Scriptura.

      Reply
      • Garrison

         /  July 18, 2012

        Josh,

        “AGain, you appealed to Scripture’s but you can’t know what belongs in the scriptures without the magesterium, so how can you point to them to determine the magesterium if you don’t know what belongs until they decide.”

        That is not what I believe nor what the Magisterium teaches. You missed my entire point about the sensus fidelium in Catholic theology, therefore you’re just attacking a straw man. We can argue and debate and get a sense of what is Truth, which is what the early Church did concerning the canon. This is why we talk about what has been received. There are also controversies that the Church must rule on, one being the extent of Scripture.

        ” ‘divine qualities’ is one of three criteria, and it this (ex:divine quality of apostolicity) that led to their acceptance by the church in the first place.”

        I can defend the deuterocanon with the three criteria you give and attack various protocanonical books with the same criteria. They help, but they prove nothing. In denying the Church the ability to rule on this matter and tell you you’re wrong, you deny the freedom of the Spirit to protect the Church and the Faith.

        “No, I am satisfied with ‘reasonable certainty’ the same certainty that I as a protestant have. I am just as certain in the NT books as the magesterium was with the 27 books when they decided.”

        I could say that I’m reasonably certain the Church is infallible and I have explained to you the reasons why you should be, but I have no authority over you nor you over me. Where does that leave us then? We must go to the Church.

        “There is objective faith, in the scriptures, and it continually judges our subjective interpretations.”

        How can you have objective faith in the Scriptures, but I can’t have objective faith in the Church? It doesn’t work that way.

        “Logically one must be affirmed before the other. AFfirm the scriptures without them and you prove my point. You must assume the authority of the scriptures to prove the magesterium.”

        No, I don’t. If I argued that it is because of those citations that the Church is what she is, then you would be right, but I’m not. The Church’s authority does not rest on Scripture, but the words of Christ, which the Scripture attests. We cannot affirm Scripture without the authority of the Church. If you want to argue like a skeptic (non-Christian), then I obviously cannot appeal to Scripture, but you are not one. I am showing you what they say about the Church and her authority because you, like me, hold them to be an authentic witness to Truth.

        “My statement: I as a Protestant do not need an infallible magesterium to have a warranted, well-grounded, justified belief in the 27 books as the proper canonical books; nor does this belief contradict Sola Scriptura.”

        Yes, it does, because Scripture does not list all the books contained within it and because there has been significant controversy over the extent of even the New Testament canon and even a time when those books did not exist. It cannot be the sole rule of faith if it is not self-sufficient and did not exist from the beginning. There must be another rule.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • “I can defend the deuterocanon with the three criteria” You can defend the deuterocanon with apostolicity?

        How can you have objective faith in the Scriptures, but I can’t have objective faith in the Church?

        You can! We just have to discuss our rational justification of such beliefs. I don’t think you can be more certain of what the magesterium teaches than you can be certain of the magesterium itself. If you apply that to me; I can’t be sure that I am right on what scriptures teach because my certainty is limited. See the Catholic Dilemma to see my point.

        So what you are saying is that Christ gave authoirty to the church apart from the scriptures, and this authoirty infallibly determines the content of the scriptures right? My question then is how do you know Christ did that? YOu can’t say by the scriptures, can you? That would mean that you identify the scriptures without the magesterium. THe qeustion is how do you know? And it would seem that you be forced to appeal to what is neither in the Scriptures or what is in the magesterial teachings.

        Me you an Pio need to work this Sola Scriptura thing out. Let’s stop trying to win the debate here and come to terms. If I am being unreasonable then I will stop insisting on the point.

        I wrote this to Pio; Sola Scriptura: The Scriptures define apostolicity, Pio, historical evidences is what we are employing in our search for what the scriptures define. Its not that hard to concieve. The Final authority is Scriptures on the apostles: they give us the scope of our investigations. The Scriptures define our criteria and is therefore the Final and infallible authority. The scriptures define what it is we are looking for. They establish the criteria of our determination. REmember we are not looking to prove the scriptures to a skeptic (de facto) but to give a rational justification of what we already believe (de jure).

        Will you concede here Garrison? Concede this: It is not a contradiction to use the scriptures to establish the criteria that will be used to interpret the historical evidences. The Scriptures give their own criteria by which you determine what is actually scripture and what is not. Whether or not everyone agrees on it is, at this point irrevelant. Is is consistent in theory, even if it turns out to be ineffective?

  5. Pio

     /  July 18, 2012

    https://passion2knowgod.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/epistemolgical-problems-with-the-catholic-critiques-of-sola-scriptura/

    Hey Josh,

    I wanted to point out a few observations based on what I’ve read on this discussion. Hopefully it will bear more fruit than previous discussions.

    You asked “The question is: why is belief in the magesterium more warranted than belief, apart from any infallible decision, in the “right 27 books of te NT canon?”

    We still haven’t resolved how we determine the 27 books you believe are the NT are in fact the NT but let’s move on from that one. I think that even if one cannot infallibly demonstrate that the magisterium of the Catholic Church is the final rule in matters of faith and morals, it is safe to say a Church with Apostolic succession is much more reliable than one without it. When the Gnostics claimed to have the true teachings of Jesus, St. Irenaeus refuted them ultimately by his appeal to apostolic succession and the fact that if Christ in fact taught gnostic teachings then these teachings would have been passed down to the present Bishops with Apostolic succession. Since no such teachings were passed down through the succession of Bishops, then Christ did not teach gnostic teachings. I think the same applies to Protestantism and sola scriptura. Christians throughout history have clearly believed that when Bishops assemble in an ecumenical council then their decision is definitive and binding on all, and this can be found in the practice of the Apostles and elders in Acts 15. It seems much more reasonalbe that Christ established a binding magisterium given the Biblical and historical arguments in this favor. So, this is why the view of the magisterium as authoritative is better than sola scriptura which is neither Biblical nor historical.

    As far as infallible certainty in this magisterium, we can only have the same amount of certainty in the magisterium that we do in Christ himself, which is a very high amount of certainty, while your view seems much less certain because it is no different than any other group that lacks apostolic succession.

    You also wrote “You do not know what sola scriptura is and I’m tired of reminding and claifying it for you. Sola scriptura leads us to the investigations of extra biblical sources. Like apostolicity is a criteria established by scripture, and we investigate to see what is properly apostolic. Totally consistent.”
    Sola scriptura, as opposed to solo scriptura, is the view that the Bible is the FINAL rule of authority for the Christian. In this comment you acknowledge that you have to study extra biblical sources in order to understand what the Bible means by “apostolicity” so you have to go outside the Bible in order to determine what the Bible means when it uses the term “apostolicity”. This is completely contrary to the Bible being the final rule of authority since you have to go outside of the Bible to finally determine what the Bible means. Its hard to believe you don’t see the inconsistency here.
    You also wrote about the canon “The church chose these books for a reason. They were Distinct from the others. This distinction was recognized by the church.”
    Which church? Are we including the monophysites in the church? Are we including the Eastern Orthodox? Do we include the group of Lutherans who have a different NT than the one you do? Do we include the Catholic church that determined a different canon than the one you have? I can go on but I think the point is made. You are begging the question when you say the church recognized which books were distinct and so far every reason you have given for how to determine which books belong in the canon can be used against your canon.
    I have to go so I’ll keep my other observations to myself for now and I’ll leave you with the words of St. Vincent of Lerins who long ago in the fifth century responded to your view and defended the authority of the Catholic Church to be the rule to definitively interpret Scripture:
    “Here, it may be, someone will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and is in itself abundantly sufficient, what need is there to join to it the interpretation of the Church? The answer is that because of the very depth of Scripture all men do not place one identical interpretation upon it. The statements of the same writer are explained by different men in different ways, so much so that it seems almost possible to extract from it as many opinions as there are men. Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and latterly Nestorius in another. Therefore, because of the intricacies of error, which is so multiform, there is great need for the laying down of a rule for the exposition of Prophets and Apostles in accordance with the standard of the interpretation of the Church Catholic.”

    Reply
    • Sola Scriptura: The Scriptures define apostolicity, Pio, historical evidences is what we are employing in our search for what the scriptures define. Its not that hard to concieve. The Final authority is Scriptures on the apostles: they give us the scope of our investigations. The Scriptures define our criteria and is therefore the Final and infallible authority. The scriptures define what it is we are looking for. They establish the criteria of our determination. REmember we are not looking to prove the scriptures to a skeptic (de facto) but to give a rational justification of what we already believe (de jure).

      Does that make sense? We can stay here until we come to terms on this first. Let me know if that is not clear. WE can camp out on this point and make some progress.

      I have argued that the Scriptures were what gave the councils their authority, when the council ruled in accord with them, then they by extension were authoritative. How do you know if they ruled correctly, with the same type of process as you prove the magesterium.

      The original apostles were authoritative infallibly.

      Self-authenticating is clearly not understood completely: a work that is divine will exhibit certain characteristics, one of which is its apostolic origins. Self-authenticating scriptures are the characteristics that give rise to all others.

      How do we know Polycarp isn’t; well he isn’t an apostle and he is not qualified as endorsed by an apostle. I can only point you to a better source of study on self-authentication: namely, Krugers work. Notice also, that there are three criteria that are used in tandem.

      Even here, I will say that I can’t find truth on my own in a manner that is sufficient. God has knitted the body together. I learn from many many people, even you. So, the degree in which Vincent took his statement is fallible, but the “seed” of our need for church government is uncontested. It’s just not infallible.

      If the magesterium is not infallible, would you admit that CAtholics could, and probably, most certainly do hold many false doctrines. YOur statement that it is more stable only stands if it is true; for if it is not true, the stability is a stability in falsehood.

      This question” We still haven’t resolved how we determine the 27 books you believe are the NT are in fact the NT but let’s move on from that one.”

      When I answer that quesiton: you cannot expect any more certainty from me on that question that you yourself have in the magesterium. If you will concede that point then I truly think that I can justify my belief in the 27 books without an infallible chooser.

      Do you see what I am saying? I am trying to point that the bar of certainty expected from a Protestant on the 27 books is too high epistemelogically; because the bar is too high for any truth. If you will lower that bar of “certainty” then I think I have a case as to which books belong.

      I am not trying to disprove the magesterium, primarily, although the Catholic dilemma is something that I would like to dialogue about. I am trying to show that by reasonable standards of epistemology, that I have a warranted and justified belief and confidence in the right 27 books. I want to reduce your critique of our certainty to reasonable standards by using them to show that they are unfair.

      I have to go as well. Sorry for the typos. Thanks for the response, Pio.

      Reply
  6. Pio

     /  July 18, 2012

    Real quickly, one last point. The Self authenticating theory…yeah. I think this is Protestantism’s weakest argument for the canon. So, I think the writtings of Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch and 1 Clement are self authenticating. If I weren’t Catholic I would say they belong in the canon. Given that I believe they are self authenticating, why should the writings of Polycarp, St. Ignatius of Antioch and 1 Clement be excluded from the canon?

    Reply
  7. Garrison

     /  July 18, 2012

    Josh,

    Do you want a Catholic to give an exposition as to why he believes in the infallible teaching authority of the Church without appealing to Scripture as divine? We can do that. We can, for the sake of argument, appeal to the Scriptures solely as historical books that attest to the beliefs of early Christians and make the case from history that the Church has always believed herself to be divinely protected from error. There is a reasonable case for this as I made. Of course, we run into the problem of determining who is actually a Christian if we eliminate the Church’s authority to define her boundaries and deny that she has (or assert that she can lose) Spirit-led senses of what is and is not Scripture.

    “The original apostles were authoritative infallibly.”

    Were they infallible only in what they wrote that eventually became Scripture or were they personally infallible in all their teaching?

    “Self-authenticating is clearly not understood completely: a work that is divine will exhibit certain characteristics, one of which is its apostolic origins. Self-authenticating scriptures are the characteristics that give rise to all others.”

    What are these characteristics? Also, define “apostolic origins”. Again, Hebrews doesn’t have an Apostle’s name attached to it and several of the Pauline epistles most likely weren’t written by Paul, but the Church still recognizes them as Scripture.

    “Even here, I will say that I can’t find truth on my own in a manner that is sufficient. God has knitted the body together. I learn from many many people, even you. So, the degree in which Vincent took his statement is fallible, but the ‘seed’ of our need for church government is uncontested. It’s just not infallible.”

    According to you, one can indeed find Truth “on [one’s] own in a manner that is sufficient”. Your ecclesiology leaves no room for a Church that can rule decisively. How can you, as an individual, judge the Church, which is the pure Body of Christ? Your ecclesiology also does not allow for there to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that is visible to the world because anyone can stand up and try to make a case that X is unScriptural.

    “When I answer that quesiton: you cannot expect any more certainty from me on that question that you yourself have in the magesterium. If you will concede that point then I truly think that I can justify my belief in the 27 books without an infallible chooser.”

    … do what? Of course we can’t expect certainty from you as you are a human. The Church, however, is both divine and human, so I’m going to trust her over you, though you can certainly still justify your belief in the New (or Old) Testament canon. You can’t do it without her, though, but we can do it without historical proofs and still be right. That wouldn’t be smart on our parts, however, because we would open ourselves to attacks from everyone. The Church doesn’t require we suspend our intelligence.

    “I want to reduce your critique of our certainty to reasonable standards by using them to show that they are unfair.”

    You misunderstand our Faith. It is not according to “reasonable” standards you yourself impose, but according to the standards of God. Are we to take Him at his word or not?

    IC XC NIKA

    Garrison

    Reply
    • If you appeal to them as historical books, how can you see them a reliable?

      The standards of God are contained in the scriptures (material sufficiency). Everything te apostles taught was authoritative and they taught in two ways. Before they died, God through divine providence guided them to write all that God himself desired to be in the canon. The tradition of the apostles is what we have, in the fullness that God intended, contained in the scriptures.

      The Pauline epistles were written by Paul, and if they weren’t they were forgeries and not reliable. Your reading the scholars who do not base their investigations on the scriptures. Most of the scholars in that group do not believe the scriptures are inspired or inerrant. There have been successful rebuttals to every serious scholar who questions the authorship of an apostolic work that bears the apostles name. D.A. Carson, for one.

      Hebrews may have been written by Paul. We just do not know. If we combine apostolicity with the others then we see if the books attests to itself with orthodox teachings, we look to see how it was received in the early church, and we look at the stance of the church councils on it. Takem together, the criteria was strict enough to put out alot of books. I personally agree with the early councils approach to the NT books like Carthage. Their exact position on the DT’s is questionable and uncertain (issue not to handle here). Note: The reformation led to no change with regard to the NT.

      There were standards that the church in the West used, that included the books we have. If I approve the same standard, and the evidences to which they tested with the standard, with regard to the NT, then I also will be lead to accept Hebrews and Jude, even though their was discrepancies.

      We get these criteria from scripture, which is where the council got these standards, ultimately.

      Do you concede to point though? I asked you very clearly an you didn’t respond.

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        So we can just throw under the bus all the scholars who don’t think a book is apostolic. It’s a bit circular isnt it? We impassionately decide our canon based on the evidence. But if the evidence leads us away from our sacred cow tradition… Well we just accuse people of being unbelievers and stick to tradition.

        Do we throw this guy under the bus for being an infidel unbeliever? :

        In the first place, the fact that Hebrews is not an epistle of St. Paul, or of any other apostle (Luther, M. Prefaces to the Epistle of the Hebrews, 1546).

        It need not surprise one to find here bits of wood, hay, and straw (Luther on Hebrews, quoted by O’Hare, p. 203).

        St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw…for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it” (Luther, M. Preface to the New Testament, 1546).

        In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works…Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. Or it may perhaps have been written by someone on the basis of his preaching (Luther, M. Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, 1546).

        Concerning the epistle of St. Jude, no one can deny that it is an extract or copy of St. Peter’s second epistle…Therefore, although I value this book, it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are supposed to lay the foundations of faith (Luther, M. Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, 1546).

        About this book of the Revelation of John…I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. Moreover he seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly-indeed, more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important-and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will take away from him, etc. Again, they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. This is just the same as if we did not have the book at all. And there are many far better books available for us to keep…My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it” (Luther, M. Preface to the Revelation of St. John, 1522).

        “Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it…Solomon did not, therefore, write this book.”… Luther

        “The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much…”… Luther

        “The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible.” (as quoted in O’Hare, p. 202).

        Of the Pentateuch he says: “We have no wish either to see or hear Moses” (Ibid, p. 202).

        The first three speak of the works of our Lord, rather than His oral teachings; that of St. John is the only sympathetic, the only true Gospel and should undoubtedly be preferred above the others. In like manner the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul are superior to the first three Gospels (O’Hare, p. 203).

        Yes, this is where the Protestant epistemological view leads. Luther was accused that his true philosophy was not sola scriptura, but rather sola-Luther, and this is true. He sits in judgement of the scriptures, and not the other way around. This is the inevitable result of individuals thinking that they are burdened with deciding the canon themselves apart from the church.

      • Garrison

         /  July 18, 2012

        “If you appeal to them as historical books, how can you see them a reliable?”

        Because they are reporting what the early Christians believed and the history is largely accurate…

        “The standards of God are contained in the scriptures (material sufficiency). ”

        I, as a Catholic, can affirm this.

        “Before they died, God through divine providence guided them to write all that God himself desired to be in the canon. The tradition of the apostles is what we have, in the fullness that God intended, contained in the scriptures.”

        That’s an assumption I’m not willing to make.

        “The Pauline epistles were written by Paul, and if they weren’t they were forgeries and not reliable. Your reading the scholars who do not base their investigations on the scriptures. Most of the scholars in that group do not believe the scriptures are inspired or inerrant. There have been successful rebuttals to every serious scholar who questions the authorship of an apostolic work that bears the apostles name. D.A. Carson, for one.”

        Most of the scholarship I’ve seen disputes that (it really doesn’t matter if they believe or not because it’s scholarship), but this is not a subject I particularly care and can properly discuss, nor is it terribly important to my point.

        My point about apostolicity is that it and the other criteria Kruger offers are not hard and fast rules individually or together. I Clement is plenty orthodox, was included in several canons and read during the liturgy of the Church in Corinth, and was as apostolic as Mark or Luke, but didn’t make it in. Why is that? I certainly don’t know. I can speculate and do more research, but the clencher ultimately is that the Church didn’t recognize the Spirit in it. I still find it authoritative and an important witness to the earliest days of the Church.

        “Note: The reformation led to no change with regard to the NT.”

        I understand this, though I also know Luther seriously questioned Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation. I wonder on what authority he decided to keep these but to drop the deuterocanon. It’s irrelevant, really, because he had not the authority to throw out any of it. As for the canon of the Council of Carthage, I personally believe their entire canon was correct, but we’ve been over this. 😉

        “We get these criteria from scripture, which is where the council got these standards, ultimately.”

        Where?

        “Do you concede to point though? I asked you very clearly an you didn’t respond.”

        I answered you in another comment.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • No u don’t throw them Under the bus. That is why I pointed to the rebuttals where people have met them on their own turf to Disprove them.

        An atheist and a theist will interpret information differently. People, who interpret the evidence, need to be informed theologically in order to rightly judge the evidence. People will bring their own worldview with them. That’s all I was saying.

      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        You have to be “informed theologically” in order to rightly judge the evidence, so that you can find out what books are scripture? Interesting, and how do you become “informed theologically” prior to you finding out what books are scripture?

        BTW, was Luther not “informed theologically”?

      • Luther is not the point. Let’s stay to the subject. Direct, to the point. I have been arguing in a manner known as de jure: The de jure objection argues not so much that Christian belief in the canon is false, but that Christians have no rational basis for thinking they could ever know such a thing in the first place.
        The de jure objection, the problem with the Christian belief in canon is something other than its truth or falsehood, but has to do with whether Christians have adequate grounds for holding such a belief.

        I have wrote this somewhere already, I guess not to you, that all rational justifications of basic beliefs require circularity: How can I know that my sense perception is reliable, take vision for example. I will use my eyes to see if they yield x. Here is quote from Kruger:This sort of circularity is not a problem but simply part of how foundational authorities are authenticated. For instance, let us imagine that we want to determine whether sense perception is a reliable source of belief. If I see a cup on the table, how do I know my sense perception is accurate? How would I test such a thing? I could examine the cup and table more closely to make sure they are what they seem to be (hold them, touch them, etc.). I could also ask a friend to tell me whether he sees a cup on the table. But in all these instances I am still assuming the reliability of my sense perception (or my friend’s) even as I examine the reliability of my sense perception. Or, as another example, let us imagine that we wanted to inquire into whether our rational faculties would reliably produce true beliefs. How could we examine the evidence for the reliability of our rational faculties without, at the same time, actually using our rational faculties (and thereby presupposing their reliability)? Alston sums it up, “There is no escape from epistemic circularity. Michael J. Kruger

        Indeed, this is unavoidable if we are dealing with the de jure objection. How can the Christian religion account for its knowledge of the canon without talking about the Christian understanding of the way knowledge is acquired?

        In order to question the de jure type argument you must present a “defeater.” This could be evidence that I have not accounted for that undermines by warrant for believing something. Example: For example, imagine John wakes up in the morning, and after seeing that his alarm clock says 9:00 a.m., he forms the belief that he is late for work. But as he scrambles to get ready, his wife informs him that their three-year-old daughter was playing with the alarm clock the night before and likely changed the time. This new information would serve as a defeater for John’s prior belief,even though that prior belief was entirely justified.

        For more on the circularity, Alvin Plantinga in Warranted Christian Belief has dealt with it decisively. The Scriptures are our basic belief, and the criterion of all truths, and therefore we must look to it formulate an articulation of why these books are the “true” books.

        Here is an example of what I mean: “Thus, there appears to have been a collection of core New Testament writings that would have functioned as a norm for apostolic doctrine at quite an early point. This explains why the vast majority of later “disagreements” about the boundaries of the New Testament canon appear to be focused narrowly on only a handful of books; apparently the core of the New Testament was intact from a very early stage. Barton also observes this pattern: “Astonishingly early, the great central core of the present New Testament was already being treated as the main authoritative source for Christians. There is little to suggest that there were any serious controversies about the Synoptics, John, or the major Pauline epistles.”61 If Barton is correct, then these core books would have provided a theological and doctrinal foundation for analyzing the orthodoxy of peripheral books such as 2 Peter, Jude, and 3 John.” Michael J. Kruger

      • John

         /  July 18, 2012

        So the three year old *may* have changed the time. Nobody saw it happen, but there was a child with the means and opportunity, so this is a defeater.

        Without me even commenting further, you seem to have a defeater for what you call “the peripheral books”. People were around making forged books. So people with the means and opportunity were at work. Your canon is defeated.

        But we can come up with defeaters for the core books. Let’s take Mark:
        – It’s common for scholars to say it was written by an “unknown Christian”. There is defeater #1
        – even if we accept that Mark was someone friendly with Peter, it doesn’t prove Peter read the book. Defeater #2
        – even if we accept Peter read it, there is no evidence he gave his imprimatur to the book. Defeater #3
        – even if we accept Peter read it and was generally happy with it, there is no evidence that this is sufficient grounds for saying it is “inspired by God” or infallible. I’m sure Peter approved lots of things that were just plain wrong. The Judaizers in Galatians for example. defeater #4
        – you say there were little serious controversies about the core books. But Marcion rejected Mark. Either this is a defeater, or else if you have some threshold of the percentage of professing Christians who need to object, then it calls into serious question the judgement of the early Protestants who tossed out the Apocrypha. Defeater #5
        – you have no statistics about how many early Professing “Christians” accepted the book. History is written by the victors, and you are reliant on “our” history. Defeater #6
        – even if we accept that the recognized early church had no controversy about this, it begs the question of how you know what people are the true early church. Why not Marionites, or Gnostics? If you just run with majority, it begs the question why that isn’t good enough today. Defeater #7

        So then, what is your defeater to my proposition that only the true church can recognize the canon in an authoritative way?

      • Your misunderstanding of the word “may” is completely understandable. If you replace “may” with “must have;” as in I didn’t know that she (the little girl) changed the time on the clock, I (the mom) just recall seeing her playing with the clock, and seeing as every other clock in the house, phone, and internet says you are not late for work; you are therefore not late for work she must have just changed the clock. John was justified in thinking he was late at first, but the evidence demonstrated that this belief was unwarranted in light of the new evidence.

        So, and get this, a defeater is not something that questions reliability.

        “It’s common for scholars to say Mark was written by an “unknown Christian”. There is defeater #1.” No, you its only a defeater if you demonstrate that the best evidence points to “an unknown Christian.” Does the common belief that the unknown writer wrote Mark defeat my belief that Mark, a companion of Peter, wrote his gospel as a first hand account of Peter’s eyewitness testimony? No! And there is more evidence for Mark as a companion of Peter wrote his gospel than that the “unknown writer” did.

        So, really all of your defeaters are not defeaters at all. I will answer one more: “even if we accept that Mark was someone friendly with Peter, it doesn’t prove Peter read the book. Defeater #2” Well, the gospel of Mark was circulating during the lifetime of Peter and the other apostles. It was accepted by everyone with almost none contesting it. In a church where the apostles exercised such a authority, a book that claims to be attested by one of them, one of the big 4 for that matter, that it would be dealt with is expected especially since circulating heresies were so seriously dealt with; and obviously it wasn’t.

        So, see your defeaters arent defeaters at all; and this may come from that word “may”, which you were totally justified in thinking meant what you thought it meant; it was a communication error and I apologize.

        CATHOLIC DEFEATER

        “So then, what is your defeater to my proposition that only the true church can recognize the canon in an authoritative way?”

        Here is an illustration of the Catholic dilemma.

        Protestants are in disagreement with these 10 truths (call them x; so 10x). We cannot reach any unanimity concerning our certainty of which view is best in a way so as to result in unified belief in what we all perceive to be “certain” truth.

        The Catholics gallop in with confidence to settle the matter. You all offer the opportunity to experience unified certainty on these 10 truths (10x).

        Now the certainty that y’all offer is contingent upon one prime truth: the infallible authority of the magesterium. Now, epistemologically y’all can be no more certain of this prime truth (the infalliblity of the magesterium), which determines these other 10 truths, than we can about the ten truths themselves. And, since this prime truth is no more certain than the others, then in itself it can’t offer any real, reliable, significant certainty regarding the disputed 10 truths (10x) than the Protestants themselves have. Though they can offer unity, they cannot garuntee that this unity is “unity in the truth.” After all what good is “unity in falsehood.”

        Uncertainty with the prime truth cannot yield a justified or warranted certainty with regard to the 10 truths (10x) which are later determined by the uncertain prime truth (infallible magesterium).

        So, You attach yourself, in uncertainty, to the magesterium who claims infallibility and could actually not be (3 strong evidences, including Pope Honorius, to the contrary; found in my original post); and I attach myself to what I am uncertain to be infallible; namely, the scriptures, and I struggle with uncertainty (the same uncertainty you have with the magesterium itself) with many other doctrines; although I am reassured by the church body as a whole developing together over long periods of time and guiding me in my own attempts to understand the scriptures.

        Here is the defeater: You claim that the magesterium gives you more certainty on the matter of canon (and many other things) than the church without one can possibly have; but you cannot be any more certain of the infaliibility of the magesterium than I can be of the content of the canon itself. Therefore, the certainty you have in everything else the magesterium teaches, since it is flowing from uncertainty, cannot exceed my own certainty wtih specific doctrines.

        Your response will be, “well Christ established the church on Peter, and Acts 15 tells you this…etc…; however, you cannot be sure of what Christ taught any more than I can. Now, you can see Christ establish a magesterium and believe in it; but you must recognize the fact that your belief is uncertain that the magesterium is infallible because you may be misinterpreting Jesus. And since your certainty in every other major doctrine is grounded on this one truth; everything that grows up from that foundation cannot be any more certain than the foundational certainty you have in the infallibility of the magisterial.

        So a plain statement: you cannot be more certain on the doctrine of Justification by faith alone as false as I can that it is true; if all things being equal you have the magesterium and their decision on the matter; and I have the Scriptures and defend them. Maybe one of us demonstrates that one belief is more warranted than another, but initially, neither side has more certainty.

      • John

         /  July 18, 2012

        Well, I should warn you that I am Eastern Orthodox, so talk of Honorius and Magisteriums is no defeater for me. But even if was Catholic that doesn’t work, because the Magisterium just reflects the faith of the church, and the faith of the church is the same thing you appeal to.

        Anyway, rather than defend a proposition I don’t adhere to, how about you give me a defeater for the proposition that I actually put to you – I.e. only the true church can authoritatively recognize the true canon.

      • Well, John, I would like to, at one point or another get an email from you that would list the 3 or 4 main reasons that you are Eastern Orthodox rather than Roman.

        The faith of the Church. Well, what if the faith of the church is grounded on the teachings of the apostles, which teachings are totally contained in the Scriptures. An appeal to the faith of the church still contains uncertainty as to what that faith is and whether or not it is true. In other words, If you ask me what the faith of the church is, what the church’s foundation of its faith is, I would say the 27 books of the NT, which is the Apostles tradition totally contained in writing and it acts as authoritatively interpreting the other 39 books of the OT. A Roman Catholic would say something to the effect that the faith of the church is found in the successors of the apostles who infallibly determine which books belong in the canon. Which is similar to what you would say, or am I wrong?
        What I am saying is that my certainty in the 27 books, which are the apostolic teachings themselves (i.e. the faith of the church) is not inferior to your certainty in what you mean by “the faith of the church.”

        And to use purely abstract terms: If you have 70 units of certainty in what you mean by “the faith of the church’ and I have 70 units of certainty in what I mean by the “faith of the church;” then, neither of us could rise above this threshold of 70 units of certainty when discussing other truths and dogmas determined by what we both hold to as “the faith of the church.” Only rational justifications could operate in this arena because neither party can legitimately appeal to a superior foundational certainty.

        Can you have more certainty in your doctrine of Justification than I can about my view of Justification; if each is determined by our foundational belief in the two respective meanings of “faith in the church” while each of us have the same amount of certainty initially. Now after discussions and such as that, maybe one of us demonstrates a more warranted and justified belief: like the mom who establishes a superior explanation to the clock that reads 9 oclock and by that explanation changes the dad’s mind. Before that point: both the mom and the dad had the same amount of subjective certainty, and the only way to interact with others to develop and direct this subjective certain to a superior object, is to discuss each of our justifications and evidences, while neither of us can appeal to a superior foundational belief that establishes a greater amount of certainty, etc…

      • John

         /  July 18, 2012

        Well, I could consider giving you 3 or 4 reasons, but why should I? According to you, knowledge is fundamentally circular, I am entitled to some foundational assumptions, and you haven’t provided any “defeater”. Thus my position at this point is unassailed.

        I will say this though: if I have 70% certainty that the church is authorized to list the books, and you have 70% certainty in each book being canonical, then there is only .7^66 or .00000000005976 % chance your canon is correct, and that’s only accounting for the 66 books we might consider. It doesn’t count the infinite list of books we don’t consider.

        I would also point out something else. If your supposed chance of perceiving the canon is 70%, and yet when I ask you how you arrived at it you appeal to the concept of a true church from which we can obtain evidences, as opposed to heretical groups that can be ignored. But then you tell me you don’t believe in the one true church… I,e, you assign 0% probability to it because you don’t believe in it, then 0% x 70% =0%. You’ve used an evidence to arrive at your conclusion that at its base you reject.

        So is it your position then that at best you are no better off epistemologically than me?

      • The difference between what is true and the amount of certainty we can have about our perceived notion of that truth is two different things.

        Whether or not the right books got in or not is not an epistemological question at all, it’s de facto. Whether it not we can be, and how much, certainty we can have that our belief is right is epistemological.

        See how you went from “our certainty” to the “status of the canon” rather than to the status of our belief.

        The circularity is there of course. You have to assume that you can actually learn and identify truth before you can believe any truth with certainty can’t you? That is circular.

        I’m saying that either of us could be right, but not simultaneously. Our foundational belief cannot be what lends certainty to our discussions unless we are discussing and justifying our foundational beliefs so as to see which is better grounded.

        You can’t say “we know what justification is because we have apostolic successors and you don’t so you ant be certain.”. Why, because your not more certain of the apostolic successors as infallible than I am in Sola Scriptura. And so what we are left with is two options: 1. Discuss and compare foundational beliefs to see who is more grounded in hopes that we would both come to a better (the best?) position. 2. You appeal to THE ARGUMENTS employed by your apostolic successors and compare them to MY ARGUMENTS to see whose are more warranted or better grounded.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 18, 2012

        Well, I don’t agree that the fundamental issue is that we can have certainty, but… you can’t because we have //whatever//.

        The issue is that we say that we are the church, therefore only we have been appointed by God to be the repository of truth. You may or may not have truth… You can be lucky and you can be clever… but we certainly have the truth. If you join us, you may or may not appropriate the truth, but you’ll have access to, and be a part of the designated source of truth.

        We’ve already seen numerous examples in these threads that you had to appeal to the church and its members to justify your version of the truth. That means defacto, you admit our position is correct: acquiring truth requires access to the church, not just the scriptures. And in fact having confidence that your truths are the correct truths requires access to the church also. As the bible says, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Not that it ought to be, or that ideally it is, or that it should aim to be. It really is, and that has to be the foundation, the ground and the pillar of our epistemology.

      • Access to truth requires the church.

        I will think about it for a while. My initial thought is that the church is the necessary means to interpret truth, but that it is a fallible means (what is the east’s stance on infallibility)?

        Also the church, and who belongs is determined by the gospel and it is de facto apart from any opinions or beliefs. Whatever it is, if someone believes and trust it correctly, they are a part of te church, and that body of people who embrace the gospel, as God defines and determines it, that body is necessary for truth.

        The church is defined by doctrinal positions, and her response to those positions, on matters taught by the original apostles; rather than chronological successions.

        The repository of truth is that body who has properly responded to the fundamental truth of the gospel in the way Gid defines it. And even then the church is still fallible.

        I think we will eventually get to the question of how we know who is right and why we are certain.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 18, 2012

        I don’t think that it’s a biblical stance that questions like “where is the church” are answered by referring purely to acceptance of propositional truth. The church always had physical aspects to its existence whether it be baptism before you could belong, or the laying on of hands for appointing new elders, etc. If that’s important to your position, I think you would have to prove it. I mean, we know for sure that the apostles started a church. What you are claiming is that anyone can start a church. That’s a pretty big claim. About as big as if I claimed that anyone could write scripture.

        We would say that the church is infallible, but we are much less willing to define when and how that infallibility manifests itself.

        I would say this though: you defacto treat the church as infallible in the matter of canon, since you don’t seriously revisit what the church has said in this matter. It’s all very well to talk about the church being fallible, when you actually treat it as infallible when you need to. If Protestants are found to be in the main treating the church as infallible in this one area, then there is an inconsistency afoot.

      • Baptism was the physical subordination to propositional truth though, as was appointing elders; these are examples of people following the propositional truths set forth by the apostles.

        “What you are claiming is that anyone can start a church.” No, anyone can join the church by trusting in Christ as presented in the gospel. The apostles started a church with a confessional statement of propositional truth with Peter, which truth was confessed by all of the apostles. The Truth, as espoused by the apostles, since they were endorsed is what the church started on.

        “you defacto treat the church as infallible in the matter of canon.” No I don’t. There is a big difference between saying that the church made the right decision, and saying that the church could not have made the wrong decision. I don’t have to be infallible to believe that I am right (that is the point of my original post–this epistemic basis is too stringent for fallible people to gain knowledge.) I believe the church was right about the 27 books and i could lay out some evidences that don’t rest on the infallibility of the church.

        I have revisited my belief in whether or not there are adequate grounds for believing that these 27 books are inspired. When looking at the evidence, I believe the church made the right decision, not because she was infallible but because the nature of the canon and its origins were attested to and preserved by the Holy Spirit with evidences of its apostolicity and so on.

      • John

         /  July 19, 2012

        Simon saw that the spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands ( Acts 8:17 ). As much as it might make it neat and tidy for the Protestant world view to make everything to be a manifestation of the acceptance of propositional truth, this is not the biblical position. The biblical position is incarnational. God comes into the world physically. He could have stayed up in the sky and cast down propositions, but he did not. And when he did come, it was all very physical. He healed people by touching them, by rubbing mud on them, by them touching them. Even the apostles healed through physical items ( Acts 19:11 ).

        I don’t think it is the biblical position that you join the church by accepting propositions. Otherwise, why are people bothering to gather together, when they already were the church, snug at home in their bed on Sunday morning? You have to join the pre existing body of believers. Then you have to be subject to their rules and decisions. Do you think when the apostles appointed elders in a town and laid hands on them they were perfectly content for people to accept their doctrinal propositions, and yet reject the physical manifestation of their church? I think not. They went hand in hand.

        So you think the church could have made the wrong decision about the canon. And yet your main criteria for discerning canon is reception. So then you judge the canon by an invalid criterion, since reception is not a reliable indicator.

        You are really fooling yourself on this one. You don’t know if a book written by a friend of an apostle makes it scripture, except because the church told you so. You don’t know if 3 John is scripture, except because the church told you. You don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but you accept it as scripture, because the church told you to. For all your theories about how the church supposedly could err, you are forced to bow to it because you have no choice. The idea the church could err is something you hold near and dear because of Protestant history, but functionally you have to treat it as infallible anyway.

        One other thing. You say that the church got it right, not because it is infallible, but because the truth was “attested to and preserved by the Holy Spirit”. Well, you didn’t think we believe the church is infallible apart from the Spirit did you? Now you are just laying out the way infallibility functions! You see, you believe it, you just don’t like to say it. The idea of the infallible church grates on your sensibilities, but it is inevitable.

      • The reception by the church is not the main criteria. Apostolicity is. 17 books were established without question, as I have said, before the church officially received anything.

        There you go saying that if it is not infallible then it is unreliable. That is not true. (If it was then your belief in the magesterium falls because you cannot establish your own infallible ability to recognize truth because you are fallible.).

        For those in prison, who were Christians, we’re they a part of the church. Yes.

        The physical expressions of this belonging to the church is contingent on their trust in propositional truth. On this basis they would be included in the invisible church. And on that basis they would seek to be involved in the visible church.

        The holy spirit worked in the inspiration of and preservation of these books. While making certain characteristics discernible.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Garrison

         /  July 19, 2012

        Josh,

        “The reception by the church is not the main criteria. Apostolicity is. 17 books were established without question, as I have said, before the church officially received anything.”

        Yes, reception by the Church is the main criteria by which we judge these books as being Scripture. The other criteria were what the Church used to judge them and are how we can defend and understand the Church’s decision now, but they are not the principle reason we receive them as canonical. There doesn’t have to be an ecumenical council or a solemn declaration by a pope for those books to be seen as received. Remember what I said about the sensus fidelium. To say you judge these books to be canonical for X reason but reject other books for Y reason when the Church has accepted both sets, is to set yourself up as the judge of the Church. The individual cannot be the ultimate judge.

        “For those in prison, who were Christians, we’re they a part of the church. Yes.”

        They were in visible communion with the Church through baptism and reception of the Eucharist. They were not in schism or heresy, therefore they were part of the visible Church even if they were not physically present with them. We are not Christians solely by professing a proposition but also by participating in the visible Body of Christ.

        “The physical expressions of this belonging to the church is contingent on their trust in propositional truth. On this basis they would be included in the invisible church. And on that basis they would seek to be involved in the visible church.”

        No. You cannot so separate the visible and invisible Church. There must be one visible Church on earth just as there was one visible nation of Israel. If one claims to profess this propositional truth but rejects membership in the one visible Body of Christ (the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church) or that there is such a body, he denies the Incarnation and imperils his soul.

        “The holy spirit worked in the inspiration of and preservation of these books. While making certain characteristics discernible.”

        We disagree with none of that, but how can the Holy Spirit only partially work through the Church in a matter such as this? It would constitute a major failure on His part to allow the great majority of the Church to err without correction in the matter of the canon, specifically, and in the matter of ecclesiology, in general.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • We are at the heart of the discussion here I think.

        See, I think the superior identity of the books is the cause of the church’s acceptance and not the other way around. My recognition of these books, as I justify my belief in them includes the church’s decision, but is not determined by it ultimately. I see te church’s inclusion as the effect of the superior identity of te books.

        I can post more extensively on that point later.

        If I take my wedding ring off and put it on your hand, you are not therefore married to my wife. The trust in propositional truths that leads to the covenantal commitment is what grounds the sacraments, and gives them meaning and validity.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Garrison

         /  July 19, 2012

        Josh,

        “See, I think the superior identity of the books is the cause of the church’s acceptance and not the other way around. My recognition of these books, as I justify my belief in them includes the church’s decision, but is not determined by it ultimately. I see te church’s inclusion as the effect of the superior identity of te books.”

        I would in no way affirm that the Church’s acceptance is the cause of the books’ inspiration, but rather, how we know they are, in fact, inspired. Remember, we affirm that the Scriptures are Scriptures in se. The fact that the vast majority of the canon was not in dispute shows we, as individuals and even collectively, have the ability to discern the Spirit but not infallibly. The Church, however, is not just the sum of her members but is the Body of Christ and is guided and protected by the Spirit in ways none of us are as persons, individually or in total. At the Council of Jerusalem, the decree did not contain the caveat “inasmuch as this Council agrees with the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, it is authoritative”; on the contrary, it reads “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”. There is no sense that the Church can err or misunderstand the Spirit in some things because the Holy Spirit himself is guiding her decision. It is the same with all the other ecumenical councils. They do not give any indication that the doctrinal decisions reached in them are open to dispute or later reevaluation.

        “If I take my wedding ring off and put it on your hand, you are not therefore married to my wife. The trust in propositional truths that leads to the covenantal commitment is what grounds the sacraments, and gives them meaning and validity. ”

        You know I, as a Catholic, can’t affirm this. Your analogy doesn’t work because the ring is not the sacrament itself. If I (assuming you were never married to her) entered into the sacrament with her with the full consent of the will and knowing what I was doing, then it is so; neither of us actually has to believe anything for it to be binding. It is the same with the Eucharist: it is the Body and Blood whether or not I assent to this truth. If I partake in faith, then I receive Him and continue in being transformed into His likeness. If I do not, then I receive condemnation.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • John

         /  July 19, 2012

        Reception might not be the ultimate reason for a book being canonical, BUT IT IS THE ONLY VISIBLE REASON. There are no eye witnesses to the authorship of any books. There are false attestations to many apocryphal books. There is nothing objectively different between the evidence for say 2 Peter and the Gospel of Peter, except that one was received and the other wasn’t. From that we work our way BACKWARDS to the assumption that 2 Peter was written by Peter, and the Gospel of Peter was not. I mean, that’s the basic situation. You can niggle that there might be scraps of other bits of evidences, but that essentially is the case. This is even clearer in the case of books written by non-apostles like Mark and Luke. The exact relationship between the apostles and these books is historically uncertain. The main thing we have is reception. Clement was supposed to be closely associated with the apostles. Hs epistles were in some early canon lists. But it didn’t make the final cut. Why not? There is no objective reason. If they had made it in, for certain you’d be here arguing how obvious it is that it should be in.

        Therefore, since your tangible criteria for canonicity is reception, you really functionally have to admit the church is infallible. That it is infallible because of the Holy Spirit’s work is just fleshing out the details.

        Are people who are physically separated from the body, like prisoners also “in” the church? Well, surely that is up to the church to decide. If the church recognizes them as in, then they are in. But do you really think you can be a member of a club, and not turn up to the meetings ever for no particular reason, and still be in the club? That would be odd. I mean, according to you, you can walk up to someone on the street and say “Jesus is Lord”. If they for a fleeting moment accept this proposition, then they are suddenly “in the church”, nevermind that they never meet another Christian in their lives. I see nothing in the bible that would give me warrant for thinking that.

        If you can point me to anyone in the bible who was considered a member of the church without baptism, why don’t you quote us chapter and verse? If you can show us anyone in the bible who was an elder without being duly appointed such by the pre existing church and elders, and by laying on of hands, quote us chapter and verse.

        Concerning infallibility versus reliability and unreliability. Really, this is just a niggle. If you don’t like the word infallibility and just want to say the church is “reliable”, that’s fine with me. It amounts to essentially the same thing in the end. Though since this reliability or infallibility is the result of the Spirit, I don’t see the big deal about using the stronger word. I mean, can you conceive a situation where the Spirit failed to get the church to recognize the right set of books, and in fact just plain got it wrong? That would be a very problematic viewpoint theologically. It really would cast considerably more doubt on the canon.

      • There is nothing objectively different between the evidence for say 2 Peter and the Gospel of Peter, except that one was received and the other wasn’t.

        “A helpful historical example of the intertwined nature of orthodoxy and apostolicity is that of Serapion, Bishop of Antioch (c. 200). Upon examination of the Gospel of Peter, which was being read by some at the church at Rhossus, Serapion determined that Peter did not write it and said, “We receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ, but the writings which falsely bear their names we reject.”94 Although Serapion’s concern for apostolic authorship here is fairly clear, some have attempted to show that Serapion’s rejection of the Gospel of Peter was only because it was promoting false doctrine (probably docetism), not because it was not written by Peter.95 In this particular historical scenario, however, it seems evident that both authorship (apostolic origins) and orthodoxy (divine qualities) were in play, one affecting the other.96 J. A. T. Robinson sums it up well: “Though the motive of [Serapion’s] condemnation of [the Gospel of Peter] was the docetic heresy that he heard it was spreading, the criterion of his judgment, to which he brought the expertise in these matters that he claimed, was its genuineness as the work of the apostle.”97 In the end, the self-authenticating model of canon actually serves to unite the various canonical models by acknowledging that no one attribute is ultimate. Because these three attributes are so interdependent, one can look at the entire question of canon through the lens of just one attribute. Thus, in a sense, all three attributes are about apostolic origins. Apostolic origins are not only about the historical background of a book, but also about the qualities produced by apostolic origins and how it leads to corporate reception in the church. Likewise, all three attributes are, in a sense, about divine qualities. Divine qualities are not only about the internal marks of a book, but also about where the divine qualities come from and the impact those qualities have on the church. And, in a sense, all three attributes are about corporate reception. Corporate reception is not only about the response of the church to a book, but also about those things that make that response possible, namely, the divine qualities and apostolic origins of a book. Thus, all three attributes.” Michael J. Kruger

        You said: “This is even clearer in the case of books written by non-apostles like Mark and Luke:” See my last response to Pio on this question: it is actually more attested to than you give it credit for.

        “Therefore, since your tangible criteria for canonicity is reception, you really functionally have to admit the church is infallible.” No, i admit that the Scriptures are, hence their reception; not they were accepted; hence they are infallible. Just the opposite.

        “Concerning infallibility versus reliability and unreliability.” The question is not about the church’s reliability but the reliability of ALL of the evidence as given adequate grounds to justify my belief in the 27 books as inspired apart from a belief in the infallibility of the church.

        –Josh

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        But… It’s all very well to talk about Serapion, and his opinion about it not being genuine. But what does he know about it? He never met Peter.  It seems that his opinion was also based on reception, and he worked BACKWARDS from there to evaluate genuineness. Yes sure, if we knew magically what was apostolic, then reception would not be an issue. But we don’t, so reception is how we judge genuineness.

        In terms of whether he was motivated by wanting to stamp out heresy, that would be back to front for Protestants. They have to first decide what is scripture, THEN exegete it to find out what it teaches.  Then they usually have to work hard to harmonize them ( unless you are Luther I guess, and just dismiss James as an epistle of straw ). The idea that Serapion could judge the canon based on orthodoxy presupposes that there is an orthodoxy independent of the canon – something Protestants will not countenance.

        You list your “good reasons” to believe a document is apostolic. (1) if it was written during the apostolic age. Well…how do you know? Dating is pretty hard. There’s little evidence that 2 Peter existed before the year 200.  And when you find “evidence” of someone quoting it ( which is mostly the only good evidence available ) then it’s up for dispute when *that* was written. Often their authenticity is questioned. Are all the letters of Clement authentic? Apparently not say scholars. Are the letters of Ignatius authentic? It’s debated in academic circles. It’s a tough job. Is this really what the Protestant convert  is signing up for?

        (2) it was written by someone who got their information from an apostle. It’s a bit arbitrary isn’t it? Why is one level removed ok, but 2 is not? Anyway, if we just accept this extra-biblical assumption, how do we know? None of this is documented. It’s all in traditions of the kind that Protestants throw scorn on in other circumstances. You quote Heb 2:3 as evidence that it came from the apostles. Two problems here. Firstly, you have to assume the book is authentic before you can believe this verse. But secondly, there is a just a ton of stuff in Hebrews that has nothing to do with anything that the Lord is likely to have said. There seems no reason to assume that just because the author may have got an authentic gospel message from the apostles that therefore everything in this book is true, just based on 2:3. I mean, are we positing here that everybody who even just met the apostles received the gift of infallibility?

        Then you have a lot of quotes from folks like Irenaeus saying that Luke etc is apostolic. Based on what though? Did an apostle tell him that? Does he have a copy of a letter attesting it? No, it’s based on reception.

        Chrysostom defends John and Origen defends Jude based on their self-authenticating content? Well that’s just great, except that Chrysostom rejects Jude. So now what? Looks to me like individual reception based on content is unreliable compared to corporate reception, don’t you think? So what you personally think about the content doesn’t seem enormously useful, unless you think yourself wiser than Chrysostom.

        What did Irenaeus think about tradition? Here’s what an Anglican scholar said: There was, however, another aid which he looked upon as of the most certain and most important utility, so far as it extended, and that was the baptismal creed, which he regarded as infallible for leading to the right sense of Scripture upon fundamental points, and according to which he thought all Scripture ought to be interpreted. [I.ix.4] It is evident, therefore, that he regarded the tradition of the Church, to that extent, as divine and infallible. (James Beaven, An Account of the Life and Writings of S. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and Martyr, 1841, p. 139.)

        So what about tradition and this “living voice”. He was criticizing the idea of continual and new revelation. But our side of the fence is just as opposed to this as anybody. We don’t want to see new fangled ideas either.

      • Serapion came before reception of the church, officially. The question was whether to receive the gospel of Peter. It bore different marks internally, and with external evidence.

        This was clear before what you all the “only” visible evidence.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        There is no “before reception”. As soon as the books went out, reception was already at issue. And I’d like to see the proof of how you reckon Serpion evaluated Peter.

      • Based on the “core canonical books” and the fact that Peter didn’t write the heretical one.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Luther quotes James as scripture, and later synthesizes it with Romans.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • The how you know question is the problem. There have been defenses of 2 Peter as Peter’s epistle, in fact that was the churches belief (the one you say is infallible). The evidences ate not as sparse as you say. And they are reliable.

        You believe the church is infallible without “infallible certainty.”. I believe 2 Peter is infallible without infallible certainty. (The original post that I posted dealt with these questions. How do you know NASA is reliable? How do you know the evidence for the earth as a sphere is reliable, etc…).

        The new convert can believe them based on the self-attestation, like many fathers did. See my response to .

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        Well this should be easy for you. I won’t ask you to defend all your criteria. Just show me this one thing: that 2 Peter seems to be a 1st century document. Don’t worry about showing it infallibly, just show that there’s good extant evidence for it. Better than 50% probability would be a decent starting point.

        Yes, reception was based on apostolic authority way way back in the beginning, when people knew stuff first hand. Now its based on apostolic authority purely on the churches say so, and the say so of tradition. Tradition and reception are two sides of the one coin.

      • Traditional evidences, reception and self-attestation (the kind the fathers taught); are all characteristics exhibited by books that are ontologically superior. The tradition of these 27 books are tradition due to ontology; the reception and self attestation of these books are due to ontology; I know the catholic (and E. orthodox?) don’t say reception determines ontology foundationally, but retrospectively yall do say that reception grounds the ontology whereas we say ontology grounds reception; even retrospectively. (why were they received to begin with?).

        I will do 2 Peter as soon as I can. That won’t be a problem. Carson, Guthrie, and Kruger have all demonstrated superior cases for it.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        I have no knowledge that we say what you claim that we do about ontology versus reception. As I said, I think it’s theological naval gazing, since ontology isn’t testable, only reception is testable, therefore actual human beings rely on reception. Ontology is for theologians and seminary students, regardless of your denomination.

        Furthermore, the principle of incarnation, and dare I say theosis, means the mingling and in fact inseparability of the human and divine, just like you can’t separate Christ’s natures, nor can you separate the scriptures as divine works from the scriptures as products of the personalities of particular human beings with their own foibles. In that respect the scriptures are a work of God, but also a work of men and also an artifact of the church. They weren’t eternally written in heaven, nor did they drop from he sky on brass plates as some other religions say about their scriptures. Rather they are the records of a body of people and the real life problems they had at a particular place and time. That body of people are co owners of that book, and their problems are dealt with therein. To separate the book as a divine artifact from the church it was sent to and belonged to is extraordinary.

        So we talk about ontology and reception, which is to talk about the problem on your terms with peculiarly Protestant frames of mind.

      • Ontology is testable. The tests themselves just don’t establish epistemic certainty. You test ontology with reception and the like.

        What your saying is like saying that sickness isn’t testable. But, It is when you know what symptoms to look for.

        Some symptoms may not be conclusive by themselves. Some symptoms are decisive, while others can be exhibited by other things other than sickness.

        Still though, sickness is testable by virtue of its symptoms. Sent from my iPhone

      • Garrison

         /  July 20, 2012

        Josh,

        The sickness metaphor is actually more appropriate than you know. We, because we are merely humans, even if we have faith, have abilities that only extend so far in recognizing the things of God. We can see certain aspects of books as stemming from their reality as divinely inspired, but our judgement (including that of individual Fathers) is liable to be mistaken (even if it is a reasonable mistake) because we are missing something: we have not yet been fully divinized. Just as doctors one hundred years ago could not diagnose certain illnesses reliably because they had neither the information nor the technology to do so, so we as humans are in the discernment of the Spirit. The Church, however, is at once human and divine, therefore, she has the added benefit of seeing what is part of divine revelation. This is what we’re saying: in Protestantism, the Church is merely the sum of her members and is, therefore, only human. This is not so for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or the Assyrians because we affirm the Church’s divine and human natures.

      • Well, I affirm the church as divine an human. But, so are we. We are temples of the Spirit. Part human and part divine. I will say the Holy Spirit is totally subordinate to the Son and Father and so we possess his submissive nature, as creatures.

        The church is not immune from te effects of sin, anymore than we are. In a community though, there is as it were a village of ideas and gifts that works together through contrary ideas that require more precise statements of faith and so on.

        In the end, sickness is testable, and you can reliably (though fallibly) determine if a person is sick when the specific symptoms converge so as to ground our designation of the sickness.

        The same is true with testing ontology in scriptures, it exhibits certain symptoms that when they converge they establish the epistemic environment that properly grounds our belief in the scriptures as justified and warranted.

        2 Peter. I will get to it tomorrow evening.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Garrison

         /  July 20, 2012

        Josh,

        “Well, I affirm the church as divine an human. But, so are we. We are temples of the Spirit. Part human and part divine. I will say the Holy Spirit is totally subordinate to the Son and Father and so we possess his submissive nature, as creatures.”

        No, we aren’t. We are human only with the potential to become fully divinized. Also, the Spirit is neither submissive nor subordinate by nature, but truly God and an equal member of the Trinity in essence. This is Nicaean Trinitarianism. To compare His nature as an eternal being to ours as created ones is most inappropriate. The Church, unlike us, is fully divine and fully human.

        “The church is not immune from te effects of sin, anymore than we are. In a community though, there is as it were a village of ideas and gifts that works together through contrary ideas that require more precise statements of faith and so on. ”

        In the sense that the earthly representatives of the Church, the successors of the Apostles, commit sins, wield their authority in ways contrary to Christ, and even fall into heresy, that is true, but even they cannot thwart the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit which is given to a visible Church. Remember, the bishops (even the pope) are only men. You yourself point out that it is through controversy that the Church often figures out what she believes and articulates it with more precise statements of faith. The question is: what Church claims the power to articulate these statements of faith that are binding on all Christians? They can’t be binding on all if they aren’t #1 infallible and #2 from one institutional authority.

        “In the end, sickness is testable, and you can reliably (though fallibly) determine if a person is sick when the specific symptoms converge so as to ground our designation of the sickness.”

        You didn’t understand the point of my explanation. Our diagnosis (the ontology that certain books are Scripture) is only as good as our tools. We are like the nineteenth century doctors here, lacking much knowledge and technology; we can do well enough most of the time, but we miss things because we don’t know about them or can’t go deeper because of our limited technology. The Church, however, because of her divine nature and the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, sees much, much better than we can in these matters. This is why some books are recognized as Scripture by all, but others are not. This is not just some intellectual problem that you can simply marshal enough evidence to prove your case, else you run the risk of reducing the Faith to the intellectual affirmation of various propositions.

        No one argues that we can’t see divine qualities in any books of Scripture or that the Church must tell us each and every book that is such. We simply affirm that there is a better judge of the evidence than us: the Church.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • Phil. 2:5. Jesus was subordinate and equal. Sounds like heresy to say that submission means unequal doesn’t it.

        God lives in us. And being diviniZed had already started: I.e. sanctification.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Garrison

         /  July 20, 2012

        “Phil. 2:5. Jesus was subordinate and equal. Sounds like heresy to say that submission means unequal doesn’t it. God lives in us. And being diviniZed had already started: I.e. sanctification.”

        It is heresy when you say He or the Holy Spirit are subordinate by nature, because you are saying that there is a distinction in essence between each of the Persons, thereby destroying the fundamental unity of the Trinity. Christ has two natures, it is true, but that does not subordinate Him in the workings of the Trinity because His divine nature is the same as the Father’s and the Spirit’s.

        God lives in us as individuals, yes, but we as individuals can also apostasize and reject Him. Yes, we have begun divinization as individuals, but that will not be complete for us until after death if we receive it, therefore, we are not fully divine yet. The process of divinization is complete for the Church, however; she is indeed fully divine and fully human. This is why she cannot err, because she would reject God in doing so and anathematize her very nature. That is impossible.

      • There are distinctions in their nature; the Father is the principle without principles and the Son is not. There must be distinctions in order for their to be persons. It sounds like you make it out that before the Son’s incarnation that he was not a Son at all; and without distinction from the Father?

        Subordination is a divine characteristic that is not inferior. The Son always delights to do the will of the Father, that is simply who he is.

        This is the ultimate basis of the equality in marriage. The women does submit, and the husband is greater in authority; but they are nonetheless equals and both their submission and their leadership roles are equally valuable.

        Off subject.

      • John

         /  July 21, 2012

        “It sounds like you make it out that before the Son’s incarnation that he was not a Son at all”.

        That of course would be a heresy…. albeit not one that you can prove from sola scriptura.

      • Garrison

         /  July 21, 2012

        No, Josh, I’m sorry, you can’t say “by nature” or you deny Nicaea I. When you use “nature” in reference to the Trinity, it means “essence”. There is one essence of the Trinity: God. You can say there is a distinction between the Persons as there is, but it cannot be in essence. A fine point, especially in the modern usage of such words, but crucial in this matter. Anyway, the point of all this was to say that you can’t compare the Holy Spirit, who is truly God, to us because we are creatures. We are submissive by nature. He is not.

        I didn’t catch how that was relevant to the discussion of the Church’s divine and human natures.

      • There is one essence: God. However, there is a distinction between them as persons that is not merely how they function. The Son submits to the Father in a way that the Father doesn’t submit to the Son. When the Son submitted to the Father’s will on earth, he just continued the eternal submission that he had always exhibited.

        The church as a divine and human organism is fallible; in the same way that we, as humans, are indwelt by God himself, and are therefore divine. The church is simply the increased concentration of this divinity that is more than the sum of its parts but less than infallible due to the effects of sin. Infallible in doctrine due to the noetic effects of sin.

        That was my point. It was just a statement of how I viewed the church. I felt like you put me in a category of not affirming the church’s divinity. So I used a category of our divinity to show that I do; while also affirming fallibility.

      • Garrison

         /  July 21, 2012

        They are truly Three Persons. That distinction does not extend to their essence, however. I agree that the Son and the Spirit act in certain ways that are part of their particular Personhoods, but you cannot say it is “by nature” because that would undermine their consubstantial unity. That is what I object to, but it is a tangential question to what we are discussing: namely, whether the Church is infallible.

        Yes, you do deny the Church is divine in nature. If the Church is both divine and human in nature, she must be infallible. We as individuals are only human in nature still because we have not reached the end of our lives so as to be in full union with God. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us is not the same for precisely the reason that we can reject Him by apostasy while the Church cannot. As I said before, for the Church to err in doctrine, especially to the extent Protestants claim she did, is to say she died at some point (seeing how widespread the beliefs were that the Reformers rejected, it’d have to be extremely early), and, by saying she died, you are saying that Christ’s promise that the gates of Hades would not overcome her was actually a lie. Remember, the branch separated from vine will wither and die; we see this in the fact that Arianism ceased to exist (that is, until some sola scriptura believing Protestants attempted to bring it back). The effects of sin cannot affect the Church’s teaching authority for this reason. Also, in discussing the power to bind and loose that is given to the Church, you are suggesting error can enter into Heaven itself. This cannot be.

      • I don’t believe that a person can apostacize if they are truly indwelt. You can quote Hebrews and we can talk about if you like. But, if I’m right about this one point: then it can be possible that we have a divine nature and a fallen one?

        Also the church’s supposed infallibility on specific matters seems a bit ambiguous. If the church is infallible, why only in those two (even though she hasn’t been on those two either). If she is truly divine, in the sense you mean, then why so much failure and heresy in whichever church? Sent from my iPhone

      • Garrison

         /  July 21, 2012

        “I don’t believe that a person can apostacize if they are truly indwelt. You can quote Hebrews and we can talk about if you like. But, if I’m right about this one point: then it can be possible that we have a divine nature and a fallen one?”

        I disagree with that interpretation because: 1. when Jesus talks about branches being cut from the vine, those branches are truly *in* the vine; 2. in the parable of the sower, Jesus indicates that people can genuinely repent and accept the Gospel, but that they can also die; 3. Hebrews 6 says this: “For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding him up to contempt.” Notice the phrase “bring them to repentance again”. How can one truly repent and not be part of the Faith? Even if you are right on that point, though, we, as humans on earth, are not divine in nature though the Spirit may indwell us. The promise given to the Church was unconditional while our ultimate salvation is quite conditional.

        “Also the church’s supposed infallibility on specific matters seems a bit ambiguous. If the church is infallible, why only in those two (even though she hasn’t been on those two either). If she is truly divine, in the sense you mean, then why so much failure and heresy in whichever church?”

        I disagree. I see no reason to believe she is not infallible in both faith and morals. Particular Churches (local ones) may indeed err (a great many bishops were Arian). Even so, I don’t see how this contradicts our belief that there is one visible Church; if a local Church is heretical, it is not in communion with the Church.

        “By apostasy, reject the gospel and Christ; the church hasn’t. The Gates of hell haven’t prevailed. But like individuals, many doctrinal errors continue.”

        According to the Reformers, the Roman Church did indeed reject the Gospel and Christ by professing belief in the sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation, indulgences, the intercession of the saints, purgatory, among other doctrines and by denying sola fide, sola scriptura, etc. These are much more than just a few errors if the Reformers are to be believed; they are a very different faith, which would constitute a victory for the gates of Hades. Also, the prevalence and age among orthodox Christians of many of these doctrines would put such a victory very early.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • First off, I do believe that Salvation is conditional, and that our ultimate salvation is conditional. I will even say that Salvation is dependent on personal holiness (without which no one will see God). These conditions, we believe, are conditions that Christ has promised to bring to fruition. Phil 1:6 for example. Even as we work out our own salvation we find that it is not us, but God who is at work in both the working and also the willingness that motivates the working. By this he he keeps us from falling away. In this case, I do believe that the scriptures apply that a true believer is not “automatically” secure in the sense that the conditions are unimportant. If a true believer were to fall away into apostasy he would be damned; but the fact of the matter is that he can’t. So then, why the if statement? Because one of the ways that God has determined to keep his people from falling is through the warnings themselves that should point us away from our own falliblity and to the infallibility of Jesus Christ.

        1. Being cut from the vine could be a clear reference to Israel being cut off. Vines and vineyards crop up in several parables in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt. 21:23–41; Mk. 12:1–9; Lk. 20:9–16; Mt. 20:1–16; 21:28–32; Lk. 13:6–9). These parables have two things in common: (a) they all have narrative plot; (b) in each case the vineyard, or people connected with the vineyard, portray Israel, or a part of Israel, being far less fruitful than ought to have been the case.
        When Ezekiel appealed to vine imagery, he warned that if a vine failed to produce fruit its wood was good for nothing but a fire (Ezk. 15:1–8); Jesus assumes the same thing, and by thus alluding to Ezekiel, where the vine stands for Israel, he is warning his contemporaries of their imminent danger, and reinforcing the replacement motif with which the chapter began.

        2. The parable of the sower, those who believe and fall away demonstrate that their faith was inadequate. See John 2:19-22. Luther drew out 3 criteria for saving faith: content-understanding of the gospel must be adequate and so one must grasp the necessary propositions, consent- must believe it, and trust- entrusting oneself body and soul to what you have consented to. The stony ground, or the cares of this world group, did not fully grasp the meaning gospel or; if they did; they were not overcome by its supernatural beauty and truthfulness so as to delight in what is offered in it; namely, God himself.

        3. First off, these verses in Hebrews are much more difficult than many give them credit for. And many people fail to read them in context.
        Hebrews 6:9 “Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation.” (NLT);
        9 But we are convinced of better things in your case, beloved—-things that accompany salvation—-even though we speak as we do (Mounce).

        Conditional yet confident in Christ’s keeping power; which power is sometimes evoked by such warnings.

        The doctrine of sola fide says that it is faith alone that saves. When it is taught as such people are kept from the heresy of self-righteousness that so easily creeps in to people who are full of pride (all of us). However, where people are exposed to the teaching that you should trust in Christ for salvation and righteousness, salvation occurs. Sure, I believe that indulgences (in conjunction with penance) stirs up misunderstandings that have, if we are right, led many away from Christ; but it does not garuntee that faith in Christ is impossible if such a belief is held. Transubstantiation and some things such as this were far less likely in their early forms.

      • Garrison

         /  July 21, 2012

        So, what you’re saying is that God is playing a mind game with us… God tells us that if any of us apostasize or if any of us fail to bear fruit, we’re going to be thrown in the fire. But wait! God’s just kidding. We can’t actually apostasize and if we do, we were never really believers anyway, therefore it’s not really apostasy. I fail to see how the nation of Israel can be cut off, but individuals cannot. Also, if you want to talk about doctrines giving people wrong ideas, as Protestants are wont to do with various Catholic doctrines, you must admit this is… problematic at best. No, salvation is not conditional if there is no condition in which the true believer cannot, in fact, apostasize.

        On a side note, misunderstandings are not a reason to stop teaching something but a reason to properly catechize people.

        As for transubstantiation, it is one of the earliest and best attested doctrines of the Church, as is the sacrifice of the Mass. The fact that the Reformers universally condemned both is quite telling that they were the ones innovating.

        Regardless, if the Roman Church was wrong, for her to condemn the Reformers as she did would mean that her faith was compromised to the point of death. Errors of that magnitude poison the whole faith, as the Reformers repeatedly pointed out. In other words, the Reformers left a Church that was already dead before they were born. One cannot receive life from a dead vine, so from where did the Reformers receive their faith? Who taught them their doctrines? I know of no line of succession of teaching, infallible or non, from which they received them.

        Rome’s doing quite fine these days with martyrs, missionaries, and all that. The period after the Reformation was one of fantastic missionary zeal and growth. I don’t think that looks like a Church with its candlestick removed. Also, a millenium is a huge span of time. Sure, there was corruption in the Church. There always has and always will be, but does that negate her authority? No. There have been tons of corruption, divisiveness, etc. among Protestants since they began, but I doubt you would say that negates the message of the Reformation. Regardless, in your zeal to paint Rome with a broad, dark brush as if there were nothing but darkness with a few pinpricks of light, you miss much good that Rome did and the work of many to reform the Church, not in doctrine (how can one seriously tell the Church she needs to change her Faith unless one is a heretic?), but in practice, without threatening to leave or burning summons to give an account of oneself.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • The warnings arent mind games, they are warnings that are meant to define the nature of saving-faith. How can I know that I, at this moment, possess true saving faith? One of the characteristics that my faith must exhibit is endurance to the end. How can I be sure that I will last? God’s promise to hold those who are truly his. I don’t tell myself “I got this, I can endure to the end because I’m true.” I say “Christ has begun this work in me, and he will be faithful to complete it. He is the author of my faith and he will be the finisher. Weak as I am, He who is strong will keep me from falling.

        That is why the great calvinist doctrine is called “perseverance of the saints.” God secures the true believers persevere to the end. Why do we believe that? Because you must persevere to the end in order to be saved.

        Those verses are like James who says “faith without works is dead.” It is a way of identifying false faith. Those who don’t endure arent truly his.

        As far as Rome’s missions: I don’t think that was Ephesus’s problem was it? Zeal and missions?

        Anyhow, Rome had also forbidden the translation of the bible into the vernacular. They refused to put the word of God into the common peoples hands. Talk about an infallible church. I as a Protestant speak of my church as a fallible church. Slavery, we were wicked and ignorant. We held wrong doctrines live by wrong standards, but we have also repented and submitted to the word on the matters that we were off on.

        As far as corruption goes? No doubt! Works of satisfaction with penance, indulgences, and the like; are terrible corruptions if I am right, and they lead many astray.

        Change her faith. She has the scriptures, she just hasnt been interpreting and surrendering to them correctly. Like OT Israel, God sent prophets to speak of his covenant, and retell his work of redemption; then this prophets words would become permanent testimonies of God to the people. The people would misinterpret, or ignore all together what was taught, so God would send another and do the same thing. When Christ came, covenant, redemption, followed by the sole permanent written testimony of God’s works for us, the church made mistakes that would be checked by God raising up men who took us back to the Scriptures on matters over and over again.

        This thread is done. I’m wrapping it up here. My next few posts will be non-disupte type posts and I will be working on a defense of Sola Scriptura. Until then…

        Josh

      • Garrison

         /  July 22, 2012

        Oh, but giving a warning to someone that is not applicable to them is playing a mind game, and a cruel one at that. The Catholic doctrine that it is presumption to consider oneself one of God’s elect and that one will (not simply can) persevere to the end is much more representative of humility than the Calvinist doctrine on this point.

        “Anyhow, Rome had also forbidden the translation of the bible into the vernacular. They refused to put the word of God into the common peoples hands.”

        An old canard that has been debunked repeatedly over the centuries. There were numerous vernacular translations of the Bible before the Reformers. That does not include Wycliff, who was condemned for not translating the Scriptures correctly and not for translating them into English. Regardless, it was hard to mass produce any book before the invention of the printing press, so forgive the Church if the laity wasn’t swimming in personal copies of the Bible as they are now. All this matters little, though, because the laity heard, and still hears, a reading from the Old Testament, a responsorial Psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel passage in the vernacular.

        No! Penance, confession, indulgences, a fasting rule, transubstantiation, purgatory, etc. are all beautiful practices and teachings that the Church has maintained from the beginning. They serve to deepen the life of faith by bringing us to repentance and closer contact with Christ. By throwing these out and by smashing statues and icons, the Reformers showed they were the enemies of Beauty and Truth embodied in Christ.

        “She has the scriptures, she just hasnt been interpreting and surrendering to them correctly.”

        You know I believe the inverse: that the Church has preserved the true teaching, and the Reformers were some of the most dangerous innovators of doctrine in the history of the Church. I do not call them prophets for prophecy (divine revelation) ceased with the death of John, and because they taught clear heresy.

        The Church cannot err because Christ has promised her so; to do so would betray her very nature

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • John

         /  July 22, 2012

        How does the warning achieve stopping you from falling away, if you are smart enough to figure out that the warnings are really straw men and you can’t fall away? Maybe the warnings are only meant to help non-Calvinists who can’t figure that out? 🙂

      • The warnings arent straw men, they are warnings that are meant to define the nature of saving-faith. How can I know that I, at this moment, possess true saving faith? One of the characteristics that my faith must exhibit is endurance to the end.

        That is why the great calvinist doctrine is called “perseverance of the saints.” God secures the true believers perseverance to the end. Why do we believe that? Because you must persevere to the end.

        Where was the candlestick? With the remnant. With the elect who truly believed.

      • Garrison

         /  July 21, 2012

        Also, if you deny the possibility of true apostasy for individuals (which I gather from the Reformed tradition), then how can the Church, who is much greater than than the sum of her parts as you affirm, commit such an act?

      • By apostasy, reject the gospel and Christ; the church hasn’t. The Gates of hell haven’t prevailed. But like individuals, many doctrinal errors continue.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Good question.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        Not really because the sciences have yet to come up with a test for God.

        You say a book is divine if an apostle wrote it, or an apostle’s friend wrote it, or an OT prophet wrote it. Who said that? Assuming we could test these things. Dip the page in a special solution, and if it turns green, it means it is written by an apostle’s friend. Does that prove it is a divine thing? Nope.

        These criteria you have come up with are themselves a product of reception. They’re not in scripture. They didn’t drop from heaven. They don’t intrinsically indicate divinity. They are just some rules you stole from the church that it came up with by reception.

        If your tests test things other than reception, yet your tests themselves come from reception, you are still reliant on reception.

      • Product of reception??? No, that is saying they exhibit divine characteristic because they were received.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        No, the point is, you have no clue what a “divine characteristic” is when it comes to testing books, outside of what the church told you. Therefore you are only rubber stamping reception.

        Imagine this. You go to school and they tell you that you test people for the sickness of being a witch by throwing them in the river. That’s great, it’s an objective test. If you apply the test, are you being objective about the existence of the witch, or are you just rubber stamping a world view that you took from the ones who gave you the test?

        The church gave you the test. No matter how clever you are at applying it, it is still only as good as the church’s opinion and reliability, and dare I say infallibility.

      • The criteria of aposticity wasnt given by the church. And it is the main one.

        It just doesn’t work. The church is a test. Their reception is a test.

        The issue of Apostolicity was not given by the church but by God,Christ, and the apostles

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 20, 2012

        Apostolicity is just a word. Until you flesh it out, it’s nearly meaningless. Anything or nothing could be apostolic, depending on how you flesh that out. There’s questions of whether it has to be from their pen directly, questions of whether it has to be in writing at all, questions of what types of oral transmission can occur between the apostles and it being written, questions of thresholds of certainty before it may be used as a rule of faith, questions of how to judge its orthodoxy, if orthodoxy be a test, questions of who is qualified to evaluate these criteria, questions of which apostles are authoritative, whether it be just the 12, or the 12 plus Matthius, or the 13 plus Paul, or also including Barnabas, or Junius, or also the 70 who were sent, and so forth. You’re really fooling yourself if you think you can simplify it all down to one word.

      • You wanted me to post on the evidences that Peter wrote 2 Peter in the first century. You claim that the our only evidence is in the fact that the church received it. I claim that the primary issue is with “why” they received it; whereas your main issue is “that” they received it. I am going to list some evidences that 2 Peter, which claims to be written by Peter, was in fact written by Peter, and on that basis a 1st century work.

        “16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” First, the writer claims to be an eyewitness of Christ, which is a reference to the Transfiguration. So, if Peter didn’t write this letter, that would mean that this author claimed to be an eyewitness of Christ in his transfiguration when he actually wasn’t. Such deception seems incompatible with a book purporting to be from God.

        Historically: When the Asian elders examined the author of “An Acts of Paul,” which included the pseudonymous 3 Corinthians, they condemned him for presuming to write in Paul’s name—even though 3 Corinthians had been highly esteemed in parts of the church and for a time was included in the canon of the Syrian and Armenian churches, apparently under the impression that Paul had written it. So, its edifying content did that save it once its pseudonymous identity became known.
        Serapion rejected the gospel of Peter because it was pseudonymous. “We receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ, but the writings which falsely bear their names (ψϵυδέπιγραϕα) we reject…”
        Tertullian is blistering against the Asian elder who confesses that he wrote Acts of Paul and Thecla. All the elders protestations that he had done so our of great love for the apostle did not prevent him from being deposed from the ministry. (De Baptismo 17).
        Donelson wrote: “No one ever seems to have accepted a document as religiously and philosophically prescriptive which was known to be forged. I do not know of a single example.”
        The church rejected all works that claimed to be written by an apostle when they in fact weren’t and treated it as a matter of deception.

        Therefore, the book claims to have been written by Peter. The church rejects all books that are written pseudonymously. The church received 2 Peter on the basis that Peter wrote it. No conclusive evidence has been leveled against Peter as the author. Many of the critics of Petrine authorship have been addressed philosophically in their methods of interpreting evidences, and in the evidences that they overlook. Many, for example, will point to works that were written pseudonymously in pagan cultures, and ignore the church’s abhorrence of it, and claim that the church accepted it. Some say that the fisherman couldn’t have written a book like 2 Peter becuase it required a certain education that he did not have. That is pure conjecture that is a bit condescending. 2 Peter used words that they say “the Peter who walked with Christ and wrote 1 Peter couldn’t have used.” That is hardly a case.

        The church accepted 2 Peter because they truly thought that Peter wrote it. Eusebius also affirmed it, as a historian, that Peter was the author. My point is that the evidence that the church chose this book BECAUSE it was written by an apostle is conclusive. The book is authoritative because of who wrote it, and it was recognized because of who wrote it; the church recognized it as inspired and authoritative because of who wrote it.

        So, The church chose the book because it was infallible, because it was apostolic. Our basis for accepting it is its apostolicity.

        No conclusive evidence has been leveled against Peter as the author. The books claims to have been written by Peter. The church analyzed works that claimed apostolic authorship deceptively and condemned all books like this; and despite questions, the church recognized this book as written by Peter, and therefore on the basis of its authorship was authoritative.

        The only thing infallible in all of this is the book itself.

        The evidence for pseudonymity is actually much weaker than people realize. Historically with regard to Jewish and Christian epistles, it is very weak indeed; and, probably even more so with regard to the underlying philosophical assumptions that ground their techniques.
        A challenge to their philosophies see: Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 374–421; C. Stephen Evans, The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith: The Incarnational Narrative as History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 170–202; William P. Alston, “Historical Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels,” in “Behind” the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. Craig Bartholomew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 151–80.

      • In anticipation that you will say “see, you are relying on the church to determine whether or not it is inspired.” I will reply first, that the church’s reception is one of my epistemological grounds for believing 2 Peter is inspired. But, it is not the only one. In actuality, it was the apostlocity of the book that brought about its reception.

        And Second, I’m reading church history. Historically, the church despised pseudonymity and rejected all works that falsely claimed apostleship. In their search they did all they could to weed out all such books. They included 2 Peter. That is evidence that is not established by the authority of the church, or its infallibility, but simply by considering history itself. The church could have been wrong, yes. But, they thought Peter wrote it and included it for that sole purpose. With that in place, what conclusive evidence has actually been raised against Peter as the author? None! I am warranted to believe it even though I believe the church is fallible.

      • John

         /  July 21, 2012

        Bzzt, sorry. Epic fail. I didn’t ask you to show that Peter wrote it in the 1st century, I asked you to show that it is a 1st century work. Why? Because of your claim that we can test apostolicity with a test that the work is from the apostolic era. We can potentially talk about other tests that you mention. But first you’ll have to admit the epic fail on this issue, because there is no use shooting down arguments when you won’t admit to them. You’ve turned this into an entire circle. I ask you how you know a work is apostolic? You give lists of tests like that it comes from the apostolic era. I ask you to justify that a work comes from the apostolic era, you say it must be, because it was written by Peter the apostle. Big circularity.

      • “Because of your claim that we can test apostolicity with a test that the work is from the apostolic era.”

        No, I said that if we can demonstrate that a work “is not” from the apostolic era then we can therefore, on that basis, deny its apostolicity. When i defended Luke and Mark as apostolic, though an apostle did not author it; I pointed to the apostles authority as presiding over what was accepted by the church as authoritative writings. Mark and Luke were getting their eyewitness testimonies from the apostles themselves and surely checking with them on certain matters.

        you wrote: “I ask you how you know a work is apostolic? You give lists of tests like that it comes from the apostolic era.

        Peter was martyred we think in A.D. 65. You never asked me why I thought 2 Peter was written by Peter to hear me answer “because the book was written before A.D. 65; or in the 1st century for that matter.” I never pointed to a book’s date as evidence of its apostolicity. I just said that conclusive proof of a books being after the apostles is a “defeater” for apostolicity. And; that a book that is NOT written by an apostle can be accepted on the basis of their acceptance of that book seeing as they can judge if it is the extension of their own teachings or historical accounts.

        “You give lists of tests like that it comes from the apostolic era.”
        My response: We have a few sources as to what took place around Jerusalem in the 1st century specifically of this Jesus figure. These sources themselves, devoid of all authority provide many historical details. One of those details was that the apostles governed the entire church body via: a council, traveling–missionary journeys, and writings. Of all of these, the writings of God’s covenant and redemption in Christ, like that of the Old covenant, became the means by which people learned, submitted, and meditated on God’s new covenant and then properly responded.

        The apostles governed, as the leaders of what would become the permanent instruction for the life of the church, what was being written; and Paul even condemned people who wrote in his name: 2 Thes. 2:2 “not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us.”

        When speaking of the apostolic era, and using this era to prove a book’s apostolicity, I was simply stating that Luke and Mark, though not written by the pens of the apostles, were endorsed by them. These gospels, at least Luke (which many think Luke read Mark and used some of his work), were written before Paul wrote Timothy. 1 Tim 5:18 Paul quotes Luke 10:7 and calls Luke’s writings Scripture.

        So the point is that if you can demonstrate that book was NOT written by, read and endorsed by an apostle; then, on that basis it is not scripture. Also, it was to demonstrate that apostolicity did not require the apostle himself to be the author if the apostle was the source or the one who finally established its authority.

        My Proving that a book came from that era will be based on the Scriptures themselves in many cases. This is fine, since I am trying to justify my belief in these books; so long my positions are not presented with an authentic “defeater.”

      • John

         /  July 21, 2012

        You do realise right that proving a negative is a near impossibility. How would one prove that a book is not from the apostolic era?

      • Reception was based on apostolic authority.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Working backwards, reception of the fathers is a evidence of its Apostolicity. The differences among them should be expected. I can post some on that later

        Sent from my iPhone

  8. Pio

     /  July 18, 2012

    https://passion2knowgod.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/epistemolgical-problems-with-the-catholic-critiques-of-sola-scriptura/

    You wrote: “The Scriptures define apostolicity, Pio, historical evidences is what we are employing in our search for what the scriptures define…The scriptures define what it is we are looking for.”

    I believe I understand what you are saying, I don’t think you understand what I am saying and I don’t know how else to explain it so I’ll move on. Do the Scritpures define “apostolicity” or any of your other beliefs, do they define what we are looking for? The Scriptures do not define what you believe and what they do say we are looking for is the church that had the authority to bind consciences in Acts 15. Where do the Scriptures say that the teaching authority found in Acts 15 ceased with the death of the Apostles? Where does church history confirm what you already believe about authority ceasing with the death of the apostles and being found only in a canon that we cannot definitively determine? We see the exact opposite than your view, that when an Apostle dies another takes their Bishopric. We also see in history that Christians believed this authority was passed down to Bishops through Apostolic succession. So your appeal to scripture and history are found wanting and are extremely favorable for the Catholic view of the magisterium.
    You wrote “I have argued that the Scriptures were what gave the councils their authority, when the council ruled in accord with them, then they by extension were authoritative. How do you know if they ruled correctly, with the same type of process as you prove the magesterium.”
    Which scriptures, which councils? How do I know if the church ruled correctly by appealing to the magisterium? Apostolic succession, which seems to be much more credible than your view.

    You wrote “Self-authenticating is clearly not understood completely: a work that is divine will exhibit certain characteristics, one of which is its apostolic origins. Self-authenticating scriptures are the characteristics that give rise to all others.”

    Which others? Aren’t you painting the target around your answer? How do you know which set of criteria you are to use in order to reach a good certainty that you have the canon God chose to be canonical?
    You wrote “How do we know Polycarp isn’t; well he isn’t an apostle and he is not qualified as endorsed by an apostle. I can only point you to a better source of study on self-authentication: namely, Krugers work. Notice also, that there are three criteria that are used in tandem.”

    Mark wasn’t an Apostle. Polycarp was endorsed by John, he was his disciple.
    You wrote “If the magesterium is not infallible, would you admit that CAtholics could, and probably, most certainly do hold many false doctrines. YOur statement that it is more stable only stands if it is true; for if it is not true, the stability is a stability in falsehood.”
    If the magisterium is not infallible then how could I know what is a false doctrine? Yes, my view is more stable if it is true, and church history attests to its veracity.

    You wrote “When I answer that quesiton: you cannot expect any more certainty from me on that question that you yourself have in the magesterium.”

    I can have more certainty in the magisterium than in your position because of Apostolic succession.

    You wrote “Do you see what I am saying? I am trying to point that the bar of certainty expected from a Protestant on the 27 books is too high epistemelogically; because the bar is too high for any truth. If you will lower that bar of “certainty” then I think I have a case as to which books belong.”

    Apostolic succession gives our position more credibility. Even without apostolic succession, trace the church through the centuries and tell me which is more consistent with the development of doctrine, Catholics or Protestants. I think that also gives our view more credibility, it is more historical.

    You wrote “I want to reduce your critique of our certainty to reasonable standards by using them to show that they are unfair.”

    Our standards are only unfair if we do not have apostolic succession and did not more resemble the church of the early Christians than Protestants.

    I wrote this quickly because I don’t have much time this moment so I apologize if I overlooked any of your points or misunderstood anything you have said.

    Reply
    • I understand what you are saying. I’m saying that you are not accounting for the fact that the scriptures establish the final rule and criteria for judging all evidence. Painting the target around the arrow is only true of I was arguing de facto. Since I am giving a justification of these books it’s not.

      The ontology of the scriptures gives rise to the other characteristics. What others. Their acceptance a the rule of life. Their acceptance by councils. The inward attest action of te spirit of God; these are all God’s confirmations. The effects of God’s revelation on individuals and communities are ways in which God’s revelation confirms itself.

      So, how did the magesterium decide on Jude and Hebrews? You act like there is no evidence.

      Or mark. Mark got his intel from Peter, according to historical evidence and we judge his position and writings as bearing witness to Peter’s authority because: the books supernatural impact, it’s acceptance by the individuals across the early church as authoritative, and the acceptance by the councils. Polycarp didn’t have a book that was considered to be first hand eyewitness information that matched the other criteria just mentioned.

      We can’t leave the point about Sola Scriptura. I appeal to it as my final authority over the evidences themselves when justifying my belief about it. “it says Christ endorsed the apostles, and which books bear their authority ad endorsement.”. Thy does not contradict SS.

      (Wasn’t he ignatious’s disciple?)

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        I don’t understand this post. You start by saying that scripture is the final authority to judge all evidence. Then you seem to back away from that by posting a lot of historical stuff about evidence – traditions about Mark and so forth. But then you end by saying you appeal to scripture “over the evidence itself”.

        So which is it? Do you need the external evidence to find out what scripture is? Or do you just decide what scripture is without evidence, and then just happen to observe that the evidence perhaps supports your predetermined decision?

        You seem to be trying to have a bet each way on this, and ending up nowhere.

      • I have already answered that. Why would anyone look at evidence to see if a work has apostolic origins? Bc the scriptures say they are endorsed. The scriptures say the apostles are endorsed and so they send me out to look for the apostolic writings to include them all.

        Scripture tells me how to judge the evidence.

        I

        Sent from my iPhone

      • xpusostomos

         /  July 18, 2012

        Surely you dont need to look for evidence to see if books might be endorsed because “scripture tells you apostolic books are endorsed”. That presupposes that you know what the scriptures are. And if you know what the scriptures are, then looking at evidence is superfluous. Which is it? Either evidence informed you about what the scriptures are. Or else evidence is superfluous, you just decided sans evidence what scripture is.

  9. Garrison

     /  July 18, 2012

    Josh,

    “So what you are saying is that Christ gave authoirty to the church apart from the scriptures, and this authoirty infallibly determines the content of the scriptures right? My question then is how do you know Christ did that? YOu can’t say by the scriptures, can you? That would mean that you identify the scriptures without the magesterium. THe qeustion is how do you know? And it would seem that you be forced to appeal to what is neither in the Scriptures or what is in the magesterial teachings.”

    You’re not understanding what I’m saying. Yes, the Scriptures are authoritative. No, the Scriptures do not require the Church’s discernment to be Scripture in se. We, as Christians can identify to a certain degree what is, in fact, Scripture without being told what it is given our Faith in Christ. I say “certain degree” because I really don’t think we can come to a conclusive knowledge of what the full extent of Scripture is without the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Church. We can know Christ did such a thing by the attestation of Scripture and know what it meant by reading the Fathers to see what the early Church thought. The Church taught authoritatively and infallibly at the Council of Jerusalem before even the first word of the New Testament was likely penned. Acts’ reliability on this point does not have to rest on its authority as Scripture, but can rest on the reliability of Acts as a historical book. The Church has discerned the inspiration of the books of the canon and that they are in accord with, and are the highest part of, the Deposit of Faith.

    “Sola Scriptura: The Scriptures define apostolicity, Pio, historical evidences is what we are employing in our search for what the scriptures define. Its not that hard to concieve. The Final authority is Scriptures on the apostles: they give us the scope of our investigations. The Scriptures define our criteria and is therefore the Final and infallible authority. The scriptures define what it is we are looking for. They establish the criteria of our determination. REmember we are not looking to prove the scriptures to a skeptic (de facto) but to give a rational justification of what we already believe (de jure).”

    We can’t affirm that. Scripture is the highest norm of the Faith, but it is not the only norm because it did not exist before the Church. We agree with you that Scripture is Scripture and is infallible in se. Nothing we do can contradict Scripture. We cannot agree, however, that Scripture is the only infallible rule when Scripture does not say this. As I have shown, Scripture affirms the infallibility of the Church; the ecumenical councils of the Church are not authoritative only inasmuch as they agree with Scripture, but are so in se as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Humans cannot obstruct the work of the Spirit no matter how hard they may try.

    “It is not a contradiction to use the scriptures to establish the criteria that will be used to interpret the historical evidences.”

    Can you explain what you mean here?

    “The Scriptures give their own criteria by which you determine what is actually scripture and what is not. Whether or not everyone agrees on it is, at this point irrevelant. Is is consistent in theory, even if it turns out to be ineffective?”

    I do not concede that Scripture is self-attesting from your point of view. I fail to see an internal difference that sets Tobit, Wisdom, and Sirach apart from Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. For me, the former carry divine inspiration as do the latter.

    IC XC NIKA

    Garrison

    Reply
  10. Pio

     /  July 18, 2012

    Josh, I’ll boil it down to this, where does the Bible say the Bible is the final authority for the Christian?

    Reply
    • Pio, I wanted to tell you that I will write a response to this question that will encompass a response to you post on the magisterium.

      In short, I believe that every reference that points to the foundational apostolic tradition, deposit, or teachings, is an instance of the scriptures telling us that they and their teachings are our final authority. This claim will not be substantiated at this point and i do not know when I will actually finish it; I hope to discuss this with my seminary professor and work it out where I can do this as a paper for class seeing as I have to write 3 pretty substantial ones this coming semester.

      Some of the things that I will hit on will be covenant, redemption, and the relationship between redemption and revelatory scriptures that provide a permanent testimony of God’s (past) redemption for future generations; there is a precedence of this in the OT and it is taken up by the apostles in many places in the NT. The apostles knew they were writing letters that were constituted as permanent revelatory testimonies, accounts, and interpretations of God’s redemptive works in history. This will include a brief treatment on the topic of “oral” transmission as inadequate for establishing a permanent testimony and interpretation of God’s redemption based on the precedent of the OT and why it was anticipated and assumed in the NT. The best evidence is that a canon was in use within 30 years of Christ’s death and resurrection.

      An example of how non-apostolic writers were attested to:

      Thus, even if a document was not written directly by an apostle, there would have been good reasons to think it bore authoritative apostolic tradition if (1) it was written during the apostolic age (and thus was composed at a time when the apostles were overseeing the transmission of their tradition),101 and (2) it was written by someone who got his information directly from an apostle.102 This appears to be the case with the book of Hebrews, which does not claim to be written by an apostle, but comes from the apostolic time period and does claim to bear a message “attested to us by those who heard” (Heb. 2:3)—a clear indication that its message came directly from the apostles.103 The same is true for the Gospel of Luke, which was not penned by an apostle but was written in the apostolic period and also contains tradition that was “handed down” (παρέδοσαν) to Luke by “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). Ridderbos sums it up when he says that the apostolicity of a book is determined by “whether its content embodies the foundational apostolic tradition, not whether it was written by the hand of the apostle.”104 It seems the early church fathers understand apostolicity in this same manner.105 Justin Martyr views the Gospels as the written embodiment of
      apostolic tradition, “For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them.”106 So comfortable is Justin with this definition of apostolicity, that he is willing to call the Gospels “memoirs of the apostles”107 even though he knows two of them were not written by apostles.108 Likewise, Irenaeus views all the New Testament Scriptures as the embodiment of apostolic teaching though he clearly knows some books were written by nonapostles: “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.”109 Irenaeus also refers to all four of the Gospels as “Gospels of the Apostles” and “those handed down to us from the apostles,” despite the fact that two of the Gospels are not from apostles.110 In addition, it is this same understanding of apostolicity that led Tertullian to describe Mark and Luke as “apostolic men.”111 If the New Testament was the written embodiment of apostolic tradition, then it is not difficult to see why early Christians would have regarded these texts as authoritative from a very early point. Inasmuch as a text was thought to bear the apostolic message, it would have retained the authority of the apostles and thereby the authority of Christ himself. It is here that we see the vivid contrast with the historical-critical models noted above. Those approaches suggest that the writing down of these Jesus traditions took place before they were seen as authoritative (the latter happening at a much later date), whereas the historical
      evidence suggests that the traditions were seen as authoritative before they were written down (owing to their apostolic connections).112 For this reason, a written New Testament was not something the church formally “decided” to have at some later date, but was instead the natural outworking of the redemptive-historical function of the apostles. As Dunn observes, “The de facto canon of Jesus and Paul, gospel and epistle, was already functioning. Michael J. Kruger (2012-04-05).

      A note on self-attesting because you said that it was the weakest link in your opinion of my view of canon:

      “And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4–5).

      We see this very approach evident in the early church fathers as they assessed the authority of the canonical books. For example, we read in the prologue to Jerome’s commentary on Philemon that he defended the epistle on the grounds that it is “a document which has in it so much of the beauty of the Gospel,” which is the “mark of its inspiration.”15 Chrysostom declares that in the Gospel of John there is “nothing counterfeit” because the Gospel is “uttering a voice which is sweeter and more profitable than that of any harp or any music . . . something great and sublime.”16 Origen defends the canonicity of the book of Jude because “it is filled with the healthful words of heavenly grace,”17 and he defends the canonical Gospels because of their “truly venerable and divine contents.”18 Right before citing Matthew 4:17 and Philippians 4:5, Clement of Alexandria says that you can distinguish the words of men from the words of Scripture because “no one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints, as he is by the words of the Lord Himself.”19 Origen defends the canonicity of the book of Hebrews on the ground that “the ideas of the epistle are magnificent [θαυμάσιά].”20 Tatian explains, “I was led to put faith in these [Scriptures] by the unpretending cast of the language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge. Michael J. Kruger

      “[The church] carefully guards this preaching and this faith, which she has received. . . . Neither will any of those who preside in the churches, though exceedingly eloquent, say anything else.”79 John Behr comments, “It is clear, then, that for Irenaeus ‘tradition’ is not alive . . . it cannot change, grow, or develop into something else.”80 Irenaeus contrasts this approach with the heretics who are always listening to the “living voice,” such as Valentinus, Marcion, or Cerinthus.81 For Irenaeus (and other early Fathers), the church must not look to such a “living voice” in the present but must always be looking back to the apostolic voice in the past (which is found in Scripture and summarized in the rule of faith).82 In other words, Irenaeus understands the apostolic deposit about Jesus in its proper redemptive-historical context—it is once and for all, unchangeable, and unrepeatable. Michael J. Kruger

      Like I said, there are a lot of sources that I would like to complile and write a response with. This will be in order and will the time it will take is indefinite.

      Some verses that I point to:

      Canonical books derive from particular redemptive epochs where God has acted in history to deliver his people. This redemptive-historical aspect of the canon is clearly visible in the fact that the two main covenants of Scripture—the old (Sinaitic) covenant and the new covenant—both are established in written form after God’s special (and powerful) redemptive work was accomplished (e.g., Ex. 20:2; John 20:31).

      Not only did the apostles themselves write many of these New Testament documents, but, in a broader sense, they presided over the transmission of the apostolic deposit and labored to make sure that the message of Christ was firmly and accurately preserved for future generations, through the help of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:1–4; Rom. 6:17; 1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3; Gal. 1:9; Phil. 4:9; Col. 2:6–8; 1 Thess. 2:13–15; 1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14; 2 Pet. 2:21; Jude 1:3).

      Reply
  11. Pio

     /  July 20, 2012

    Hey Josh,

    I think alot of what you wrote seems to be irrelevant to my question and the Catholic position. I don’t get the impression you really understand the Catholic position on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition yet. Perhaps that is due to a poor articulation of the Catholic position on my part, I do not know. Again, my question is: where does the Bible say the Bible alone is the final authority for the Christian? If you have to go outside of the Bible to establish this point then you have contradicted sola scriptura. I can tell we aren’t getting anywhere so I don’t think this is the best use of my time at this point. If you have any questions that you would like to ask feel free to e-mail me but at this point I don’t get the impression we are making any progress so for now I’ll take my leave.

    Pio

    Reply
    • The bible speaks of the apostles as the final authority from God to us. They establish the foundational beliefs for the church and they are to test every belief that develops.

      I gave a few verses. Then I have to establish the fact that the apostles teaching was viewed as complete.

      If the scriptures are the final rule and criteria by which we judge every evidence that is OUTSIDE the bible then Sola Scriptura is maintained because it remains the final rule. If I go outside the bible and use the bible to interpret the evidence that I’m looking at you say I’m contadicting it.

      That’s like saying that studying biological conception to see what the bible will say about the evidence is contradicting sola Scriptura.

      It’s not!

      Sent from my iPhone

      Reply
  12. Pio

     /  July 20, 2012

    This is what I mean about us not making any progress. We believed that Apostolic tradition originates with the Apostles and we believe their teachings were completed by the death of the last Apostle.

    “If the scriptures are the final rule and criteria by which we judge every evidence that is OUTSIDE the bible”

    This is the very thing we are debating.

    “If I go outside the bible and use the bible to interpret the evidence that I’m looking at you say I’m contadicting it.”

    I have not problem with you going outside the Bible to interpret Scripture or even to confirm sola scriptura, I have a problem if you go outside the Bible to establish sola scriptura, you must establish sola scriptura from Scripture.

    I recommend you dialogue with Dr. David Anders, Bryan Cross and the rest of the guys at Called to Communion. Perhaps they would be able to articulate the Catholic position better and in a way that would make more progress than our conversations have been able to make. You can start dialoguing with them here http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/03/sola-scriptura-vs-the-magisterium-what-did-jesus-teach/

    Reply
    • xpusostomos

       /  July 21, 2012

      Cool, so where plausibly were the non aposticising Christians in oh say 1000 AD?

      Reply
      • Lol! Bad year all around wasn’t it.

        I have no idea where they were exactly. In churches I reckon. Where were the non apostasizing Jews in 600BC? Israel with the apostates.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • xpusostomos

         /  July 21, 2012

        Cool, I just have to work out what the church of 1000ad was like, and then I know what a non-aposticising church is like. That makes life easier.

      • In the meantime, you could also find out what a non-apostasizing Israel was like in 600 BC even though most had apostacized, since, at least, there were faithful Jews in the midst.

        Seriously, there is a remnant according to grace that hasn’t bowed the knee to Baal. There were a remnant of Jews in 600BC; 55AD; and there was a remnant of Christians (the church )in 1000AD. I wouldnt adopt the practice of the general assembly on the basis that there is a remnant scattered throughout it. You Feel me?

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 22, 2012

        Are you saying that false Judaism was practiced in 600bc, and only false Judaism? Chapter and verse please.

        Still wondering if you are going to tell us how to show a book was NOT from the apostolic era, or whether it was a bogus test.

      • How many books were rejected for being late? Many. 1Clememt was.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • As far as I know, there is almost no disupte that I know of to the fact that the gnostic gospels began to circulate for the first time around 180 A.D.

        Many of the Fathers speak of a book as having been written recently; and therefore reject it.

        Studying history is a good way to figure when books were written.

      • John

         /  July 22, 2012

        Firstly, you don’t know why 1 Clement was rejected, only God does. Secondly, 1Clement is hardly late. It’s probably earlier than many NT books.

        Still waiting to hear how you are going to prove a negative that a book is not from the apostolic era.

      • I will tell you what happened and you can look it up. First the northern and southern kingdoms split. The northern kingdom Israel and the Southern kingdom Judah. God warned them that if they did not repent and turn away from their idols that he would send in a heathen nation to destroy them. Assyria entered and destroyed the northern kingdom around 625 B.C. 50 years later, Judah, David’s kingdom also refused to turn from their idols and they were destroyed by Babylon.

        Notice that a remnant remained and that they came back into existence.

      • John

         /  July 22, 2012

        Worshipping idols is not false Judaism, it’s not Judaism at all. You’re conflating national Israel with the religion. As if I said that Protestantism will be destroyed because America is corrupt.

      • I just believe that Rome, like Ephesus, had their candlestick removed. At least for a period of time. A lot of corruption between 600-Trent, that was not properly under the reforming and correcting hand of the writings.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • John

         /  July 22, 2012

        Fine you think Rome’s candlestick was removed. So we are back to the question of where the candlestick remained.

      • You obviously know very little about the OT. God made a covenant with ethnic Israel, the nation.

  13. John

     /  July 22, 2012

    Your argument seems to be that the church rejected pseudonymous works. They didn’t reject 2 Peter. Ergo, 2 Peter is not pseudonymous. Can’t you see how this is just reception!!!

    The reality is that a lot of the church always rejected 2 Peter. The Syrian church ( later to be called the Oriental Orthodox ) always rejected it, or if they are starting to accept it, it would be just in modern times. So where does that leave you? Is it then pseudonymous because many rejected it, or genuine because many didn’t?

    As far as this argument is concerned, all you have on this issue is the reception of the greater majority, but absolutely no historical basis for believing that the majority were right over the minority.

    We can safely cross off our list the idea that this circular argument has merit.

    So you think there is “no dispute” about dating the gnostic gospels. Some scholars date the gospel of Thomas to AD 50. It’s a minority view, but then again in academia, it is a minority view that Peter wrote 2 Peter, or that it comes from th apostolic age. A lot of the other gnostic works are generally dated to the early 2nd century. Since even The gospel of John is often dated by conservative scholars to the early 2nd century, I don’t see how you can reject them on that basis. After all, you are willing to accept books written by people who just knew the apostles ( Luke, Mark, etc ), so the cut off date must be a lifetime after the last apostle died. If John for the sake of argument died in AD100, you could have canonical works up till AD200 based on your own criteria.

    Concerning perseverance, you say one of the characteristics of true faith is that it must persevere to the end. Ergo, you don’t know if you have true faith. You may not even be a Christian. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence does it?

    Reply
    • xpusostomos

       /  July 22, 2012

      Romans 9:6

      Reply
    • 1. Their wasn’t a controversy with the majority of books, so reception itself is not the final claim. As I have already stated it is one of 3 criteria used to judge. On a matter like 2 Peter the church’s reception is a contributing factor in our belief that Peter wrote it.

      Those who rejected 2 Peter, did they provide any noteworthy evidence that Peter was not the author? Not really.

      The four gospels were paired in the codices in many different combinations; Matthew and Luke; Luke and John; John and Mark; never was Thomas was never included in any of them. The evidence that it was written that early is not grounded very well. Its writing style and the culture that is reflected is all consistent with a late date.

      “Just knowing the apostles” is not sufficient. It’s hard to make that any clearer. The apostles were the sources of their information, according to historical evidences. And, the apostles are the ones who established their authenticity seeing as they dictated what was accepted and not during their time.

      Finally perseverance. I never said that I don’t know that I have saving faith. I said how can I “be sure.” The issue was a matter of “certainty.” Epistemic Certainty is not the threshold of knowledge; as has already been dealt with plentifully.

      There are 112 posts on this thread. It has received enough attention thus far. It is time to call it quits here. Feel free to respond to this post, any others, but this will have to wrap it up for me.

      Reply
      • John

         /  July 22, 2012

        As far as us in 2012 is concerned, the early non-controversy about books is just reception. Sure their reception might never been based on now lost evidence, but now all we’ve got is the reception.

        Why would those who rejected 2 Peter have to provide evidence, while those who accepted it not have the burden of proof? He do we know anyway? We don’t know hardly anything about such deliberations.

        All your arguments about dating the G of Thomas is a mirror of academia’s opinion of 2 Peter.

        Apostles “dictated” what was accepted? There is no evidence for that, not even in tradition. If we accept Paul knew Luke, it’s hardly the case that Paul dictated to Luke. Paul isn’t even the source of most of Luke. He wasn’t even present when the events took place. There is no reason to think that apostles were the sole source of Luke’s information. For that matter, there is no particular reason to think that very much of it came from apostles. Most of the events therein were witnessed by more than just the 12.

        Forget certainty, I don’t see how you can be even moderately confident that you are a Christian, since perseverance is a major test. We all know of people enthusiastic about the faith, who eventually apostasize. There is the seed on shallow ground.

  14. Nathaniel

     /  August 6, 2012

    Hello Josh,
    Thanks for your carefully articulated post. Two questions:
    1) If the Catholic claims don’t escape the same criticism as the protestant claims, as you say, then both approaches are in the same boat. What’s your assessment of how serious that criticism is: has the axe felled both trees? Or are both still standing, because the criticism isn’t ultimately damaging?

    2) Have you addressed consistency? Catholics claim that the trio of Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium cannot stand without all three parts; and though it’s hard to get “into” the circle from outside, the Church’s claims about Scripture and claims about Tradition and claims about the Magisterium are explicitly laid out (and mutually supported) within this threefold set. However, as far as I can tell, this is not a feature shared by the protestant reliance on Scripture as the only ultimate norm for Christian truth: this sort of claim about Scripture’s unique role is not part of the deposit given in Scripture itself. Do you consider this a fair criticism not equally applicable to the two arbiters of Christian truth?

    Ut Christus Regnet,
    Nathaniel

    Reply
  15. Nathaniel,
    1.) I think it would help if I clarified the scope of my post. Many that have read it have thought that my goal was to do much more than I ever intended. The title of the post is Epistemological problems with the “Catholic critiques…” So, my goal was precisely to show that we are both in the same boat, even though the RC says that we are not.

    Let me give an example of what the RC says: Protestants have no way of infallibly classifying a belief as heretical; therefore, their certainty in belief “B’ is limited and fallible, and therefore not certain at all. The solution we (the RC’s) offer is this: believe in belief “A”, and you can be infallibly certain of belief “B.”

    I came in and said that the RC’s certainty in belief “A’ is no better than my certainty in belief “B.” And have since argued that a Protestant’s certainty in any “x” belief, is just as grounded as the RC’s belief in any “x” belief, because their certainty is predicated on the prior decision of the individual to entrust themselves to belief “A” which is the arbiter of all other beliefs.

    Moving forward, in some follow-up posts, the next logical point is this: that the Catholics have, in their own estimation, established an orthodox belief without the authority of the magesterium; specifically the orthodox belief in the magesterium itself. In doing this, they have employed very similar means that the Protestants themselves employ in all of their endeavors. I read a guy who said that if you cut a CAtholic he bleeds “protestant epistemology.”

    Your question of consistency. Let me say first that protestants esteem historical theology. Calvin, when traveling with two guys to dispute their beliefs, quoted extensively from the fathers to demonstrate his continuity with the fathers teachings. The scriptures are the ultimate authority to which the other things (historical theology, philosophy, etc…) are subordinate. The tradition of the church is meant to facilitate our understanding of the Scriptures.

    The question then comes to which is most consistent. Sure, I will grant that the RC’s system, when considered in itself is consistent to a degree. I have tried to demonstrate the the Protestant position is at least equally as consistent, but with different goals and results.

    Once we account for the product of such beliefs; whether or not each system produces what it claims it can, should, or will produce, then, the favorable side, I think, is definitely the Protestant’s.

    For example: do protestants, or did protestants, expect the sort of unity as the Catholic church expects? Is the diversity within the Protestant church a defeater for our position? No.

    Now, a defeater for the Catholic position is supported by Honorious, and the other examples that I gave in my post. The dispute between Vatican 1 and 2 and others.

    Reply
    • Garrison

       /  August 6, 2012

      Honorius is not a defeater for the Catholic position as he did not define error, but did not teach against error when he had the chance. It was for this and this alone that he was condemned. We also do not believe there is a dispute between Vatican I or II, so that does not constitute a defeater, either.

      IC XC NIKA

      Garrison

      Reply
      • Of course you do not Garrison, for, if you did, you would be on my side. That is the nature of the Roman Catholic Church’s position, that if a defeater is presented, then, it can’t be a defeater because the magesterium says so. Honroious, himself was condemned as a heretic in the 8th, 9th, and 10th councils following.

        Not teaching against error when that was his preeminent responsibility as the infallible pope, is to me, but cannot be for you, a defeater to the RC claim of infallibility. His condemnation, not his actions, but him as a person, and as a pope, was settled in the three following councils as well.

      • Garrison

         /  August 6, 2012

        Here is the actual text of his condemnation by Leo II: “and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.”
        Because it is the pope’s approval that makes a council ecumenical in Catholic ecclesiology, what he accepts or rejects matters. Regardless, a pope may err in his opinions, but not in ex cathedra pronouncements.

    • Nathaniel

       /  August 6, 2012

      Josh,
      Thanks for clarifying; I think I did understand all that as the thrust of your post. But here’s what I’m getting at. You’re pointing out that Catholics are in precisely the same epistemic boat they criticize Sola Scriptura protestants for being in; which is rough, because Catholics of course claim not to be in that particular boat. But in detailing just how unhappy an epistemic position the Catholics are in, you’re of course showing that it’s an unhappy boat to be in… but protestants are in it too.

      When Kruger mentions “those Protestants who claim that the extent of the canon can also be determined by historical evidence,” he points out that those claims are only “as certain as the historical evidence,” and thereby don’t avoid the problem of uncertainty.

      Isn’t all this just to say that “Protestants and Catholics are both uncertain about the canon of Scripture, which is a crummy place to be with respect to knowing God’s revelation to humankind. Catholics claim to be in a better place, but that only means an extra mark against them, since they’re wrong about that. That means it’s better to be a Protestant… with an unfortunately uncertain canon.”

      Are we really OK with the situation of having a possibly incorrect batch of writings that we believe to be the very Word of God by which we live and worship and understand God’s relationship to us– as long as the competing folks are no better off? On this view, all our beliefs derived from Scripture are either provisional or ill-founded.

      My conclusion based on these thoughts is that protestantism doesn’t need just a defeater for Catholic claims, but also needs a positive case for reclaiming the certain nature of the canon. Otherwise, this is a pyrrhic victory at best.

      Finally, rereading, I noted that you said “we operate with a unit of fallible equipment searching through fallible evidences looking for the source of infallible truth,” but I have an important correction to make:
      Truth is just true, it isn’t infallible or fallible. (If it were anything but true, then it wouldn’t be truth.:-) ) So rather than seeking the source of infallible truth, we are actually looking for the infallible source of truth. God Himself is, of course, that ultimate source; but the question at issue is what proximate infallible sources He has granted us.
      Peace,
      Nathaniel

      Reply
      • Nathaniel,

        The Protestants are not in quite the same boat. If a protestant teaches a heresy today, he can recognize the heresy tomorrow. He can do this precisely because the Scriptures are the authority and they are able to continue to shape any believe that he holds. (But this is not the point)

        If you are searching for the sort of authority and certainty that the Roman Catholics offer, the, it seems that you are searching for something similar to a fairy tale. If I told you that this sort of faith in Christ totally removed all of sins forever, you would be unsatisfied with what you got.

        In the end, in my talks with RC’s; they always point me to some latin phrase like sensus fideium; I think it means something like the use of faith, or the sense of faith. What it amounts to saying is that our belief in God is a faith-article not a knowledge article, in the strict epistemic sense.

        Our trust in the 27 books is a faith article, but I will say, that these books are very well attested to. Sure, some are tougher than others but, the four gospels, Paul’s 13, Acts were accepted immediately. 18 out of 27 have always been recognized as inspired books, and have never been seriously questioned before the 20th century.

        I would agree with you about your statements regarding truth. I was only stressing what truth was (and what we are not), not what sort of truth being sought for.

        The take away from someone who is very intrigued by Rome’s offer of certainty, but feels it to be wrong and dangerous, is this: my faith is not in historical evidences, of church councils, or such. I trust in Christ, and have surrendered everything I am to him. I don’t trust popes, or even my own epistemic faculties; I don’t trust my own certainty; my confidence is not in my own certainty; it is in Jesus Christ.

        I go as far as saying that I am certain of him. But, when I turn to analyze my own certanty I find it weak and frail; so I turn my attention back to him. Like you said, we are looking for the infallible source of truth, and he is the only one worthy of our total trust. He did not give any of us infalliblity; he has simply given us himself.

        Nathaniel, I have to go to work, but I would love to continue this. Kruger’s book is a great defense of the Protestant position of the bible, and the measure of our certainty. I feel like I have not done your question justice so I will return later to it.

        Good day!
        Josh

      • Garrison

         /  August 7, 2012

        Josh,

        No. The phrase is “sensus fidelium” which is “sense of the faithful”. It is not a fideistic phrase , but the teaching that the faithful can apprehend the Spirit to a certain extent without the intervention of the hierarchy. The recognition of many books as Scripture is a good example of the sensus fidelium at work. You, as a Protestant, should recognize this.

        No, the Catholic position on the existence of God is not only an article of faith. That is actually a condemned proposition. Per Aquinas, the existence of God can be rationally deduced from the natural world.

        You say you are certain because of Christ and not historical evidences. That is contrary to your entire defense of the canon, which has primarily been one of rationalism born of Renaissance humanism. You deride us for submitting to the Church, to ecumenical councils, to the pope; if this is what Christ commanded (and we have good reason to believe so in spite of your wish to label us as fideists), then it doesn’t matter how dangerous it appears to you.

        Do not caricature the Roman position.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • Garrison, I was simply referring to Michael Liccione from C2C who wrote:
        “As I explained in my #7 above, that way of framing the issue is incorrect. I argued that no article of faith–such as the inerrancy of Scripture, or the Catholic Magisterium’s claims for itself–can be “proven” by “logically impeccable inferences from axioms and a publicly available dataset.” If any could be so proven, it would be an article of knowledge, not of faith. So the question is not whose way of distinguishing orthodoxy from heresy can be “proven” to be correct, but which way is objectively the most reasonable.”

        I was assuming unity between your and his beliefs…for obvious reasons.

        Note: I as a protestant do recognize “sensus fidelium.”

        I never said that the existence of God was *only* a article of faith. I hold to Aquinas’s views, but I also recognize that his defenses were not airtight so as to remove the need for faith; as demonstrated by Immanuel Kant in his work “the critique of pure reason.” (I could also throw in David Hume) Sure, they are more reasonable than any alternative, but they are not ‘logically impeccable inferences.”

        My certainty in the canon, if i have said it once, I have said it 1000 times, is not merely in the historical evidences. The reception by the church, the historical evidence that a book was written by an apostle or endorsed and circulated under their authority, and the intrinsic qualities of the work itself, are all 3 criteria that I use to justify my certainty in the canon.

        Now, it is really important to also note that “justify my certainty” is not the “grounds of my certainty.” A protestant example of the difference is this: What is the grounds of my justificaiton? FAith or Christ? The answer is Christ. FAith is what connects me to the grounds of my salvation.

        The grounds of my certainty in the canon as the Word of God is the authority of Jesus Christ, and my unflinching trust in him connects me to him and it. My knowledge of who he is comes from what is in the canon. The 3 criteria just mentioned come out of what is written in the inspired documents so as to help me recognize which books are endorsed by Jesus, and which ones I am warranted to trust in.

        Speaking of caricatures, I never labeled you all as fideists: I never said that. I do not deride you for submitting to the church; but for not submitting the church to the scriputures or recognizing her fallibility. I do not deride you for submitting to ecumenical councils, I deride you for not sumbitting the ecumenical councils to the authority of the scriptures, and to allow the scriptures to address them and if need be correct them. Your faith in the pope is not grounded in the Scriptures, though I understand why you want such a figure to lead you. I don’t fault you for wanting the sort of certainty you have; I am just arguing that it is the sort of certainty that the people on the titanic had the night the iceberg shattered the object of their certainty.

        So far as I know I have not caricatured the Roman position. Sometimes I deduce the good and necessary consequences of what you all believe. The caricatures that I have seen are in that last paragraph of your previous comment.

      • Garrison

         /  August 7, 2012

        Josh,

        I see nothing wrong with Mike’s explanation as you gave it.

        You said,
        “In the end, in my talks with RC’s; they always point me to some latin phrase like sensus fideium; I think it means something like the use of faith, or the sense of faith. What it amounts to saying is that our belief in God is a faith-article not a knowledge article, in the strict epistemic sense.”

        That sounds pretty close to an accusation of fideism, else I’m not sure what your point was.

        You said,
        “Speaking of caricatures, I never labeled you all as fideists: I never said that. I do not deride you for submitting to the church; but for not submitting the church to the scriputures or recognizing her fallibility. I do not deride you for submitting to ecumenical councils, I deride you for not sumbitting the ecumenical councils to the authority of the scriptures, and to allow the scriptures to address them and if need be correct them. Your faith in the pope is not grounded in the Scriptures, though I understand why you want such a figure to lead you. I don’t fault you for wanting the sort of certainty you have; I am just arguing that it is the sort of certainty that the people on the titanic had the night the iceberg shattered the object of their certainty.”

        Comparing the Church’s claim of infallibility to a fairy tale sounds like an accusation of fideism. The Church can’t be in submission to the Scriptures because it was through her that we received them from God! The Church cannot contradict Scripture, either, because that would separate the Body from the Head, which is Christ. If the Spirit guides the Church and protects her from error, then your position is not possible. My faith in the infallibility of the Church is grounded in Scripture. I have shown you from Scripture where this is to be found and you have not responded. Granted, it may have been the fact that you had to respond to five or more people, but I would like to discuss it. As for my “desires for certainty”, those are irrelevant. I believe that God has given us a visible Church and promised to protect her from heresy for all time; that is the primary reason why I submit to her judgement.

        IC XC NIKA

        Garrison

      • Garrison,

        The fairy tale thing was misunderstood, I guess. My point was this: an infallible church/magisterium/pope is not real, according to protestants, in that it does not exist. No matter how helpful it might be to have one. It was a statement that is true if PTs are right. I was in a hurry and I apologize for any ambiguity.

        You said that the church can’t be in submission to the Scriptures! I am sorry but that just boggles my mind. You know that Protestants believe that it was the Word of God that created the church. You know that it was the doctrines of the apostles that established what one must believe in order to become part the church. You know that Protestants, and most historians testify to the ancient and early church as *recognizing* the scriptures, not (as you said) to give them. The church received the scriptures from God, then Jesus, Jesus to apostles, apostles to us. We got the scriptures from God, not from the Church. We received the scriptures through the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit administered in the teaching authority of the apostles. The church didn’t give themselves the scriptures; she received them and recognized their authority to govern her. It is at this point that history is very much on our side. (Ex: Athanasius didn’t believe that the church had authority over the Scriptures).

      • xpusostomos

         /  August 7, 2012

        Part of the problem here in saying whether the church or the scriptures has priority is in characterizing who the apostles were. In Protestant thinking, the apostles were just conduits for God’s message. In Catholic / Orthodox thinking they are the first bishops and members of the church. Thus they and their message is not something separate from the church that brings it into being. Rather they are inside the church, and part of the church manifesting God’s word into the world. So in Protestant thinking we have Jesus -> apostles -> bible -> humanity. In catholic orthodox thinking we have Jesus -> people of god -> bible -> humanity. From this point of view, the bible is primarily a product of the church rather than the apostles. Of course it is both, but understanding the apostles as in the church rather than standing outside it, changes the perspective.

        I think this perspective is more biblical. When there was a dispute in Acts about circumcision, Paul didn’t say, hey I’m an apostle, listen to me because I’m the last word. Rather they gathered in council, and the text is very clear that not just the apostles but also the elders gather together to decide this question. the result I might add was quite contrary to the Torah. But the point is, the apostles and elders looked into this question AS THE CHURCH, rather than waiting for some fiat from on high. This is why we say that the word of God is a product of the church and not vice versa. It’s a bit like asking a Protestant if Peter was subject to the word of god. Well in a sense he was. But in another sense, he didn’t seem to be because he was doing stuff like overriding dietary laws and stuff. This is because the conduit for the Word and the one subject to the word are one and the same person. So it’s hard to split this situation into neat categories. It’s the same with the church. It is both subject to the word of God, but also the conduit for the Word of God.

        I might add, that if you do a study of the phrase “word of God” in the bible, you will not come to the conclusion that it is synonymous with the bible.

      • Preachers are conduits for God’s message. The difference would be to characterize the apostles by saying that they were the *unique* conduits of God’s message.

        I would say that it was the Words of God in the OT and the Words of Jesus Christ and his own person that created the people of God in the apostles. The apostles wrote the account of God’s redemptive acts in the new covenant so as to establish a permanent testimony for future generations.

        I am quite surprised that you say that their decision in Acts 15 was contrary to the Torah! Then to even say that Peter was doing stuff like overriding dietary Laws!

        James quoted the OT to support their decision so as to establish their continuity with it, and the fulfillment of it. God’s plan to include the gentiles in his redemptive plan did not include in the final stage of redemption forcing them to undergo circumcision. And as for Peter, God showed him in a vision 3 times what was going on, and then demonstrated the truth with Cornelius, that one does not have to be circumcised to receive Christ or the Holy Spirit. God established it, Peter accepted it. He recognized the authority of God.

      • xpusostomos

         /  August 7, 2012

        “I would say that it was the Words of God in the OT and the Words of Jesus Christ and his own person that created the people of God in the apostles.”

        The ancient tradition of the Orthodox church is that you must stand up while the gospel is read. However, one may sit while the apostles’ epistles are read, or the sermon. So we would agree with you that the words of Jesus Christ created the people of god, but you see we then place the apostles on the same level as the priest, in a sense, that they are a part of us – the church.

        What does the Torah say about Gentiles who want to join the people of God? Should they be circumcised? The reality is, non-circumcision does not even come close to passing the sola scriptura test. There are Torah verses saying Gentiles should be circumcised. There are none saying that they should not.

        You mention Peter’s visions. But visions are not scripture. That’s really the point. If you are willing to expand the word of God to include visions, then really you can’t object to things we want to include in it.

      • James sees in the Torah that in the new covenant, gentiles would be called by God’s name, so as not to be marked as proselytes. In a strict sense a proselyte or a God-fearer is not considered Gentile. James, using what knowledge he has of the OT predictions of the new covenant, says that the it is consistent with the OT teachings of the New covenant that circumcision would not precede the entrance of the Gentiles into the people of God. If you don’t think James interpreted it right, or that he somehow misquoted it, then that is up for discussion. Clearly he saw it very similar to the way I am describing it; hence reinforcing Peter’s and Paul’s words with it to finalize the decision.

        Note: Peter’s visions were accompanied by Words from God.

        The authority of the apostles to interpret and authorize foundational truths is utterly unique to them. You disagree.

      • Three direct and better responses:

        You said, “But in detailing just how unhappy an epistemic position the Catholics are in, you’re of course showing that it’s an unhappy boat to be in… but protestants are in it too.”
        I think it is safe to say that people desire a perfect certainty; it is innate within us. And, We know that people are capable of ascertaining certainty, because it is necessary for human life (we are born certain that what we see actually exists, even though we do not have any rational basis for believing this; we just do, and with an exceptional amount of certainty), but we cannot demonstrate our certainty to be infallible. Our certainty of our own certainty is always limited by the noetic effects of sin. For example: I am certain that my sense perception is reliable. I am Certain. I have no doubts about it. But, if I were to set out to prove to you that my sense perception is reliable,
        I would have an extremely hard time. With every proof or argument, I would be employing the precise faculty whose validity is under question.

        The difficulty of epistemology, when duly considered, simply demonstrates that people are often certain about things that aren’t true. People possess certainty. But sometimes their certainty is in falsehood.
        Does this truth: “certainty, real certainty, can be, and often is, misguided and misinformed”; does this truth logically infer that we cannot therefore justify our possession of certainty at all? I don’t think so. I think it means that our certainty should always be in a state of remaining faithful to the fundamental Protestant principle of constantly reexamining existing readings of the Bible to ensure that these are faithful. It is our fallen epistemic faculties that cause us to refrain from trusting that they have somehow ascertained a perfect understanding of something, such that, further study and inquiry guided by the Scriptures is no longer necessary.
        There is an objective reality. Our goal, through reading the scriptures, is to grasp and understand that reality. Grasping and understanding that reality is a process. This process develops and new insights continue to shape this process. Along the way, we find that many of our previous beliefs were not perfectly integrated with all of our other beliefs. We carefully set forth definitions with more precision than previous forms; and often accounting for new information not previously accounted for. Then we continue on in this process.

        Note, we do not offer the sort of certainty in many beliefs that the RC’s offer. We claim that a prayerful, serious inquiry into the meaning of scriptures (the objective, propostional truth) can lead to a real understanding of objective reality as defined by the Scirptures so as to establish eternal life and union with God through Christ. A reasonable amount of certainty can also be reached concerning the objective propositional truths espoused therein.

        The precise nature of this certainty is difficult to define, and is always subordinate to the Scriptures; and especially those truths which challenge our current beliefs. And!, due to our own limitations, we should not set out to understand the objective propsitional truth on our own but should employ both the insights of the present day church, and the historic church. We should employ the “voice and testimony of the Primitive Church,” which acts as “a ministerial and subordinate rule and guide, to preserve us and direct us in the right understanding of the Scriptures.” What is important here is that we understand the role and the function of the fathers or even great theologians; it is always the function of ministerial service, not sovereign rule; that term is reserved only for the Scriptures which are breathed out by God. (Our lack of absolute certainty is why Protestants believe that our “certainties” should always be subordinate to the scriptures, and subject to their scrutiny.

        In matters of certainty, when you get into the epistemological difficulties, this whole process is convoluted with difficulties. The CAtholic church’s question of “how can you know for certain which truths are orthodox” is difficult because it is a question in epistemology. My goal was to show that the CAtholics position fairs no better. The issue must be decided on other grounds, not on the grounds of who offers the most certainty.
        You said, “Protestants and Catholics are both uncertain about the canon of Scripture, which is a crummy place to be with respect to knowing God’s revelation to humankind. Catholics claim to be in a better place, but that only means an extra mark against them, since they’re wrong about that. That means it’s better to be a Protestant… with an unfortunately uncertain canon.”

        Protestants are not uncertain about the canon; nether are the RCs. We are certain of it; but our certainty is a “reasonable certainty, not an epistemic certainty characterized by infallibility.” We can have certainty in objective truth. When we set out to justify our certainty, we give evidences that demonstrate why we believe this or that. When we can demonstrate consistency with the objective propositional truth of the Scriptures, we demonstrate our warrant for certainty on such matters.
        You said, “My conclusion based on these thoughts is that protestantism doesn’t need just a defeater for Catholic claims, but also needs a positive case for reclaiming the certain nature of the canon.” I am currently putting together a position paper on this subject. Kruger’s work is fantastic! It is called “canon revisited.” It carefully sets forth our epistemology of the canon and it is the best book that I have read on the issue.

    • xpusostomos

       /  August 7, 2012

      There’s two problems with the claim that catholic / orthodox are in the same boat. Firstly, yes both catholic and Protestant made fallible decisions in what to follow. But Protestants had to make an awful lot more decisions to get to where they are. Many of those decisions are not even conscious ones. They had to decide what books to follow. Then they had to decide what interpretation of those books to follow both in thousands of passages and dozens of issues. Obviously not every passage or issue is critical, but many of them are pretty critical. Catholic and Orthodox mostly have an easier deal here, in coming to terms to what saith the church. Of course what the church says in itself is not always completely clear, but in general it’s a lot clearer for the reason that the church has grappled with most of the interesting issues, but the Protestant has to reinvent every wheel, often badly. Even areas of uncertainty can be authoritative areas of uncertainty. So the Protestant has a much harder deal. Of course being harder isn’t always an indicator of truth, but in this case we are grappling with a system which God is supposed to have instituted as a reasonable system for the average human being, or even for a less than average human being to deal with. But time and again we find that even genius human beings can’t agree with what the bible teaches.

      The second Protestant problem is similar, but even more critical. The Christian religious system is not merely supposed to provide a framework for individual enlightenment, but also to provide a framework for having a church. Even if one were to posit that Protestant and Catholic individual certainty were similar, Protestant certainty does not provide a framework for consensus and agreement resulting in a church. A church where Paul said the aim should be to “agree on everything”. So even if you think that individually, protestantism works, collectively it is a total fail.

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  August 7, 2012

        The issue is not whether James got it wrong. The issue is that his interpretive methodology does not withstand a sola scriptura basis. Everything in Catholic theology for that matter has scriptural support, just not necessarily support that can completely stand alone. I can’t accuse James of mis quoting or misinterpreting, because he doesn’t quote anything about circumcision! The OT does say things about Gentiles becoming believers, and it instructs circumcision in this case. The reality is that the apostles quote scripture to support their arguments in ways that would flat out fail in a Protestant exegesis class.

        You say the apostles ability to authorize foundational truths is unique to them. This is flat out contradicted by scripture. It’s contradicted by the text of acts which specifically says the elders were included in the decision making at the jerusalem council. It’s contradicted by the book of James which was not written by an apostle, as for Hebrews et al.

  16. Nathaniel

     /  August 8, 2012

    Josh,
    (First of all, I recommend the Catholic Encyclopedia article on certitude: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03539b.htm
    Very helpful as it carefully lays out different kinds of certainty, how certainty differs from opinion, etc. I just read it yesterday, and found it useful for this discussion.)

    I certainly understand your (and many others’) fear about the Catholic Church’s solemn claims on faith and morals being irreformable. If the Church gets something wrong, it can’t be corrected later! You find the lack of irreformable (= infallibly taught) teachings in protestantism to be a safeguard, since all teachings can be corrected in future if needed. And I agree that that constant opportunity for adjusting to get closer to truth sounds like a good thing.

    But as I mused on that yesterday, I realized a serious difficulty: “correcting” a teaching now deemed to be in error (e.g. by using Scripture) doesn’t get the church any further epistemically than the original teaching did. The first teaching was deemed correct at the time, else it would not have been taught; later that first teaching is deemed to be in conflict with something, and is changed to be correct as determined now. (For example, a modern pastor might disagree with some of Calvin’s explicit teachings, and correct them to fit Scripture as the pastor prayerfully reads it.) If this is the model you hold up for “correcting” past teachings, what’s the reason to believe that it helps — that it gets us any nearer the truth? Both teachings are in an uncertain position relative to truth. There’s no reason to believe that progress is made on the whole, unless perhaps we can see a gradual growth in union, as more people reflecting over more time eventually come to converge on the same teachings. The first reformers thought this would be the fruit of Sola Scriptura, but experience through the years has never borne out that belief.

    I submit that there’s a further hidden danger, here: since we are all creatures of our own age and culture, the “constant correction” model actually threatens to make Scripture and doctrine conform always to the current culture. Whatever criticism might be hurled against a teaching proclaimed for all time in the 1500s, it can’t be faulted as an accommodation to 2012 western culture. But plenty of incorrect doctrines out there are precisely such accommodations.

    Thought experiment: I know you’re quite sure of the canon of Scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity, and Christ’s two natures, even though these teachings are reformable in theory on your view. Do you think it’s possible (in practical terms) that these teaching will ever change? Why not allow Catholics the same kind of sureness of the careful, solemn pronouncements of the Catholic Church over the centuries? Just let them believe “infallibly proclaimed” (even though you believe they have insufficient warrant for such a descriptor) but treat their understanding as you treat your own understading of the canon — it ain’t never gonna change!

    Finally, the teachings on infallibility are, like other things we only know by divine revelation (e.g. Trinity), not capable of strict rational demonstration, else we wouldn’t hold them by faith. If the infallibility of the pope and of the bishops in union with him, in certain circumstances, happens to be true, we could only know it by being told so (directly or indirectly) by God. Same holds for the “God as first author” nature of the Scriptures, from which we deduce inerrancy. I think if you were consistent with your requirements for epistemic warrant, you’d take a weaker, more liberal view of the Scriptures. (Papal infallibility and Scriptural inerrancy can die by the same sword.) But taken as a paradigm, Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium has internal consistency that cannot be matched by Sola Scriptura; that much alone makes it preferable.
    God bless your week,
    Nathaniel

    Reply
    • If what you are saying about a ‘developing understandings of truth’ is true, then, these two statements will be true:  if people believed that the earth was flat before 1500, and they were certain of it; then there is no benefit in correcting such a belief; because in correcting it (by proclaiming that the earth is spherical), we are doing exactly what the pre-Galleleo era did. Therefore there is benefit in holding to a constant belief, because this constant belief provides a stronger epistemic basis than does the ability to correct our previous beliefs; for the reasons that you just provided.

      I don’t think those two statements are true, because I don’t agree with your premises.

      The scriptures are the constant.  They are the objective truth which continues to shape our beliefs.  Belief in inerrancy is consistent with the Scriptures themselves.  The Protestant position is characterized by submission to the scriptures; and they claim inerrancy.  .

      I think your concern is: if we give up infallibility in church decisions, then what boundaries are there to prevent us from holding heretical beliefs, and; what is there to give us a sure means of recognizing when our beliefs are heresy?  

      I understand your concern, but this is the danger that we must live with.  I’ve tried to show that living in an awareness of this danger is not “actually” more dangerous than living unaware of this reality.  

      Note: Both of us are subject to error in our beliefs.   If one of us believes that we can’t be wrong on certain ideas bc the magesterium, this doesn’t mean that only one of us can err.

      It creates difficulties to believe that all beliefs are subject to further correction.  If you don’t believe this; the cause for the difficulty still exists; it is just not dealt with. It is basically ignored.

      McGrath had some interesting points in his book “Christianity’s dangerous idea:

      He wrote: “Any movement—whether religious, political, or cultural—has both its “standard bearers” and its “scouts.” The standard bearers are those who see themselves as charged with the responsibility of maintaining traditional values and ideas; the scouts are those who are anxious to explore new frontiers and develop new ideas. Both are necessary, in that no movement can retain its core identity by freezing its ideas and values; there is a need for dynamic review in which the creative work of discernment of earlier ages is continued in the future. Paradoxical though it may at first sight appear, to stay the same, a movement must change.”

      Mcgrath, Alister (2009-10-13). Christianity’s Dangerous Idea (p. 232).

      There seems to me to be two options: 1. Belief in an infallible magesterium with all of its entailments in either the EO, RCC– both of these hold to a belief in some sort of infalliblity within the present day church; and, I believe, this belief in infallibilty is misguided, it is wrong. 2. The Protestant idea that all of our beliefs are subject to the authority of the scriptures to be shaped further by them. Nothing outside of the Scriptures has that sort of authority for us in the “post-apostolic age.”—This belief is dangerous which can, and often does, lead to differing forms of exploitative acts and heretical beliefs. My options are between what is wrong and what is dangerous. And of course, being wrong is much more dangerous than being merely dangerous.

      The above paragraph is not hardly a rebuttal, it is just how I feel. It is totally subjective and no weight should be attributed to it as an argument. I want you to know that the Protestant idea feels dangerous to me, and the other position is self-evidently wrong to me.

      Some interactions with your comments:

      You said: “I think if you were consistent with your requirements for epistemic warrant, you’d take a weaker, more liberal view of the Scriptures. (Papal infallibility and Scriptural inerrancy can die by the same sword.)”

      Simply put: if i was consistent… then I would believe… Well, Your wrong, at least until you establish a defeater for my belief.

      Let me explain.

      What are my requirements for epistemic warrant? If My epistemic faculty is working properly; and it’s in an environment where it can be expected to produce knowledge; and the belief has it origin in that environment; then, it has external justification, or warrant. I must also deal with potential defeaters.

      Here is a quote from Kruger:

      “The essence of the self-authenticating model is that Christians have a rational basis (or warrant) for affirming the twenty-seven books of the New Testament canon because God has created the proper epistemic environment wherein belief in the canon can be reliably formed. However, that is not all that needs to be said. Even if one has a rational basis for holding to a belief, that belief still faces the of epistemic defeat by other beliefs that one might come to hold. Such “defeaters” are the kind of beliefs that would challenge or undercut a prior belief, giving one reason to think that the prior belief is false.102 For example, imagine John wakes up in the morning, and after seeing that his alarm clock says 9:00 a.m., he forms the belief that he is late for work. But as he scrambles to get ready, his wife informs him that their three-year-old daughter was playing with the alarm clock the night before and likely changed the time. This new information would serve as a defeater for John’s prior belief that he was late for work, even though that prior belief was entirely justified.”

      Michael J. Kruger (2012-04-05). Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Kindle Locations 3040-3045). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

      One last thing that I wanted to mention is your comments on unity. First you misunderstand the historical facts. Luther and Zwingli; the two main figures of the protestant reformation in its earliest stages, disagreed on the Lord’s Supper and never came to terms with one another. Infant Baptism, Congregational style, worship style, music, images; there were so many things that there was not unity in, so that, to say that either of them; or especially Calvin, expected the sort of unity that you claim is a bit misguided.

      A couple of quotes from McGrath:

      “Brucer…proposed that Protestantism simply declare that it would respect a reasonable degree of theological diversity, since this appeared to be the inevitable outcome of biblical interpretation.14 So long as it could be shown that a given doctrine was adequately justified on the basis the Bible, Bucer asserted, it should be accepted as lying within the spectrum of Protestant thought.”

      “As early as the 1520s, irenic Protestant theologians, such as Martin Bucer, were stressing the importance of learning to live in a community that was producing important differences of biblical interpretation and thus different conclusions drawn from the same foundational document.”

      “Gramsci, found the Protestant idea of the “priesthood of all believers” to be a powerful conceptual foundation for mobilizing political activism. Gramsci drew a sharp distinction between an “organic intellectual” and a “traditional intellectual,” the latter generally being someone who is imposed upon people by an external authority and is seen to be linked with the preservation of the interests of that authority—for example, bishops in the Catholic church. In marked contrast, the “organic intellectual” is one whose authority emerges from within the community as a consequence of the growing respect and trust in which he or she is held. The community comes to accept this individual as its representative and spokes-person. The organic intellectual is not imposed upon the community; rather, having discerned that person’s merits, people choose to submit to his or her authority. This point is of fundamental importance in understanding the emergence of some highly influential personal ministries that have reshaped Protestantism during the twentieth century.”

      Note: “Protestantism regards itself as Christian and thus accepts the two great creeds of the Christian church—the Apostles’ Creed, which dates from the eighth century in its final form, and the fourth-century Nicene Creed. These creeds, which are both minimalist, set out fundamental landmarks for Christian belief.”

      Nathaniel, I enjoyed your response. I thought is was very thoughtful. I hope to interact with you more on the subject.
      Thanks, and have a good night!

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  August 8, 2012

        The trouble with your earth is flat comparison, is that abandonment of the earth is flat hypothesis was abandoned through better information. But I think we are agreed that there isn’t much in the way of solid historical new information coming into the Christian faith. Both of us would agree that the faith comes from pre-existent tradition, even though we disagree on the content of that tradition.

        A better analogy would be a scenario whereby human technology goes into decline and future people start to doubt that the earth is round. In fact we might compare it to doubts that man walked on the moon. In 1969, I don’t think anybody doubted it. But slowly some people started to doubt it. Not because of new information but because of doubts about the orthodox interpretation of the old information. Imagine in 2000 years from now, imagining that space travel stopped long ago, and people are doubting the whole episode of history. Who was best to interpret everything that went on, the people who lived closest to it, or people 2000 years later?

        The scriptures may be constant, but the shared knowledge into which they were born, are not necessarily so. Sometimes I look at movies even from the 1990s, and I think to myself how much some of the jokes have dated. I doubt that anyone in 30 years will know what they meant. In the same way, the scriptures often presuppose a lot of things that aren’t spelt to. We think that the tradition sheds light on these things. Protestsnts pretty much don’t.

        But the point is, if everyone in say the 4th century thought a particular passage meant a certain thing, abandoning that is more hubris than enlightenment.

        Im not sure of your point about traditional versus organic intellectuals. Catholicism and orthodoxy are not characterized by purely traditional authority. If you read about the lives of the saints, a lot of them are very eccentric people living very eccentric lives. Bucer’s idea of a community with a range of belief is fine, but catholic / orthodox tries to constrain the tendencies a bit. No Protestant is actually ok with unrestrained interpretation. They constrain it too, but within less clear boundaries.

      • That is just the thing John, we do have new information. WE have the historical records of the pope for instance. We have a more information with sources of information about words. Think of how many doctrines were established by the Latin Vulgate. New ideas and insights, historical information, logical implications, words comparisons, attempts to synthesize the meaning of the scriptures in their entirety (systematic theology); all of these things are producing information that was previously unaccounted for in many cases.

        If the church can err in every other regard, with the exception of declarations on faith and morals, I must wonder if the exception is plausible. Under scrutiny, it doesn’t appear so; as helpful as such boundaries would be, there is not a legitimate institution to draw them. The boundaries of the RCC, (i’m not sure of the EO), are established with all of their mistakes in mind; and even then I still find inconsistencies.

        Speaking of a passage. An excellent example is found in the Vulgate translation of the opening words of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:17) as: “do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This translation creates a direct link between the coming of God’s kingdom and the sacrament of penance. Erasmus pointed out that the original Greek text should be translated as: “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Where the Vulgate seemed to refer to an outward practice (the sacrament of penance), Erasmus insisted that the reference was to an inward psychological attitude—that of “being repentant.” (Mcgrath, Alister)

        So what you are saying that it is more hubris to go with Erasmus on this and not a development.

        Another example is where a gloss was put into scriptural form: “A text often used by medieval theologians to defend the doctrine of the Trinity is of particular interest: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree as one” (1 John 5:7–8). Erasmus pointed out that the words “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth” are not found in any Greek manuscript. They were added later to the Latin Vulgate, probably after 800, despite not being known in any ancient Greek version. (Mcgrath, Alister)

        If you would concede on the point that new information is being churned out; new insights along with the accumulation of historical wisdom; and that many things that were estabished were establshed prematurely, especially in the medieval period; then you would be likely to concede the point that the pope is not infallible; or you should be.

      • xpusostomos

         /  August 9, 2012

        Well the Latin for mt 4:17 is poenitentia, which means repentance. Jerome was not a stupid guy. I might add that even if many were misunderstanding Mt 4:17, the correct understanding was hardly unknown to the church fathers. I mean, surely you won’t argue that the early Greek fathers didn’t understand koine. For that matter, I doubt that the medieval Greek fathers were ignorant of Greek as well. I’m not sure what the history of the application or misapplication of Mt 4:17 is in the medieval western church, but whatever it is hardly rises to the level of a church wide consensus.

        Do you seriously think you know more about koine than the Greeks who spoke it natively? We don’t know more about that topic than they did, that’s for sure. If these insights you speak of were truly new, they could not possibly be authentic.

        As for the Comma Johanneum, this is an interesting case because it is a problem within scripture, not one between scripture and other authorities. This raises the question that if scripture can be corrupted, can it be corrupted in a non-orthodox way? Because if so, we are both lost because you can’t trust the orthodoxy of scripture itself. A Christian in any age can only state doctrine tentatively in case textual criticism reveals new light. On the other hand, if you accept the charisma of an authoritative spirit led church, then corruption is of no consequence since widely distributed corruptions must be orthodox.

        This is potentially a big problem because some textual problems could lead to non-orthodox interpretations. Like John 1:31 “I have seen and I have testified, that this is God’s chosen one”. Some could read this variant and conclude that Jesus just happened to be the one that God chose. This could lead to adoptionism or some such. Scripture can’t solve this, because the text itself is in dispute, before you even get to interpretation. This calls into doubt the creeds of the church which you say Protestantism accepts. Pointing to other verses doesn’t help that much, because the question becomes whether you interpret them in light of this verse, or vice versa. Which verse is your starting point changes everything.

        Or to put it more bluntly, you can’t trust even the text without trusting the orthodoxy of the church which transmitted it to you.

        There are many other major disputes along these lines. Like the trinitarianism baptismal formula of Mt 28. Curiously, Eusebius seems to quote this passage dozens of times with a non trinitarian formula. Also curiously, all extant manuscripts of Matthew are exceedingly late compared to other books. So it has been speculated that the trinitarianism formula was inserted, and the old versions destroyed. If you don’t trust the church that gives you the scriptures, then you can’t trust the scriptures or the dogma contained therein. I think it’s conceivable that the trinitarian formula was inserted. It doesn’t bother me, because the church sanctioned it. It’s a problem for you since the fundamentals of the Christian creeds are at issue.

  17. Nathaniel

     /  August 13, 2012

    Josh,
    Thanks for the continued interaction.

    I’m tempted to reply paragraph by paragraph to many things you’ve recently said; but I reread your original post, and see we’re chasing a number of rabbit trails. So I’m going to circle back to the main point.

    Your approach in the post is to use the same critique that Catholics apply to Sola Scripture (SS), on the Catholic model of Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium.

    My summary of the Catholic critique of SS that you focus on:
    (1) The Scriptures alone (sola) are the inerrant source of God’s public revelation to us.
    (2) Articles of faith (those not accessible by reason alone) can only be known (as opposed to held as opinion) if they are conveyed through a medium that is inerrant (guaranteed by God to be free from error).
    (3) God’s revelation contained in Scripture does not make known the extent or boundaries of the Scriptures.
    Therefore
    (4) The extent and boundaries of the Scriptures cannot be known, but only held as opinion (from 1, 2, and 3); and since
    (5) The content of God’s public revelation to us can only be known if its proximate source can be reliably identified,
    (6) The content of God’s revelation to us cannot be known, but only held as opinion. (from 1, 4, and 5)

    (I can also be argued that Sola Scriptura as a doctrine can only be opinion, since it’s not laid out in the Scriptures; but that’s a separate argument.)

    You then aim to turn this argument around on the Catholic position, by focusing on the infallibility of the Church.
    A) Is this infallibility known through the Scriptures?
    If so, the fact that the Scriptures (their canon and inerrancy) can only be known through the Church makes this a circular argument.
    B) Is this infallibility known because of history?
    Historical evidence doesn’t have the infallible qualities needed to prop up an infallible Church.
    C) The Church’s infallibility is self-proclaimed, i.e. “The Church is infallible” has been proclaimed by an infallible source, which is the Church.
    This is even a more tightly circular argument, whose supporting premise is the same as the conclusion.

    At this point, I’ll echo the rebuttal of point (B); history is known through observation, interpretation, documentation, and collecting, all performed by fallible folks. I agree this won’t provide what’s needed for the Catholic paradigm.

    With A and C remaining, note the differences in the rebuttal of Sola Scriptura in (1)-(6), as opposed to the rebuttals of (A) and (C).
    SS is rebutted on its own terms, because it can’t tell us what Scripture is on its own terms. SS entails that inerrant scripture is kickin’ around out there someplace, but we’re left to our own scholarly and other opinions about which writings exactly make up the inerrant Scriptures. The Sola in SS rules out the possibility of other sources telling us what the Scriptures are in a way that supports more than opinion.

    Rebuttals (A) and (C) of Church/magisterial infallibility are charges of circularity. A circular argument is not very useful — it has no logical convincing power — but it may be valid, internally consistent, and its conclusion may indeed be true. Circularity makes for bad argument, but it’s no demonstration of falsity.

    So, I submit that your critique fails to land the Catholic understanding in the same disappointing place as the Sola Scriptura understanding. The two critiques you’ve drawn out are not parallel. (I don’t think a parallel to (1)-(6) can be written out for the Catholic model.)

    If you want to say that Catholics and Sola Scriptura-subscribing protestants are in the same boat because all are imperfect individuals who can personally make mistakes in evaluating anything outside ourselves: then yes, all are in that boat together. But attempting to use the SS criticism from paragraphs 1-2 on the Catholic understanding doesn’t work. The Catholic model is internally self-consistent where SS is self-defeating.

    We can talk about where the truth of the Catholic model is grounded; but that would be a different discussion.

    Anyway, that’s my take! Thanks again for the post and the godly interaction.
    In Christ,
    Nathaniel

    Reply
    • Nathaniel,

      Let me respond to a few of the premises/rebuttals you put forth:

      1 Sola Scriptura: This does not mean that there can be no other source of revelation (Solo), but that every other source falls under the authority of this ultimate authority. The heavens are telling the glory of God, for example. We can’t deduce that the heavens are so big, that we must mean very little to Gods. (bad example but you see my point)

      2. Articles of faith can be known, and with certainty, but the sort of certainty that is fallible and also subject to error. The only grounds for any confidence at all in our knowledge being accurate insights into God and who he is, is in what you said: this revelation came through a inerrant medium; namely, the scriptures.

      3. This one is where we are completely at odds. First, why are we searching through historical evidences to find connections to the apostles? Why are we concerned with apostolicity at all? Because, the Scriptures themselves tell us to. The Scriptures set the boundaries of apostolicity: They, the apostles, acted as the authoirty figures that approved of certain books that would circulate in the ancient church. Mark and LUke for example were approved by Paul and Peter. The scriptures establish how they must be judged.

      Note: I believe that there are 3 criteria that help us determine the Scriptures: 1. Self-attesting; 2. Historical eviences; 3. The reception of the church. This provided the epistemic environment needed for us to recognize the scriptures.

      4. This is not true. One of the main thrusts of my arguement is that we, as Protestants, are not under the delusion that we have, or must have, the level of certainty that the RC’s claim (wrongly) to have. I call it “reasonable certainty.” I can be wrong, but I am certain of the books. “Here is why I bieleve these books are….” to which RC’s respond; “but you can be wrong can’t you?” To which I respond, “yes, but that doesn’t make me wrong; and I don’t believe that I am.”

      5. At this point I would like to add in that Paul’s 13 books, and the 4 gospels never went through any doubting phase. There were other books that did, sure. But consider for a moment that the core of the canon as settled from the moment that it was received in the earliest church. This core became the criteria by which orthodoxy itself was to be tested. This core set the boundaries–apostolicity, which leads to the historical investigations; and has always been received by the church. When we talk about the canon as a whole and are not carried away by focusing on 3 JOhn and 2 Peter as the amount of certainty that we have in all 27 books; then I think we can be certain (not infallibly certain in the epistemological sense).

      6. This is wrong as well. It can be known. My arguement again is: knowledge of something does not require that the thing knowing be infallible. On the contrary, we can know things; and we are often wrong, and so we must continue to bring our beliefs under the constant scrutiny of the Scriptures.

      The circularity issue doesn’t bother me so much. All foundational beliefs must be circular, to a certain degree. I could prove this, as I have to many others. I think we can make a good case for the scriptures without such a circularity, but my belief in the Scriptures comes from the Scriptures themselves. The extent of the Canon is established by the canon (especially its core); which is why SS is not self-defeating: because it tells me what to look for in the evidences. As long as my inquiry in the evidences is informed by the Scriptures and under their ultimate authoirty; then I am not abandoning the principle in the least.

      The Scriptures provide the criteria of how to judge the scriptures: this is Sola Scriptura at its best; not is worst. I will try to respond to the RC rebuttals later today.

      Thanks again Nathaniel. I enjoy reading your responses.

      Reply
      • Nathaniel

         /  August 14, 2012

        Hi Josh,

        Mostly, we’re in agreement here. You’re taking issue with my use of “knowing”, so let me be clear: I’m using “to know” to mean
        a) to believe what is actually so in reality,
        b) as a result of having (objectively) sufficient warrant to justify this belief.

        What you’re calling “certainty that is fallible and subject to error,” I am terming opinion: here the reasons or evidence behind the belief may be significant, but the reasons themselves (not just the mental equipment of the believer) are insufficient ensure a matchup with reality.

        The terms “fully-warranted certainty” and “not-fully-warranted certainty” would be good replacements for “knowledge” and “opinion”, as I’m using them here. I realize we often use “to know” more broadly than this, and we live practically with lesser degrees of certainty than this. But articles of faith differ in important ways from practical matters, and knowledge of them comes from God’s revelation, not from practical experience.

        (I suppose it’s also important to point out that I’m talking about certainty which is entailed by the source of a given belief; I don’t mean the subjective feeling of certainty, which is itself no sure sign that belief is warranted by the reasons or evidence. Language gets tricky here, so I hope these distinctions help us communicate more effectively.)

        Your (1): I agree. What you’ve said here is fully compatible with (1) in the argument above. I didn’t suggest that there are no other media for revelation, just none that is inerrant.

        (2) I disagree. If we don’t know something is revealed by God — we’re just subjectively quite sure — then we can’t properly hold it by faith as distinct from opinion. If you want to reject the distinction between faith and pious opinion, my argument will break down, but you’ll be left with Sola Scriptura (and all other points of faith) as matters of pious opinion.

        (3) I welcome you to show where the Scriptures delineate the boundaries of Scripture; if you want to start with why the Deuteros are not included, or Luke is, but the gospel of Thomas is not, please do. I believe in all the same scriptures that you do, but haven’t found where they lay out the extent and boundaries. Self-attesting: please explain. Historical evidences: your own post points out that historical evidence does not provide the necessary level of certainty. Reception of the Church: please explain how the Church can authoritatively recognize Scripture to receive it, and how we recognize the Church (at time when we do not yet have Church-recognized Scriptures to use for the task).

        (4) Flows from (1,2,3) so please demonstrate where those break down, or the logical deduction fails. I’ve addressed your comments about “reasonable certainty” above.

        (5) I don’t think your remarks about historical agreement is relevant. Consensus is not a demonstration of sufficient warrant for belief, and doesn’t make the propositions in question inerrant, as we both agree. Can you explain how public revelation can be known reliably (as more than opinion) if we only have opinion concerning where to go to find it?

        (6) Flows from 1, 4, and 5, so please show the false premise or where the logical deduction fails.

        I don’t understand your last point — same issue as your (3): “The extent of the Canon is established by the canon (especially its core); which is why SS is not self-defeating: because it tells me what to look for in the evidences.”
        What is the “core” of Scripture — and why do you even think that a breakdown into “core” and “not-core” should be made? Does Scripture make it?

        Best,
        Nathaniel

      • These two things:
        a) to believe what is actually so in reality, (in other words, the Language refers to something extra-linguistic that is objectively real and ultimately determinative)
        b) as a result of having (objectively) sufficient warrant to justify this belief (that it does this).

        I believe these two things constitute warrant! However, seeing as we are fallible, then, we can have “(objectively) sufficient warrant to justify this belief” while recognizing that our “certainty is fallible and subject to error”; simultaneously. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
        Did I give you the example of the alarm clock? The guy wakes up and sees his alarm clock read 9:00 and he formulates the belief that he is late for work. Later his wife tells him that their daughter had been in the room fooling with the alarm and must have changed it.

        Did he, at the moment he saw the alarm for the first time, have “(objectively) sufficient warrant to justify this belief” that he was late for work? Yes! He did! He was presented with a defeater however that changed the circumstance.

        Do you see what is going on here?

        You said: “The terms “fully-warranted certainty” and “not-fully-warranted certainty” would be good replacements for “knowledge” and “opinion.” I would argue that all of your beliefs are “pious opinion” if you deem this true: “What you’re calling “certainty that is fallible and subject to error,” I am terming opinion.” Notice what I said, though. The certainty itself is fallible; not the object of the certainty. No matter what object we have certainty in, we are fallible, and therefore subject to error; regardless of whether or not we are wrong or right.

        I’m saying that “fully warranted certainty” is not nearly so strict as you or many other RC’s are making it out to be. ( In one my previous responses to someone else I distinguished between arguing “de facto’ and arguing “de jure.” That may help as well. My arguments (which are de jure) will not convince a skeptic, but simply demonstrate that my belief is warranted and not self-defeated; or presented with any real defeaters from the outside.)

        Like you said, If I can disprove the “pious opinion point” then your whole argument unravels.

        Would you agree with this: If I can demonstrate that a belief is sufficiently warranted, and justified, while simultaneously being subject to the possibility of being misguided with regard to held certainty in truths that are actually false; then would your whole argument fall? If I can show that these two things can exist simultaneously? Like with the alarm clock analogy.

        I will get to the question of the DT’s and Luke and the core later on. Those are corollary questions anyway, good questions though. The ultimate point of my post was to show that the “knower” need not be infallible to have sufficient warrant to justify a belief; while admitting that the belief is potentially wrong. This fact means that we must deal with defeaters.

        Note: Obviously what we constitute as “sufficient warrant to justify a belief” is different. I think I gave you my criteria (as adopted from Alvin Plantinga) already; if not I will post them. Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief” deals with these epistemic issues.

  18. Your point: (I suppose it’s also important to point out that I’m talking about certainty which is entailed by the source of a given belief; I don’t mean the subjective feeling of certainty, which is itself no sure sign that belief is warranted by the reasons or evidence. Language gets tricky here, so I hope these distinctions help us communicate more effectively.)

    Does the alarm clock analogy seem to ignore this point to you?

    My previous post was mostly to demonstrate the breakdown with what you wrote here: “(2) I disagree. If we don’t know something is revealed by God — we’re just subjectively quite sure — then we can’t properly hold it by faith as distinct from opinion. If you want to reject the distinction between faith and pious opinion, my argument will break down, but you’ll be left with Sola Scriptura (and all other points of faith) as matters of pious opinion.”

    Reply
    • Nathaniel

       /  August 15, 2012

      Josh,
      You asked, “Does the alarm clock analogy seem to ignore this point to you?”

      This analogy is not a good example of sufficient warrant. The alarm clock story is a case of well-founded opinion; but an alarm clock’s display isn’t sufficient warrant for knowing the local time, simply because there are lots of ways that the alarm clock could show 9:00 at some other actual time.

      Further important distinctions for our conversation: “The certainty itself is fallible; not the object of the certainty.” The objects of knowledge and certainty are realities (or at least perceived realities, if we allow certainty to include subjective certainty), and realities are neither fallible nor infallible, neither errant nor inerrant, neither reformable nor irreformable, not even true or false. They simply are; or if subjective certainty is mistaken, the perceived reality in question is not. A person may be fallible or infallible (capable or not of making mistakes); communicated content may be errant or inerrant (containing errors or not); axioms or doctrines may be reformable or irreformable (capable of being undone in future); and statements or propositions may be true or false. I think I have all that correct — let me know if you don’t agree.

      I commend you for accepting a rarely-accepted and often unpalatable, but consistent, conclusion from all this: you hold Christian truths as pious opinion. I don’t believe that I do; I don’t believe that’s what God offers us. I believe that articles of faith are founded on the authority of God, which makes faith different from all other sorts of human knowledge, and lifts it above pious opinion. Of course the rub in all this is that God doesn’t declare his truths immediately to us (at least not to most of us!), but through some proximate media, which we have to come to know as his media, or not. Don’t get me wrong; I do struggle to understand how to make the jump from coming to know proximate sources of revelation (Scripture & Tradition as proclaimed by the Church) to recognizing their content to be taught by God, to making the (supernatural) assent of faith through the help of grace. I find it challenging to hold it all in my head, and I have to continually fall back on explanations by those much more careful and bright than I.

      Question for you, then:
      Are there any articles of faith (apart from those also demonstrable purely through reason, like “God exists”) that you hold as more than pious opinion, however strongly held?

      You asked,
      “Would you agree with this: If I can demonstrate that a belief is sufficiently warranted, and justified, while simultaneously being subject to the possibility of being misguided with regard to held certainty in truths that are actually false…”

      The “possibility of being misguided” is in direct contradiction to what I mean by the words “sufficiently warranted and justified” in this conversation. “Certainty” about something actually false is not what I mean by certainty, unless you want to qualify it as “subjective certainty” or “not-fully-warranted certainty.” (Again, I point out the Catholic Encyclopedia article on certainty, which helped me clarify different senses of the word.) And “truths that are actually false” is a contradiction in terms. So I can’t meaningfully answer your question.

      God bless you. Would you pray for me this week?
      –Nathaniel

      Reply
      • The alarm clock analogy is a bit more insightful when it comes to warrant than I think you give it credit for. An alarm clock that has accurately communicated the time of day for you for 150 days, numerous times a day, must contain an amount of warrant to believe it. Surely, it is more than pious opinion.

        Let me state this clearly as I can: I do not believe that Christian truths are pious opinion. The Referential aspect of language, that language refers to objective reality prevents my beliefs from being pious opinion, if and when my beliefs are true. I believe that 2+2=4; that is not a pious opinion, it is a fact. This fact does not prevent questions like this from being unanswerable: Now, is it possible that somehow I think that I am absolutely right, but am now locked in an insane asylum, living in an altered state of mind and am mentally unable, in any way, to consistently describe reality? Can I prove that God did not create me 5 minutes ago with a memory bank of all that I know, and information that is accessible where I can learn what I call “history.”

        You asked: “Are there any articles of faith (apart from those also demonstrable purely through reason, like “God exists”) that you hold as more than pious opinion, however strongly held?”

        Yes!

        Here is where we are totally in disagreement: You wrote: “The “possibility of being misguided” is in direct contradiction to what I mean by the words “sufficiently warranted and justified” in this conversation. “Certainty” about something actually false is not what I mean by certainty, unless you want to qualify it as “subjective certainty” or “not-fully-warranted certainty.”

        We must first get over this before any real progress can be made.

        For you, a kid is not sufficiently warranted and justified to believe in anything that may turn out to be false? For 6,000 years, people have formulated all sorts of belief and you are saying that every belief that was formulated, and potentially false, was not warranted? You are saying that for people to have believed the Earth was flat was not warranted, in spite of how much it appears that way?

        What you are missing, I think, in my points is that certain explanations of “x” amount of data can be warranted; but, when the data is “x+y” then the warranted explanation is subject to change. (I can see why a RC would not swallow this).

        What we need to do is define warrant and get into the epistemic process of it.

        Note: Deity, by definition, does not have to be infallible, though it/he/she is an object of knowledge. The object of knowledge, as a proposition, could be false; and therefore unable to sustain certainty (which is what I meant; namely that the object is not intrinsically able to sustain certainty. (Can a proposition be an object of knowledge? I think so.) I think you have it right to a degree. History cannot be true or false; it either is or it isn’t, but the account of history can be true or false. Wether or not the object of our knowledge is “history” or “an account of history” will determine whether or not this object can be false.

      • Nathaniel, In light of my last response,

        I plan to write an explanation of what “warrant” is, considering its role in the process of justifying beliefs and propositions, pretty soon. If you would, you give me your view and understanding of it, and I will give mine as soon as I complete it. Clearly we are meaning different things by it.

        I may post mine on the blog instead of this comment box (though I will let you know here), since it would be much more accessible and to a specific point.

        I feel like we are beginning to come to terms with one another, which has not happened as often as I would like in my dialogues with others (probably my fault.)

        And Yes, I will pray for you this Week! I really will!

        Thanks,
        Josh

      • I would like to make a few initial comments before moving to the warrant topic:

        My primary concern in this post was with the de jure argument put forward by RC’s. They (RCs) say that the Protestant position is either: 1. Is self-defeating, 2. Presented with defeaters from the outside, 3. Or, that it is simply wrong.

        The 3rd option is an argument de facto (not de jure). I was not attacking point #3 in my post. This was my angle: The RC’s claim that Protestants, due to their lack of magisterial authority, cannot have any “real” certainty in any belief because there is always the possibility of personal misunderstanding. I responded by saying that the sort of certainty that they are expecting from protestants is greater than their own certainty in the magisterium itself. Therefore, their argument is self-defeating.

        Right now, the area of critical dialogue is turning to the question of warrant. Is it possible for a belief to be sufficiently warranted, when, it is possible that the belief is misguided. In other words, “does the presence of the possibility of being wrong preclude and prevent sufficient warrant in any belief; so long as this possibility remains? I don’t think so. Nathaniel, you do.

        Now, let us define warrant and work through this.

  19. Nathaniel

     /  August 30, 2012

    Josh,
    I’m sorry for the silence. I teach college physics; classes started this week, and I haven’t had time for much else! Back when I can. May Christ abundantly bless you!
    –Nathaniel

    Reply
    • Nathaniel,
      I understand! My Seminary classes just kicked back up and my wife and I are expecting a little girl in January. I have yet to compile some information on warrant for both of those reasons in addition to a need to gather a couple of resources to make my statements a bit more precise. I hope to continue some of these dialogues in the future! I pray that your classes go well!

      In Christ,
      –Josh

      Reply
      • Nathaniel

         /  September 3, 2012

        Right there with you on Busy! Our 5th child will be making her appearance in mid November! God is Good, life is full.
        –Nathaniel

    • I spoke earlier of a self-authenticating canon. I cannot dileneate all of the components of such a belief, but a few quotes from Kruger will help clarify position. Ultimately, the point that I want to make is that the canon, if it is in fact God’s self-revelation of himself, contains a innate beauty that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can awaken trust and ellicit authentic faith in the mind and heart of the reader. It is the divine origin of the bible that has caused its reception. The canon asserted itself on the church. The discrepancies of the certain books does not undermine this reality.

      Kruger writes “some New Testament books, especially Paul’s major epistles and the four Gospels, would have been recognized as authoritative from a very early time. They were received not so much because they measured up to some standard of orthodoxy but primarily on the basis of their obvious apostolic origins—these were the books that were “handed down” from the apostles.59 Gamble notes, “The letters of Paul and the Synoptic Gospels . . . had been valued so long and so widely that their orthodoxy could only be taken for granted: it would have been nonsensical for the church to have inquired, for example, into the orthodoxy of Paul!”60 Thus, there appears to have been a collection of core New Testament writings that would have functioned as a norm for apostolic doctrine at quite an early point. This explains why the vast majority of later “disagreements” about the boundaries of the New Testament canon appear to be focused narrowly on only a handful of books; apparently the core of the New Testament was intact from a very early stage. Barton also observes this pattern: “Astonishingly early, the great central core of the present News was already being treated as the main authoritative source for Christians. There is little to suggest that there were any serious controversies about the Synoptics, John, or the major Pauline epistles.”61 If Barton is correct, then these core books would have provided a theological and doctrinal foundation for analyzing the orthodoxy of peripheral books such as 2 Peter, Jude, and 3 John.”

      “That said, it may be useful to examine the issue of orthodoxy from two different perspectives: first, from the perspective of the earliest Christians as they worked with an incomplete New Testament canon and sought to recognize (for the first time) the books that God had given, and second from our modern day as we work with a complete New Testament canon and ask whether there are sufficient grounds for thinking that these books are indeed from God.”

      “Catholics consider the church’s reception of these books as the only means by which a person can know the canon. However, the self-authenticating model considers the church’s reception of these books as just one means of knowing the canon. As addressed in the introduction, there are a variety of ways that individuals can come to know the canonical books for the first time, such as observing the divine qualities of the books through the help of the Holy Spirit. One does not need the church. However, when it comes to the issue of authenticating the canon—i.e., not how an individual gains canonical knowledge for the first time but how the Christian religion can provide an account for how it knows these are the right books—then we are free to employ multiple means for how we have knowledge of the canon. The self-authenticating model, then, argues that the church’s reception is one of three attributes of canonicity that provide knowledge of the canon, not that the church’s reception is required for an individual to come to knowledge of the canon.”

      “The New Testament canon is the collection of apostolic writings that is regarded as Scripture by the corporate church. Of course, as we use the word canon throughout this study, we may focus upon just one of the three aspects of this definition at any given time. Therefore, it is important that the reader carefully note the following: while all canonical books (eventually) have all three attributes of canonicity, the term canon can still be used for a book before it has all three attributes of canonicity. For example, the Gospel of John was “canon” ten minutes after it was written even though it was not yet received by the corporate church. Again, the self-authenticating model is not arguing that the corporate reception of the church makes a book canonical. This stands in contrast with the community-determined models, which often make a book’s canonicity contingent on corporate reception. Instead, this model argues that a book can be canonical prior to corporate reception, but cannot be canonical if it never has corporate reception.”

      With the question of self-authenticating Scriptures, and the de jure arguements that we have adequate grounds for accepting their authority, it must be noted that those who pressupose their “non-divine” status are operating with assumptions that are no less manipulative than the presupposition that the Scriptures are ‘divine” in nature.

      “Should Christians abandon their commitment to the canon’s authority because biblical critics, who view scriptural interpretation as merely a human enterprise, claim to have discovered theological incongruities? No, because Christians have no grounds for thinking that those without the Spirit can rightly discern such things—indeed, Christians have good grounds for thinking they cannot.”

      “At this point, the critic of the New Testament might respond by saying that this whole affair sounds suspiciously circular. After all, it is no surprise that Christians “conclude” that the New Testament is harmonious—they already believe in the truth of the New Testament from the outset! Therefore, it is not proper (it is argued) to allow those who believe the New Testament to be the final judges of its theological harmony.112 However, this argument both ways. If the Christian assumes the truth of the New Testament while arguing for its unity, then it is clear that the non-Christian assumes the falsity of the New Testament while arguing for its disunity. He assumes that (at least) 1 Corinthians 2:14 is mistaken and that New Testament theology can be understood rightly by those without the Spirit.113 Thus, one could ask why we should allow those who have already rejected the New Testament to be the final judges of its theological harmony? Again, keeping with the music analogy, that would be like allowing a person who is tone-deaf (and thus rejects this whole concept of being “on key”) to judge a singing contest. If the tone-deaf person were kept from judging, he might object and claim that this whole “on key” thing is a sham run by musical insiders who claim to have a special ability to hear such things. But despite all the protests, the truth of the matter would remain: there is such a thing as being on key whether the tone-deaf person hears it or not.”

      I would love to spell this out more but I am, like you, pressed for time. Feel free to question any ambiguity here. I will return to the question of warrant as soon as possible.

      THanks,
      Josh

      Reply
  20. xpusostomos

     /  August 31, 2012

    Well… who said that the canon must have an innate beauty? Does Chronicles with “X begat Y begat Z” have an innate beauty?

    If its innate beauty that is the criteria, then what you are saying is that the human heart is what stands in judgement of God’s word. Any anyone who’s ever been to an art gallery should have grave concerns about what the human heart considers beautiful. That’s without even mentioning that the “innate beauty” argument is most heavily deployed by the Muslims and the Mormons.

    Nobody should doubt the orthodoxy of Paul? Fine. But there’s a ton of people I wouldn’t doubt the orthodoxy of, without going to the extent of saying that their writings are specially inspired by God and without possibility of error.

    You continue to put forward the importance of a supposed inner canon of the gospels and Paul which somehow avoids you to consider the wider canonical problems. If the other books don’t teach anything more than the gospels and Paul, then why do we need them? If they do teach more than the Gospels and Paul, then according to your reasoning they must be suspect, since the orthodoxy of the Gospels and Paul is what we have to judge them.

    Reply
    • 2 Chronicles is God’s self-revelation if it is what we both claim it to be. The genealogies demonstrate God’s dealings with people in real history. God’s revelation of himself must contain innate beauty if it is in fact God’s self-revelation of himself. This point need hardly be argued.

      I never said that innate beauty was the criteria, but that it is a quality that truly inspired Scriptures would possess. We develop criteria to judge whether of not books, in history, are characterized by such a quality. Also, we experience this innate beauty personally in our lives as well, which I said in my post. I also pointed to 1 Cor. 2:14, where it says that people are innately unable to recognize that which is truly spiritually beautiful. The same is put forward in many places like John 3:19. The same is true with Jesus’s words “he who has ears to hear.” So, self-authentication can be studied backwards by examining church history to see how the Scriptures (which Scriptures?) has affected people, and the church as a whole. Self-authentication is also a present phenomena. Many people, have by picking up the bible, been converted to Christianity apart from arguments and evidences.

      Hearkening back to Jonathan Edwards to clarify my points will help: According to Edwards, the object of true saving conviction is “the great things of the gospel” (p. 288, col. 2). By the “gospel” he means “the doctrines there taught, the word there spoken, and the divine counsels, acts, and works there revealed” (p. 291, col. 1). He refers to the “truth of the gospel; which is the glorious doctrine the word of God contains, concerning God, Jesus Christ, the way of salvation by him, and the world of glory that he has entered into, and purchased for all them who believe” (p. 289, col. 2).

      The object of a gracious and saving conviction, however, is not merely the factuality of the things of the gospel but also the “holy beauty and amiableness in divine things” (p. 291, col. 2). It is “the glory of God’s moral perfections” manifest in the great things of the gospel which is the proper object of our conviction (p. 291, col. 1). Or, as he calls it in another place, it is the “supreme and holy excellency and beauty of those things” (p. 290, col. 2). Beauty, excellency, perfection, amiableness, divinity, holiness—these are the qualities of the gospel of which saving faith must be certain.

      He also refers to this true apprehension of the divine things of the gospel as “spiritual” because of the peculiar kind of knowing that it involves. Spiritual apprehension or understanding “consists in a sense and taste of the divine, supreme, and holy excellency and beauty of those things” (p. 290, col. 2, my italics). Edwards distinguishes between mere speculative knowledge and sensible knowledge. The former is the sort of knowledge by which we know what a triangle or a square is. The latter is the “sort of knowledge by which a man has a sensible perception of amiableness and loathsomeness, or sweetness and nauseousness.” That is, it is “the sense of the heart wherein the mind not only speculates and beholds but relishes and feels…. Yet there is instruction in it; as he that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it than he who has only looked upon and felt it.” This then is the basis for his definition of spiritual understanding: “Spiritual understanding primarily consists in this sense or taste of the moral beauty of divine things” (p. 283, col. 2).

      If the “real evidence” of the divinity of the things of the gospel has always been there in the original meaning of Scripture, why is it that so few see it and believe? Edwards foresees the objection implicit in this question and responds, “It is no argument that it cannot be seen, because some do not see it; though they may be discerning men in temporal matters” (p. 291, col. 1). The reason so few see and believe is that “the mind of man is naturally full of enmity against the doctrines of the gospel; which is a disadvantage to those arguments that prove their truth, and causes them to lose their force upon the mind” (p. 293, col. 1). This natural enmity results in a veil lying across the mind or in the blindness of the mind to what is really there. Thus the Psalmist prays, “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Ps. 119:18). When the Holy Spirit answers this prayer by overcoming our natural enmity to the glory of the gospel, we are able truly to apprehend it, to taste it, and our faith is thus at once spiritual and reasonable.

      Next point:

      The point about Paul is that his works were accepted as canon from the beginning, as was the 4 gospels. It is always pointed out that there were discrepancies among certain books, but my point was that the core of the canon established itself without the church’s decision to canonize it. Also, the books that were added needed to merely be “consistent” with what was already written. “Adding’ is ok, if what is added is consistent. Shouldn’t be much issue here.

      The wider canonical problems were mentioned by Eusebius. He mentioned 3 categories of books. Those quoted a ton: Paul’s 13, Gospels, 1 John, 1 Peter; and those quoted not so much; the rest of the 27; and those quoted hardly ever; the apocryphal works. The question was with the middle group only. Those are the only disputed books.

      ONe of the ways that they were tested was by their receptivity in all of the church’s regions. This is working backwards to see if these books possess that innate divinity that would grip the hearts of the church from early on. As I have made painfully clear, this is not the only way of recognizing the canon. It is a way of recognizing the divinity of a book before its ‘formal inclusion’.

      –Josh

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  November 20, 2012

        I think this is a thread I meant to get back to, then forgot.

        As you yourself admit, people are confused about what has innate beauty. You’ve quoted scriptures in support of that. I’ve mentioned that Muslims and Mormons deploy the innate beauty argument about their texts continually.

        So the question is, if its your own opinion of innate beauty, how can you trust yourself when so many others are led astray by it?

        On the other hand, if you want to point to the reception of the books as evidence of innate beauty, then the question is pushed back to “whose acceptance?”. Because the Marcionites didn’t accept lots of the books, even the ones in your core canon. The Syrians never accepted James and Peter and John’s epistles. A whole lot of people didn’t accept Revelation. The only way you can make this one fly is by having a pretty clear idea of “Where is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?” If you don’t have such a concept, then reception in all its forms, including one based on innate beauty is dead before it begins. It’s no use quoting this or that church father. The reason you can quote them is because their texts and ONLY their texts were preserved. Why were only their texts preserved and not those of, for example, the Marcionites? Because they were considered by THE church to have been part of THE church: The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. So again, if you don’t believe in such a concept, then the agreement within that particular religious sect is no more significant than that of any other religious or pseudo-Christian group (of which there were many).

        Or does sheer bulk of numbers identify which sect in the early years was the “proper” official church? If so, why then, but not now? And if their acceptance was based on beauty, why then but not now?

        And again, if the innate beauty argument flies, purely on the basis of numbers of professing Christians, then you’d better include those deuteros, since they are held sacred by the vast majority.

        And if for some unexplained reason you want the beauty argument to only work in the early church, why isn’t Esther thrown out, and Baruch added in?

        Who is to say if such and such a book is “consistent” with your “core canon”? Is Revelation consistent? Many have said no, because the pre-millenialism which a simplistic reading of the text seems to teach is inconsistent with Paul’s eschatology. Perhaps James’ discussion of works is inconsistent with Paul. Luther wanted to throw out James and Revelation from his Canon. If consistency is a criteria, why is he wrong? Who has the authority to say he was wrong?

      • I think you missed the point of the whole innate beauty concept. It was connected to an earlier point of being the foundation of its reception, since the books were received as inspired before they were declared to be so.

        Anyhow, the Deutero’s were not received by the majority, this much is certain. It is very hard to argue otherwise in light of the evidence put forward from both sides. Deutero’s were read as ecclesiastically beneficial. Athanasius is a case in point here.

        The Old Testament canon was dealt with in a slightly different way, seeing as it was the inspired documents for the Jewish people, Jesus, Paul, and Peter included. We accept what the 1 century Jews and apparently Jesus accepted.

        The main question of the post is this: Why is the magesterium worthy of the title infallible, if there is no guarantee that they are; and, is the evidence in support of the magesterium heavier than the evidence in support of the canon.

      • To clarify a bit:
        How did Abraham know that it was God who called him from Ur?

        How did Moses know that it was God in the burning bush?

        IF you look at cases such as this, what becomes clear is that it was always the Word of God creating the people of God. Abraham knew the voice of God because it truly was the voice of God. A Roman Catholic should ask how he knew it was the word of God if so many back then thought they heard the voice of God, when they, in fact, did not. How could Abraham know that the voice he heard was actually the voice that he should listen to. How could he know this without the magesterium?

        God’s word has innate beauty by virtue of being what it is. Sure there will be some who mistake true innate beauty of “God breathed” words, but that doesn’t change the fact that God’s word are different from all other words.

        John if you believe that the 27 books are the inspired words of God, then, you must believe that they intrinsically are superior to all others.

        The ontology of the canon is a matter of looking for God’s Word. Given the way God has revealed himself in history: namely by; acting, intervening, and covenanting; always followed by the administration of writings that interpret his acts in history. These writings were meant to be read, heeded, cherished. Such words, by virtue of their origin, asserted themselves as the authoritative writings. A Old Testament Jew could ask: How can we know which books are God’s words (thinking back to David or Josiah; how did they know which books were and were not inspired).

        The whole point of the innate beauty discussion was to demonstrate that the books’ ontology were what precipitated their reception. Furthermore, due to the depravity of man, people are unable to discern spiritual realities, and spiritual beauty apart from a work of God. God brought the NT canon into existence the same way that he did with the OT canon; and it was always God’s words creating God’s people.

  21. Nathaniel

     /  November 20, 2012

    Hello after a long break, Josh. Happy THanksgiving week!

    After thinking about this more, I think I can say
    1) I’m not quite sure how to avoid your criticism of Catholic knowledge of magisterial authority. How do I know that the magisterium speaks with God-given (and infallible) authority? That’s difficult to establish in isolation from the magisterium’s claims for itself.

    2) I don’t see that you avoid the Catholic criticism of Sola Scriptura. “canon as reception (exclusive), canon as use (functional)” don’t provide a basis for an irreformable canon, unless you consider the “vote” of someone or some group who made a certain selection in the past to be irreformable. But that kind of option is ruled out by the very principle of Sola Scriptura.

    3) I think your alarm clock analogy perfectly exemplifies a case of “reformable canon” — when new information comes to light, we modify our claims. Do you believe that the canon could be reformable — either new books could be added, or exisiting books could be removed — if new scholarly evidence comes to light?

    4) I stand by my claim that you have no way principled way to distinguish positive, correct doctrinal developments from false ones. “Being open to correction” in all cases entails that no claim is ever free from possibility of correction, which means that every claim can only be held as provisionally true.

    God bless you and your family this week. I hope your wife and little one (in utero) are doing well.
    –Nathaniel

    Reply
    • Happy Thanksgiving to you! It has been awhile. Nathaniel, I will get to #2 shortly. First I would like to respond to the other 3.

      Do Protestants have the authority to distinguish positive correct doctrine? Not in a way that safeguards the truth claim from further critique. Your critique is a valid one; and I must admit that it is one that not nearly enough Protestants have thought through. One of the fundamental principles of Protestantism is its insistence that all interpretations of the Bible must be regarded as provisional, not final; part of the task of the church is continually to reexamine previous ways of interpreting scripture to ensure that they have not lapsed into uncritical, unthinking, or simply wrong ways of interpreting this foundational text.

      So your point is noted!

      About the reformable canon. Kruger in his work actually argues that one of the characteristics of a canonical book is that it was recognized by the church as canonical. He kind of says it like this, A book, Being recognized by the church doesn’t make a book canonical, but if a book is canonical, one of the divine marks that it will exhibit is widespread recognition from the church. (If a book wasn’t recognized, then that is one clear sign that it was not in fact inspired.)

      But then you have the question of whether or not there should actually be 25 books instead of 27 (since 27 were recognized). I can conceive of such a possibility, but I have to ask “what books would be under consideration?” 4 Gospels, Acts, and Paul’s 13, 1 John, 1 Peter, are all locked solid if you look back at the evidence. Obviously, the impact would be negative if we lost any of them. But, Would Christianity fail?

      In the end, the evidence doesn’t point toward the removal of certain books. It really doesn’t. The 27 books that we have are pretty well attested to. What I am entertaining is the possibility that this could change with new research and such. This question shouldn’t stop here though.

      What if you do not have any way of being certain of the magesterium itself? If you can’t be certain of this first “alpha point,” then how can you have any more objective certainty in the books that they declare to be inspired, than I do? Think of it like this; your middle level structure of authority is incredibly strong, but the foundation is made of sand.

      This would be the biggest question: Which has more logical, biblical, and historical support: The magesterium and the evidences in support of it; or, The Canon, and the evidences in support of it.

      Then, I would also add, with a study of the magesterium, and their theological positions throughout history; are they worthy of the term “infallible?” The Scriptures that are inspired are worthy, I would argue.

      Hans Kung has rejected papal infallibility, and he is a pretty high ranking Catholic Historian/Priest; I mean, I doubt that there are hardly any Catholics who are more steeped in history than this guy. (I also find it incredible that he is still a priest, openly denies the infallibility of the pope and the church, and has not been excommunicated yet.)

      I may need you to clarify number 2 for me.

      Always a pleasure Nathaniel!

      Reply
  22. xpusostomos

     /  November 20, 2012

    “the Deutero’s were not received by the majority, this much is certain.”

    No, that is flat out wrong. For example, let’s take the books (1&2) of Maccabees. I believe the exhaustive evidence for and against as scripture up till the 7th century is this:

    For: 1. Apostolic Canons, 2. Cheltenham list. 3. Augustine 4. 3rd Council of Carthage. 5. Codex Claromontanus. 6. Letter of Innocent I, 7. Decree of Galasius. 8. Cassiodorus 9. Isidore of Seville

    Against: 1. Origen 2. Cyril of Jerusalem 3. Stichometry of Niceph. 4. Synopsis of Sac. Scrip. 5. List of the Sixty Books 6. Jerome 7. Rufinus

    That’s the list of absolute yes and no references. And on a simple head count, the YES has it.

    What if we count a different way? What if we assume that silence is equivalent to “NO” and language that sounds like they regard it as scripture, or where t is a YES? It’s kinda unfair to interpret dead silence in all cases as NO, but let’s run with that for Baruch:

    For: 1. Origen, 2. Cyril of Jerusalem, 3. Council of Laodicia, 4. Athanasius, 5. Stichometry of Niceph. 6. Hilary of Poitiers 7. Cheltenham List 8. Augustine 9. 3rd Council of Carthage 10. Rufinus 11. Codex Claromontanus 12. Letter of Innocent I 13. Decree of Gelasius 14. Cassiodorus 15. Isidore of Seville

    Against: 1. Melito 2. Gregory of Nazianzus 3. Amphilocius of Iconium 4. Epiphanius 5. Synopsis of Sac. Scrip. 6. Leontius 7. List of the Sixty Books 8. John of Damascus 9. “Apostolic Canons”

    Again, head count wins for including it. Of course if we went beyond the 7th century right up till the 20th century, then the head count just gets worse and worse for omitting the deuteros.

    Perhaps there are other ways we could count the evidence so that they are excluded, I have no idea. The ability of people to convince themselves one way or the other is nearly limitless. But you know, all of this looking at history is assuming sola scriptura is NOT true. As soon as you needed to refer to history, sola scriptura was dead in the water. I could ask you why your way of counting to exclude the deuteros is valid and mine isn’t, but of course, you won’t be able to defend your decision from scripture, so why should I listen? You have to defend your decision from your epistemological foundation, and how you can do that on the issue of Canon, I cannot comprehend.

    –“The Old Testament canon was dealt with in a slightly different way, seeing as it was the inspired documents for the Jewish people, Jesus, Paul, and Peter included. We accept what the 1 century Jews and apparently Jesus accepted.”

    We don’t know what Jesus’ canon was. There is a small number of OT books he clearly quotes AS scripture. There is a larger number he quotes (but far far short of the 49 books). Then there are books he strongly alludes to without quoting them verbatim (e.g. Matt. 6:19-20 – Jesus’ statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven follows Sirach 29:11 – lay up your treasure. http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/deutero3.htm )

    Purely based on Jesus, no matter how you count, you don’t come up with ANYBODY’s canon, not yours, not ours. You’ve got to make a lot of assumptions. Does Jesus have to quote it clearly AS scripture? Then the list is very short indeed. Does a strong allusion count? Then the list DOES include the deuteros. Does any quote count? You are still well short of the 49 books.

    As for the Jewish people in general, most scholarship doesn’t believe the Jews were unified on this question. Most people think that Jews who used the Septuagint used a longer canon. Qumran had a different canon. The Saducees had a short canon. Even the later Jewish Rabbis argued quite a bit about some of the books. We know that for two reasons. (1) Their writings that survive. (2) Writings of the Church fathers who consulted the Jews on this question come up with different lists. How should I decide which Jews were right? Why should I even consult the Christ-rejecting Jews on this question anyway? These are questions that sola scriptura doesn’t and cannot even address. And even the best argument you can put forward is extremely subjective and questionable, and certainly speculative and extra-biblical.

    –“The main question of the post is this: Why is the magesterium worthy of the title infallible, if there is no guarantee that they are; and, is the evidence in support of the magesterium heavier than the evidence in support of the canon.”

    Your original post doesn’t mention the magisterium, and me being Orthodox its not a concept we discuss in quite those terms. Your post was talking about the authority of the church. But to answer on my terms, why is the evidence of the authority of the church heavier than the evidence in support of the canon? The answer can be found in reading your own posts. Whenever I ask you to justify your canon, you immeditately fall back to the authority of the church in the form of quoting and compiling the church fathers. You always show that the church is epistemologically prior to the canon. This tends to be true not only in our academic debates but in real life too. People become Christians, and they turn up to church, who then tell them what books to read.

    And I don’t think you can escape this criticism as easily as you want to, for the reason that there were lots of religious and pseudo-Christian groups throughout history: The Marcionites, Christian Gnostics and so forth who had different lists of sacred texts. You follow the opinions of Church Fathers in preference to them, because you acknowledge there was something special about THAT church. You effectively, whether you care to admit it or not, chose that church over the other groups in a way that is epistemologically prior to you choosing your canon. You don’t really have any evidence that holds up to scrutiny that the Gospel of Mark was written by someone who knew Peter. You accept it, because it was a widespread opinion within a particular relgious sect: the catholic church. There is no eyewitness to this. There is nobody quoting Peter to say he approved of what was written. Even though you probably won’t admit it, you basically agree with what Augustine wrote: “I would not believe in the Gospels were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church”. Your basis for believing them is not that there is evidence available for who wrote them and what their source of information is. Your source of authority is the church itself.

    Reply
    • What your saying is nearly laughable. If you ask a sharp Roman Catholic “when were the Deutero’s established as inspired and authoritative?” they will respond “Council of Trent.”

      Carthage merely recognized them as useful eccelesiasticaly; which I have demonstrated to be consistent with Roman CAtholic History by quoting several sources; I could redirect you there if necessary. Jerome, for example, was followed by the majority in Roman Catholicism.
      For a historical count:
      400 BC: End of the “golden age of prophecy” (Old Testament age; according to Jewish History and Maccabees)
      132 BC: Sirach alludes to an Old Testament canon
      100 BC: The Community Rule/Zadokite Fragments may ascribe inspiration only to Old Testament canon
      AD 40: Philo omits apocryphal books from his writings
      AD 90: 2 Esdras argues for closed Old Testament canon
      AD 95: Josephus argues for closed Old Testament canon in Against Apion
      AD 99: End of the New Testament age with no direct reference to Apocrypha in the New Testament
      AD 160: Melito of Sardis excludes all Apocrypha
      AD 230: Julius Africanus argues apocryphal Susanna is fake
      AD 230: Origen argues against most of the Apocrypha as canonical
      AD 300: Rabbinic consensus against canonization of all Apocrypha (t. Yadayim 2:13B)
      AD 350: Cyril of Jerusalem rejects almost all Apocrypha
      AD 360: Council of Laodicea excludes all Apocrypha
      AD 367: Athanasius writes that Apocrypha is edifying not canonical
      AD 380: Gregory of Nazianzus rejects Apocrypha from canon
      AD 405: Jerome rejects the Apocrypha as canonical
      AD 595: Gregory the Great writes that Apocrypha is edifying not canonical
      AD 740: John of Damascene rejects Apocrypha
      AD 1150: Numbers Rabbah rejects Apocrypha
      AD 1300: First known commentary on an apocryphal book (Wisdom of Solomon)
      AD 1382: John Wycliffe denies canonicity of Apocrypha
      AD 1534: Martin Luther writes Apocrypha is useful not sacred
      AD 1643: John Lightfoot writes of “the wretched Apocrypha”
      AD 1648: Westminster Confession excludes Apocrypha
      AD 1825: British and Foreign Bible Society drop Apocrypha from Bibles

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  November 20, 2012

        Firstly, I’ve heard many prominent Roman Catholics debate the canon, and none of them would say the deuteros were established as inspired and canonical at Trent. They might say that that the question was definitively and finally settled at Trent, but by that standard, Protestants will NEVER have it thus settled, so its not an apples to oranges comparison.

        Secondly, not being Roman Catholic, Trent is neither here nor there for me.

        Thirdly, yet AGAIN you are fudging the issue by interpreting every piece of evidence that is PARTIALLY against the DEUTEROS as being FULLY against the deuteros. For example, Origen, and Athanasius are in favor of Baruch, as was MOST of the church fathers. If you would just admit that Baruch was in, then we’d be making progress. Why won’t you admit Baruch? This is the great unanswered question that I think you are deliberately trying to obfuscate. By the same token, Athanasius OMITS Esther, as does Melito and many other lists. The NT makes no reference to Esther. Esther makes no reference to God. Why not then omit ESTHER?

        You see, you won’t tell us why on earth the so-called deuteros should be treated as one indivisible block. You want to do that obviously, because that aligns with your own canon, and its useful for you to paper over the gaping crack in your arguments, but there is no defensible reason to do so.

        As for the claim that the “majority” of Roman Catholics followed Jerome in this matter, I’ve never seen ANY evidence to support such a contention. Yes there were some, for sure. But most? I see no reason to accept that. The one data point we have is the vote of bishops, and thus the opinion of bishops from all over the western world at Trent, and this apparently came down FIRMLY in favour of the deuteros. As for the laity, I think their view would have been that what is use in the liturgy is canonical. Lex orandi, lex credendi is not only the theological view of the Latin Church, it is the defacto view of the laity.

        Furthermore, even if we accepted that say, 50% of Roman Catholics believed this until Trent (a contention there is simply no evidence for), the entire Eastern Church certainly did not. Since the East was for most of history the majority, up until at least the Muslim invasions in the 15th century, that means all you’ve got at best is 50% of 50%, meaning 25%.

        If we take the things in your list out that is very sectarian: Protestants for example, and unbelieving Jews. If we added back in all the Fathers who wrote anything in favor of any of the deuteros, we come up with a very different picture.

        But again, whose evaluation of history is authoritative? Why is yours inherently better than mine? How is history even relevant in a sola scriptura world?

      • Conundrum it is! How am I suppose to know that the church in Rome is better than the one in UTah? Am I to do it “mormon” style? How can I know if the Eastern Orthodox is the right church? Roman Catholic Church? Coptic Church? Anglican? All of these claim continuity.
        How am I to determine which is or which is not the most faithful church?

        Am I to use my black heart to figure our which church should balance out my black heart.

        This is the silliness that I am talking about.

        As far as Abraham and Isaac goes, the point stands that God intended for his people to continue as his people through fidelity to the written word. The church existed before the NT Canon (the canon is simply God’s words written down to preserve their authoritative status for following generations), but God wanted the church to continue by the written word.

  23. xpusostomos

     /  November 20, 2012

    –“IF you look at cases such as this, what becomes clear is that it was always the Word of God creating the people of God.”

    If you want to talk about Moses and Abraham, then the word of God in those cases created an objective people of God. Abraham perhaps knew it was the word of God because supposedly its “innate beauty”. What about Isaac? He was part of the people of God, whether he heard God’s voice or not, as were his descendents. And actually the Jews were the people of God, even before Moses took up his pen and wrote Genesis 1:1, right? How can it be that the people of God remained the objective and real people of God, and they didn’t even possess Genesis 1:1 yet? If you want to look at these prototypes, then the people of God are perhaps created by God’s word, YET, the people of God have a more solid and tangible existence than the scriptures themselves. The scriptures weren’t an absolute essential to having the people of God.

    The other point is, assuming the scriptures have an innate beauty superior to all others, the question is how YOU as an individual knows it? Because we both know and you’ve admitted that many are mistaken about what has innate beauty, the Muslims and Mormons to start with. So again we’re back to the same conundrum. Either you trust your own heart, Mormon style on this. This means you judge the word of God by your own black heart. We know how often this goes wrong. Or your trust a wider group of people. But what people? Not the people of Utah surely. Or those in Mecca. But who? You need to find a group with better authority than that to even out the predudices of your own individual and corrupted heart. You need a church, but not just any church. You need to find THE church. Nothing else can evaluate that innate beauty with authority. This is exactly what the old testament Jews could do, because they were the people of God and they knew it. It’s no mystery what people they could look to, but its a mystery how YOU know what people to look to.

    Reply
    • Conundrum it is! How am I suppose to know that the church in Rome is better than the one in UTah? Am I to do it “mormon” style? How can I know if the Eastern Orthodox is the right church? Roman Catholic Church? Coptic Church? Anglican? All of these claim continuity.
      How am I to determine which is or which is not the most faithful church?

      Am I to use my black heart to figure our which church should balance out my black heart.

      This is the silliness that I am talking about.

      As far as Abraham and Isaac goes, the point stands that God intended for his people to continue as his people through fidelity to the written word. The church existed before the NT Canon (the canon is simply God’s words written down to preserve their authoritative status for following generations), but God wanted the church to continue by the written word.

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  November 20, 2012

        Your question is then, how am I better off in choosing a church? The first thing I’d point out is that at least if you abandon sola-scriptura, you have the epistemological foundation to look at the history of the church and the history of the people of God as a source of authority. Right now, you’re appealing to such things as a source of authority in contravention to your own stated rule of faith.

        The next thing I’d point out, is what I’ve been pointing out all along, but which you won’t interact with: You ALREADY chose a church to come up with your scriptures. You appeal to those ancient people who self-identified as belonging to the Catholic Church, in opposition to the Marcionites, the Gnostics, the Mormons and the Muslims in order to justify your canon. You ALREADY went through this process to get to where you are, so there’s not much point wailing in despair about this conundrum.

        Since you are not adverse to appealing to church fathers of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, as far as I’ve seen, really you only have to do the much easier job of evaluating which church in the 21st century is most faithful to the one in the 3rds, 4th and 5th centuries. It’s a lot easier job I think. One we could discuss once you overcome the hurdle to get to that point. And evaluating that problem is I think a lot more objective than evaluating the “beauty” of this or that book. Furthermore, a lot of this history is quite settled and we have lots of eyewitnesses of it, whereas we have no eyewitnesses as to who, for example, wrote the books of the NT, some of which are quite hotly debated from antiquity. So its not so reliant on the problem of your black heart. And there’s really only about 2 options. For the books of the NT, there is 2 to the power of 27 options, and that’s before considering the books outside of the 27.

        I don’t get how you claim that the central point of God’s people is their adherence to the written word, using Abraham and Isaac as your reference point. There was something like 500 years in between Abraham inaugurating the people of God, and Moses first putting pen to paper.

        Could someone have come along in say, 1000BC, taken a copy of the existing scriptures, and gone off and formed a new sect of the people of God? I say no. Just owning the scriptures is not enough to be the people of God. What do you say? Could anyone just roll up, to the Jews, make a copy, and wander off to start their own history, happy in the knowledge they have scriptures?

      • Obviously you are very unfamiliar with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. You said earlier that I am dead in the water when I look to historical figures and evidences to back a belief. All this reading and corresponding with Protestants and still no move progress in coming to terms with one another. It is a shame really. It gets a bit exhausting arguing with caricatures.

        I look to plenty of people as an authority; just not as an infallible authority. (I say this with exhaustion) That is why I appeal to many of the Fathers.

        You seem to miss the whole force of my argument. Probably a failure to come to terms once again.

        For example: If I have come up with the wrong scriptures, interpreted the Scritpures that I do have in the wrong way, have entrusted myself to the wrong church; why do you say that I should approach with confidence that church that is the true church as though that all of a sudden my mental faculties will work properly.

        There is no certainty that one church is the true church and the others are not. The only foundation for determining which church is the most faithful is by judging it according to the New Covenant document; namely the NT Canon.

      • xpusostomos

         /  November 20, 2012

        I understand what you’re saying about other authorities. But here’s the thing. Protestants tend to make such a huge deal about this sola scriptura thing. Some push it harder, and others softer. You’re taking the more softer approach here with other authorities. My response the soft approach is: OK fine, I guess I’m a protestant then, because I agree scripture is a final authority, I just happen to have another authority in the form of the Church. Typically this will get one of two objections:

        1) I’m adding to the word of God by having another authority. I guess you can’t take that approach, since you are not objecting to my other authority. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that complaint rears itself again from you.

        2) Oh, but your interpretation of scripture is wrong, because you’ve got this other authority. To which I can answer with two basic responses:

        (a) Nyah nyha, it isn’t.

        (b) My “authority” is really just our common consensus about what we believe the common consensus of the Church Fathers is. Since they were a wide variety of very learned and very holy men, then their interpretation should be at least as good as anyone else’s.

        At this point, about all you can do is say, “oh well, every church has good and bad, you go your way, I’ll go mine”, in a very post-modern way. Something tells me you aren’t so post modern though.

        As far as your conundrum about choosing the true church, can I say this: if your faculties are damaged, as I think they are, and as all of ours are, then you need to reconnect with the opinion of the early church. You do it already with the canon. You do it probably from time to time on other issues. But you do it only to bolster what you’ve already decided is true on your own strength. Not with a heart to follow the practice and learn the faith of the early church on its own terms. If you followed the early church with a humble heart, to accept what it tells you, rather than to lord it over them with your own judgement, I’m confident it would lead you to Orthodoxy, or at least something virtually indistinguishable from it. You’ve basically got two choices in the Christian life: to sin in judgement of the word of God and the people of God, or to submit to both. As a protestant you had to sit in judgement, before you could (supposedly) submit to it. But even then, you only submit to one opinion among many, so the authority over your life is quite illusory.

        Once upon a time there was an evangelical church, with a number of elders, one of which was Peter Gillquist, and thousands of members. They decided to embark on this journey. Over a period of years, they decided to learn about the early church and follow it with a humble heart. Over time they were not afraid to make changes to conform themselves to the early church. Ultimately they realised they they had become indistinguishable from Orthodoxy, and they asked to be admitted en-masse to the Orthodox church. And they did. There is a book called Becoming Orthodox that describes their journey.

      • The church is an authority, I agree! She is a fallible authority though. That is probably the difference between us.

        C.S. Lewis, an Anglican, wrote, “The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same
        mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”

        I have no problem with a person submitting to the authority of the church. I only have a problem with submiting the Scriptures to the church, rather than vice versa.

        The Fathers disagreed with one another; and they erred on many matters. We should learn from them and treat them with respect. We should also submit their writings and beliefs to the scrutiny of the Scriptures.

        I submit Luther to the Scriptures as much as I do Augustine, Calvin, Athanasius, etc. (Many will say, “no your submitting them to your own view of Scripture.” To which I say no, not necessarily.)

        To be sure, I do not sit in judgement and choose what is in line with what I already believe; on the contrary, I am constantly being challenged and reformed in my beliefs; I simply subordinate all writings that are not Scripture under the Scriptures.

        Looking at the NT, the church had many many issues, and the apostles longed for them to be worked out. I do not look back at some etherial golden age and try to imitate it exactly. I look back to read people ministerially for instruction and wisdom and guidance. I think you get my point.

      • xpusostomos

         /  November 20, 2012

        –“Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction”

        Well this is true, and is why the consensus of the Fathers, to the extent that there is a consensus, is used as an authority. When almost everyone blows the same way, how can they be wrong?

        I’d add another observation to that, which is that only the early church fathers had no-one to precede them, to lead them astray. The only ones who preceded them were the apostles, and to the extent then that they were then influenced by extra-scriptural forces, it would be the apostolic influence and not the influence of some sectarian. The later you get in history, the more likely people will be influenced by biased sources: partly just because history is rolling on, and partly because more and more ideas are being distributed, and communication is improving between the churches.

        BTW, CS Lewis was almost 100% Orthodox. Like I said, if you approach the problem the right way, you end up Orthodox, whether or not you formally join the Orthodox Church.

        http://www.roadtoemmaus.net/back_issue_articles/RTE_29/Shine_As_The_Sun.pdf

        –“I have no problem with a person submitting to the authority of the church. I only have a problem with submiting the Scriptures to the church, rather than vice versa.”

        The trouble is, how do you define “submitting the scriptures to the church”?

        For example, let’s say there are two possible interpretations of a verse. In your mind you are 50% drawn to each one. Is going with the Church then submitting them to the church?

        What if there are two interpretations, you are 52% convinced of one, and 48% the other, but the 48% one has the consensus of all the church fathers. Is deferring to the fathers submitting scripture to the church?

        What if it was 60/40? 70/30? 90/10?

        Basically, your fear of submitting the scriptures to the church, while it sounds laudable, is completely unworkable and meaningless.

        Futhermore, in reality, you are 100% submitted on the issue of Canon. How is it you can 100% submit on this issue so easily, but not so easily on other issues? Both are extra-scriptural questions. You’ve admitted that, because when I pointed out how your appeal to such things is extra-scriptural, you just said, oh well I can have extra-scriptural authorities with no problem. On this foundational and important issue, you’ve completely abandoned yourself to extra-scriptural authority. Why not on anything else?

      • I question whether Lewis was almost 100% Orthodox. Marian Doctrines, prayer to the saints, and many more such things were tenets that he did not hold to; and he believed in Justification by Faith alone. He was Anglican steeped in history and so he accepted the 39 articles.

        Your observation of history, and the fact that those closest to the apostles were least likely to err is a bit misguided. If you look at the church setting of the 1st century, the writings of the apostles about church situations, and you take Jesus’s criticism seriously in Revelation; then, it is quite clear that people were all over the map in many regards. I do not see that those who lived after the apostles, in the midst of extreme persecution as having some sort of special knowledge and insight into the aptostolic teachings such that what they believed should sway me.

        With your percentage example: What the historical position of the church is and the position of the great theologians are; this is computed into the percentage itself. If I read a verse and study the verse, I recognize the fact that God has gifted the church with teachers throughout the centuries and I learn from them. All theologians play a ministerial role, and their authority exists in as much as their beliefs are demonstrably consistent with the Scriptures.

        Athanasius is remembered not mainly or merely for the being the view that the church adopted, but for being more biblically consistent. It was this consistency that gave his writings such force and authority. It was Athanasius’s arguments from Scripture that cause me to look at the deity of Christ with 100% assurance, not Nicaea.

        Lastly, I have argued extensively about the fact that I do not appeal 100% to the church on the issue of the canon. The fulness of God’s message, the message that created the church, was documented and written down to preserve God’s works and God’s covenant, such that future generations could know and cherish it (Him).

        The canon was accepted by the church for particular reasons. I agree with those reasons; the same way that I agree with Athanasius’s arguments. There are reasons to accept the canon apart from the fact that the church declared it to be so. Underneatht he church’s declaration there is a careful process that the church underwent; the main criteria was apostolicity. That is what I rely on, the authority of the original apostles. Which books were written by them? That is where I use history and the church’s instruction for ministerial help.

        I also believe that it is possible that many fathers made similar theological mistakes; especially if they accepted what earlier fathers mistakenly believed.

      • xpusostomos

         /  November 21, 2012

        I probably overstated things a little with CS Lewis. However he does cautiously approve of prayer to the saints:

        “From Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, in Letter 3: “There is clearly a theological defense for it; if you can ask for prayers of the living, why should you not ask for prayers of the dead?”

        He said the way Catholics feel about Mary is “very natural”.

        I don’t see any inconsistency with Orthodoxy in the way he viewed the role of faith. I do see tons of inconsistencies between what he believed and the 39 articles.

        About the early church, the point is not that they can’t ever err. The point is, look at Protestantism over the centuries. From Calvinistm to Arminianism to Pentaconstalism and Charismatics, from Puratinism to rock and roll worship, the winds swing wildly. But the early church was not yet under major influences, and the persecution you speak of meant that such influences couldn’t spread easily. The primary influence was still the apostolic influence. The type of Protestant most people are, is influenced by where you grew up and your parents. In the early church, there was only one type to be, the apostolic type. When all the churches agreed on something, and persecution meant there was no way for things to swing universally in one direction.

        You say you believe the canon because you merely agree with the Church’s decision making process. But you don’t have the knowledge the church had to make those decisions. The Church accepts Mark because it is supposed to be written by the Mark who knew Peter, and Peter approved what he wrote. But there is no eyewitness to this. You just accept the Church’s say so.

        If the Church is trustworthy to preserve such traditions and provenance about what is apostolic, you should do it consistently. There are lots of things the early church fathers tell us is apostolic tradition. If the church can keep its story straight about what books are apostolic, why not other things too? You see, you are just inconsistent on this. You have no primary source material to know if the church got such things right. You accept the church’s say so when it suits you, and you reject it when it suits you.

        You say you accept Athanasius simply because he is an eloquent writer. But that’s not the scenario I am presenting you. I’m asking that if I am not convinced in my own mind between two possible interpretations, is it OK for me to defer to the church? Since you claim that you have no problem with other authorities, this should be fine by you, right?

      • On Lewis, I can say there is a defense for the Deutero’s, but that doesn’t mean that I believe them.

        AGain, what you are pointing out about the apostolic influence ignores large sections of Scripture. Galatians was written precisely because there were bad views being espoused. Hebrews addressed people abandoning the faith due to perseuction. Persecution didn’t protect from error it was potentially leading to it.

        I will get the other later!

      • xpusostomos

         /  November 21, 2012

        Well, Lewis said that he is a great fan of praying WITH the saints, and made it part of his regular prayer routine. In response to the objection that there is little distinction between praying “with” the saints and praying “to” the saints, he said:

        “You may say that the distinction between the communion of saints as I find it in that act and full-fledged prayer to saints is not, after all, that great. All the better if so. I sometimes have a bright dream of re-union engulfing us unawares, like a great wave from behind our backs, perhaps at the very moment our official representatives are still pronouncing it impossible. Discussions usually separate us. Actions sometimes unite us”.

        I think its pretty clear, to me at least, that if you read Lewis there are certain issues that he liked to fudge to keep the delicate peace in the Anglican church. Lots of Anglicans play this game for their unity.

        Galatians? Yes there were bad views in GALATIA. Not everywhere I presume. Herbrews and persecution? There’s a different between leaving THE faith, and spreading the wrong faith.

  24. Nathaniel

     /  November 20, 2012

    Josh,
    You said:
    “Do Protestants have the authority to distinguish positive correct doctrine? Not in a way that safeguards the truth claim from further critique… all interpretations of the Bible must be regarded as provisional, not final”

    Are there any tenets of the Christian faith (“correct doctrines”) which are final, not provisional — can you give examples? Are these tenets not arrived at by interpreting the Bible, given your statement above?

    I am not clear on how any tenet of faith that could potentially be reversed in future — a provisional article of faith — can possibly be a proper proximate object for divine faith (as opposed to opinion, which is by nature provisional).

    We’re getting down to some foundational issues, and I want to make sure I am understanding you fully.
    In Christ,
    Nathaniel

    P.S. Witnessed our new Bishop of Lincoln, NE being installed today, with 40+ bishops in attendance. Met Bishop Conley in person. Amazing to me that God places apostolic authority in earthen vessels.

    Reply
    • There are 2 things I would like to say in response:
      1. There are objective truths that are referenced in the Scriptures that are not interpreted, but hold a plain meaning: for example: Jesus was God’s Son; Jesus did miracles; Jesus chose disciples; Jesus taught his disciples; Jesus died on a cross; Jesus suffered for our sins; Jesus rose from the dead. (I could add to this list a great deal)

      All of these things are tenets of faith that are not subject to change because the Scriptures, upon which they are based are not. You may say that the Scriptures potentially are, but in the case that some were, we would be talking about a very small number that would not change this message.

      [Eusebius, a church historian from about the 4th century wrote: (1) The “recognized books” (ὁμολογούμϵνα) are the books universally received as canonical and include: the four Gospels, Acts, the epistles of Paul (including Hebrews), 1 John, 1 Peter, and Revelation. Oddly, Eusebius qualifies the inclusion of Revelation by saying “if it seems desireable,” showing that he may have doubted it personally while still acknowledging it was widely received by others. (2) The “disputed books” (ἀjντιλϵγόμϵνα) are ones that have been the subject of some ecclesiastical disagreement but are still regarded as canonical because they “are nevertheless known to most.”These include, not surprisingly, James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John. (3) The “rejected books” are books acknowledged to be generally “orthodox” in their theology (and thus presumably allowed to be used in the churches), but rejected as it pertains to their canonical status.]

      2. There is a provisional aspect to a person’s faith in the magesterium. This sort of divine faith placed in a group of people is done without proper evidence. Such is also difficult to sustain in light of the historical instances where such a professed infallibility is betrayed.

      Faith in the magesterium:
      Faith in the Scriptures:

      Once we have those on equal ground the question is: Which is more plausible, and grounded. Which is sustained by better evidence. And, which will you subject to the other.

      Reply
      • Nathaniel

         /  November 21, 2012

        OK Josh, I’m with you, that statements quoted directly from the scriptures are not provisional (leaving aside for now the question of what constitutes scripture).
        What about doctrines that are not explicit in scripture — doctrines which require us to interpret the scriptures? Take the doctrine of the Holy Trinity for example. I wonder if you consider the orthodox Christian understanding of the Trinity to be a provisional doctrine. (Certainly some pseudo-Christian groups have rejected this doctrine, based on novel interpretations of Scripture.) Perhaps believing in this is in some sense like believing my alarm clock to be correct?

        I don’t accept your bifurcation of faith as being founded in the magisterium somehow separately from the scriptures. The real difference between our approaches would be more like
        Faith in the organic unity of Scripture – Tradition – Magisterium
        versus
        Faith in the Scriptures

        I accept your first two questions, and add two more: “Which is more plausible, and grounded. Which is sustained by better evidence.” Which is internally consistent? Which is in accord with what has been handed down to our ancestors and to us, since the time of the apostles?

        Regarding “which will you subject to the other” — certainly Catholics believe Scripture to be the norma normans to which all teachings must conform (see Dei Verbum para. 21).
        Peace to you — I hope you get some days off here at Thanksgiving!
        Nathaniel

      • About the Trinity: I think it would be important to distinguish between different types of theology (bear with me).

        At its broadest, biblical theology could consider what the whole Bible teaches about God. It teaches that God is one, unique, and singular, and that there is no being other than Jehovah who is a god. Yet Jehovah can talk to himself as if he were plural and manifest himself over against himself. It also teaches that Jesus is, in some way, Jehovah. There is an entity known as the Word who is both God and with God. There is a Holy Spirit, who performs the activities of God and is associated with God and Jesus.

        So, a biblical theology could say the following. There is only one true God, the Jehovah of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Despite clear proclamations of his unity, the OT also hints at diversity in his being, as when the Lord appears to Abraham as three men, or the consistent use of the plural elohim. In the New Testament, he seems to be the Father who sends and directs Jesus. Jesus, however, professes an essential link to and indivisible unity with that God. There is a Holy Spirit who also seems to be Jehovah. I will skip historical and philosophical theology.

        Systematic theology would seek to integrate all these elements into a coherent discussion of the Trinity. Certainly, homoousios, true and valuable as it is, means nothing from the pulpit or in our lives without some systematic framework. So, the systematic theologian of today might phrase the doctrine of the Trinity as the idea that God is “three subjects who are one object.” He might reject claims that God has only one consciousness on the grounds that Richard’s discussion of love forbids it. He could state that God is one power, one might, one omnipotent spirit in which inhere three perfect consciousnesses. The formulations of systematic theology will vary, and are ever subject to revision, but they seek to communicate the truths derived from biblical, historical, and philosophical theology in a way understandable by the target audience.

        So what I am saying is that the Trinity, as articulated, is subject to revision; but the foundation upon which it is built is not. The strength of the Trinity rests on the biblical evidence and that is where our confidence should be.

        Next point:

        The organic unity that you mentioned. Who determines what traditions were good and which ones were bad in Roman Catholicism? The magesterium. Who determines how you should interpret a section of verses? The magesterium. The unity is determined by the magesterium, and it is hard for me to see how the Scripture is the “norma normans,” and not the magesterium in that scheme.

        I accept those two questions. Internal consistency is important. [I noted that Hans Kung saw a problem with the claim of infalliblity and the contradictions in the papal statements.]

        Now, if I said that what was handed down by the apostles was a commitment to submit to the teachings that were “once for all delivered,” (Sola Scriptura) and that this was held alongside of a contradicting belief (magesterium) that would inevitably lead to a split, then the question would be which one is more in-line with the Apostles. (Hope that wasn’t confusing)

        Reexamining the Scriptures and applying them to new situations and always coming to more precise doctrinal articulations; this is a demonstrably a commitment to the Scriptures. One of the issues that interests me is that fact that a belief is held sometimes for centuries before people recognize that it is fallacious, and most importantly, that it took the consequences of the belief to highlight some of its dangers or excesses. Faith in the pope (magesterium) locked people in to doctrinal errors and it prevented fidelity to the Scriptures and to the authority by which that they are to govern and reform our beliefs.

        A historical study of the Catholic church seems to prove this to me. Protestants have made a number of mistakes, both moral and as matters of doctrine. The difference is that Protestantism is based on a belief that she will make such errors and this being precisely the reason that the Scriptures alone are worthy of faith as the sole infallible rule for life and doctrine.

        In a hurry at work; so I apologize if anything comes across with any offese.

        Thanks! I have 2 days off and I will enjoy them!

        Hope you have a great vacation as well!

      • xpusostomos

         /  November 21, 2012

        –” It also teaches that Jesus is, in some way, Jehovah.”

        This is not irreformable in the same way that “Jesus died” is irreformable, because the meaning of it is unclear and hotly debated.

        In Ge 19, the angel seems to be called Jehovah too. So what does it mean?

        a) Lots of beings can be called Jehovah by agency.
        b) God is an angel, or manifests as one.
        c) There are multiple Jehovahs.
        d) Jehovah takes over the body of the angel and talks through it.

        It’s pretty obvious that your so-called biblical trinitarianism is not completely obvious, simply because of the history of the debate.

  25. Nathaniel

     /  November 21, 2012

    Josh,
    You said that any articulation of the Trinity is provisional, but I think to be consistent you have to say that the whole doctrine or notion of the Trinity is provisional, because it certainly doesn’t arise from the Scriptures without interpretation. That leaves me reeling a bit. I deduce that you also consider provisional: the divinity of Christ, justification by faith alone, Sola Scriptura, even the fact that Josh is saved by Christ’s death. Can you support these with raw, uninterpreted scripture quotes? I just wonder whether you’ve plumbed the consequences of this particular line of commitment.

    More to come, but I’ve got to get to bed!
    Again, happy Thanksgiving, and God bless you.
    Nathaniel

    Reply
    • The Divinity of Christ is explicit in John 1:1.
      Syllogistically I could say:
      Jesus is the Word (1:14)
      The Word is God (1:1)
      Jesus is God (1:1,14)

      The first two statements are verbatim and not provisional. The third is simply the synthesis of those two statements; and is provisional. I could spend a little more time here if we need to.

      Justification by faith alone is also taught explicitly, although, how it is articulated will be provisional (Rom. 3:28, 4:5).
      Someone may ask what about James, to which I will simply respond that James was talking about faith “devoid” of works as being dead. Paul is talking about faith “distinguished” from works as what justifies and even Paul believes that such a faith is not “devoid” of works in that it leads to them (Eph. 2:10); which was precisely James’s point.

      The question for me is how much of what I have just said is provisional. The two statements from Romans are not; the one from Ephesians and the one from James is not. It is the way that I fit them together that is provisional.

      Interpretation is a good thing; it is just important for us to put our stock in what the Scriptures themselves say and not how we synthesize things.

      As far as the statement: Josh is saved by Christ’s death, of course that is a provisional statement; it couldn’t be an infallible statement unless it was uttered by God. The fact that a statement is provisional doesn’t prove that it is wrong.

      And yes, I have thought through what we are currently discussing. To be as honest as I can, I would very much like for there to be a restriction around the Trinity and all Orthodox doctrines. I know that Roman Catholics say “look no further!

      What I am also aware of is the danger of believing that doctrinal postions are safeguarded from error when they actually are not. I am finishing up my second course on the History of Christianity at this time, and I see so much that went wrong because of it. I see people locked into a mold of beliefs, and practices that were wrong; and they were unable to question the previously held positions.

      So I feel the vulnerability, I really do! I also see the extremely dangerous position of trying to be rid of the vulnerability as well.

      Hope your thanksgiving went well! I have enjoyed our discussions as always. God bless you and your family!

      Reply
      • xpusostomos

         /  November 22, 2012

        “The Divinity of Christ is explicit in John 1:1.”

        I’ve heard very learned men argue about what John 1:1 means, and at the end of the day, I have throw my hands up and say, I’m not a Greek scholar.

        As for native Greek speakers, I can only make the observation that half of them were Arian at one time.

        As a protestant, you desperately need to portray interpretation as simple, but it surely isn’t.

      • If John 1:1 cannot be interpreted then it cannot be interpreted, by me, by you, by a greek scholar, Athanasius, or the magesterium.

        This “only the magesterium” can interpret Scriptures is a bit silly; especially when, by your own testimony, I can make sense of who the true church is without the magesterium; but I cannot make sense of a verse.

        This is what your telling me: My epistemic faculties are reliable while they ponder the question of who the true church is, but the moment they look into the Scriptures, they suddenly malfunction and render any accurate interpretation impossible.

        John 1:1 is not nearly as difficult as you make it out to be. In fact, Athanasius didn’t believe in the deity of Christ because the pope told him too, he interpreted the text; he did what you seem to label “the impossible.” He interpreted the bible without a magesterium.

      • xpusostomos

         /  November 24, 2012

        No, it’s not necessarily that either you can interpret it, or nobody can. There is also the possibility that it needs to be interpreted according to the tradition of the true church, and within the interpretational framework given you by the church.

        Neither is it a given that the bible even contains answers to some of the questions we desperately want to throw at it. It may be that some questions are simply not addressed adequately to provide an answer from bible alone, even though the bible tangentially touches on them. Thus the need for an intepretational framework.

        Neither is it necessary that you have a complete and utter epistemic failure when interpreting the scriptures. I’m just saying there are like three-quarters of a million words in the bible, and they need to all be interpreted and condensed down to some kind of belief system and its a lot bigger job than choosing from 2 or 3 options for the true church.

        Being Orthodox, I wish you wouldn’t answer my posts with the word “magisterium” and “pope”. But in any case, Athanasius DID interpret the bible WITH the assistance of THE church. He constantly refers to what the “Fathers” in the church teach, what “tradition” teaches and what “The church” teaches as a source of authority against the Arians.

        “But let the Faith confessed by the Fathers at Nicaea alone hold good among you, at which all the fathers, including those of the men who now are fighting against it, were present, as we said above, and signed: in order that of us too the Apostle may say, ‘Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and as I handed the traditions to you, so ye hold them fast .'” – Athanasius, to the bishops of Africa 10

  26. Nathaniel

     /  November 25, 2012

    Josh,
    The long weekend winds down!

    Just a brief detour from the main thread: You said, in a few places:
    “Who determines how you should interpret a section of verses? The magesterium.”
    “This ‘only the magesterium’ can interpret Scriptures is a bit silly…”
    Whether or not you know it, you are recycling a caricature of the Catholic understanding of the relationship between Sacred Scriptures and the magisterium. I don’t think anyone else in this thread has suggested that individuals have to avoid interpreting Scripture, on the Catholic (or Orthodox) view, or that the only interpretations we’re entitled to are those that have been made for us. I recommend Dei Verbum as a solid overview of Catholic teaching on Scripture.

    God bless your Sunday,
    Nathaniel
    p.s. Today our liturgy is dedicated specifically to Christ as King: Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! God grant that we might follow; thanks for your encouragement on the journey.

    Reply
    • I am aware that you can interpret Scriptures on your own. When it comes down to specific questions about Romans chapter 3:21-4:6, for example, exegetically, no matter how strong a case I present, an appeal to the superior authority of a pope, tradition, or such will come up.

      It is more like skipping that part; and I am sure that in doing this, I have caricatured Roman Catholic theology. If anything, it was due to the time it would take to properly reflect such theology; and in many cases I was trying to get at something underneath what RC theology actually teaches.

      When I said it was silly, I believe that is was due to John saying that picking the right church was simple, and straightforward. Then I said, that I would have to pick a church without a magesterium, and that somehow, this was the same thing as studying Romans chapter 4 without a magesterium. (The point of the whole post)

      My greatest difficulty with EO and RC is with the evidence that God will infallibly protect the church from all theological errors (even that statement is a caricature, but you get the drift; he gives a infallible doctrinal locator).

      Yes, the week has! Back to work tomorrow!

      Reply
  27. xpusostomos

     /  November 26, 2012

    “When it comes down to specific questions about Romans chapter 3:21-4:6, for example, exegetically, no matter how strong a case I present, an appeal to the superior authority of a pope, tradition, or such will come up.”

    It’s not just a superior authority, it could be an inferior authority which you have acknowledged is legitimate to have. Remember my 50/50, 60/40, 80/20 question which you never answered?

    An exegesis that on its own seems convincing of Ro 3-4 might seem at conflict with some other part of scripture. This is where an overall framework has a major influence on what people find convincing. What Ro 3-4 means is also greatly influenced by what you understand righteousness, justification, propitiation, and credited to mean. Those are very loaded words and their meaning in a Christian context is hotly debated.

    Me as plain old Christian is the meat in the sandwich of all these theological wars. What am I to do? To one extent or another, I can understand the weight of various arguments that are made, and I can have sympathy, exegetically speaking, for various opposing views.

    The view of the Orthodox church is that it is my aim to slowly acquire the mind of the church, rather than to solve every theological conundrum. To acquire the mind of the church about faith. To acquire the mind of the church about works. Scripture, in its wisdom, has not deigned to give us a systematic theology. I would take it then that systematic theologies are an optional extra and not essential to the Christian life.

    It’s not easy to pick up a book with 3/4 of a million words and apply it to your life. How should you apply it? It’s all very well to pick up Ro 3-4 and say justification is not by the law, and yet we uphold the law, but what does that mean in real life? You’ve got Adventists on one side literally upholding the law, then you’ve got Salvation Army who abandon all Christian instruction on things like Baptism and so forth.

    There are so many frameworks for understanding these issues, and everyone within their framework can come up with convincing exegesis to support their position. There’s got to be a better way, and as far as I see, it’s not consistent to accept the say-so of the church on what books are apostolic without any actual evidence, and yet reject thousands of years of group understanding, preserved from the beginning in that ONE church whose opinion you accept on the canon.

    If you think you can solve all these theological problems off of your own genius, good luck to you. I know I can’t. I need the Church.

    Reply
  28. Nathaniel

     /  December 9, 2012

    Josh,
    Happy Advent!

    It sounds like your most significant objection to the doctrine of an infallible church is that it creates “the danger of believing that doctrinal postions are safeguarded from error when they actually are not…” You note “…the extremely dangerous position of trying to be rid of the vulnerability…” that most doctrinal positions are only provisional.

    But understand: I agree with you. If the Church is not in fact infallible, then it is indeed very dangerous to treat her pronouncements as such. It will possibly subject one to believing as revealed by God certain doctrines which are in fact somehow opposed to His truth. But if instead the Church is in fact infallible through the protection of the Holy Spirit,then it is not at all dangerous to place complete trust in the Church’s official teachings.

    So:
    it’s dangerous to treat a fallible authority as though it is infallible. But this fact is only a reason to treat a claim of infallibility with caution: it does not provide any evidence against (or for) that claim.
    Which leads me to ask: what evidence do you have that the Catholic Church does not possess the charism of infallibility which she claims?
    Yours in this time of preparation for Christ’s birth,
    Nathaniel

    Reply
    • Same to You!

      Rather than spell out the arguments, I will just list a couple:
      At the council of Trent, RCC anathematized those who “believe that justification is by faith alone.” (Notice that they anathematized those who “believe x.”)
      At the second Vatican Council, the RCC removed the anathema on “those who believe that Justification is by faith alone.” They said that those who originally were a part of the RCC were guilty, and that their offspring should not be accountable to their apostasy; so that the anathema did not extend to those who “believed x” any longer, but that those who “believe x” are separated brethren. (there was a huge change)

      Trent elevated the Vulgate over the Greek Text (and Hebrew). This was a mistake that they would address later, and change.

      Honorious, a pope, was heretical and condemned by numerous councils.

      Council of Florence restricted the biblical text from the laity. (FYI: I will need to check what exactly they did; memory is a bit fuzzy here).

      This will suffice, for now.

      Have a Great Christmas!

      Reply
      • Nathaniel

         /  December 11, 2012

        Hi Josh,
        I don’t think any of the 4 items you listed demonstrate that the Church doesn’t have the infallibility she claims, and I’d like to dig deeper into the objections you raise as I don’t know the full scoop behind some of them. (If any do show contradictions between Catholic so-called infallible teachings, I want to find out, because it means I’ve been sold a bill of goods…)
        Rather than try the shotgun approach to knocking out the multiple items you brought up, can we discuss just your most substantive, 4-star objection? Which one would that be?

        –Nathaniel
        p.s. I have also been thinking a little more about authority and provisional beliefs, and trying to decide if my beliefs are just as provisional as yours…

      • Well, from what I understand, in 1870 when the infallibility of the pope was established, there were many who opposed it due to the instances of pope Liberius and Honorius; and the “ex cathedra” was put because of that. (It was a protestant historian, so…) For this reason, I don’t think this would be the most effective argument. I will probably pick up this book: Hans Küng, Infallible? An Unresolved Inquiry (Edinburgh: Continuum, 1994). This guy is a Roman Catholic historian; one of the greatest; and he rejects the infallibility of the pope.

        Let’s go Trent and its (supposed) inconsistency with Vatican II.

      • I looked up a couple of Trent posts to demonstrate that I am anathema. I will, later on, or you can, look up at Vatican II, where according to it, I am a separated brother.

        Just to be clear: what we are doing is examining two alternatives: either the Catholic Church’s claim to infallibility warrants our trust, or, she demonstrates inconsistency and thus does not. Though there are many doctrines that the RCC holds that are easier to target for me (like Marian Doctrines); what I am looking for is internal inconsistency. To do this I want to get into the RCC way of thinking and critique it “from the inside.” The difficulty with this is the fact that one must lay aside the assumption the magesterium is infallible and subsequently examine it. This is hard to do, and in some cases impossible. For example: to examine whether one’s sense perception is functioning properly, one would have to employ his sense perception in the examination itself, and thus assume the senses are functioning properly. BE that as it may, I will try to examine it from the inside as much as I can.

        Some noteworthy statements:

        Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

        Canon 12.
        If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

        Canon 15.
        If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined, let him be anathema.

        Canon 11.
        If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema. (I have a question about this one)

        In all of these notice the phrase “If anyone says.” I am going to come back to this because this phrase is what cannot be harmonized with Vatican II. Trent says, “If I say x” then I am anathema. (Assuming that by ‘say’, it does not mean, “to utter verbally” but “to speak with personal conviction.”) By these definitions, I, and all orthodox protestants, are anathema.

      • xpusostomos

         /  December 12, 2012

        Josh, I enjoy the sport of railing against Rome as much as you, but I don’t think Trent elevated the Vulgate over the Greek. It just said that the scriptures as known in the Vulgate are authentic. What they meant by that isn’t particularly clear. It could just mean that the books should contain all the parts and extra bits as included in the Vulgate. It could mean the Vulgate is one valid edition (among possible others).

        Anyway, what is your corresponding list against Eastern Orthodoxy?

      • Session Four, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures:
        But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.

        2) Session Four, Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books
        Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,–considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,–ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.
        … (this Synod) ordains and decrees, that, henceforth, the sacred Scripture, and especially the said old and vulgate edition, be printed in the most correct manner possible; and that it shall not be lawful for any one to print, or cause to be printed, any books whatever, on sacred matters, without the name of the author; nor to sell them in future, or even to keep them, unless they shall have been first examined, and approved of, by the Ordinary; under pain of the anathema and fine imposed in a canon of the last Council of Lateran …

        We have the testimony of Melchior Canus, one of the Spanish theologians who was actually at the Council of Trent, and who was afterward made bishop of the Canary Islands. William Whitaker (A Disputation on Holy Scripture …, First Controversy, Question 2, Chapter 1) reports:
        Our opponents determine the Latin to be authentic, and so the council of Trent hath defined it. So Melchior Canus (Lib. n. c. 13) interprets this decree, and deduces from it four conclusions. The first is, that the old vulgate edition must be retained by the faithful in all points which pertain to faith and morals: the second, that all questions concerning faith or morals must be determined by this Latin edition: the third, that we must not in a disputation appeal to the Hebrew or Greek copies: the fourth, that, in matters of faith or morals, the Latin copies are not to be corrected from the Hebrew or Greek.

        I actually picked up “Letters to Malcolm” by Lewis; just to get some context on some of what you posted previously: There is clearly a theological defence for it; if you can ask for the prayers of the living, why should you not ask for the prayers of the dead? There is clearly also a great danger. In some popular practice we see it leading off into an infinitely silly picture of Heaven as an earthly court where applicants will be wise to pull the right wires, discover the best “channels,” and attach themselves to the most influential pressure groups. But I have nothing to do with all this. I am not thinking of adopting the practice myself; and who am I to judge the practices of others? I only hope there’ll be no scheme for canonisations in the Church of England.

        Purgatory, prayer to the saints, justification, Marian Doctrines (not sure what your position is), Deuterocanonicals.

  29. Nathaniel

     /  December 13, 2012

    Josh,
    Regarding differences between Council of Trent and Vatican Council II:
    Vatican II didn’t reverse any teachings of Trent; if it did, feel free to show the contradictory excerpts.

    You mention the specific case of anathemas and who is anathematized:
    Anathemas are an older form of ecclesial discipline, a type of excommunication. According to the Catholic Church, disciplinary matters are not within the purview of infallibility. It is not a matter of faith or morals to believe who is under anathema or who is not.

    Even so, I don’t think Vatican II’s documents ever used the word “anathema” or addressed the question of whether or not old anathemas apply. If that’s your largest objection to the infallibility within the Catholic Church, you’re in pretty good shape : )

    Peace,
    Nathaniel

    Reply
    • Nathaniel,
      Of course they didn’t reverse the council of Trent. That would be the end of the RCC.

      The concept you are using for accursed is largely established at Vatican II; and no, they did not use the anathema term.

      The question is this: Did the way in the which the RCC viewed Protestants change at Vatican II?

      It would be absurd for anyone to say that it didn’t. It absolutely did.

      Reply
      • Who is under the anathema of the “one true church” is not a matter of faith and morals. We should consider that further. Just in passing, if the Roman Catholic church anathematizes me for believing in the truth of Justification by faith alone, that anathema, according to you, is not a matter of faith and morals?! (we have a very different view of faith and morals) If the church can excommunicate people (if the excommunication is significant in any way), who they excommunicate, and for what reason they excommunicate them are both matters of faith and morals. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        As far as this being my biggest objection, no it is not even close. I have much bigger problems than these, it is just that those problems always come back to the question of authority, and infallibility. (Marian Dogmas, Justification, Indulgences, and some others are much bigger and easier to spot.)

        As an aside, the church is not overtly contradicting itself because it is concealing it through the terms “faith and morals” and “ex cathedra.” Example: Honorius is a heretic and promoted heresies. Then RCs say, yes, but it wasn’t faith and morals. We say, yes it was! Then RCs say, well it wasn’t ex cathedra. Ex cathedra is a convienient way to avoid the charge of fallibility. There is not a list of ex cathedra statements, and who knows which ones were and were not ex cathedra? The magesterium decides, and they tell you which statements qualify and when.

    • According to “The Catholic Encyclopedia,” the word “anathema” means “cursed and devoted to destruction”.

      “He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, amid pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: “Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N– himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.”

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01455e.htm

      Reply
  30. Nathaniel

     /  December 14, 2012

    Greetings Josh,
    You said: “Of course they didn’t reverse the council of Trent. That would be the end of the RCC.”
    I had understood you to be attempting to demonstrate, with your Trent vs. Vatican II example, a clear counterexample against infallibility of the Catholic magisterium, based on two contradictory so-called infallible teachings. If that’s not what you’re doing, than I don’t understand how you’re using Trent/Vatican II inconsistency as your most substantive objection to the infallibility of the Catholic Church.

    I had claimed that “Anathemas are an older form of ecclesial discipline, a type of excommunication.” You objected, but the same 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia paragraph you excerpted says:
    “Anathema remains a major excommunication… The Roman Pontifical reproduces [the formula for this ceremony]… distinguishing three sorts of excommunication: minor excommunication… major excommunication… and anathema…”
    If you believe that excommunication is doctrinal not disciplinary, we could talk about that.

    Certainly statements about “If anyone saith… let him be anathema” do touch on faith and morals — but they do that in the “…” gap there, because that’s where particular statements are authoritatively proclaimed to be heretical. Consider if, according to your example, the church anathematizes you for believing in the truth of Justification By Faith Alone [in such wise as to mean… (see Canons of Council of Trent)]. Which is of these two (or both?) is being proclaimed to the Church universal:
    (a) As a matter of faith: Josh is anathema.
    (b) As a matter of faith: belief that Justification is By Faith Alone [in such wise as to mean…] is heretical and contrary to the truths revealed by God to human beings.

    I think it’s clearly (b) being proclaimed — let me know if you disagree. I don’t think Vatican II changed any notions of what is heretical, what is required for us to assent to in faith, or what is allowed though neither required nor heretical.

    As far as qualifications like “ex cathedra”, “matters of faith and morals” being weasel words to allow the Catholic Church to back out of inconvenient proclamations, I understand why folks believe that. It seems awfully convenient to be able to disavow certain unflattering statements and actions — and there have been plenty of those in 2000 years! (Perhaps you think that the Pope should believe himself infallible in matters of science, matters of taste, matters of economics? Perhaps anything that comes out of his mouth or his pen should be taken to be protected by the Holy Spirit, for consistency’s sake?

    But recognize that again the falsity of magisterial infallability is one of the premises in your argument, not its conclusion. If (for the sake of argument) the Catholic Church really does have the charism of infallibility through the guardianship of the Holy Spirit, then even the Church’s authoritative qualifications on the extent of infallibility are likewise protected from error (if those qualifications are met). Shouldn’t demonstrable contradictions still arise if infallibility is an invention, or has the magisterium over the centuries truly never contradicted itself in an official fashion?

    It seems to me quite in tune with Christ’s way of sending out the Apostles with all authority, to teach and lead, that He should also maintain that apostolic authority within the Church after their deaths, so that we should be able to follow him in all confidence as the centuries continue, and so that nothing of his revelation of God should be lost or become possible to hold merely provisionally.

    Besides, isn’t your belief that the Catholic magisterium is infallible in matters of faith and morals, itself provisional? : ) What would it take to convince you to change your mind?

    –Nathaniel
    p.s. I realized that you’re getting close to having a new baby in your house! Your wife and little one are in my prayers as delivery approaches in Jan. God bless and keep you all. –NJC

    Reply
    • Let me put it this way: Vatican II did not want to give the idea that they were contradicting Trent. Brilliant people at Vaticann II were careful not to give that impression.

      Let me ask you this question and then we can move on: Did the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards Protestants change after Vatican II and as a result of Vatican II (compared to after Trent?)

      vYou wrote: “I think it’s clearly (b) being proclaimed — let me know if you disagree. I don’t think Vatican II changed any notions of what is heretical, what is required for us to assent to in faith, or what is allowed though neither required nor heretical.”

      I disagree. Let me explain. When you proclaim an anathema, you are identifying, not just a innocent error, or even a mild error, but a heretical error. What Trent anathematized wasn’t a belief as such, but people who held the belief as persons.

      (This may be a bad example) Someone who believes in Theistic Evolution, but holds to all necessary RC dogmas, may be said to be in error in Roman Catholic terms, but not necessarily anathematized. When the RC says “He who believes “x” is anathema” he is saying something about the state of a person’s soul in leu of him holding the specified belief “x”.

      You wrote: “Shouldn’t demonstrable contradictions still arise if infallibility is an invention, or has the magisterium over the centuries truly never contradicted itself in an official fashion?”

      The history of papal errors has been well documented. Examples include Pope Liberius, who signed an Arian confession condemning Athanasius; Pope Honorius, who was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople for the heresy of being a monothelite; Pope Boniface VIII, who declared salvation to be impossible outside of Rome, but then the opposite was taught by Vatican II (Unitatis Redintegratio 1.2–3, makes this clear), and on it goes.

      To be honest, I was wanting to get you into the position of saying that I am anathema, I am outside of the church (according to Trent), and according to Pope Boniface VIII, I can’t be saved. Then, I would turn to the attitude of Vatican II, and demonstrate a different teaching.

      Thanks for your prayers! Greatly appreciated. Yea, our little girl is right around the corner! We are praying that she will come pretty soon, seeing as I am off for about 10 days around Christmas. Thanks!

      Reply
    • I hope you had a merry Christmas Nathaniel! Pray your year has started well and continues the same! I try to give you a good bit of time, seeing as we both get busy at times, but, I was interested in hearing you response to my last post.

      God bless–

      Reply
      • Nathaniel

         /  January 5, 2013

        Josh,
        A blessed 2103 to you, and Merry Christmas (the season continues!). I realize my delay has been uncourteous. I will re-read the last few comments above and respond in the next day or two.
        Nathaniel

  31. Nathaniel

     /  January 7, 2013

    Josh,
    Just trying to leave a comment here. I tried twice yesterday to post, but nothing appeared; maybe those are awaiting your moderation?
    And/or perhaps you’re off at the hospital welcoming your new little one!

    Reply
  32. Nathaniel

     /  January 7, 2013

    OK, seems like I can comment here, but there continues to be some problem when I try to paste my longer response. Will try again.

    Reply
  33. Nathaniel

     /  January 7, 2013

    Trying in two parts:
    Josh, you said: “Vatican II did not want to give the idea that they were contradicting Trent. Brilliant people at Vaticann II were careful not to give that impression.”
    I agree with those two sentences; but have you considered that care must be taken in order to faithfully preserve and transmit “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”? The fact that the fathers of Vatican II tried hard not to give the impression of contradicting Trent is fully consistent with there being no contradictions between Trent and Vatican II. If you want to show contradictions, you’ll have to spell them out.

    “Did the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards Protestants change after Vatican II and as a result of Vatican II (compared to after Trent?)”

    I will certainly admit that the “attitude” and tone of Vatican II documents, regarding those who do not hold to the Catholic faith, are rather different from the attitude and tone of documents from centuries before. But I suppose that the Council and its documents rather reflect and formalize the developing understanding the relationship of protestants to the Church, rather than being the cause or beginning of that understanding.
    (continued below…)

    Reply
  34. Nathaniel

     /  January 7, 2013

    (… Part 2:)
    I think the apparent disagreement you find between Trent and Vatican II stems from a misunderstanding of what “anathema” means. When you claim that “anathema” is a statement about the state of someone’s soul, I think you’re mistaken about the meaning of the term. You can find two discussions of the term, which I believe are accurate, at links I’ll post below. (I think the links are giving my comments problems, so I’ll try putting them in at the end.)

    Since you have never been anathematized nor otherwise excommunicated, I don’t believe you are under anathema. Also, it would be inconsistent with Church teachings (even teachings from before Vatican II) for me to claim that you or any individual cannot be saved. That’s why it was difficult to bait me into saying such things about you — I don’t believe them : )

    You singled out Trent vs. Vatican II in response to my request for “your most substantive, 4-star objection” giving “evidence… that the Catholic Church does not possess the charism of infallibility which she claims”. Then later you said, “As far as this being my biggest objection, no it is not even close. I have much bigger problems than these…”
    I was hoping to be able to discuss the strongest demonstration you’re aware of against Catholic infallibility, but it sounds like that wasn’t it. Can you identify such a one?

    I have some other thoughts about your original post — I realize we’ve come a bit far afield here, but I appreciate the discussion! I will post those in a separate comment, so as not to derail this portion of the conversation.

    Happy Epiphany of our Lord! I pray your wife is feeling good as due date draws nigh.
    Nathaniel

    Reply
    • Thanks Nathaniel, and sorry for the difficulties. I have had some issues with WordPress and copying and pasting links myself.

      You wrote: “I don’t believe you are under anathema.”

      Trent says that I am anathematized due to my belief in “x.” If anyone says “x” let him be anathema. I say “x.”

      Therefore….

      You say that I have misunderstood the function and meaning of the word “anathema.” Perhaps, but I would be interested to see what the connotations were before Vatican II. Because, Trent clearly did not say that such anathema’s were limited to those who began in the Catholic Church and who went through a process of excommunication. Trent said something, and Vatican II makes retractions, in that it says “no, no, this was only for those who were in the Catholic Church; not to those “who say ‘x’.”

      Then you have this problem (which is on the same subject); Pope Boniface VIII, who declared salvation to be impossible outside of Rome, but then the opposite was taught by Vatican II (Unitatis Redintegratio 1.2–3, makes this clear), and on it goes.

      The objection to infallibility here raised is raised as much as possible (for me) from the inside.

      The Marian Dogmas, when looked at through history, are clear departures from orthodoxy. But before we turn to that, I would like to gain clarity on this issue, if just for my sake.

      P.S. When I wrote: “Vatican II did not want to give the idea that they were contradicting Trent. Brilliant people at Vaticann II were careful not to give that impression,” I was not saying it as an allegation. If The Catholic Church was infallible, I would expect great care to be taken, as you said. My point was that the contradiction was going to be less overt.

      1 year before Vatican II, if we were to look at the writings, positions, and attitudes of the Roman Catholic church to Protestants; contrasted with what you find 1 year after Vatican II; you will find significant change. The change came from a change of doctrine, and the change was such that one or the other was wrong. I read the link, and I do not think it overcomes this obstacle.

      Reply
  35. Nathaniel

     /  January 8, 2013

    And here are the links about what anathema does and does not mean (shortened to try to solve my posting problems:
    http://bit.ly/VLXHMS and http://bit.ly/THX7BB

    Reply

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