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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Concerning 'sola scriptura'

This post and its comment thread is intended to allow for a discussion of the Protestant doctrine of 'sola scriptura', rather than hi-jacking a thread at Neo-neocon.

So, in this OP, I'll duplicate the pertinent parts of some comments from that linked thread.
Roy Nathanson
Just a point…

There is nowhere in the Bible (Old or New Testaments) that expressly proscribes abortion. The absolute forbidding of abortion is an extreme position, when looked at in historical terms.
R.C.
1. Protestants made up a solid majority of the population during the days when serious Christians made up much of the population. Consequently, the assumption called Sola Scriptura leaked into the popular culture: Non-Christians in the U.S. naturally assume that all the content of the Christian religion can be derived from Bible passages (which will state that content with sufficient clarity that the meaning won’t be misunderstood).
...
This is relevant because outside the Protestant world, Sola Scriptura does not exist as an operating premise; it’s considered a weird and self-contradictory 16th-century well-meaning-but-heretical innovation.
Something I find amusing about this particular comment is that R.C. goes on (which I haven't quoted) to contrast 'sola scriptura' ... with an approach which is totally in keeping with 'sola scriptura'.

Ilion:
Crazy me, but I also dream of a day when the bureaucrats of The One True Bureaucracy will stop instructing their flock in false teachings about 'sola scriptura' (especially) and the other Protestant 'solas'.

The fact of this false teaching is especially amusing when one understands that The One True Bureaucracy implicitly endorses 'sola scriptura': does not the the Roman denomination ultimately try to justify all its claims, no matter how questionable, by appeal, no matter how strained, to Scripture?

RC
(Warning: the following reply to Ilion is utterly uninteresting to anyone uninvolved in Protestant-Catholic disagreements. If that ain’t your cup o’ tea, skip it.)

@Ilion:

Thanks for your reply; and I think I kinda like your characterization “One True Bureaucracy.” It has a ring to it, and is (sadly) a fair characterization of one of the worst traits in one segment of the Roman clergy: Too many senior clergy come off more like bank branch-managers than like, say, Athanasius or Thomas Aquinas. They ain’t all like that; but too many are.

That said, I have to disagree with a three of assertions you’ve made (one implicitly):

Assertion #1: “[Catholic bishops] instructing their flock in false teachings about ‘sola scriptura‘ (especially) and the other Protestant ‘solas‘”:

I don’t think that’s accurate, because in my experience Catholic bishops don’t teach Catholics anything about Protestant beliefs, true or false. In fact only the best of them make much strenuous effort to teach Catholics anything detailed about Catholic beliefs. This goes hand-in-hand with my complaint that many of the bishops act more like careerist middle-managers. When it comes to faithful preaching of the Catholic faith, Protestant Billy Graham probably outdid 75% of the current American episcopate.

In response to that, I anticipate you might reply, “Okay, fine, if 75% of your bishops aren’t really teaching, perhaps it wasn’t they, but in my opinion someone has been teaching Catholics something false about ‘Sola Scriptura’, which leads to…

Assertion #2 (implied): “[Some Catholic teacher, somewhere] instructing [Catholics] in false teachings about ‘sola scriptura‘”:

If I have correctly anticipated that clarification, let me grant that, yes, some Catholic teachers have, on occasion, failed to distinguish between Sola Scriptura as held by, say, John Calvin, and the less-defensible “just my Bible and me” approach which makes no reference whatsoever to patristics or liturgical tradition. (One wag used the term “Solo” Scriptura for this latter form.)

My Southern Baptist upbringing makes me sensitive to the distinction, so I’m always quick to point it out whenever I find my Catholic friends conflating the two. One ought not to indulge in straw-manning one’s interlocutors even if they’re atheists; still less if they’re brothers-in-Christ.

Fortunately, I find that the recent (last 30 years) influx of Protestant clergy, lay apologists, missionaries, seminary professors, etc., becoming Catholic has led to a wider understanding. When Catholics have Sola Scriptura described to them these days, it’s by folks like David Anders, Bryan Cross, Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples, and Scott Hahn. In this way, they get a more-nuanced description than they would if some “cradle” Catholic tried to do it.

Assertion #3: “The One True Bureaucracy implicity endorses ‘sola scriptura‘: does not the the Roman denomination ultimately try to justify all its claims, no matter how questionable, by appeal, no matter how strained, to Scripture?”

Nope. Not in the way you mean.

Catholic apologists argue by the following pattern:
– We’re being told that XYZ is integral to the theological/moral/liturgical content delivered by Christ to the apostles, and by the apostles to their earliest disciples, and they to their disciples, down to the present. But is that accurate?
– Ignore, for the moment, the claim of “divine inspiration” or “inerrancy” of these texts called “the Bible,” and view them (or even just the least-controversial parts of them) as historical witnesses to what the early Christians did, said, and thought. Do they support XYZ ambiguously, or unambiguously?
IF unambiguously, then skip down to the step marked “CHURCH”
IF ambiguously, continue…
– We are unsure whether XYZ was supported by Those Historical Texts or not, because the relevant passages are ambiguous: They can be interpreted in various ways, not all of which support XYZ. How can we exclude some of these competing interpretations?
IF an interpretation is anachronistic in the context of a 1st-century Jewish audience, exclude it (the earlier traditions in the Mishnah and the Dead Sea Scrolls are helpful to understand the assumptions of the initial hearers/readers);
IF an interpretation utterly contradicts the consensus views of the early Christians whom the apostles installed in positions of early Church leadership (a.k.a. the “Early Church Fathers”, exclude it;
IF an interpretation means that true Christianity didn’t exist anywhere in the world for multiple centuries at in the history of Christianity, such that Christ’s promises were thereby proven false and His claim to be even a true prophet (let alone God) were also proven false, exclude it. (After all, the guy rose from the dead, and normal folk don’t do that.)
– What remains, then, among the interpretations still open to us?

Catholic apologists argue that the remaining interpretations include no known forms of Protestant ecclesiology and sacramentology. It’s pretty much down to hierarchical and sacerdotal churches (Catholic, the various Orthodoxes) who claim judicial binding and loosing authority with divine sanction (“He who hears y’all hears Me, he who rejects y’all rejects Me” / “Whatsoever you/y’all bind on earth is bound in Heaven and whatsoever you/y’all loose on earth is loosed in Heaven”).

– “CHURCH”: If you have a church with an authoritative and divinely-sanctioned judicial authority on matters of faith and morals (parallel to the system of judges, tribal overseers, and “seat of Moses” seen during the Exodus) then naturally that Church will do the following:
(a.) preserve (by judicial affirmation) those traditions of faith/morals which come from the apostles;
(b.) allow (by judicial permission) those traditions of men which don’t nullify the word of God, but can contribute beneficially to the lives of the faithful (e.g. fasting on certain days, having Wednesday Night church suppers);
(c.) reject (by judicial condemnation) those traditions of faith/morals which do nullify the word of God (i.e. contradict those preserved by (a.)).

Through that process, the content of the Christian religion (or “Apostolic Deposit of Faith”) can remain objectively knowable (and thus potentially obey-able) in every century from the Ascension to the Second Advent. But which traditions were approved by this process?

– The traditions judicially approved by the Church include:
(d.) apostolic origin (sometimes indirect through scribes or secretaries) of the 27 New Testament books;
(e.) apostolic use of the Septuagint Old Testament canon (including Wisdom, Baruch, Sirach, Judith, Tobid, 1&2 Maccabees, and the disputed parts of Daniel);
(f.) a tradition giving certain books the supreme honor of being read-from aloud from them in the Liturgy of the Word (the first half of the Divine Liturgy, the second half being the Liturgy of the Eucharist);
(g.) a tradition of limiting that highest-honor to only books of apostolic origin or use;
(h.) a tradition of applying the phrase “God-breathed” in Paul to all those highest-honor books, not just the Septuagint Old Testament (which is what Paul was referencing when he wrote that phrase to Timothy);
(i.) a tradition of interpreting “God-breathed” to logically imply “inerrant, given a correct interpretation of the authors’ intended meaning.”

So, by means of that judicial approval, Catholics get a divinely-inspired inerrant collection of 46 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books, to which they grant the supreme honor of being read aloud from at Mass.

But as you see, this practice required the Church first to exist, and then to have divinely-protected judicial decisions (on such matters), to be able to arrive at confidence about the content of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith.

And the Table of Contents of the Bible (the “canon”) is a derivative work of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith, arising from the need to know which books should be granted the supreme honor of being ritually read from in the Liturgy.

Now, Ilion, I don’t know how you wish to define the term “Sola Scriptura,” but I don’t know of any popular definition of that term that could possibly be implicitly endorsed by the Catholic understanding.

Peace,

R.C.


Here is the response I have composed to the above --

R.C.: "... and I think I kinda like your characterization “One True Bureaucracy.” It has a ring to it, and is (sadly) a fair characterization of one of the worst traits in one segment of the Roman clergy: Too many senior clergy come off more like bank branch-managers than like, say, Athanasius or Thomas Aquinas. They ain’t all like that; but too many are."

Thank you; and that is one of the points of the quip.

R.C.: "[Objection #1] .. .In response to that, I anticipate you might reply, “... someone has been teaching Catholics something false about ‘Sola Scriptura’,"

Your objection is fair; and your anticipation of my response is correct.

I interact with a lot of intelligent-and-educated Catholics on the internet. In my experience, perhaps in large part due to where and with whom I interact on the internet, it's almost always a Catholic who broaches this sort of subject (that is, related to our insoluable disagreements), and it almost always involves 'sola scriptura' ... and what those Catholic persons say about 'sola scriptura' is always a gross misrepresentaton.

R.C.: "(One wag used the term “Solo” Scriptura for this latter form.)"

I like that; I'll try to add that to my cache.

R.C.: "... Nope. Not in the way you mean."

And yet, you lay out a series of steps for judging whether "XYZ is [indeed] integral to the theological/moral/liturgical content delivered by Christ" which is, just as I said, "... ultimately [to] try to justify all its claims ... by appeal ... to Scripture."

R.C.: "But as you see, this practice required the Church first to exist, and then to have divinely-protected judicial decisions (on such matters), to be able to arrive at confidence about the content of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith.

And the Table of Contents of the Bible (the “canon”) is a
derivative work of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith, ..."

And there is seen another reason for the phrase, 'The One True Bureaucracy': the Catholic hierarchy is a late Imperial bureaucracy ... which outlived its Empire, and still has not given up on its imperial (and imperialistic) pretentions.

AND, in what you have written there is seen why 'sola scriptura' is so critical; for Catholicism does, indeed, set its bureaucracy above Scripture.

R.C.: "Now, Ilion, I don’t know how you wish to define the term “Sola Scriptura,” but I don’t know of any popular definition of that term ..."

What? Suddenly we're evaluating 'sola scriptura' by popular understandings ... and mis-understandings, a la "solo scriptura"?

Here is a treatment of 'sola scriptura' from 'the Gospel Coalition':

"Firstly, sola scriptura meant Scripture was the supreme authority over the church. It did not mean Scripture was the only authority. ..."

See, this is the very point of contention. On the one hand, the bureaucrats of 'The One True Bureaucracy' say, "*We* are the supreme authority over the souls of all men, for we (and we alone) speak in God's Name." And on the other hand, we Protestants say, "Well, no, you're not. Rather, Scripture is the supreme authority for evaluating all allegations of speaking in God's Name."

And, of course, 'sola scriptura' does have the inescapable consequence, much lamented by those who wish power over the souls of others, of individual liberty-of-conscience and even "Solo Scriptura" error.

(Shoot! Even that font of knowledge and wisdom, the Wickedpedia, does a fair job of explaining 'sola scriptura'.)

R.C.: "... that could possibly be implicitly endorsed by the Catholic understanding."

Oh, it's so much worse that I said initially. When necessary, The One True Bureaucracy will go straight-up hard-core Calvinist -- I was shocked (and amused) when I read the reasoning (at say, the Catholic Encyclopedia) to justify the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

14 comments:

R.C. said...

Ilion,

Thanks for the invite to discuss here.

I'd like to make sure I understand precisely why you claim that Catholics (I don't say "Roman" because that leaves out the Byzantine, Chaldean, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankaran, Melkite, Ethiopian, Ukranian, etc., Catholics, none of whom are in the Roman particular church) are relying on Sola Scriptura whenever they argue from Scripture for the truth of a Catholic dogma.

Actually, let's back up for a sec. Are you in fact claiming that Catholics are relying on Sola Scriptura whenever they argue from Scripture for the truth of a Catholic dogma?

If so, then it seems to me that you're saying that...
IF a person argues for the truth of Proposition X; and,
IF that person draws even one premise in his argument from texts of Scripture; and,
IF that person also makes the claim that the premise drawn from Scripture can be reliably known to be true because the entire content of of Scripture is inerrant;
THEN he is implicitly committed to Sola Scriptura.

Is that your position?

Ilíon said...

"Ultimately" isn't even on the same axis as "some".

R.C. said...

I beg your pardon; I just genuinely don't understand your response.

The clarification I asked for isn't intended to put words in your mouth. It's entirely sincere and in good faith: I want to understand what it is you think commits me to a Sola Scriptura position. (So, I proposed what I thought you might be saying. But if that's not right, please, feel free to clarify.)

It seems you think I'm committed to that position solely because I make use of the texts of the 27-book New Testament canon in two ways:
(a.) In One Context, I use them as a set of human-level reliable historical sources documenting at least some of what the first Christians considered to be the content of their religion; and,
(b.) In Another Context, I use them as a set of supernaturally inerrant historical sources documenting at least some of what the first Christians considered to be the content of their religion.

But I don't see the connection between that, and the position, "Scripture is the supreme authority for evaluating all allegations of speaking in God's Name."

So, can you clarify it for me?

R.C. said...

BTW, I should probably add: There are other things you said, in your reply to my post, which I'd like to discuss further. I'm not ignoring them; but I felt it better to discuss one thing at a time, rather than everything all at once. So, I want to eventually get around to, e.g., your use of the adjective "imperial" and my qualified agreement with it.

But: First things first. Help me understand just what it is, in my use of Scripture thus far, that ultimately commits me to a Sola Scriptura position?

Ilíon said...

" I'm not ignoring them; but I felt it better to discuss one thing at a time, rather than everything all at once"

Of course. It's rather hard to discuss anything while jumping all around to other things.

First, let me apologize for being lazy. You may have noticed that I haven't posted a response to Neo concerning her response/characterization of my reaction to Dnaxy's minimization of abortion.

"But: First things first. Help me understand just what it is, in my use of Scripture thus far, that ultimately commits me to a Sola Scriptura position?"

I didn't say, nor imply, that anything commits you to 'sola scriptura'. I said that the Roman denomination's attacks on the doctrine (whether from the official consumers-of-the-offerings or from the payers-of-the-offerings) are
1) based on a false presentation of the doctrine;
2) amusing (as in, absurd), since (as I claim) "the Roman denomination ultimately tr[ies] to justify all its claims ... by appeal ... to Scripture"

Quoting again from the 'Gospel Coalition' treatment of 'sola scriptura' --
"Firstly, sola scriptura meant Scripture was the supreme authority over the church. It did not mean Scripture was the only authority. ..."

Or, as I characterized the Protestant position with respect to the claims of the Roman bureaucracy that *it* (and it alone) is authorized to speak in God's name ... and thus, that it alone is authorized to evaluate claims to speak in God's name -- "Well, no, you're not. Rather, Scripture is the supreme authority for evaluating all allegations of speaking in God's Name."

Ilíon said...

"Help me understand just what it is, in my use of Scripture thus far, that ultimately commits me to a Sola Scriptura position?"

I don't see that anything commits you to 'sola scriptura' -- you may be as irrational (I'll get to that in another post) as you wish.

If you're trying to convince a God-denier to admit that God is -- not even that Christ is God, but merely that we are created by the Creator -- is it of any use at all to quote any doctrine or ruling of the Roman bureaucracy? Is it of any use at all to quote Scripture? Of course not; for the God-denier does not recognize either as in any way authoritative.

If you're trying to convince a Protestant (or an Orthodox) that some specific doctrine of the Roman denomination is the correct Christian doctrine, is it of any use at all to quote any (other) doctrine or ruling of the Roman bureaucracy? Of course not, for the Protestant (or Orthodox) does not recognize either the pronouncements or the pronouncers as ultimately authoritative.

If you're trying to convince another Catholic that some interpretation of some specific doctrine or ruling of the Roman bureaucracy is the correct Catholic doctrine, is it of any use at all to quote some (other) doctrine or ruling of the Roman bureaucracy? Maybe, maybe not. Even if that strategy works in that instance, if you were to dig into it, you will see that the bureaucrats *claim* to be basing their ruling on Scripture. Moreover, if your Catholic opponent points to Scripture as justifying his belief that that interpretation is incorrect, well, then what? Are you going to deny that Scripture is authoritative? Are you going to point to yet another pronouncement of the bureaucracy to show that his understanding of that particular scripture is incorrect? And when he points to Scripture to counter that move, then what?

If some other Catholic, say Mark Shea, is trying to convince *you* that the current position of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops with respect to foreign immigration into the US is the correct (and only) Christian position, what are you going to do? Ultimately, are you not going to appeal to Scripture to show that the USCCB's own appeal to Scripture is a misrepresentation of Scripture?

And how dare you dispute the authority of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to decree that the morally proper, and indeed the only Christian, response to waves of foreigners seeking to move into our country is to throw open the borders and to tax the citizens to support those foreigners.

R.C. said...

Ilion:

Thanks for your reply. A lot to get to, there! I'll do my best to be methodical.

I am, as you put it, one of the persons paying tithes (in a Catholic parish). Inasmuch as I am a Catholic, if there is something in Catholicism which implicitly requires Sola Scriptura, then either (a.) I am mistaken about the content of Catholicism; or, (b.) I am implicitly committed to Sola Scriptura. So that's why I asked the question in the form, "Just what is it that implicitly commits me to Sola Scriptura?" But perhaps it would have been better had I phrased it, "Just what is it that implicitly commits Catholics -- and let us presume we're talking about Catholics who believe Catholicism, not, uh, Nancy Pelosi or James Martin or similar aberrations -- to Sola Scriptura?"

Now as to the claim that "[the Catholic Church] ultimately tr[ies] to justify all its claims ... by appeal ... to Scripture," it's important to note that Jesus was in the habit of arguing differently with the Pharisees than he did with the Sadducees. With the Sadducees, who only regarded the Pentateuch as having religious authority, Jesus argued from the Pentateuch alone. With the Pharisees, who acknowledged the broader Tanakh (Moses, but also the Neviim and the Ketuvim) as authoritative (while differing amongst themselves about certain books or passages; e.g. Esther, Daniel, Maccabees, Judith, Jubilees, Enoch, etc.) Jesus argued from the prophets and the writings.

In the same way, any Catholic arguing in the English language is bound to assume that he is arguing with the typical Anglosphere non-Catholic Christian; i.e., a Protestant. That Catholic will naturally appeal to Scripture and not to Church councils, not because the Catholic denies the authority of the councils or acknowledges Scripture as having any authority distinctive from that of the Church, but merely because he is arguing from within the Protestant's own premises. He will likely skip arguing from Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, etc., not because he himself denies what the Church says about the authority of those books, but only because the Protestant doesn't acknowledge those.

Since your examples of arguing with a "God-denier" or an Orthodox are making essentially the same point, I imagine you won't dispute any of that. But have you noticed the implication? It means that how Catholics argue among themselves will differ substantially with how they argue with you. I find no appeal to Sola Scriptura in intra-Catholic debate. But I can well believe that, in arguing with you, a Catholic will sound very Scripture-heavy.

I think, therefore, that in trying to evaluate whether Catholicism as such is implicitly committed to Sola Scriptura, one has to largely prescind from examples involving debates with Protestants. One must ask, "How do Catholics debate with Catholics?"

About that, I can speak confidently: Catholics argue with other Catholics on the basis of councils, on the basis of papal bulls, on the basis of patristic writings, on the basis of "the saints and doctors"...and, yes, Catholics will sometimes reference Scripture when debating other Catholics.

But does that use of Scripture-references (mixed in amongst the other kinds) implicitly commit Catholics to Sola Scriptura? I don't think it does, because of the way Scripture is used. It is both similar to, and different from, the way a Protestant might make the same point.

This post is already getting long, so I'll try to provide an example of that, in my next.

R.C. said...

...continuing from my last...

Before I offer an example of how Catholics might include Scripture-citations in debates amongst themselves, I'd like to dispense with a couple of small items:

Mark Shea can certainly argue whatever he wishes (as I may). And I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy. But Mark is, either habitually or congenitally, a cliché of a red-bearded man: He gets in a rage about things and loses self-restraint, and mostly doubles-down even after he should have had enough time to cool off. I'm sure he's trying to be faithful most of the time. And sometimes a retort from him has made me subject a position I held to re-evaluation. But I don't think even Mark would hold himself out as a paragon of sober-minded analysis of Catholic thought. He's more like a modern Jerome, with all of the "crotchety" but less of the "scholar."

And let's don't get the wrong idea about the USCCB, or any other "bishops conference." They have no authority in canon law, and little precedent in Church history. It is only individual bishops in union with the patriarch of a particular church who have authority, in their dioceses, in that particular church. That's why a lot of Catholics wish that the USCCB would be abolished or at least be forbidden to issue pointless press-releases; it tends to confuse non-Catholics (and a lot of uninformed Catholics) into thinking that there's some additional layer of Magisterial authority there. An individual bishop surely has authority in his diocese just as a U.S. state governor has authority in his state. But a committee-gathering of U.S. bishops has the same kind of authority over U.S. Catholics that a pancakes-and-mimosas breakfast of state governors has over U.S. citizens.

The USCCB is, however, always a useful source of quotes when a left-wing media organ wishes to confuse the public about the content of Catholicism. It's a bit like the National Council of Churches, or the "seminaries" at Harvard and Yale, in that way.

...returning now to the larger topic...

R.C. said...

...continuing...

Ilion, I said I'd provide you with an example of how Catholics, arguing amongst themselves, might reference Scripture. Here's what I came up with:

If some (baptized but unorthodox) Catholic were to try to hold that Jesus never experienced human emotion, other Catholics would doubtless raise John 11:35 ("Jesus wept") in reply.

But they wouldn't necessarily expect the heretic to immediately say, "Oh, well, I guess I was wrong, then." More likely, the heretic will reply with one of the following:
(a.) "True, but there are no such things as inspired-inerrant texts, so the mere fact that a Bible-verse contradicts my view is no reason to change that view: It might be that I'm right and John is wrong";
(b.) True, it that doesn't matter because John's gospel isn't really written by John but by some Johannine community inspired by John, some years after John's death, and consists in various fanciful reflections on the person of Jesus which we don't have to take too seriously;
(c.) True, but the verse doesn't really mean what you think, it actually means [something other than "Jesus wept"];
(d.) True, but that's because Jesus, while not experiencing any actual emotion, gave the outer illusion of weeping to express to his disciples a love of humanity and a hatred of death, in a beautiful act of divine condescension;
...et cetera. I don't have to provide too many examples because I'm sure you're familiar with the way that theological liberals talk, and can easily imagine other kinds of blather they might offer.

Now when the (non-heretic) Catholic hears these arguments from his heretic brother, how will he respond? He will not quite respond as a Protestant would. He will instead say:
Response to (a.) and (b.): "The Church has taught, definitively, in her Ordinary Magisterium, that there are inspired-inerrant texts, that John's gospel is one of them; that John's gospel was really written by John, and that the meanings intended to be conveyed therein (both by John and by the Holy Spirit) are true, such that to arrive at correct interpretations of them just is to arrive at the historical truth of the matter. Consequently, if you hold either (a.) or (b.), you might be canonically a baptized Catholic, but you are denying Catholicism."
Response to (c.) and (d.): "The saints and doctors, and especially the Early Church Fathers, have unanimously interpreted the verse in question to refer to normal human weeping prompted by genuine human emotion, and have indeed argued from this verse and others for the true humanity (in each and every power proper to humanity, including emotion) of Christ against the gnostic heretics; e.g. the Docetists. And these arguments have resulted in definitions and dogmas from Ecumenical Councils ratified by the Petrine Successor, the Al Bayith, who has authority from Christ to bind what others loose and loose what others bind (but what he opens, none shall shut, and what he shuts, none shall open. Consequently, if you hold (c.) or (d.) you are denying Catholicism."


...continuing in my next...

R.C. said...

...continuing...

In my prior post, I gave an example of what might happen if a Catholic held some heretical view, in relation to which a passage in Scripture seemed a pertinent retort. Please note that, while the Scripture passage might be cited initially to push back against a heretical view, this in-and-of-itself is insufficient without also first establishing such things as:
1. the canonicity/authorship of the book of Scripture being cited;
2. the doctrine of inspiration-inerrancy under which the book is deemed a reliable witness to truth; and,
3. that the interpretation being given to the passage is correct;
...and that the argument a Catholic gives for each of these might start off with such arguments as "your interpretation is wack; here's the lexicographical evidence why" or "that book is one of the most-well-attested settled parts of the canon; here's the patristic evidence thereof," but it doesn't stop there. The Catholic doesn't stop until he says, "By virtue of the following exercises of the Church's Magisterial authority, we can see that your view isn't Catholicism."

Now, to a Protestant, to be told "your view isn't Catholicism" is without significance. He already knows his view isn't Catholicism. From his perspective, there is only one worthwhile thing about such a declaration; namely, that it is an accurate label. Accurate labels are good; they constitute "truth in advertising."

But for the Catholic, the label "not Catholicism" is much more important, because he accepts -- on the basis of the historical record of the apostolic age and the pre-canonization patristic age -- the Catholic Doctrine of the Church.

The Catholic Doctrine of the Church says that Old Testament typology really matters and really tells us what Yeshua ha Meschiach, the new Solomon, the new Issac, the new Moses, the new Joshua, the new Elisha, was doing when He established Episcopoi and Presbyteroi over His ecclesia, His kahol.

He, both Son of David and Son of God, was making the restored Kingdom (House/Family/Dynasty) of David into the Kingdom (House/Family/Dynasty) of God. As High Priest over a priestly nation, He would have assistant priests and an Al Bayith (in the priestly role thereof). As the King/Emperor over God's Empire, He would have stewards and a chief steward (again, the Al Bayith, but this time in the stewardly context). As Prophet and Judge of the Law over the People of God, He is the final judge, but establishes a human judge sitting "on Moses' seat", presiding over 12 tribal overseers/patriarchs and the 72 lesser judges who handle the easier cases.

Consequently when Jesus sets Simon bar Jona as Kepha (or "Cephas"), substituting him for the corrupt Sanhedrin's "Caiphas," giving him the regalia of the Al Bayith (the "keys of the kingdom") and the promise that "whatsoever you [singular] bind/loose on earth is bound/loosed by God" (for that is what the circumlocution "Heaven" meant in that culture), and later see the other apostles (but without the "keys") also made stewards with binding authority ("what y'all [plural] bind on earth...") we see the Jewish Son of David re-instituting the Davidic stewards under the Davidic monarchy.

We see that, purely on a historical basis, even if the miracle stories are all false, or the rest of the text rife with errors. Thus far, we do not yet have any conception of "inerrancy" or "divine inspiration"; we're just asking, "what does history seem to tell us?"

...continued...

R.C. said...

...continued...

The argument thus far:
- There's this guy named Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew;
- Historical sources confirm that He claimed to be God;
- Historical sources help us understand the culture in which He said that, and thus what He meant by it;
- Historical sources confirm that He established a Messianic Community which He described as His Body, His Bride, His Family, His Tribe, His Nation, and His Kingdom;
- Historical sources help us understand what, culturally, He must have meant by all that, and how He must have intended the authority-structure to have functioned;
- Historical sources confirm He rose from the dead; thus verifying His claim to deity;
- His deity guarantees the functioning of the authorities He established and His promise of divine assistance/sanction for those authorities' decisions;
- Those authorities picked out (from amongst the previously-mentioned historical sources) some texts which are "orthodox and useful for devotional purposes, but not of the highest honor" and other texts which are "orthodox and of the highest honor, being memoirs of the apostles themselves, or their close associates";
- Those authorities selected also texts from the pre-Christian kahol as being of high honor;
- Those authorities confined 46 pre-Christian and 27 Christian texts to be read ritually in the Liturgy, on account of their "high honor";
...and thus was the canon of the Bible authoritatively set out, in the period 372-400 A.D., by the Bishops of the Catholic Church, acting within their divinely-guaranteed authority as episkopoi (the Septuagintal term for the tribal leaders in the Exodus), binding and loosing the Liturgical disciplines of the Church.

While that canon was awaiting final standardization, something simultaneous was happening: The Church, both in the persons of the apostles and later on in the persons of the bishops, were issuing rulings on matters of faith and morals, binding and loosing by decree, and excommunicating certain persons from the Church (or readmitting the repentant). There is, in their writing and behavior, ample evidence that they held Catholic views of authority, sacramental theology, soteriology, etc.

It is to this ongoing, continuous practice of the Catholic Church that a Catholic refers, in saying "such-and-such belief is not Catholic." He is assuming that someone who wishes to be part of the Church founded by Jesus will want to be under the authority that Jesus established in His Church, which was already operating before the canon was set, and of which the canon itself is an artifact.

When, therefore, a Catholic cites Scripture to another Catholic, he is saying, implicitly, "Of course you can deny Scripture; but by doing that you're denying a decision made by the Magisterium. By doing that, you're implying that the Church can teach error for a thousand-plus years, ratified by the Al-Bayith, whose binding none other may loose. By doing THAT, you're denying that Jesus keeps his promises. By doing THAT, you're denying that Jesus is God. By doing THAT, you give up any justification for having any opinion whatsoever on the content of the Christian faith."

And neither the Gospel Coalition definition of Sola Scriptura, nor any other definition I'm aware of (good or bad) is implied by such a usage of Scripture.

(So far as I can see. But feel free to show me where you feel I have let Sola Scriptura sneak in.)

R.C. said...

Ilion,

I do think it's time I let you get a word in edgewise. But it looks to me that there's one more item I should tidy up, briefly, first:

In my last item, I probably should have ended, "Feel free to show me where Catholicism can't help but let Sola Scriptura sneak in." For of course I am defending, so far as I'm aware, the Catholic view, not something peculiar to me. And that view...,

1. Does not hold that anyone, even in principle, can confidently know what Scripture is, what its level of authority is, whether it is inerrant, what type of inerrancy it has, what books belong to it, who wrote those books, or how they were understood by their first hearers, without recourse to authoritative rulings from a divinely-instituted authority-structure in the Church. As St. Augustine wrote (during the same years when the New Testament canon was being formalized), "I would not have known what Scripture was, if the Church had not told me."

2. Does not start off presupposing the Table-of-Contents, or a particular doctrine of inerrancy, but only with an Apostolic Tradition which includes but is not limited to the texts we today call "Scripture"...and, until the 300's, that Tradition was rather flexible about Revelation, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2nd Peter, 2nd and 3rd John, Philemon, 1 Clement, The Shepherd (by Hermas), the Didache, the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, etc. All these were thought orthodox and were always approved for devotional reading, but in the end some of them were deemed fit for reading at Mass, and others weren't. Those in the first category are "the New Testament canon"; which in the language of the Early Christians means: "The books that revolve around the Eucharistic sacrifice," whereas the latter group to this day are approved for devotional purposes and as historical witnesses under the heading "The Apostolic Fathers."

3. Starts off holding that the phrase "Word of God" (when referencing the gospel, rather than referencing Christ Himself as the Logos) referring to both that which was spoken and done as well as that which was written in the ministry of the apostles and their earliest successors. The Catholic Church therefore holds to "The Word of God Alone," but not solely to "that subset of the Word of God that happened to be written down by, or at the direction of, an apostle before he died."

In reply to this, it seems likely you'll either...
(a.) Say that I am once again using the wrong definition of Sola Scriptura; or,
(b.) Admit that Catholicism doesn't require Sola Scriptura but avoids it by collapsing to irrationality.

I'm looking forward to replying to either one. (I have replies now but it's time I let you respond.)

Your turn, sir!

Ilíon said...

[please be patient]

Ilíon said...

[recently, when I get home from work, all I do is crawl into bed]