Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sola Scriptura Debate Rebuttals Posted

My on-going debate with Mr. Bellisario over Sola Scriptura has progressed, and now his rebuttal has been posted to the debate blog (link). There was some delay in the process because of email troubles (per an email I received from him today, I had missed 2(!) emails that had previously sent me, meanwhile for the last week I've been wondering why I hadn't heard anything from him). I wonder how many emails from other folks I have missed!!

If you want to see the progress of the debate, filtering out the other debates on the site, this link (link) should give you only the posts relating to the Sola Scriptura Debate with Mr. Bellisario (and, of course, the debate is also available on his website).




GeneMBridges said...

I skimmed MB's latest response.

Wow, it's rather full of basic errors.

He mistakes ability and authority when calling on the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. He assumes, without a scintilla of supporting argument that the reason Philip was sent to the Eunuch to interpret Isaiah was because of Philip's authority.

A. Where was the one true Roman Catholic Church then? Rome's authority depends on that, among other things. No Rome, no Church. Why isn't MB part of the one true Jerusalem Catholic Church?

B. Philip was able to interpret Scripture because he understood it. Why? Because he had authority or because he had the ability?

C. Has Rome infallibly exegeted this text? No. So MB is only exercising his private opinion.

He also doesn't seem to understand the Protestant argument for SS.

a. Positively we argue that SS is the true rule of faith.

b. Negatively, we argue that it's on epistemic par with the EO or RCC rule of faith - not that's it's superior.

He says that the canon can't be demonstrated from Scripture. That's irrelevant. We don't need a list from Scripture, because while Scripture is silent on the content of the canon itself, we don't claim that we need an infallible guide to determine it. We can certainly look to tradition. We don't claim the need for an infallible list. So MB is misrepresenting our rule of faith, and he's imposing his rule of faith on ours then castigating us for not measuring up - that's mirror-reading. Why do we require an infallible determiner of the canon in order to know the canon? How did the Jews or the Church prior to Trent muddle along?

He can appeal to Rome being that guide - but that's question begging. Where's his infallible warrant for believing Rome and not Constantinople? MB is in a vicious regress, not a virtuous regress. Turretin had something to say about vicious and virtuous circularity.

GeneMBridges said...

Another problem I noticed with MB's argument that's related to the notion that the canon can't be known apart from the determination of "the Church" is the nebulous notion of "the Church" as the determiner of its content.

Watch his argument carefully:

Few things the “Confession” proclaims can be found in Sacred Scripture.

Like what?

It claims the Church is not needed to give us the canon of the Scriptures.

Is that what it claims? No

It actually claims:

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

So, the WCF is making a claim about the AUTHORITY of Scripture, not the knowability of the canon. Scripture's authority is not dependent upon the Church, according to the WCF. Rather, the Church's authority is dependent upon Scripture. This is the real problem MB has.

It gives us a Biblical Canon which is not given to us by the Scriptures themselves.

This argument, if true, cuts both ways. Where does Scripture invest "the Church" with the authority to determine the contents of the canon?

Mere men put the “Confession” together trying to promulgate what they determined to be the Canon, not God.

So God, who inspired Scripture Himself, did not determine the canon Himself? This is ecclesiolatry.

As far as I know God has not given TF a list of the Canon.

As far as I know, God has not given MB a list of the canon.

Unless he or those who wrote this highly esteemed “Confession” can prove that God told them what the Canon is, then I nor anyone else has any reason to believe them.

Unless MB or those who wrote Trent can prove God told them what the Canon is, then I, nor anyone else has any reason to believe him.

The universal Church guided by the Holy Spirit has determined the Canon as well as the full Revelation of God

Now the bait and switch. Rome is now = "the universal Church guided by the Holy Spirit." MB is merely begging the question. He's also only moved back the question by one step. How does he know Rome is the one true Church?

Steve, for one, has already answered this objection:

“Fourth, sola scriptura is self-referentially inconsistent also because the Bible contains no inspired index of its own contents and cannot even be identified as a Revelation except on extrabiblical grounds of tradition, in violation of sola scriptura.”

This is either simplistic or tendentious:

i) True, the Bible lacks a formal index. But the Bible has an informal index in the form of intertextuality. The Bible is a highly cross-referential work.

ii) The Bible also falls into various units, as a concentric subset of larger units, viz.



1 Corinthians>1-2 Corinthians>Pauline Epistles

iii) In addition, there are the individual claims of individual books. One doesn’t need a collective claim to establish a collection if one can establish the collection distributively, one book at a time.

iv) To say that we cannot identify the Bible, or individual books thereof, as divine revelation apart from tradition is simply question-begging.

v) It also invites an infinite regress. How do we identify authentic tradition?

We're left with MB's question begging appeal to the indefectibility of "the Church." But what does "the Church" actually mean here? Did Rome take a vote from every member of its communion to determine the canon? No, it relied on its Magisterium. So, MB is equivocating here between "the universal Church," the RCC, and the Roman Catholic Episcopate. Where's the supporting argument?

And what is the Magisterium but a subset of individuals, namely the papacy and the episcopate - just a group of private theologians. Sure, MB can talk all about their alleged authority (also question begging), but if they determined the canon, who or what determined them the judges? Certainly not Scripture, for they cannot both serve Scripture and sit as judge over it if they deny that Scripture has authority apart from their determination of its content.

"The Church" as defined by MB never wrote the OT. It never determined the canonicity of Isaiah or Psalms or the Pentateuch. Those questions were answered by the Jews. Indeed, Rome never authored those books at all. There was no RCC when they were canonized by the Jews. Did it take an infallible Magisterium to determine their canoncity? No.

And its not as if Protestants deny the authority of "tradition." We deny "apostolic tradition" as defined and defended by Rome. But we affirm historical tradition, e.g. the testimony of history. We judge the canon's contents by a series of internal and external lines of evidence - so it is hardly true that it requires an infallible "Church" to know the canon.

The “confession” goes against the Scripture when it tells us in article IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” However this novelty is not the sole rule to be used for the interpretation of Sacred Scripture. How do we know that this is so? Because Sacred Scripture tells us so, thats why. In Acts 8 29-30 we see Scripture giving us an example of a method contrary to the only infallible method given to us by the manmade “confession”. It reads, “29 And the Spirit said to Philip: Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? 31 Who said: And how can I, unless some man show me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.” We can see here that Scripture cannot always be understood from Sacred Scripture itself, but from someone with authority who can explain it.

Authority? Where does Acts 8 say that Philip was required because of his "authority?" It would behoove MB to exegete the text.

And the WCF answers him here:

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:[15] yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.[16]

The reason Philip was required was:

a. At this age of the Church, the gospel had not been propounded widely.
b. The Eunuch lacked understanding of Isaiah in light of the New Testament, which had not yet been written.
c. Philip had that understanding.
d. Apostolic presence and ability was required, not "authority," for the trajectory of the Book of Acts is following the growth of Christianity from Jerusalem, to Samaria, to "the ends of the Earth." The story of the Eunuch is the first movement to the third part of Jesus statement. Philip's presence is required as a witness to this work, just as Peter's was required as witness to the conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius. Why an Apostle? Their "authority" is required not to interpret the Scripture, but as a binding witness to the others of what God was doing, just as Acts 15 later shows us was the case with respect to the inclusion of the Gentiles.

Speaking of reading comprehension problems, it's worth noting what MB says in comparison to what you actually said:

Here are a few select examples:

He tries to use Mark 7:1-23 to prove that Jesus was condemning all extra-Scriptural tradition, which is completely absurd.

Here's what you actually stated:

We can see something similar in Mark 7:1-23. In that passage, Jesus again hammers the Jews for their extra-scriptural traditions. Note that Jesus condemns not only the extrascriptural requirement of continual handwashing, but even more so the contrascriptural tradition of misusing the concept of “Corban” to avoid filial duties. Of significance, Jesus here identifies Scripture as “the word of God.”

I would add: Jesus denies that such oral traditions are binding on the conscience if they do not conform to the intent and meaning of the written Word of God itself. TF never stated He was condemning "all extra-Scriptural" tradition. Rather you are pointing out that all traditions that do not conform to the written Word are ruled out of order by the Lord Himself.

It speaks to the weakness of MB's argumentation that he can't, or won't, accurately represent his opponents.

It speaks of the Word of God, but never says that the Word is Scripture Alone. This is clearly taking St Paul out of context in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, and tries to bend St Paul's meaning of the term Word. As I will explain, the term Word does not mean written in the context of the Scripture quotes.

Here's what you said:

We have been given authority by Jesus to believe the Word of God to be such and not the word of men (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

1. Notice he never makes an attempt to exegete the text.
2. What part of "word of mouth or letter" does he not understand? Are letters not written?
3. Paul wrote this text for us, not to us. MB was not present at Thessalonica when Paul spoke to them, neither was any Pope.
4. He accuses you of lifting this out of context. Does MB interpret this verse independently of the Roman church, or is he dependent on the Rome for his interpretation? If the former, then he doesn’t need Rome to interpret the Bible for himself. But if the latter, then it would be fallacious for him to rely on the traditional Roman Catholic reading of 2 Thes 2:15—only to turn right around and cite 2 Thes 2:15 to warrant Roman Catholic tradition.

I've already dealt with the Roman argument from 2 Thessalonians not once but twice on Tblog. The latest version is here:

If this text is referring to traditions not found in Scripture as we have it or hidden oral traditions, then where in the historical record are these traditions to be found so that you know that you are following them? Did Paul teach something different in the presence of many witnesses that he taught in his epistle to the Romans or the Galatians? If so, where can we find it? If you can document it, it can be written down, so why isn't it canonized as Scripture?

As to contraception, Steve has answered this already. I'd note that MB's objections seem to be drawn on Blosser, but I get the impression he's not read Steve's replies:

Here's MB: Protestants accusing the Catholic Church of changing its doctrines, yet we see a clear fundamental teaching of the Christian faith changed by nearly every Protestant church over the last 70 years or so. In 1930 at the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican church decided it was OK to use contraception, and almost every Protestant church soon followed in their footsteps. Once again we see what happens when you dismiss the authority of Christ and His Church, and privately interpret Scripture. We now have millions of people calling themselves “Christians” yet committing an unspeakable abomination against Almighty God. Not only is contraception intrinsically evil, but millions of those using the “pill” are also unwittingly adding to the list of abortions by the millions.

Here's Blosser: “Fifth, the Catholic Church’s high view of Scripture is attested by her steadfast adherence to the moral teachings of our Lord in Scripture. No matter how far afield her most vocal and dissident theologians have strayed, like disobedient children from their mother, she has stood by her magisterial definitions of what is to be believed (de fide). After all, whose voice is it that, as the spiritual leader of nearly one fifth of the earth’s recalcitrant inhabitants, still dares to condemn as sin the now commonplace practices of contraception.”

Steve's reply: i) Since Scripture never says that contraception is sinful, how does the Catholic prohibition reflect a high view of Scripture?

ii) Catholicism doesn’t condemn contraception. Rather, it draws an ethically arbitrary disjunction between “natural” and “artificial” contraception.

I add: So, all MB does is beg the question that contraception is "evil," without faithfully representing his own communions actual position, and then castigate us for not measuring up. That's mirror-reading. I take it logical argumentation isn't MB's forte.

Feel free to reference Steve's replies to Blosser if you need anything: