"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Friday, July 11, 2008

C. Michael Patton on sola scriptura

C. Michael Patton recently began a series of posts defending the Protestant belief called 'sola scriptura'. His first post on this subject says this about the Catholic position:

the Church itself is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice since it must define and interpret Scripture and Tradition.

With that one statement, he undermines his later claim that the sola scriptura position makes the Scripture the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Why? Because if the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the Church makes the Church the final authority, then the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the individual Protestant makes the individual Protestant interpreter of Scripture his own final authority. And that conclusion is not compatible with Michael's claim that sola scriptura makes the Scripture the final authority.

One option for Michael, while retaining his position in the quotation cited above, is an ad hoc move: to claim that if the Church interprets Scripture, then the Church is the final authority, but if the individual interprets Scripture, then the individual is not the final authority. The problem with that position is that it is, ad hoc. The other option for Michael, while retaining his position in the quotation above, is to bite the bullet and grant that each Protestant is his own final authority, basically his own pope. The problem with that option is that it contradicts his claim that Scripture is the final authority. The third option, of course, [and the correct one] is either to abandon the argument he makes in the quotation above, or make a distinction between the two senses of 'final', as I explain below.

The mistake in Michael's argument is the univocal conception of "final". He assumes implicitly that final in the order of determination is final [i.e. highest] in the order of intrinsic authority. That would lead to reasoning such as this: if the Church is the buck-stopping point in the determination of what is orthodoxy and what is heresy, then the Church has more intrinsic authority than the Word of God. But nothing can have more authority than the Word of God. Therefore, the Church isn't the buck-stopping point in the determination of what is orthodoxy and what is heresy. Such a perspective fails to see the possibility of the Magisterium being the servant of the Word of God (CCC 86), and having the authoritative interpretation of Scripture and the authoritative determination of what is orthodoxy and what is heresy. It fails to conceive of the possibility of authoritative hierarchy.

If we applied this way of thinking to the relation between the Father, the Son, and ourselves, it would mean that Jesus can't be the interpreter to us of what the Father is saying, without making Jesus the authority over the Father. But that is clearly false. Being the "authority of" is not the same thing as being the "authority over". Jesus is the authority to us concerning what the Father is saying. But Jesus is not an authority over the Father; He is an authority under the Father (see here), while being homoousious with the Father. Likewise, the Church is not greater in authority than the Word of God written in the Scriptures, but the Church is the authority to us *of* the meaning of the Scriptures, and of what is orthodox and what is heresy. Final in the order of authoritative determination is not the same as final in the order of intrinsic authority. Michael's argument fails to take note of that distinction, and thus creates [for his own position] the dilemma of being either ad hoc or contradictory [i.e. claiming that Scripture is the final authority but also entailing that each individual interpreter is his own final authority].

Lord Jesus, please help Protestants and Catholics better understand each other, and be reconciled in true unity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

30 comments:

J.M.W. said...

Interesting discussion here:

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/for-discussion-has-the-roman-catholic-church-changed-its-view-on-the-salvation-of-atheists-and-other-religions

Chad Toney said...

Good post! I really like Michael Patton's style and have emailed him at least once to tell him how much I appreciate his irenic and fair apologetics.

~Joseph the Worker said...

Wonderful and thoughtful post. Interesting to see how he will or would respond to you.

Oso Famoso said...

Good retort.

The most basic problem with Sola Scriptura is the fact that it puts the role of the Church on each and every individual.

Scripture alone never really means scripture alone. It means scripture + private interpretation.

~Joseph the Worker said...

It also ignores the fact that the majority of the world for the majority of it's existence have been illiterate.

Andrew McCallum said...

Bryan,

You make this statement: “Because if the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the Church makes the Church the final authority, then the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the individual Protestant makes the individual Protestant interpreter of Scripture his own final authority.” I have certainly met folks who think that the job of interpretation of the Scriptures is theirs and is a matter between them and God. But I don’t know of anyone who has any kind of understanding of historic Protestantism who would defend such an idea. There is an article you might be interested in reading at http://michaelbrown.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/3/3/sola-scriptura-or-scriptura-solo.html I’m sure you will find other things to disagree with in this article, but I just wanted to underscore the point that the author makes that he idea of individual interpretation of the Bible is not a Protestant concept in any historic sense of that term. There was never any thought in historic Protestant thought to interpret the Bible outside of the context of the Church. As for the modern Western scene, well that’s a different story, but has lots more to do with existential philosophy and pragmatism and the revolutionary spirit and all too many other demons that haunt our western world.

Cheers for now…

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Andrew. Thanks for your comment.

I can't tell whether you are or are not disagreeing with my statement: "Because if the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the Church makes the Church the final authority, then the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the individual Protestant makes the individual Protestant interpreter of Scripture his own final authority."

Do you think that statement is false? If so, why?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew McCallum said...

Bryan,

My link got cut off it seems and I can't figure out how to paste it. Anyway, yes I am taking issue with how you are trying to represent Protestantism as it touches on biblical interpretation. This is not historic Protestantism. The Bible is never interpreted outside of the context of the Church.

If you want a good example of what the Reformers thought about individual interpretation take the case of Servetus. Now here was a man who truly believed that it was up to him to take exegetical matters into his own hands. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what Geneva thought about him.

Here is James White's very basic definition: "Sola scriptura teaches that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. The doctrine does not say that there are not other, fallible, rules of faith, or even traditions, that we can refer to and even embrace. It does say, however, that the only infallible rule of faith is Scripture. This means that all other rules, whether we call them traditions, confessions of faith, creeds, or anything else, are by nature inferior to and subject to correction by, the Scriptures. The Bible is an ultimate authority, allowing no equal, nor superior, in tradition or church. It is so because it is theopneustos, God-breathed, and hence embodies the very speaking of God, and must, of necessity therefore be of the highest authority."

White's definition is what most any Protestant that has any kind of connection to history would affirm. It's the rule for the Church. So my concern is that you are trying to make it about the individual. Like I said before, there are certainly many Protestants (and Catholics for that matter) who believe they can make their own religion, but this is not historic Protestantism.

I hope that's clear.

Thanks,

Andrew

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

It is not clear to me that you understand that what I have given in my post is an argument. The argument has premises and a conclusion. The conclusion of my argument is that Michael's position faces a dilemma: it is either ad hoc, or contradictory. One of the premises of the argument, the one you seem to be rejecting is the statement in bold in my previous comment. Here it is again:

"Because if the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the Church makes the Church the final authority, then the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the individual Protestant makes the individual Protestant interpreter of Scripture his own final authority."

If you think that statement is false, then, since the statement is in the form of a conditional (i.e. if p then q), therefore you must think that it is possible for p to be true and at the same time q to be false. So, you must think that the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the Church makes the Church the final authority, and yet the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the individual does not make the individual the final authority. But, such a position, is precisely the ad hoc horn of the dilemma I presented. So, if you think that position is not ad hoc, then how is it not ad hoc? Why is it, that if the Church interprets Scripture, then the Church is the final authority, but if the individual interprets Scripture, the individual is not the final authority?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew McCallum said...

You say this: "So, you must think that the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the Church makes the Church the final authority, and yet the Scripture's needing to be interpreted by the individual does not make the individual the final authority. But, such a position, is precisely the ad hoc horn of the dilemma I presented."

Brian - Firstly, the Church is the final authority. Secondly, any interpretation that the individual does is a derivative matter. The individual is not act as an interpreting authority.

Maybe you should elaborate on what you mean by "the Scriptures needing to be interpreted." It seems that you may be applying the concept to two different entities (Church and individual) but assuming that it means the same thing to both.

I am proposing that the resolution to your "dilemma" is that the individual's need to interpret and the Church's need to interpret are two very different things because God has given them very different roles. So yes, the Church interprets to form authoritative teaching while the individual does not. There is no reason to posit any contradiction here that I can see.

I think that this debate becomes much clearer when both sides understand that the Protestant position focuses on the Scripture's use by the Church. Whenever the RC side starts trying to apply these ideas to individual interpretation, the debate gets sidetracked IMO.

Andrew

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Andrew,

You write:

Brian - Firstly, the Church is the final authority. Secondly, any interpretation that the individual does is a derivative matter. The individual is not act as an interpreting authority.

If you really believed that, you wouldn't be a Protestant, for Protestantism is built on Luther and Zwingli and Calvin's private interpretation in defiance of the Church. (Read the Luther quotation here.) They did not submit to the Church. They simply redefined 'church' as "whoever interprets the Bible like me", and then said "The church is the authority, not me; everyone should submit to the church." But that is essentially no different than declaring one's own self to be one's own authority; it simply hides it under a semantic layer. (See my "How not to reform the Church".)

I'll post an article about this on Monday. Please let me know what you think about it.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew McCallum said...

Bryan,

If you post something I will respond if I have the time. I think you have a basic misconception about how Protestant churches operate. The individual as the final arbiter of truth may be the way that you understood the matter as a Protestant, but it's not the way that any historically orientated Protestant church operates. I think that the best first step in a discussion is not to tell someone what they believe.

My advice to you is not to start with Luther for two reasons. First, Luther's famous interactions with RC scholars happened in a formative part of the Reformation and you get a much most mature assessment of matters later on in history. Secondly, Luther went through a stage early on in his conversation when he was struggling with just what he believed. It's interesting to read about his transformation, but quoting him as representative of Protestant thought at this point in the development of his thinking is just bound to lead to confusion. Why don't you take my example of Servetus? This was a good example of someone who believed that the individual believer could interpret Scripture solo. Tell us what the Reformers thought about his methodology?

Cheers for now....

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

How do you define "the church"?

I'm guessing (though please correct me if I'm wrong) you define it by the "three marks" (or the "two marks").

If so, then why do you use those to define 'the church'? Either you are getting it from some ecclesial authority, or you are getting it from your own interpretation of Scripture. So which is it?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew McCallum said...

The he term we translate “church” is used in more than one sense. It is firstly used to describe a local congregation. Secondly it describes all of Christ’s children from Adam onward. But of course we are not omniscient so we don’t know the extent of this body, only Christ does. And then finally the church is all of those who are part of that physical extension of Christ’s kingdom here on earth. This physical and earthly institution is all of those who are faithfully bound to Christian churches as those congregations are defined in the Bible. It is here where I think Catholic and Protestants are most likely to part ways in that we look at this visible church in a different way. The marks you speak of come from the historical debates over what the characteristics of this visible church are. At the time of the Reformation the Roman Church was not preaching the Word in the language of the people and not disciplining its clergy let alone the laity and even the popes in many cases were thoroughly corrupt (by even the admission of Catholic historians). So these marks are not the extent of the church but they certainly should be elements of true churches and the true Church. Things have improved for Rome since the days of the Renaissance/Reformation popes, but it’s hard for Protestants to see that modern Catholic churches are holding to these biblical marks of a church.

The definitions for “church” come from many many centuries of the deliberation of such matters. Of course we don’t look to the Medieval scholastic definitions for these definitions, but if you read Calvin or Bucer of whoever else you will find their deliberations of ecclesiological issues steeped not just in Scripture but also in the ways that the early Fathers understood these things. You might say that they rejected not the writings of the Fathers but just rejected the way that Aquinas interpreted them. Remember that the Reformers were generally educated in the Medieval models and were well familiar with the Fathers and the influences on them from the classical era.

OK, so a question for you. You were once a Protestant and I think I remember that you were in a Protestant denomination, correct? If so, then when you joined the church in that denomination did you take certain oaths to live by the standards of that church and submit to the disciple of its leaders and so on? If you did take such oaths, were you not repudiating private judgment by making the promise to live by the standards of that church and denomination? I’m trying to figure out why you were having such a tough time with what I said earlier.

Thanks,

Andrew

Oso Famoso said...

"The individual as the final arbiter of truth may be the way that you understood the matter as a Protestant, but it's not the way that any historically orientated Protestant church operates."

How do individuals decide which Protestant church to join and submit to doctrinally?

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

You said "The Church is the final authority". Then I asked you "How do you define the Church?", meaning, What exactly determines the referent of your term "Church", when you say "The Church is the final authority"? In your reply, I cannot find an answer to that question. Maybe I'm just not seeing it.

It appears to me, from what I can gather, that you locate "the Church" according to your interpretation of Scripture.

If you disagree, and claim that you locate the Church by following the "marks" laid out by the Reformers, I'll ask you why you follow the opinions of the Reformers. And your answer, undoubtedly, will be semantically equivalent to "Because their interpretation of Scripture matches my interpretation of Scripture."

So, either way, it appear that your final authority is "me-and-my-interpretation-of-Scripture".

As for your question, the issue of private judgment is not necessarily about daily choices. It is fundamentally about the judgments one makes in determining where is the true Church, and what is true doctrine. If a person locates the "Church" by seeking out that group of persons who agree with his own interpretation of Scripture, and then (for example) allows himself to be hypnotized by them for the rest of his life, then he has still placed himself under an authority of his own choosing, on the basis of that authority's agreement with his own interpretation of Scripture.

When there are thousands of different "Churches", and each person picks out "the Church" by seeing which "Church" agrees with his own interpretation of Scripture, then it is sheer silliness to say that for all such persons, "the Church is the final authority". It is silliness because in each case by 'Church' one simply means "those people, whoever they might be, who agree with one's own interpretation of Scripture". A more accurate description of such a situation is that each person is his own final interpretive authority, even if he subjects himself to others, because he only subjects himself to those who agree with his interpretation. And in this way, he masks from himself his treatment of himself as his own ultimate interpretive authority.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew McCallum said...

Bryan,

You say, “It appears to me, from what I can gather, that you locate "the Church" according to your interpretation of Scripture.”

Just like Catholics, Protestants join churches for all sorts of different reasons. But I think you will find particularly with the kind of more sophisticated Protestants that you encountered at ReformedCatholicism.com (and I mention this site because I knew you have been here) that they are Reformed Protestants because they recognize that this is the tradition that is most faithful to Scripture and tradition. Lots of these folks have studied Scripture and tradition for many years and they are quite convinced that to be deep in tradition and Scripture is to cease to be Roman Catholic. So no, it is not just a matter of choosing a church based on one’s understanding of Scripture. We all have the job of looking at Scripture and tradition and trying to recognize whether the decrees of Rome or Geneva or Wittenburg (or whatever else) are faithful statements of what we find in Scripture and tradition. Did you not say to me once that you “recognized” Roman Catholic theology to be correct after reading the Church Fathers? OK, well I have read Scripture and tradition and recognized that Roman Catholicism is not faithful to historic Christianity. So the debate between us is now who judged correctly and who did not (and of course logically it’s possible that neither of us did). Either Rome is faithful to historic Christianity or she is not, and if she is not then the fact that there are multiple Protestant denominations will not make these errors any less wrong.

So I don’t want to say that your idea of the Protestant church-hopping until he finds something that matches his understanding of the Bible does not fit anyone, but it does not fit the kind of educated Protestant that you will find at places like Reformedcatholicism.com. For this person, the summary of Christian doctrine as contained in Aquinas is just not compatible with that of the Early Church. And it seems to me that an analysis of whether or not Medieval Roman Catholicism is a faithful development of the Christian theology of the Early Church is where there can be fruitful discussion between Catholics and Protestants.

Oso famoso – In the aforementioned website there are Protestants who all have conscious connections with the history of the Church even though they come from different denominations. But the differences between us are usually small (mainly focused on church government and details of the sacraments). If you don’t believe me then you can read the various confessional statements of the Reformation era. So whether you choose something with an Anglican or Presbyterian or Baptist emphasis, you will find that this decision is generally not a big one if the church in question is tied to the historic doctrines of the Reformation. My observation is that the practical differences between historic Reformed congregations are much smaller than that exist internally between Catholics. I have a close friend who goes to our local Catholic congregation down the road. He is a very faithful Catholic and bemoans the fact that he and his wife are some of the few Catholics attending here who really takes seriously the requirements of their faith. If I left my church to become Catholic because I was looking for more unity, one of the ironies that I would find is that my local Catholic congregation has far greater divergence on even basic practical matters like abortion or sexual abstinence than what I have in my church currently. Maybe I am answering more than you are asking, but I’m saying this because I think you are asking how Protestants make decisions concerning what church to join when there are so many variations within Protestantism. And I just want to point out that there are far less actual variations in Reformed congregations than what you will find in Catholicism today. At least that’s my perception based on the polls of Catholic and Protestant beliefs about theological and practical matters as well as what I hear from conservative Catholics.

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

Notice the logic:

You claim that the Church, not the individual, is the final authority. Then I ask who is the Church, and you answer: those who are "most faithful to Scripture and tradition". My reply: "Most faithful as determined by whom?" Your answer: "Myself."

Therein lies the contradiction.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Oso Famoso said...

Andrew,

I've been to ReformedCatholicism plenty of times.

How does one decide that a reformed church is most biblical?

And I just want to point out that there are far less actual variations in Reformed congregations than what you will find in Catholicism today.

Are you serious? I admit that there are many poorly catechized Catholics out there who don't understand the faith very well...but we agree on baptism, which is something that you cannot find across the Reformed spectrum.

Andrew McCallum said...

> Then I ask who is the Church, and you answer: those who are "most faithful to Scripture and tradition". My reply: "Most faithful as determined by whom?" Your answer: "Myself.">
>

Bryan - But when you read the Church Fathers you decided that they were more Catholic than not (you said that recently on Andy Webb’s site). YOU decided that, it was your judgment. YOU decided that Rome was faithful to the Fathers you read. I’m saying that all sorts of folks (not just have me) have read the same sources you have and come to different conclusions. Catholics and Protestants read the very same passages and Scriptures and Fathers and come to different conclusions. We both have to decide for ourselves what conclusions to draw. You cannot get away from making a judgment on this matter. I think you don’t want to believe that Protestants are doing the same thing as Catholics are. If you don’t want to believe them then they are going to dismiss you and there is the end of the discussion. And that’s a pity because there are ways of having fruitful discussions if you will grant your Protestant friends that they are thinking the way they tell you they are. If you try to force the debate into a framework that has zero resonance with the Protestant in the discussion then there is no dialogue.

Osso – Baptism? No, I’m just talking about basic no-brainer issues like whether fornication and abortion are wrong. Have you ever read the polls that have been done on what Catholics and Protestants believe on basic Christian issues? There is not a whole lot of difference. In the far South here, we have every kind of Catholic belief system you can imagine. Not just all the various flavors of liberal and cafeteria style Catholicism, but also all those odd pagan varieties that grow up in Latin America. We even have a Charismatic Catholic church in town (I’ve been there – there were priests doing the traditional mass right alongside a guy in a multi-colored suit leading a big old band and getting everyone to clap their hands and stomp their feet – it was strange to say the least).

As far as which Reformed church to attend I think it probably has more to do with geography. If I moved near the church of say one of those Anglican guys at Reformedcatholicism I would probably go there. I’m not Anglican but beside the relatively minor issue of church polity I would probably have to talk with them for a long time before I could figure out something I disagreed with them on. Now if I felt that I needed to go to the local Catholic church it’s such a mixed bag of disparate beliefs about basic Christian issues (like whether it’s OK to live with one’s boyfriend) that I would probably try to find one of those SSPX churches (I’m sure we have those here too). They seem to be quite conservative on such matters.

Andrew

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

Notice how your position has shifted in the course of the argument. Originally you said, "The Church is the final authority". Then when I showed that *you* yourself are actually your ultimate interpretive authority, you shifted to the tu quoque. In other words, "Ok, but so are you."

Thus you are now implicitly conceding that it is false that "the Church is the final authority", and instead you are arguing that even though you are your own ultimate interpretive authority, so am I, since I too followed my own interpretation of Scripture in order to locate the Church.

So, are you sure you want to abandon your claim that "the Church is the final authority", and instead pursue the tu quoque? You can't have it both ways, i.e. "the Church is the final authority" and "I am my own final interpretive authority, but so are you."

Therefore before I turn my attention to your tu quoque, I want to make sure you are aware that you are abandoning your original claim that the Church is the final authority.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Joseph said...

From Andrew's last comment, one statement stuck out as one of his key summary points.

So I don’t want to say that your idea of the Protestant church-hopping until he finds something that matches his understanding of the Bible does not fit anyone [implies that Andrew agrees that it does fit at least some Protestants, but not him or those at reformedcatholicism.com], but it does not fit the kind of educated Protestant that you will find at places like Reformedcatholicism.com.

Pardon me, but this statement smacks of Gnosticism, though I'm confident it wasn't Andrew's intention.

First, it implies (whether the intent was there or not) that Protestants who do not have the same understanding as those who post on reformedcatholicism.com are uneducated (or not as educated). I know this isn't true because several of my family members are church-hopping Lone Ranger Protestants and they are very highly educated.

Second, it implies that a certain degree of education is needed before the door to Truth is opened. This is terribly Gnostic. Faith and understanding are not dependent on one's level of education.

I don't think that Bryan has ever accused the "church-hopping" Protestant of being less educated than he (nor has he ever accused the bloggers at reformedcatholicism of being less educated than he. From reading Bryan's blog, it also seems apparent to me (correct me if I'm wrong, Bryan) that Bryan became Catholic when he recognized the Sacramental Apostolic Authority of the Church, not by agreeing to each doctrine one by one. His objective study of the Fathers helped him to recognize it, but it wasn't the crux of his conversion... it was faith.

I doesn't take intelligence, education, or wit to submit to the Authority of the Apostles.

The question then becomes, what Authority did Andrew or those at reformedcatholicism submit to... ultimately? Was it the collection of Reformed documents? All of them or some of them? Is that Authority binding on them? Was it the authors of those documents (the ones in which they choose to agree with) that had (have) Authority? Can an individual disagree with their Authority and still be Christian? From whom did those authors derive their Authority? If the answer is the Bible, then Bryan's argument stands. Even if the answer is the Bible and partial Tradition (with a capital "T"), then Bryan's argument still stands because, according to Andrew, those at reformedcatholicism came to their conclusions from the writings of the Early Fathers based on their interpretation of those writings. By what Authority does their interpretation of Scripture and Early Fathers' writings become valid? If the answer is the Bible, well...

Andrew McCallum said...

Bryan - Tu quoque arguments state that a certain position is false because its proponent fails to act consistently in accordance with that position. If you tell me that smoking is bad, and I tell you that you smoke so you are being hypocritical, then that is tu quoque. But I’m not accusing you of stating anything false here. What I am trying to do is to encourage you to see that we are both doing the same thing when it comes to analyzing the texts of the Christian traditions, but we are coming to different conclusions. I believe you when you tell me how you have come to your faith. It seems that you don’t want to believe me. You want to tell me about Protestants and how they arrive at their position. I’m trying to convince you that although you may have had a certain experience as a Protestant, that this experience is not mine nor that of folks like those on RC.com. Until you are willing to accept what someone says about how they arrived at a position then there cannot be any understanding.

The church still acts as the authority, not the congregant. Anyone who has taken oaths in a Protestant Church to obey and submit is forgoing any kind of right to private judgment and is accepting that there is an ecclesiastical power they must obey. Of course the nature and extent of the visible church they are promising obedience to is different for Protestants and Catholics.

Joseph – I did not mean uneducated as in unintelligent. I meant not educated in the flow of history of the Christian tradition. Sorry for this confusion, I understand how what I said could be misunderstood.

As for what Authority, both Catholics and Protestants (and here I am really taking about those Protestants who care about such things and as stated above have some familiarity with the history of the Christian tradition) believe that the tradition that they hold to is in line with what we can read in the Scriptures and Early Church. We both believe that this Authority is Christ who instituted His church and oversees her growth. From my standpoint the only way to determine which side is right is to analyze the claims of both sides and determine which side is correct. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good article on the Trinity where they do just that for the issue of the Godhead. They go through the arguments from the OT, NT, Sub-apostolic Fathers, etc on the data concerning the Trinity. They make a compelling case for the Trinity I think. So for me on these issues that separate us, like for instance whether or not we should pray to saints/Mary, I think it is helpful to do this same kind of thing. What is the OT witness, NT witness, Sub-apostolic Fathers, etc on the praying to saints/Mary? If we find that evidence from this kind of analysis militates against accepting this practice then we reject the RCC position here. If we can establish that Rome has erred on such matters than we should agree that the nature and extent of the Authority you speak of cannot be fully represented by Rome. Trying to understand the nature of the Reformed tradition comes to some degree from going through this kind of process. If you want a simple answer to your questions, I can’t give it to you. Theology takes time.

Andrew

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

You wrote:

The church still acts as the authority, not the congregant. Anyone who has taken oaths in a Protestant Church to obey and submit is forgoing any kind of right to private judgment and is accepting that there is an ecclesiastical power they must obey.

You seem to think that so long as I find at least one person who agrees with my interpretation of Scripture, and I submit to him (with an oath), then it is true in my case that "the Church is the final authority."

But submitting to someone who shares one's own interpretation of Scripture is not submitting to the Church; it is merely submitting to someone who shares one's own interpretation of of Scripture.

By the way, the primary form of the tu quoque is not as you described. It implies nothing about falsehood. It simply points out that the criticism made by one's interlocutor applies also to him.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Oso Famoso said...

Now if I felt that I needed to go to the local Catholic church it’s such a mixed bag of disparate beliefs about basic Christian issues (like whether it’s OK to live with one’s boyfriend)

So, baptism isn't a 'basic Christian issue' but pre-marital co-habitating is a 'basic Christian issue?'

By the way, the Church has plenty of dogmatic teaching about marriage and sexual union that clearly teaches that co-habitating extra without being married is a sin.

If people ignore teaching you can hardly blame the Catholic Church. I was a PCA for many years and new many PCA members who sinned in direct contrast to their church's teaching.

I ask you again...how does one come to find that a "reformed" expression of Christianity is the most biblical? And why not a mega church dispensational expression whose only creed is, "no creed but Christ?"

What I am trying to do is to encourage you to see that we are both doing the same thing when it comes to analyzing the texts of the Christian traditions, but we are coming to different conclusions.

By being Protestant you are not only the interpreter of scripture but apparently you are also the interpreter of church history. I ceased being Protestant when I realized how anachronistically my reformed traditions read the church fathers while at the same time saying, "Look, we follow the church fathers too! (But only when they agree with us.)"

If I had a dollar for every time a Reformed pastor has said, "We accept Augustine’s soteriology but we reject his ecclesiology." (The ultimate irony is that they really only accept part of his soteriology to boot!)

Andrew McCallum said...

> You seem to think that so long as I find at least one person who agrees with my interpretation of Scripture, and I submit to him (with an oath), then it is true in my case that "the Church is the final authority.">
>
Bryan - You are not undestanding me at all and I'm finished trying to get you to understand. We are about 0 for 10 is gettig you to correctly comprehend anything I have said so I will just let it go.


Andrew

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

I'm sorry that I am having difficulty understanding your position. If you think that in the case of the person who finds one other person who agrees with his interpretation of Scripture, and submits to him with an oath, it is not true that "the Church is his final authority", then I don't see why it *is not* true in his case that "the Church is his final authority" but it *is* true in your case that "the Church is your final authority".

Is is just because you also look at creeds and councils and historical theology in deciding what Scripture teaches?

If so, then again, then it seems that in your view, in the case of the person who finds one other person who agrees with his interpretation of Scripture and history and creeds and councils and historical theology, and submits to that other person with an oath, it is true that "the Church is his final authority". Right?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Joseph said...

Andrew,

I did not mean uneducated as in unintelligent. I meant not educated in the flow of history of the Christian tradition. Sorry for this confusion, I understand how what I said could be misunderstood.

Thanks for the clarification. I was careful to introduce "intelligence" into my comments because intelligence is not the equivalent to education level. So we both agree on that. However, your clarification actually affirms my comment. It is still wrong to assume that the level of education (not intelligence) is required before understanding of the Truth is open to a person. Education level is irrelevant to Faith and understanding. Therefore, the position you maintain is still a Gnostic position. The Gnostics held the same position you do, that one can only draw themselves closer to Truth and the True Faith through a higher degree of education.

Andrew McCallum said...

Bryan,

I'm not sure if you will even see this comment, but if you do I just wanted to apologize for my last post from yesterday morning. What I said was hardly fair. There is always going to be some misunderstanding and we just have to live with that. I guess I did not feel we were getting anywhere, and saying the same things to each other.

In Christ,

Andrew

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

No problem. Thanks for you patience with me.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan