Saturday, October 25, 2008

Response to Mike Burgess on Sola Scripture

As you may recall, some time ago I responded to comments by Mr. Bellisario (link to my response). Mr. Greco then responded to those comments of mine, and I provided a response to his comments (link to my response).

Now, Mr. Mike Burgess has responded to my response to Mr. Greco. Mr. Burgess states,
If I might draw some conclusions from your response, it seems that the role you acknowledge for teachers in the "sola scriptura" system includes determining which passages are more clear and which passages are less clear. That is, to say the least, convenient. The result is an admittedly ingenious system of rigorous logic with faulty premises.

As with other posts yo[u]'ve made, TF, you never seem to get around to saying why those who instigated and those who continue to propagate the Reformation (it is still going on, right?) can do what they do, or, in other words, where is their source of authority?
I'm not sure why Mr. Burgess concludes what he concludes, but he's mistaken.

A little background is perhaps in order:

Among the various components that make up the Reformed view of Scripture is the position of the perspecuity of Scripture. This position was enunciated by, for example, Chrysostom, who explained:
For not, like the Gentiles, for vain glory, but for the salvation of their hearers, did they whom God from the beginning deemed worthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit, compose all their works. The philosophers indeed, who are strangers to God, the masters of speech, the orators and writers of books, seeking not the common good, but aiming only at gaining admiration for themselves,even when they said something useful, yet even this an obscurity which they ever affected involved as in a certain cloud of wisdom. But the apostles and prophets took the contrary way, and exposed to all the clear and open declarations which they made as the common teachers of the world, so as that every one, by the mere perusal, might be enabled to understand what was said.
Of course that is not to deny that there are some parts of Scripture that are more difficult to understand than others. Anyone reading can see that God claims to have created the world in six days, but understanding the relation between the existence of evil and God's sovereignty over history is something that is more challenging - something not as plainly stated.

Thus, as Chrysostom says, responding not only to this issue but to similar objection to that of Mr. Burgess:
What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because ye are hearers for pleasure's sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me with what pomp of words did Paul speak? and yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not you say the things that are contained in the Scriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say. What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse and mere words.
With that background in mind, we can more easily address Mr. Burgess' comments:

I. Mr. Burgess stated: "[I]t seems that the role you acknowledge for teachers in the "sola scriptura" system includes determining which passages are more clear and which passages are less clear." This is only partly correct. It is correct in that teachers (and learners) can determine that some passages are more clear than others. It is not correct to say that the teachers have a special role of infallibly stating that passage X is in the "clear" category while passage "Y" is in the "less clear" category, or that teachers have the role of identifying clear vs. less clear passages to the exclusion of others in the church.

II. Mr. Burgess stated: "The result is an admittedly ingenious system of rigorous logic with faulty premises." While I appreciate Mr. Burgess' compliment, I think the faulty premise here is mostly due to his misunderstanding of what I had written. Hopefully this post clears that up. But in case Mr. Burgess feels that this post does not address his concerns, it is worth pointing out to Mr. Burgess that he should identify what he thinks those faulty premises are.

III. Mr. Burgess stated: "[Y]ou never seem to get around to saying why those who instigated and those who continue to propagate the Reformation (it is still going on, right?) can do what they do, or, in other words, where is their source of authority" There are really two parts here.

a) The Reformation is an historical label. This label is usually applied to the period of time from about the time of Luther until the widespread establishment of Reformed churches. Thus, a convenient measure would be from October 31, 1517, until perhaps as late as writing of the London Baptist Confession of 1689. The doctrines of the Reformation, especially the "five solas" continue to be taught, but the period of reformation would seem to have been accomplished already.

b) There is a late Reformation maxim (perhaps no earlier than the end of the 17th century that speaks of the Reformed churches "Semper Reformata" (always reforming). The sense in which is this is true is largely that the Reformed churches continue to acknowledge the critical role of the rule of faith, Sola Scriptura, in the doctrine of the church. Accordingly, Reformed churches continue to submit even their highest creedal and confessional standards to the supreme authority of the Word of God itself.

c) The source of authority for the Reformed churches to do what they do is found in the Scriptures themselves. I'm confident I've said this before, but in case it was not clear, let me make it so. Scriptures command the elders to teach, so they do. Scriptures also command that all Christians study the Scriptures and use the Scriptures to provide a check on teachers. Indeed, Scriptures warn that there will be false teachers, necessitating a higher standard than the teachers themselves by which the believer can judge the teacher's teachings. For the sake of brevity I don't provide the exhaustive Scriptural proof here, but it could be provided if someone doubted that Scripture taught such things.

-TurretinFan

2 comments:

natamllc said...

Again TF, lickadee split!

Apparent to me Mr. Burgess does not have a "full" deck to work with when one comes to understand his ends, his conclusions.

I would point to one such idea:

"....it seems that the role you acknowledge for teachers in the "sola scriptura" system includes determining which passages are more clear and which passages are less clear. That is, to say the least, convenient."

I might ask Mr. Burgess, ah, to whose convenience then?

Another response you make, of many TF, I want to do a brief, ever so brief, Greek Word study because of, to make my point. You wrote:

TF, you ask:" Or with what the unlettered Peter?"

Well consider how intelligent the unlettered Peter is when we read this from him:::>

2Pe 1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

I would make a distinction here about the "use" of Greek Peter uses, which in my judgment refutes that unlettered man as being unintelligent and not able to defend the True Grace of God in Christ's Faith. See the English word knowledge used there in that verse?

Here it is in the Greek:

ἐπίγνωσις
epignōsis
ip-ig'-no-sis
From G1921; recognition, that is, (by implication) full discernment, acknowledgement: - (ac-) knowledge (-ing, -ment).


Now read on down through that chapter and you see something very very intelligent working in Peter's mind, in my opinion about Peter and his being one of Christ's Apostles in his day. One must ask, how did such an "unlettered man" get such wisdom and intelligence?

Here at these verses:

2Pe 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
2Pe 1:6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,


The Greek word here used in both verses for the English word knowledge is:

γνῶσις
gnōsis
gno'-sis
From G1097; knowing (the act), that is, (by implication) knowledge: - knowledge, science.


So, what's my point, you probably by now are asking?

Well, here it is, Mr Burgess is not working with a full deck! Oh, I already made that claim!

Yes, when one goes at a man who has the Holy Spirit, one who is born again and alive in Christ by the Hand of God and the Holy Ghost, one well able to bring out both old and new things, both the True "spiritual" matters, things that men devoid of the Spirit have no ability to do you end up sounding like you Mr. Burgess. Their only resource is God's natural law, science, applying their human wisdom to the debate, which clearly Mr. Burgess you do quite well.

Mr. Burgess, if God were to fill you with such knowledge as He has Peter, an unlettered man, you would come to realize, quickly mind you, what Paul meant and wrote about, that man of letters meant and realize he was not discounting his friend the more unlettered and unlearned Apostle Peter when we read this:::>

1Co 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
1Co 1:5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge--
1Co 1:6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you--
1Co 1:7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Co 1:8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1Co 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

And yes, the Reformation was an advent after a dark period when men devoid of the Spirit ruled nations and religions and represented God ignorantly to the Creation. As during that period, so you are right in saying:

"....TF, you never seem to get around to saying why those who instigated and those who continue to propagate the Reformation (it is still going on, right?) can do what they do, or, in other words, where is their source of authority?...."

Well Mr. Burgess, it seems to me from where I sit TF has gotten to it and does a fairly good job of propagating the Reformation, hence, "it is still going on, right?". Yes, yes it is, even now, today.

Why is it still going on today? Well, unlike you, he has been given God's Spirit and Authority to keep the Light shining in his day and hereon!

His basis for doing so is the mandate all True Believers are given when they too are removed from the world to now live in the world a Light unto others sitting in darkness that they too might see Light! Even you Mr. Burgess can take the time and see the Light if God wants you too?

GeneMBridges said...

If I might draw some conclusions from your response, it seems that the role you acknowledge for teachers in the "sola scriptura" system includes determining which passages are more clear and which passages are less clear.

Of course the Romanist alternative is to declare one or more of the following:

1. All Scripture is unclear and needs an infallible Magisterium to interpret it.

2. Apropos 1, the Magisterium has actually provided how much infallible interpretation of which Scriptures? :D

3. All Scripture is unclear, but the dogmatic proclamations of Rome are all clear...clearer than Scripture inspired by God Himself.

So, the alternatives boil down to either a set of teachers that doesn't do what they say is required or outright blasphemy. Which of these is to be preferred?