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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Giving lip-service to teaching authority

I intend to continue the series on the fathers on the Church. But I was prompted to write this after reading the ongoing discussion over at De Regnis Duobus.

To place one's own interpretation of Scripture above that of all the bishops in plenary council is performatively to deny that Christ established any enduring teaching office or teaching authority in the Church. For such a person, the only remaining 'teaching authority' possible is by definition that of "those who agree with me and my interpretation". And that is no authority at all, but only a self-deceiving pretense at being under authority, as St. Paul describes in 2 Timothy 4:3. Such a person may give lip-service to the notion of 'secondary' authority, but in principle his position is still individualistic, because the authority of the 'secondary authority' always remains subject to the individual's own approval and agreement.

Individualism always leads to fragmentation and disintegration (i.e. loss of unity), for agere sequitur esse, i.e. a thing acts according to what it is, and there is no being where there is no unity. But Christ set up His Church to endure (i.e. remain in being) until He returns, and therefore He did not leave it without an enduring teaching authority. And therefore it follows that the individual and his own interpretation of Scripture are subject to the teaching authority of the bishops in plenary council.

To accept the teaching authority of the Church for the determination of the canon of Scripture, while rejecting the teaching authority of the Church for the interpretation of Scripture, is a deep tension internal to all Protestant ecclesiologies. Either the determination of the canon is subject to each individual, or the determination of the interpretation of Scripture is subject to the teaching authority of the Church. Anything else is ad hoc.

The Protestant reply is to appeal to the perspicuity of Scripture, meaning that the nature of the gospel as recorded in Scripture is self-evident to any competent reader. So there doesn't need to be any "teaching authority", because any competent reader can determine for himself from Scripture what is the nature of the gospel. Any competent reader can therefore go against all the bishops in plenary council (or any other group of persons for that matter) when that reader determines for himself that what they are teaching is contrary to what is self-evident from Scripture concerning the gospel. But which is more self-evident from the available evidence: that the nature of the gospel is self-evident to any competent reader, or that over the course of Church history, many competent readers have deeply disagreed with each other about the nature of the gospel to the point of schism and even violence? The claim that the nature of the gospel is self-evident to any competent reader is a presupposition that is imported (by Protestants) to the interpretive process. It is not derived from Scripture. (Even the attempt to derive the notion of perspicuity from Scripture in a certain sense presupposes it.) It has its origin not in the fathers, but with the invention of the printing press and the surge of confidence in the power of human reason accompanying Renaissance humanism. It assumes that the nature of the gospel as recorded in Scripture is such that no competent reader will come to a determination about it that is contrary to one's own, all other things being equal. It assumes that the effort that was necessary for a Protestant to come to his present determination of the nature of the gospel is all the effort necessary for him to have understood fully and truly what is the nature of the gospel.

If this claim [i.e. that the nature of the gospel is self-evident to any competent reader] is false, then the person claiming to have derived it from Scripture is deeply mistaken, not only by importing a false presupposition to the interpretive process, but also in falsely deriving that false presupposition from Scripture. But the claim is not only a presupposition; it is also an empirical claim that is in principle falsifiable. So, if history has not falsified it, what would history have to look like in order to falsify it? How much more divided over the nature of the gospel would Christians have to be (and have been) before the perspicuity claim would be falsified?

41 comments:

CD-Host said...

Lets start with an example of mathematics. The mathematical community does not recognize any notion of succession. All information considered legitimate is fully public. All theories need to be explicated in a manner widely respected, if the theory is contentious supporters frequently attempt to explicate in a way that is widely accepted, if that proves impossible the theory is less believed even by supporters.

Do you consider that a reasonable approach with regard to authority? That is mathematical authority can exist with no claim of privilege.

I keep giving a similar example that has occurred recently, which was successful ecumenicalism as well, and successful unity. The United Bible Society and their creation of the NA (recently NA27) along with the official textual commentary. Again no claim of privilege but rather authority based on building a wide consensus and respect for evidence.

There are other models besides individualism or absolute submission.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

You are using the term 'authority' here to mean merely worthy of honor or respect; that sense of the term is fully compatible with individualism. We are free to disagree with anything any mathematician says if we wish.

But I am talking about authority in the sense of obliging obedience from the individual, and thus not compatible with individualism. Notice Archbishop Chaput's comment in response to Speaker Pelosi: "If you're Catholic and you disagree with your Church. What do you do? You change your mind."

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Well this is an interesting point of dispute now. I'd argue the mathematical community is essentially perfectly unified over all of humanity. There is no group of non believers and there are no regional or cultural non members. Euclid has been successful in his great commission; the entire world is converted to what is a in a direct line of descent from Greek mathematics. His ideology "there is no royal road to geometry" has been respect for millennia.

Moreover, the mathematical community believes an extreme large collection of very complex doctrines with little debate about even the status of doctrines. That is almost everyone would agree whether things are:

1) Almost certainly true
2) Very likely true
3) likely true
4) more likely than not true
5) more likely than not false
....

And they have achieved this unity because there is no obligation for submission. Rather they encourage aggressive defiance but only within prescribed rules and means. Everyone is free in theory to hold whatever opinion they want, but they are obligated to meet high standards of proof and hence in practice they all pretty much all hold unified opinions.

Descent is handled by a step by step progression of escalation. At each step the descent must be disproved or it advances to the next stage. The authority demand belief has the obligation for proof.

I'd argue this is an almost utopian unity without the need for any sort of compelling authority. While I don't know the church can ever get this far this to me would be a wonderful vision of what unity would look like. Moreover even if it can't get quite this far this sort of unity is practical to achieve as similar results are evident in many many fields.

At one point in the 300 the villain, Xerxes, says, "Leonidas was unkind to you. He required that you stand. But I am kind. I only require that you kneel.” I see no reason to emulate Xerxes rather than Leonidas.

So I guess I'd like a clearer argument as to how the mathematical community which does have unity doesn't fulfill what your aims are without the need for the means that are disputed.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

There is an important difference between mathematics and "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints". (Jude 1:3) The truths of mathematics are available to us by the natural power of reason. The faith, by contrast, is not available to us by the natural power of reason. It is something supernaturally revealed, through Christ, to His Apostles (cf. 1 Thess 2:4, 1 Tim 1:11, Titus 1:3), and then entrusted by the Apostles to those whom they ordained (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14), for all successive generations. That's why St. Paul says, "How shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:15) If the faith were something we could know by the natural power of reason, we could preach it without being sent. It is precisely because it is not knowable by the natural power of reason that the [authentic] preacher must be entrusted with the revealed truth, and then sent out. The fact that the faith is something revealed (and not knowable by the natural power of reason), and by divine ordinance entrusted to certain men as stewards, is a principled difference between the faith and mathematics viz-a-viz authority. Because mathematics is knowable by the natural power of reason, teaching authority (of the sort obliging obedience) is not necessary. But because the faith is not knowable by the natural power of reason, but is divinely revealed to us by those entrusted as stewards, if we wish to be numbered among the faithful, we are obliged to "obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls" (Heb 13:17)

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew Preslar said...

Hello Bryan,

I wonder if it is accurate to equate "perspicuous" with "self-evident," which is what you seem to be doing here. Not a loaded question; just something that crossed my mind.

Also, I know that it is fashionable to talk about "determining" truth and meaning, but I have been taught that the thing is to "discover" the meaning of the text- which meaning resides in the text. This does not discount the fact that the reader has presuppositions; rather, it establishes the objective basis of the hermeneutical process (as opposed to one form or another of subjectivity being the starting point of the interpretive enterprise).

It is my experience that both scholarly and popular Evangelical hermeneutics, and thereby Evangelical theology, is awash in subjectivity, whether of the fideistic or relativistic variety, as much for philosophical reasons (from VanTil to Clark to the "post-foundationalist" analytic philosophers of religion; or else by way of German existentialism and French post-structuralism) as for theological/ecclesiological reasons.

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

I wonder if it is accurate to equate "perspicuous" with "self-evident," which is what you seem to be doing here. Not a loaded question; just something that crossed my mind.

Do you see an significant difference between "perspicuity" and "self-evident to the competent reader"?

As for "determine" / "discover", it seems to me that objectivity and subjectivity are not mutually exclusive here. Discovery is still subjective, because it is done by a subject. And when two people both claim to discover the meaning of a text, but the discovered 'meanings' are incompatible, clearly, more than mere discovery is going on. That fact is itself objective, is it not? In my experience, many people are claiming to have discovered the objective meaning of the text, but then seemingly ignoring the fact that other people holding different interpretations are making the same claim.

I once asked a Reformed professor, "What do you do if someone disagrees with your interpretation?" He replied, "You just put point your finger to the verse." The problem with that reply is that all those [Protestants] who disagree with the Reformed position are doing the very same thing, either thinking that exegesis can replace hermeneutics, or that hermeneutics is an objective science. But we all interpret Scripture in the context of theological paradigms. We can't help but do so. We bring a philosophy and a theology to the text, whether we wish to do so or not. So merely pointing to various verses is insufficient to resolve disputes that have their basis in these deeper, more fundamental philosophical paradigm differences.

I agree that some things are self-evident. But, I think there is a possible error of treating as self-evident, things that are derived within a paradigm, that is, as if no paradigm is operative in their "discovery". The error on the other side (of the spectrum) is a kind of postmodern skepticism that gives up on the possibility of objective knowledge.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Eric Telfer said...

We do typically bring some sort of theological and/or philosophical assumptions and/or conclusions to the text.

Further, *as* we read the text, we make further conclusions, however tentative, which then influence our reading of the rest of the text or other parts of the text, as when we take an idea from one book of the Bible and apply it to another.

The influence of a prior conclusion or assumption, be it from Scripture or not from Scripture, i.e., prior to Scripture or otherwise aside from, even if not prior to, can vary greatly in its influence on us, sometimes hardly influencing us at all, and other times greatly influencing us, as when we miss entire passages because of it or greatly distort entire themes or points because of a prior conclusion.

Eric

CD-Host said...

The issue with the mathematical community is on the nature of authority. That is you were arguing that one needs authority to maintain unity and this community provides a counter example. They have excellent unity while at the same time actively discouraging submission and appeals to authority. Certainly they are an extreme example but that was the point is they make it clear there is no tie.

Now I don't see any reason that one needs submission to establish revelation.

1) The content of revelation can be stated without submission
2) Commentary on revelation and practice requires only a desire for exploration of the revelation

So that is a religious entity can choose a collection of revelations and a system of practice without the submission.

Now lets assume you have two systems A and B. If there is no material differences between A and B that is no way to distinguish between them based on public information then any differences would amount to some form of mysticism. That is religious systems must agree with one another up to the level of mysticism. So if we exclude mysticism for a moment there is no reason religious systems cannot debate issues based only on public information. Again I'd cite the UBS as an example of this.

If you agree so far then we can address mysticism and the issues of the non material.

Rene'e said...

Bryan,

"But we all interpret Scripture in the context of theological paradigms. We can't help but do so. We bring a philosophy and a theology to the text, whether we wish to do so or not. "

I am a cradle catholic and have been a catholic for 46 years. I agree with what you are referencing in your statement, by my viewing discussions on other blogs.

My question to you is how did you as a convert overcome your Prostestant philosophy and theology to be able to fully except Catholic theology?

I, as much as I try to understand where non catholics are coming from on various subjects, can not grasp the different concepts or scripture interpretations as they understand them.

This is fustrating. I fight the urge to bang my head on the wall, when witnessing some of these discussions.

How did you do it? Go from being a Protestant thinker to a Catholic thinker?

If I did not know better, I would think it could not be accomplished.

Peace be with you.

Renee

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

That is you were arguing that one needs authority to maintain unity and this community provides a counter example.

Of course my argument was not that *any* community needs authority to maintain unity. My argument is that the *Church* needs "teaching authority" in order to maintain unity. So your example of the mathematics community only works as a counterexample to my argument *if* the mathematics community is similar to the Church in the relevant respects. And, as I just showed in my previous comment, the mathematics community is not similar to the Church in the relevant respect, namely, in the natural accessibility and perspicuity of the subject matter around which it is ordered. Therefore, the mathematical community is not a counterexample to my argument. It would be like claiming that the unity of the mathematical community is a counterexample to the argument that an army requires hierarchical authority in order to maintain operative unity. The person making such a claim clearly doesn't understand the relevant differences between the mathematical community and an army.

The nature of the Church as founded by Christ and advanced by His Apostles is much closer to that of an army than it is to that of the mathematical community. Moreover, the nature of the subject matter is very different, between the mathematics community on the one hand, and the Church on the other hand. The Church is not the equivalent of the Evangelical Theological Society. (And if you attend an ETS conference, you'll see how much disagreement there is among Evangelical scholars.) That is a man-made unity, formed only by common interest and some minimal shared beliefs. The Church, on the other hand, is founded by Christ, and is His own mystical Body, into which persons are joined by the sacrament of baptism. It is something to which we either join and submit, or stand outside of and comment upon in a disengaged manner. And that remains true even if we 'start our own church', as I argued here. I'd also offer my "Is the Church a Democracy?"

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Renee,

Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, obviously grace is at work, and this is a gift from God. At the same time, and without contradiction, I have to thank the gracious and loving patience and teaching of many persons who helped me learn and see things from the Catholic point of view. This takes a long time, I think, usually years. So it takes patience on the part of the teacher, and patience on the part of the learner. I'm speaking of coming to learn to see things from another very different point of view, whether it be Catholic to Protestant, or Protestant to Catholic. I already had a pretty good idea of the Protestant paradigm, because I grew up in it, and studied within it at seminary. So for me it was a process of coming to see things from the Catholic paradigm. I think it takes charity as well, to really want to see the other point of view for what it is, and not simply write it off "from my own present paradigm". (This goes again to that very intimate relation between charity and love.) And of course it also takes a kind of intellectual humility that is willing to consider genuinely the possibility that "I'm wrong". Genuine love for the truth takes a lot of courage, because there are all sorts of external pressures in our immediate religious and family and maybe vocational context that function powerfully to keep us in our present paradigm, by producing pain, humiliation, rejection, isolation, etc. if we change paradigms. So all that to say that changing paradigms does require virtue (patience, humility, charity and courage). In my experience, the Protestants I know who are open to Catholicism exemplify these virtues. They are humble and open and willing to bear the costs, so to speak, if the Catholic Church is what she claims to be. It is also not hard to find people who deeply want the security of their present paradigm, and who argue not as genuine truth-seekers, but as ideologues. That doesn't mean that they think their present ideology is false; they think it is true. But, they don't want to consider sincerely and genuinely the possibility of it being false, because it is frightening to do so. It means that "so much of what I have been saying and believing up till now has been wrong", and that prospect is *really* hard to swallow, so hard that it is easier just to push it far away, sweep it under the rug in the deepest recess of our mind and heart. I want what I believe now to be right, so I'll just push aside that deeper quest for truth. That's not an uncommon tendency, and it is quite understandable. When I was a child, we used to sing this song: "It was good for our fathers [repeat 3x] and its good enough for me." Then, "It was good for our mothers [repeat 3x] and its good enough for me." My brothers and I would point out that every Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist could sing the same song. And maybe they do. But that mentality (expressed in that song) is natural; we want to rest where we are, with what we have received. But the key is to find the pearl of great price, and *then* to rest. That's why converts to Catholicism frequently talk about "coming home". We finally found the place of rest, the Church that Christ founded.

I hope that helps.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

It would be like claiming that the unity of the mathematical community is a counterexample to the argument that an army requires hierarchical authority in order to maintain operative unity. The person making such a claim clearly doesn't understand the relevant differences between the mathematical community and an army.

OK I'll take the challenge even for the army. Armies used to have large number of soldiers which were highly professional and highly skilled running on a most equalitarian basis. One still sees this in special forces and the air force. Where one needs a rigid hierarchy is was with the move to mass conscription, that is large numbers of low skilled soldiers performing highly specific tasks and lacking the judgement or experience to see how their tasks advanced the common ends. This is essentially the same structure that was used in ancient times for slave armies, the only major difference is that at least the free soldiers generally care who wins the war.

That is an army does not need the kinds of rigid dogmatism given a skilled workforce. In the last 50 years it has moved away from the model considerably and is moving towards older models which involved higher levels of training. And the US is a country without a large number of professional soldiers.

That is even for armies one can see a variety of patterns:

slave armies: large number of people being coerced into obedience. Judgement is not used and their moral is very low as they are often indifferent to the outcome and sometimes anxious for defeat.

conscript armies: large number of people being semi-coerced into obedience. Judgement is not used and their moral is moderate. They are quite often supportive of victory and willing to sacrifice to achieve it.

free armies: moderate number of people who have volunteered. Judgement is used and their moral is moderate to high. They are almost always supportive of victory and willing to sacrifice to achieve it.

professional armies: small number of people who have volunteered for life or substantial percentage of their life. Their judgement is excellent and leadership just needs to coordinate communications much more than command. Moral is usually very high to excellent. They are always supportive of victory and willing to sacrifice to achieve it.

I see no reason the church should be organized like a slave army or a conscript army and not a free army. Moreover in very few instances do people need to be working outside of areas of expertise in which case it can be organized like a professional army. So even granting the military analogy, the notion of unquestioning obedience based on station is not needed nor desirable.

And again note that Paul himself does not use the "I'm Paul and you're not" argument rather he justifies his positions with argument.

Finally you keep ignoring the UBS example which is dealing with religious truth in a successful ecumenical fashion not based on authority.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

I think I'll rest my case with the army example. If you think that armies don't need internal authoritative hierarchies to function as a coherent unity, then you are denied something that military science has recognized since the Persians, Greeks and Romans, all the way up to contemporary Westpoint.

As for UBS, I don't know enough about it to say anything about it.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

That's not what I said. I went on for a 1/2 dozen paragraphs saying something quite different quite explicitly.

Please don't mischaracterize the evidence intentionally.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

I'm sorry; I didn't intend to mischaracterize your position. My appeal to the example of armies was to make the point that they need internal hierarchies of authority in order to function as coherent unities. If you don't deny that, then perhaps we are in agreement on this point.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

Here's another example, from Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl:

"He said, "We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record."

Source

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Andrew Preslar said...

Granted: since to be self-evident is not nessicarily to be obvious at first-glance, the doctrine of biblical perspicuity, which does not state that the theological meaning of scripture is necessarily obvious at first glance, might be construed as maintaining that the theological meaning of Scripture is self-evident.

If I may:

I do not think that the meaning of Scripture, such as is essential for Christian life, is self-evident; i.e., the saving doctrine of the Bible does not lie bare to rational exegesis alone. I do think that the meaning is (objectively) there in the text, but rational exegesis (alone) does not suffice to discover that meaning. I would argue the point on both a posteriori and a priori grounds (as I think that Bryan is doing in these comments).

The Body of Christ, however, can and does discern the theological meaning of Sacred Scripture as essential for Christian life, not by reason alone (although she reasons), but much as the spirit of a man knows the things of a man; to wit, the Church has the Spirit of Christ, ergo, the Church has privileged insight into the things of Christ.

I suppose that an individual could say: "I have the Spirit of Christ, I have privileged insight into the things of Christ, listen to me expound upon the Scriptures." Or a gathering of individuals could say: "We are the Church; the theological meaning of Scripture as essential to Christian life is expressed by our confession of faith; listen to us."

But if such and like proceed to contradict others who are making the same claims, well.... then its decision time. I do not mean: time to decide what the theology of Scripture really is (that would put us back to square one), but time to decide: which is the Church? The Spirit does not contradict the Spirit, Christ does not contradict Christ; ergo, they are not all the Church. That much is certain.

Rene'e said...

Bryan,

Thank you for answering my question. I now have a much different perspective on some things. You have helped me greatly.

Most importantly, I know now after reading your words, that instead of banging my head on the wall,what I really need to do is pray and ask God to give me the grace of patience, humility,and charity for others.

Some virtues that I thought I had already possessed, but now realize that I do not posess them in the capacity that I should.

Peace to you.

Renee

CD-Host said...

My appeal to the example of armies was to make the point that they need internal hierarchies of authority in order to function as coherent unities. If you don't deny that, then perhaps we are in agreement on this point.

That's right but there is a difference between an internal hierarchy and how a free army runs. as opposed to say a slave army (see my comments above). And these are the problems do apply to the Catholic church as it exists:

1) Communication occurs in both directions frequently.

2) Widespread dissension in the field is taken very seriously. A free army is keen to maintain loyalty and considers dissension to mean that there is a serious structural flaw.

3) The hierarchy is answerable to the civilian leadership not to itself. For example the joint chiefs of staff report to the Sec of Defense, the Congress and the President.

In other words all the complaints regarding the church are things that are true of free armies.

CD-Host said...

As for the Pelosi claim she is not unusual in this. Birth control is even worse. 70% of communicate Catholics in the USA are aware of the position of the hierarchy and reject it. That's a pretty clear indication the laity do not accept that the church hierarchy represents the final opinion on matters of faith and morals. I actually had a pretty long conversation on my blog about this with a few other Catholics Federal Vision and Catholicism. Baptist ideology has effected virtually religion in the United States from Catholicism to Judaism to Islam.

Pelosi is expressing an American Baptist/Catholic Syncretic belief. One that may offer a reasonable door for reunification. That is creating the mechanism for actually correcting the types of abuses that led to the reformation. I wouldn't be so dismissive. She isn't defending the position well but there is actual meat there.

Joseph said...

70% of communicate Catholics in the USA are aware of the position of the hierarchy and reject it.

Contradiction. They aren't in communion if they reject it.

Pelosi is expressing an American Baptist/Catholic Syncretic belief. One that may offer a reasonable door for reunification.

She may be opening the door for herself to unify with the multitude of Protestant communities but, if she continues down this path (and all indications at this point show that she intends to), she is, at the same time, closing the door on unification with the Church. Rebellion and individualism does not breed unity with God.

CD-Host said...

CD: 70% of communicate Catholics in the USA are aware of the position of the hierarchy and reject it. That's a pretty clear indication the laity do not accept that the church hierarchy represents the final opinion on matters of faith and morals.

Joseph: Contradiction. They aren't in communion if they reject it.


Joseph have you ever heard of begging the question?

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

Joseph is not "begging the question". He is pointing out that those Catholics who purposefully and obstinately reject some teaching of the Catholic Church have by that very fact fallen into the state of heresy, and that heresy incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.

The Church clearly teaches that depriving the marital act of its natural procreative power is a grave sin.

"any use of marriage exercised in such a way that through human effort the act is deprived of its natural power to procreate human life violates the law of God and of nature, and those who commit such an action are stained with the guilt of grave sin" Casti Connubii, 56)

Thus it seems that obstinately denying the Church's teaching on this subject is an example of heresy, because the immorality of the contracepted act is something that is not optional for a Catholic to believe.

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same (CCC 2089)(Cf. Can. 751)

But heresy incurs a latae sententiae excommunication":

"Can. 1364 §1. [...] an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication".

The basic point here, however, is that the Catholic Church has the right to say who is and who is not in communion with her. Pointing out that from the Catholic Church's point of view, those who reject the Church's teachings are not in full communion with her is not begging the question.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Bryan & Joseph --

I'm aware of the canon law on heresy, remember what my blog is about :-) I think you may be missing the point about what Pelosi is claiming. She's arguing that what the membership disputes is not Catholic doctrine, so the fact that it appears in the CCC wouldn't disprove her point.

is that the Catholic Church has the right to say who is and who is not in communion with her.

Certainly but what Pelosi is contesting is who speaks authoritatively for the Catholic Church, the membership or the leadership. In her opinion, and not unreasonably the body of Christ consists of more than a hundred or so top officials.

Rene'e said...

Collin

"Certainly but what Pelosi is contesting is who speaks authoritatively for the Catholic Church, the membership or the leadership. In her opinion, and not unreasonably the body of Christ consists of more than a hundred or so top officials."

Would you expect anything less from a politician?

Everyone, even non-Catholics know who speaks for the Church. So Pelosi who states that she is Catholic should know who speaks for the Church.

She just does not like the answer.


Peace to you.

CD-Host said...

As an aside yesterday this discussion inspired me to look into the truth of Pelosi's claim that there was widespread debate on ensoulment (Pelosi was right). The "right to life" does appear to be a modern. So while it is the case that the church has always opposed abortion her theory of humanity does seem consistent with the evidence regarding tradition.

Rene --

I don't know who speaks authoritatively for God. That's been what I've been arguing with Bryan for the last 2 weeks. This blog is named after a theory that:
1) the original family of churches was led by Peter
2) that church has some sort of unique claim to authority
3) the Orthodox Church & RCC is the continuation of that church
4) Reunity comes from submission to this leadership

My counter has been that:
1) There was no original family of churches
2) There never was authoritative leadership that was respected by all until the church to state violence in the 4th century
3) Virtually all churches today are continuations of the 15th century church they are just evolving along different paths.
4) Reunity comes from resolving the underlying issues that led to the break in the 16th century

Eric Telfer said...

Bryan wrote:

'To accept the teaching authority of the Church for the determination of the canon of Scripture, while rejecting the teaching authority of the Church for the interpretation of Scripture, is a deep tension internal to all Protestant ecclesiologies. Either the determination of the canon is subject to each individual, or the determination of the interpretation of Scripture is subject to the teaching authority of the Church. Anything else is ad hoc.'

Yes. I think that we have to remember that with the Catholic Church we are not just trying to figure out how to relate to another 'body' that *claims* to have authority, but to a 'body' that actually has exercised authority historically such that we cannot but rely on those authoritative actions when we rely on the Bible.

A thought experiment: Think of showing up just after the Council of Carthage, reading the Bible that they canonized, and then, perhaps the next day, telling the bishops that after reading the Bible they canonized you have determined that they are wrong about various matters of doctrine, i.e., baptism, the eucharist, the Church itself, the priesthood, the nature of salvation, the nature of grace, etc., and that you are right about those same matters.

Antagonist (A): 'Gentlemen, after reading the 27 books of the NT that you just canonized, I beg to disagree with your view on x and y. On what do I stand to support such a disagreement? On the very books you just canonized.'

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

That's a gross oversimplification. The works of Paul were seen as authoritative no later than the early 2nd century. The Gnostics appealed to Paul as much as the proto-Catholics. While it is not the case that the canon is self defining most canons consistent with Protestant views would support Protestantism. So even if one does disagree with the canon a bit it has little impact on the issues which are being debated.

Lets say you dropped Matthew and include 1Enoch. What changes in the Protestant / Catholic debate?

Rene'e said...

Collin,

"I don't know who speaks authoritatively for God"

When it comes to Abortion God speaks.

Thou Shall not Kill........

Nancy should listen to him.

Rene'e said...

Collin,

I do not think people realize that when they choose to vote for a Pro-Choice candidate, they are putting their trust in someone who does not see the value in the most vulnerable innocent of lives. This means they are trusting this person not to send their children to war, they are trusting this person who has their hand over the “red button”, they are trusting this person to provide healthcare to their children, and look out for the well being of themselves and their families and the poor, homeless, mentally impaired, sick and dying.

How can anyone trust such a person, especially if they profess to being a Christian, and who does not think an unborn baby deserves to live? How can anyone trust the lives of their children to someone who has no conscience when it comes to killing the most innocent and defenseless of us all?

It is more than just "One Issue".

Rene'e said...

Collin,

Based upon the words I stated above.

This is why authority is needed on behalf of God in the form of the Church.

People forget His words. Thou Shall Not Kill...

It is the Church's responsibility to remind them. Especially Catholics in America, because "to whom more is given, more is required."

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

The books of Paul do not make up the entire NT.

Judging for oneself that a book is inspired is one thing. Taking it on the authority of another is another. Taking it on the authority of the Church is yet another. When some people pick up the Bible in the morning, they are relying on the authority of those who canonized it when they say that all 27 books of the NT are inspired. They can ignore the fact that they are. They can marginalize the fact that they are. But many are. (Some might not be. Some might think of it tentatively or conditionally or as not inspired at all or only *possibly* inspired along with a great many other books.)

At this time in history, if presented with all of the possible options that were available to the canonizers, I would have no authority to decide which books belong and which do not. Had I been a second century Christian, I would have had no greater authority on the matter, even if I did rely on this or that book as though it were authoritative for me. If I lack the authority to canonize and a 'body' did canonize the books, and I rely on those as making up the Bible that is inspired, then I am relying on the authority of that 'body' when I rely on that book as being inspired, unless I have something else that I am relying on. I do not.

The Church existed before the canonized Bible. The Church canonized the Bible. Thinking twice about disagreeing with the Church that canonized the Bible on matters related to faith and morals does not seem unreasonable. Yielding to doctrines presented by that same Church does not either. Acting as though I am certain that same Church is wrong on matters of faith and morals while relying on the canonized decision of that Church to support my own argument against that Church is problematic. This is especially so when the Bible itself does not decide many of the main issues outright, but leans for or against given this or that interpretation. It is also especially so when I know full well that I may very well be wrong and that I have no special authority on these matters, not having been given any, as far as canonizing or interpreting or acting as the Church itself.

But if I know the Church has a special kind of authority and I lack that authority, there seems to be an asymmetry in the relationship. Given that, and the fact that the Bible itself tells me to submit and yield to Church leadership, as well as telling me that the Church is the pillar and bullwark of truth, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to take a backseat here to the Church. In fact, it seems like the most reasonable decision I could make.

I think taking James out of the canon, as Luther might have liked, might have been significant to the faith alone vs faith and works debate. I also think that taking Matthew out might have been significant in light of Peter being given the keys to the kingdom, Christ founding the Church on Cephas, and promising that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, in as much as people try to decide the issues to some extent in light of biblical content.

But I agree that the content of the canon does not always change a great deal in the P-C debate for the Scripture is open ended enough in terms of interpretation to allow for a great many interpretational possibilities, though this certainly does not mean that it is insignificant to those debates or that Scripture does not lean a certain way more than others. In fact, I think a great many Protestants would be shocked to find out just how 'biblical' many of the Catholic Church doctrines really are. Further, a great many people do, in fact, disagree with the Church, because, in part, they think Scripture is saying something different than what the Church is saying, or that Scripture is not going as far as the Church, or that the Church is not going as far as Scripture.

But at least as important is the matter of authority, if not more, which is what I was focusing on. The Church has it. I do not. Where is the Church? Well, here's one that actually canonized the Bible, claims apostolic succession, set out many traditions that we rely on, and set the stage for most of Christian history from there out. Moreover, it is the one that Protestantism is largely rooted in, with conservative Protestants taking for granted many of its claims still today, even though, historically, they broke from it.

Eric

CD-Host said...

Hi Eric lots to respond to...

The books of Paul do not make up the entire NT.

No they don't. But they make up the core. Once you decide to go with Paul as the core, and exclude gnostic text I don't see how you end up with a bible too different from what we have. So in other words details might have differed but basically it is going to be "close enough".

At this time in history, if presented with all of the possible options that were available to the canonizers, I would have no authority to decide which books belong and which do not. Had I been a second century Christian, I would have had no greater authority on the matter, even if I did rely on this or that book as though it were authoritative for me.

Correct. But now you start to build a consensus with others about what are their inspired texts. Slowly it becomes clear which ones make everyone's list (7 core Pauline for example) and others that are highly disputed (Revelations and 1Enoch). So there core gets accepted and then slowly you begin to build a list.

If I lack the authority to canonize and a 'body' did canonize the books, and I rely on those as making up the Bible that is inspired, then I am relying on the authority of that 'body' when I rely on that book as being inspired, unless I have something else that I am relying on. I do not.

Agreed. My point is that you can rely on a broad consensus making reasonable choices. One doesn't have to assume the body was inerrant in their choices to accepted the choices were well thought out and their list reasonable.

The Church existed before the canonized Bible. The Church canonized the Bible. Thinking twice about disagreeing with the Church that canonized the Bible on matters related to faith and morals does not seem unreasonable. Yielding to doctrines presented by that same Church does not either. Acting as though I am certain that same Church is wrong on matters of faith and morals while relying on the canonized decision of that Church to support my own argument against that Church is problematic.

Agreed to all. It is very problematic. That's why the process of challenge Catholic doctrine, slowly evolving towards a "baptist" Protestantism is taking centuries.

This is especially so when the Bible itself does not decide many of the main issues outright, but leans for or against given this or that interpretation. It is also especially so when I know full well that I may very well be wrong and that I have no special authority on these matters, not having been given any, as far as canonizing or interpreting or acting as the Church itself.

Right the argument is not whether you have this authority but rather whether this authority rests in the collection of believers as a whole or unelected / unchosen leadership or something else entirely. In other words what is special about this group of "bishops" without assuming there is something special about them?

But if I know the Church has a special kind of authority and I lack that authority, there seems to be an asymmetry in the relationship. Given that, and the fact that the Bible itself tells me to submit and yield to Church leadership, as well as telling me that the Church is the pillar and bullwark of truth, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to take a backseat here to the Church. In fact, it seems like the most reasonable decision I could make.

Again agreed to all. But be careful of the hidden premise here regarding, what is the Church.

Further, a great many people do, in fact, disagree with the Church, because, in part, they think Scripture is saying something different than what the Church is saying, or that Scripture is not going as far as the Church, or that the Church is not going as far as Scripture.

I would agree here. I support the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a reasonable approach, which is very close to the Catholic position. Where I strongly dissent is the idea of a leadership not the membership being the final arbiters. I also disagree on the issue of the use of violence to advance an argument as I consider that a violation of Reason, Experience and Scripture and thus those arguments won by violence should be revisited and reexamined.

Moreover, it is the one that Protestantism is largely rooted in, with conservative Protestants taking for granted many of its claims still today, even though, historically, they broke from it.

While I think this is true, by in large the direction in which they broke was consistent with those that opposed this church from its earliest days. The church that argued that there was no apostolic authority at all. At first it was on things like the poverty of Christ but it has moved well beyond that and as Pelosi shows even within Catholicism the idea of a binding authority invested in leadership is being rejected.

In other words the Pope is not the Church. 1 billion Christians are.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I hope all is well! May the Lord bless you in your pursuit of truth. Below I present ideas that came to me as I read through your last note.

Deciding to exclude gnostic text would be a big decision in and of itself. How would we know that we got that part right? How do we know today that we got it right if we think it was just a consensus decision?

Further, some estimate that there were as many as 250 different letters floating about to decide from, many of which were being relied on to various degrees by different Christians. Others estimate nearly 1300 pages of letters that could have been included or excluded. Regardless of the exact numbers, there were a lot of letters and it seems that the Bible could have been far different in volume, if not also content, given the choices.

I am not sure what 'close enough' means. 'Close enough' to what? 'Close enough' to what we have today? 'Close enough' to what this or that denomination believes? 'Close enough' to Protestant theology? What is the standard that is being used to think that this or that change in the canon would have been 'close enough'? What would it have been 'close enough' to? It seems that if I had been called to canonize Scripture I would not have even known how many letters to canonize, let alone which ones. Moreover, I am not sure that I could have decided with much confidence who even wrote what.

I do wonder, given liberal theology today, whether the consensus approach to canonizing the NT would produce the sort of result we currently have. Even at the time of Luther, Luther would have preferred not canonizing certain books. Why? One probable reason is that some went against, at least to some extent, his Sola Fide thinking. So if a 1000 Solifidians were across from a 1000non-Solifidians and trying to come to a consensus on the book of James, for example, how would the consensus, membership approach work out and how would we know if we got it right? And, assuming we could start with a core of letters that we agreed on, how would we make progress on all of the others and how would we know we were right in the end?

How would we know that the broad consensus was making reasonable choices? How broad would the consenus have to be? Who would decide who the members should be?

Say that society became increasingly liberalized and decided to re-canonize the list. Would that be reasonable given the change in membership? Could the canon differ from generation to generation or from culture to culture. Maybe one culture was more inclined towards gnosticism or mysticism than another. Would it be alright to allow that culture a different canon? After all, they might have a consensus within that culture. Further, when there are close calls on whether a text should be allowed or not within the broad consensus-let the members decide approach (if I am representing it correctly-forgive and correct me if not), who would decide if the choices were reasonable and well thought out. I might be leaning towards gnosticism that day because of a TV show I just watched and decide that the choice to eliminate this or that was not reasonable. But another person might disagree with me. In fact, millions of others might. Who would judge which list was reasonable if several groups came up with several different lists?

How do we know that a slow evolution towards baptist Protestantism is right? Should we allow any drift in any direction when it comes to doctrine? If Augustine and early bishops of the Church did not seem very Baptist at all, why should we go in that direction and think it is correct? Why not go in another direction?

I do not have the authority. That much is clear. If I get together with a million other Christians, I do not see that there is, in principle, any difference between that group's authority and my own authority. If we put a thousand dead cats in a room we will not have the equivalent of a living cat.

If Christ elected the bishops, sent them, gave them authority over such matters, promised to be with them always such that the gates of hell would not prevail against them, and gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter as leader, there is something special.

How do you decide what the membership is if it is going to be the final arbiter? Do you include JWs? Mormons? Muslims? Who do you exclude? Many people follow Christ in some way. Many people love Christ. And yet many have different ideas about Christ. Who shall be members? Who decides?

There have always been people who have disagreed with the Church's authority. But there are always people people who disagree with just about any item we might bring to the attention of others. Mere disagreement does not mean that these people were right. The fact that a man breaks off from an authority and can find groups ealier in history who did the same does not mean he is any more right than they were in doing so.

I do not think we have to choose between the members and the leadership when talking about the Church. It is not an either/or, but a both/and scenario, all part of the Body of Christ. The Bible tells us to yield to leaders of the Church and so there are to be leaders, and not just members. If Christ gave the Apostles special leadership authority over the members of the Church, and special protection, it is not unreasonable to think that this has not endured through apostolic succession. If I had the Apostles on one side of the room telling me x and the whole body of non-apostolic members on the other side and they disagreed on a matter of doctrine, I would follow the Apostles. Why? Because they were sent and they were given authority and protection that neither I nor the members on the other side of the room were given. A billion or two people without apostolic authority is never equivalent to any small number with it, just as a billion dead cats is never the same as a living one.

In Christ,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Good questions and discussion. Blessings to you as well.

Deciding to exclude gnostic text would be a big decision in and of itself. How would we know that we got that part right? How do we know today that we got it right if we think it was just a consensus decision?

The short answer is we don't we got it right. Here is the long answer. First off let me clarify there was never a consensus regarding the Gnostic texts, many of the texts in our bible today were less respected than works didn't make it. However, by the mid 3rd century it was becoming increasingly clear that Christianity had really jelled into two faiths:

1 - An institutional religion, the Catholic church
2 - A diverse family of related belief systems that was highly syncretic and theologically moving further away from Judaism and towards neo-platonism.

(there were some additional sects but those were the main two branches)

The gnostic texts are anti-authoritarian, suspicious of tradition, distrustful of authority, dislike for dogma and objective statements of faith, and pitted the individual against the institution. There was no disagreement about that. So in the end it came down to whether the church should be heavenly or an institution. The institutional side supported the institutional texts.

So it comes down to whether you desire an institution or a theological / philosophical movement (sort of like the new age movement today). There was a broad consensus within the institutional church, though books like the Gospel of John were considered borderline cases.

Further, some estimate that there were as many as 250 different letters floating about to decide from, many of which were being relied on to various degrees by different Christians. Others estimate nearly 1300 pages of letters that could have been included or excluded. Regardless of the exact numbers, there were a lot of letters and it seems that the Bible could have been far different in volume, if not also content, given the choices.

Here I would disagree. Once you have a volume of "scripture" that large it becomes unmanageable a hierarchy of core vs. non core needs to be established. What is in the core becomes "scripture" in the effective sense.

I am not sure what 'close enough' means. 'Close enough' to what? 'Close enough' to what we have today? 'Close enough' to what this or that denomination believes? 'Close enough' to Protestant theology?

Close enough to support something very like today's Protestant theology. If you remember this started with a discussion of using scripture to challenge the church and I'm arguing that one doesn't need the exact canon to support their claims.

I do wonder, given liberal theology today, whether the consensus approach to canonizing the NT would produce the sort of result we currently have.

Today's liberals? No. The pastorals would not make the cut, while Thomas I think would. For example the "One bible" gets rid of: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation) and includes Thomas.

Even at the time of Luther, Luther would have preferred not canonizing certain books. Why? One probable reason is that some went against, at least to some extent, his Sola Fide thinking. So if a 1000 Solifidians were across from a 1000non-Solifidians and trying to come to a consensus on the book of James, for example, how would the consensus, membership approach work out and how would we know if we got it right?

Well that is exactly what happened with Revelations. Large numbers of people felt it was the writings of a deranged psychopath and others an authoritative vision from the apostle John. In the end the church examined the empirical evidence fairly and a consensus emerged for inclusion.

And, assuming we could start with a core of letters that we agreed on, how would we make progress on all of the others

The same way human institutions make any other choices that require broad consensus. They discuss, they argue they evaluate....

and how would we know we were right in the end?

What do you mean by right?

(Got to go I'll do the 2nd half in about 6 hours.)

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I work tonight and have a short turn-around again tomorrow, having to return to work early tomorrow after working very late tonight, and so may not be able to respond to everything. With that said, it is an important discussion and I appreciate your comments.

We do not have to choose between an insitution and a philosophical/theological movement. We can have both. There is a theology and philosophy associated with the institution.

If I understand you correctly, you do not think that we have the right Bible. ?

Anytime there is an institution that people pay attention to there will be reactions to it, some of which will be entirely against, others of which will be similar to, but unwilling to go the full distance. That does not mean that being part of the institution is not what Christ wanted for us or that He did not establish one to go through history along with the different generations.

Perhaps the institutional side supported the institutional- encouraging texts because it knew that Christ wanted it that way. If I had been an Apostle and Christ told us to start an institution with a leadership and to lead the members, I would have started one and I would have rejected sources that opposed that thinking. Why? Because I would have known from Christ that such things were not His plan.

I am not arguing that every Protestant has to use Scripture to oppose the Church. Many do, however, and on the authority of the Church, tacitly.

I agree that some may not use the exact canon to disagree with the Church. In fact, Luther seemed to be wanting to throw out certain parts and mainly focus on other parts.

But even when many are not using the exact canon, they are using letters that have been canonized and many times tacitly relying on the authority of the Church with respect to the letters that they are using. That reliance is what I am targeting as a problem.

I might be able to imagine people opposing the Church in ways that do not rely on the authority of the Church, but most typical Protestants are not leaving the canon wide open and treating the letters they are reading as though they are not inspired, and then arguing from those letters against the Church. Most think the letters they are reading are inspired and use them against the Church that canonized them.

Scripture can be used to support Protestant theology, Catholic theology and theology that is both non-Protestant and non-Catholic. The fact that the official canon or something close to the official canon can be used this way does not mean that those using it this way are correct in their interpretation of Scripture, or in their using Scripture this way. Scripture itself seems to strongly suggest that people can read it, misunderstand it, fall into error with respect to it, etc.

Further, I am not sure that a consensus amongst people with authority is the same as a consensus amongst non-authoritative persons. If I put the Apostles together and they come to a consensus, that is one thing. If a non-apostolic group of a thousand members gets together across the room and comes to a consensus, that seems to be a different thing. Are they the same?

The position some are offering seems to equate the two. They think that there is no authority and so we are left to just decide by consensus, doing the best we can, but not ever knowing for sure if we are right in whatever we decide.

But if Christ gave authority and protection to the apostles and that authority and protection is granted to the line of apostolic succession, we have a different situation. There would be a divine element involved in that line, similar to how a divine element was involved in the authorship of the letters of the Bible. Having that element is quite significant.

But if we just have fallible human beings with no divine guidance or protection with a fallible collection of fallible or infallible books, we are in a far different situation.

With respect to what we mean by right, I had in mind that which was in conformity to what Christ taught, meant, intended, desired, etc., or, if you will, what is true.

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

I'll do my 2nd half of the reply to comment 34 and then hit 36 after this.

How would we know that the broad consensus was making reasonable choices? How broad would the consenus have to be?

Broad enough that those in disagreement can create a large successful splinter. Attitudes towards ecumenicalism and compromise vary greatly generation to generation. There may be times when 60% is enough others when 95% is needed. I'd say it is a judgement call based on the level of commitment of the people in opposition and whether the moderates intend to remain split or will rally around the consensus position.

Abortion is a good example in another direction. Most supreme court decisions which have 60/40 support at the time they are issued, are easily and quickly accepted and support rises to 95%+ quickly. That didn't happen with abortion, rather somewhere between 20-30% of the population has seen this ruling as being in grave error and has consistently and obstinately opposed it. Hence it is illegitimate, it needs the public consensus needed for a common law reading.

Sorry for the vague answer but this is a judgement call. But the question applies to any institution. What percentage of GM needs to agree on the mix of cars? Well a very high percentage like say 99% needs to at least be willing to go along or GM will not be successful.

Who would decide who the members should be?

They do. Self identified Christians.

Say that society became increasingly liberalized and decided to re-canonize the list. Would that be reasonable given the change in membership? Could the canon differ from generation to generation

Yes it would be reasonable. What is the alternative, a "bible" that the membership rejects?

The UBS example is a great example of this where it actually happened. In the 18th century many people lost faith in the received text (the text in common usage) as being the text of the apostles, and wanted to look at older manuscripts to get closer to the originals. Without going into excessive detail, over the next 150 years the issues were addressed and today we have a text and a commentary on that text which has a broad consensus as accurately reflecting the state of our knowledge. We also have a reasonable process. This system is in use from Mormons to Jehovah's witnesses to Protestant groups to Catholics and internationally. The only major group which has rejected this process is the Orthodox.

I don't see that as so bad.


or from culture to culture. Maybe one culture was more inclined towards gnosticism or mysticism than another. Would it be alright to allow that culture a different canon?

A canon is supposed to be universal, more of "what is true" and less of "what I like". But again if they reject the bible of the other culture then there are really 3 options:

1) The two cultures compromise.
2) One of the cultures has a bible they reject.
3) One of the cultures changes.

After all, they might have a consensus within that culture. Further, when there are close calls on whether a text should be allowed or not within the broad consensus-let the members decide approach (if I am representing it correctly-forgive and correct me if not), who would decide if the choices were reasonable and well thought out. I might be leaning towards gnosticism that day because of a TV show I just watched and decide that the choice to eliminate this or that was not reasonable. But another person might disagree with me. In fact, millions of others might. Who would judge which list was reasonable if several groups came up with several different lists?

The groups would have to negotiate and try and convince one another. This is how you really get good results because over time most people/groups are not going to be partisans but rather will fairly evaluate the evidence. Thus the best evidence will win.

How do we know that a slow evolution towards baptist Protestantism is right? Should we allow any drift in any direction when it comes to doctrine?

The we that is allowing the drift are the people drifting. There aren't two "we" here.

If Augustine and early bishops of the Church did not seem very Baptist at all, why should we go in that direction and think it is correct?

Because there are other writers earlier than Augustine who point in that direction.

Why not go in another direction?

Because that is the direction the evidence points in. That is the system that appears to be working. This is sort of like asking why not have a different periodic table of the elements. We have the table we have because that is what the investigation of the nature of matter has yielded.

I do not have the authority. That much is clear. If I get together with a million other Christians, I do not see that there is, in principle, any difference between that group's authority and my own authority.

Here is where we disagree. If you can get a million people to agree with you, you are saying something worthwhile. Not that it is necessarily correct, that a takes a billion, but something worth addressing.

If Christ elected the bishops, sent them, gave them authority over such matters, promised to be with them always such that the gates of hell would not prevail against them, and gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter as leader, there is something special.

Well yeah. But if Christ elected me and gave me perfect knowledge then anything I said would be something special. So what? Most evidence points to the fact that I nor they have this sort of direct connection. Reason, scripture and history all provide counter evidence to the claim that they have this direct connection, at least in the very strong sense you are claiming.

How do you decide what the membership is if it is going to be the final arbiter? Do you include JWs? Mormons?

If I am claiming a bible for all Christians then yes, if I am claiming a bible only for my denomination then no.

Muslims?

Muslims don't claim to be Christians. They assert they are part of another religion, hence no.

There have always been people who have disagreed with the Church's authority. But there are always people people who disagree with just about any item we might bring to the attention of others. Mere disagreement does not mean that these people were right. The fact that a man breaks off from an authority and can find groups ealier in history who did the same does not mean he is any more right than they were in doing so.

The question is whether the early people broke off from an existing authority or whether there was no early authority in the first place.

I do not think we have to choose between the members and the leadership when talking about the Church. It is not an either/or, but a both/and scenario, all part of the Body of Christ.

Good that is my opinion as well. Which is why I was rejecting speaking of "the church" in a way that excludes the membership.

The Bible tells us to yield to leaders of the Church

Which leaders? The bible talks about leaders that are chosen from among you, for example. Not a leadership which appoints itself and chooses from the membership. The bible talks about it being an essentially property of leadership that the leaders command respect of the membership.

I could keep going, but this might take as far afield. It is not obvious that the bible defends or even permits a self appointed leadership.

and so there are to be leaders, and not just members. If Christ gave the Apostles special leadership authority over the members of the Church, and special protection, it is not unreasonable to think that this has [not -- in original] endured through apostolic succession.

Actually it is. For one thing he never promises the kind of special protection asserted even to the apostles. And even if the apostles had it, the idea that it is transmittable runs contrary to the bible's whole notion of leadership.

Further the bible itself is very hostile to human leaders. God associates the appointment of a human King with a rejection of him, " 1Sam 8:7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king. 8:8 Just as they have done from the day that I brought them up from Egypt until this very day, they have rejected me and have served other gods. This is what they are also doing to you."

Good discussion Eric.

Blessing to you,

CD-Host said...

I work tonight and have a short turn-around again tomorrow, having to return to work early tomorrow after working very late tonight, and so may not be able to respond to everything. With that said, it is an important discussion and I appreciate your comments.

Respond when you can. If it is a few days that is fine. This blog will still be here.

If I understand you correctly, you do not think that we have the right Bible. ?

I didn't say that. The process that created the canon for the Catholic Church the first time was a reasonable one and the bible enjoys a broad consensus today. If I were the sole deciding factor might I have made different choices, sure, but I'm OK with how it turned out.

Perhaps the institutional side supported the institutional- encouraging texts because it knew that Christ wanted it that way.

The institutional side did believe that Christ wanted it that way.

I am not arguing that every Protestant has to use Scripture to oppose the Church. Many do, however, and on the authority of the Church, tacitly.

But as I've already discussed, the consensus for a bible very much like the one we have exists without any particular authority from the church. So there is no tacit usage of the church's authority.

I agree that some may not use the exact canon to disagree with the Church. In fact, Luther seemed to be wanting to throw out certain parts and mainly focus on other parts.

But even when many are not using the exact canon, they are using letters that have been canonized and many times tacitly relying on the authority of the Church with respect to the letters that they are using. That reliance is what I am targeting as a problem.


Right but you see from this discussion that there is no need for this authority. One can believe in Protestant invisible church, believe that the bible is pretty close to what the Catholic/Protestant faith would have picked irrespective of the authority.

I might be able to imagine people opposing the Church in ways that do not rely on the authority of the Church, but most typical Protestants are not leaving the canon wide open and treating the letters they are reading as though they are not inspired, and then arguing from those letters against the Church. Most think the letters they are reading are inspired and use them against the Church that canonized them.

And for a great number of them, against the church that authored them.

Scripture can be used to support Protestant theology, Catholic theology and theology that is both non-Protestant and non-Catholic. The fact that the official canon or something close to the official canon can be used this way does not mean that those using it this way are correct in their interpretation of Scripture, or in their using Scripture this way. Scripture itself seems to strongly suggest that people can read it, misunderstand it, fall into error with respect to it, etc.

I don't disagree at all. Perspicuity of scripture IMHO is patent nonsense that has been disproved. However Protestantism is moving towards a framework and technique of interpretation which is more dependent solely on the text. With time they might succeed

Further, I am not sure that a consensus amongst people with authority is the same as a consensus amongst non-authoritative persons. ...Are they the same?

I don't think there are intrinsically authoritative persons. I think the authority comes from the church and thus is a property of a person's relationship to the church not a property of the naked person.

The position some are offering seems to equate the two. They think that there is no authority and so we are left to just decide by consensus, doing the best we can, but not ever knowing for sure if we are right in whatever we decide.

That's a fair summary. However how is that difference from the periodic table of the elements. We have no knowledge outside of reason and experience and experiment to verify that knowledge. We might be entirely wrong.

But if Christ gave authority and protection to the apostles and that authority and protection is granted to the line of apostolic succession, we have a different situation. There would be a divine element involved in that line, similar to how a divine element was involved in the authorship of the letters of the Bible. Having that element is quite significant.

Why do you need apostolic succession for this process?

With respect to what we mean by right, I had in mind that which was in conformity to what Christ taught, meant, intended, desired, etc., or, if you will, what is true.

Then I'd say we determine what is true for Christ the same way we determine it for any other piece of knowledge. We have revelation, reason, experience and tradition to guide us and a series of difficult balancings where we slowly work through the details and make progress.

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I do not have much time here, but let me say just a bit in summary, less I misunderstand the position you are offering.

If I understand correctly, the position you are offering is one where a consensus of self-identified followers of Christ decide what the canon should be, what the interpretation of the canon should be, and what the theology asserted should be. Moreover, all of this can change from generation to generation and from culture to culture. That is ok with you. If self-identified followers of Christ become more liberalized, the Bible just changes with it, along with the interpretations and the systematic theology. In some way, you might even think that such flux is good. So long as it represents what the consensus thinks, it is ok, on this view. We do not need any authority, on your position. Authority was not given in the relevant sense, and there is no reason to think that such authority, if given, was transmittable. In fact, you think the Bible is against leadership authority of a certain kind, and that when it speaks of following leaders of the church it is referring to leaders that the members have appointed, not leaders that Christ has appointed. Moreover, you think that Christ did not appoint the leaders of the Catholic Church, but that they appointed themselves. You do not think that we have to rely, tacitly or otherwise on the authority of those who canonized Scripture to use the canon of Scripture as though it is inspired and authoritative for us. You think that the consensus of Christians at that time in history pretty much gave us the canon, regardless of what the Church officially did, and what the Church officially did was really just a reflection, for the most part, of what the Christian consensus was on the side of those who supported an institutional form of Christianity, which ultimately rejected the gnostic, anti-institutional way of following Christ, even though you think this may have been an error and that things are re-balancing now. I take all of this also to mean that you think the canon is open. It can change. It could be added to or subtracted from or modified in various other ways, so long as it fits with the consensus. Further, though fairly content with the canon the Catholic Church officially provided, there may have been error and some gnostic texts perhaps should have been included. Instead of some sort of movement through history as the issues came up whereby the Church, in some sense guided by the Holy Spirit, avoided this or that error, the Church actually did error, if not in the canon, then in the interpretation of Scripture. At times I get the sense that you think it is moving in the direction of Protestant truths now and that you think those are the truths of Scripture, with some sort of re-equilibration slowly in the works, moving towards the truth of the matter, which you think is represented best or most in something like a Baptist Protestantism.

I hope I have not misrepresented you in any way. Please pardon me if I have and feel free to further detail your position so that we can understand it and consider it.
Perhaps you should write some longer essays and make them publicly available so that they can be considered more completely. That would help us to avoid the difficulties of trying to sift through blog discussions which become quickly full of a great many issues and not always so easy to follow later.

Eric

CD-Host said...

Eric --

Very accurate summary of our discussion! Yes, fair summary. Almost nothing I'd disagree with. A few minor shades if we begin focusing on some aspect of this but yeah you put it well in your own words so you get what I'm saying.

So I guess I can consider this a success in terms of discussion. Thank you for listening. Its rare on the internet to have this kind of quality discussion and I appreciate it. Your link doesn't go anywhere do you have a blog?

Eric Telfer said...

Collin,

I appreciate the cordial discussion also.

I think some who conclude to the truth of the position you have represented for us do so because they think it follows from the principles of Protestantism. Others believe it on historical grounds. Others on some combination of the two.

Eric