Friday, December 25, 2009

Aquinas and the Formal Sufficiency of Scripture

I've previously noted Aquinas' apparent [FN1] view of the primacy of Scripture (link) as well as other comments from Aquinas on themes generally related to Sola Scriptura (link). The following quotation, however, comes close to expressing not only the material sufficiency of Scripture, but also the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one — the literal — from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says (Epis. 48). Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.
- Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 1, Article 10

I suspect that Aquinas' reference is to:
For what else is it than superlative impudence for one to interpret in his own favour any allegorical statements, unless he has also plain testimonies, by the light of which the obscure meaning of the former may be made manifest.
- Augustine, Letter 93, Chapter 8, Section 24 (This letter is numbered 48 in some of the older collections, for example, this one)

That's a slightly less strong wording than Aquinas uses. In any event, there are two interesting things that Aquinas says: (1) it is improper to argue from an alleged spiritual sense, rather than from the literal sense; and (2) everything necessary for salvation cannot only be found in Scripture but it can be found in the relatively clear, literal parts (not simply in the less clear allegorical parts).

-TurretinFan

[FN1] There is reason to think that some of the analysis in the Primacy post may be mistaken. For now, we'll leave it at simply apparent, until we have more time to review the evidence behind the objections.

38 comments:

John said...

He says nothing necessary to the faith is in scripture in allegory that is not also in literal. But he doesn't say everything necessary to the faith is in scripture.

The idea of making a medieval Catholic into a Sola Scripturaist, is one of your more audacious projects.

Turretinfan said...

John:

You need to learn to read better. Go back and read it again.

-TurretinFan

bkaycee said...

sung to the tune of "Oh Tanenbaum"

De-velopment, De-velopment, where would we be without you.

Turretinfan said...

Or you can just replace "developers" with "development" in this (Youtube clip).

Matthew Bellisario said...

We all read it. It is talking about Scripture, not all Divine Revelation. This is yet another example of reading into the text. It is not only irresponsible, but intellectually dishonest. Aquinas was no more of a proponent of Sola Scriptura than Pope Benedict XVI. See my most recent post. It is my hope that you will admit your faulty reasoning and admit that you are not at all familiar with Saint Thomas' writings. No one who has read his writings extensively would have ever posted something like this.

Ryan said...

Suggestion for the title of the next blog post: "Are Catholics literate?"

Turretinfan said...

MB:

Yes, the fact that it is talking about Scripture, not "all Divine Revelation," is actually quite helpful to the issue of the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

This is yet another instance where you've demonstrated your difficulty in being able to understand the arguments being presented. Perhaps this sort of discussion is not really your thing.

-TurretinFan

Alphonsus said...

'Suggestion for the title of the next blog post: "Are Catholics literate?"'

That's nice Christian charity. I guess Christmas cheer wore off early this year...

Turretinfan said...

Alphonsus:

Remember to scold Bellisario for "not only irresponsible, but intellectually dishonest."

-TurretinFan

bkaycee said...

Or you can just replace "developers" with "development" in this (Youtube clip).

Wow, that is funny!

Alphonsus said...

'Remember to scold Bellisario for "not only irresponsible, but intellectually dishonest."'

I'd rather not get involved in personal squabbles. I looked over at his page and he seemed to do a pretty good job of deflating your attempt to pigeonhole Aquinas into Sola Scruptura.

I'm much more annoyed when someone suggests that an entire religion cannot read.

I am not in the position to judge the veracity of Bellisario's accusation because I don't know you personally (I hope you are honest, by the way ;)), but I know for a fact that Ryan's insinuation is obviously false and, as a result, probably malicious.

Ryan said...

"I'm much more annoyed when someone suggests that an entire religion cannot read."

Questions don't imply anything. Can you read?

Alphonsus said...

"Questions don't imply anything. Can you read?"

The tone, content, and context of a question can say a huge amount indirectly. A complex question, for example, ("Have you stopped beating your wife?") can imply a great deal. By suggesting that Turretin write a post titled, "Are Catholics literate?", you were implying that the answer (i.e. whether or not any Catholic can read) was a contested matter worthy of discussion. If a person were to ask such an insulting question in any academic conference they would be seen as a impudent bigot.

Were you or were you not insinuating that Catholic are illiterate?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Turretin wrote,
"Yes, the fact that it is talking about Scripture, not "all Divine Revelation," is actually quite helpful to the issue of the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

This is yet another instance where you've demonstrated your difficulty in being able to understand the arguments being presented. Perhaps this sort of discussion is not really your thing."

My response,
I have taken your argument referenced to the text you presented and I have refuted it quite easily. Actually, anyone who reads Saint Thomas at length can see he did not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture alone. Perhaps making good rational arguments based on simple reading comprehension is not your thing. Try actually reading through his works rather than cutting and pasting one paragraph out of context.

Alphonsus said...

Mr. Bellisario, couldn't you have phrased that more charitably?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Perhaps.

Ryan said...

"Were you or were you not insinuating that Catholic are illiterate?"

I was not. If I wanted to do that, I would have just said it outright, such as recommending that the title of the next post be entitled "Catholic are illiterate." Ironically, it was rather uncharitable of YOU to impute a false position to me, but as this is getting pedantic, I'll drop it.

Alphonsus said...

'If I wanted to do that, I would have just said it outright, such as recommending that the title of the next post be entitled "Catholic are illiterate." '

Do you, in fact, think Catholics are illiterate? If not, what was the purpose of bringing the matter up for discussion?

"Ironically, it was rather uncharitable of YOU to impute a false position to me, but as this is getting pedantic, I'll drop it."

It was uncharitable of me to assume that a rather insulting question was asked maliciously?

Turretinfan said...

Bellisario:

Actually, what your article demonstrates is either that you don't understand what formal sufficiency is, or that you hope your readers won't. If I find time, I'll provide a more detailed rebuttal.

Alphonsus, I think you've made the point that you didn't appreciate Ryan's comment.

Matthew Bellisario said...

TF, I do understand what formal sufficiency is. Saint Thomas did not subscribe to it. He did not believe Sacred Scripture to contain everything sufficient for knowing the revealed truth of God. He spoke of this clearly in his Summa Theologica, his Catechism, and many of his various commentaries. He clearly appeals to oral apostolic teaching regarding many matters.

Turretinfan said...

Bellisario,

I'll say it again - you're continuing to demonstrate that either you don't know what formal sufficiency means or you hope that your readers don't. Since you seem so pertinacious, perhaps I'll dedicate a whole new post to explaining.

-TurretinFan

Matthew Bellisario said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew Bellisario said...

Your sophistry doesn't win any arguments for you TF. As soon as someone proves you wrong, you go around claiming that they misrepresented your position. The fact is, formal sufficiency of Scripture simply means that the Scriptures in and of themselves are completely sufficient for knowing all of the revealed truth of God. That is the definition scholars use, I am not sure what you use as a working definition. I am sure that you will define it to your own liking. The fact is, the passage you quoted by Saint Thomas has nothing to do with the argument you presented.

In the past when you have been proven wrong, you have redefined definitions to your own liking, so this comes as no surprise to me. I am sure my readers will understand perfectly what is going on when you come up with your own personal working definition of "formal" sufficiency. Those who have read Saint Thomas at length know that what you have presented on this blog article is erroneous.

Turretinfan said...

You don't have to repeat yourself more vehemently, Bellisario. We all heard you the first time.

You have a long history (link to history) of getting corrected and answering that correction with unfounded insults, like those we see above (as well as even less charitable ones).

I may well respond in a new article, but if you have nothing new to add to the conversation here, perhaps you should consider yourself through commenting.

-TurretinFan

louis said...

According to Catholic Answers, formal sufficiency consists of two things:

1. Material sufficiency, meaning that scripture contains "all that is needed for salvation", but not necessarily all revealed truth; and

2. The idea that this information is also perspicuous.

Turretinfan said...

louis,

Yes, and two minutes of research could have told Bellisario that.

-TurretinFan

Alex said...

Turretinfan,

Can you please show us where Aquinas states anything equivalent to “everything necessary for salvation cannot only be found in Scripture but it can be found in the relatively clear, literal parts,” as opposed to just saying that all senses of Scripture are founded on the literal, and those things which are necessary to the faith which are taught in Scripture in the spiritual sense is also taught in the literal sense? In other words, where does Aquinas teach that everything necessary for salvation is taught in Scripture? I read him as saying that those things necessary to the faith, that is the Truth proposed in dogma de fide, when taught in Scripture it is taught in the literal sense. I do not read him as stating that everything necessary for salvation is contained in Scripture in its literal sense. I would change your sentence to read, “everything necessary for salvation which is taught in Scripture is not only found in the spiritual sense, but also in the relatively clear, literal parts.” I do not believe that your inference does justice to Aquinas' actual statement.

Alex said...

Signing in for email follow-up comments.

louis said...

Again according to Catholic Answers, "a Catholic can affirm [scripture's] material sufficiency, as has been done by such well-known Catholic theologians as... Joseph Ratzinger". So this part of it shouldn't be too controversial. The real question is perspicuity.

Turretinfan said...

Alex:

If you are suggesting that Aquinas denied the material sufficiency of Scripture, you're the first person I've heard. Are you suggesting that we should be open to that possibility? If so, why?

-TurretinFan

Matthew Bellisario said...

The burden of proof is on the person who is making the statements proposing that Aquinas held to a material or even formal sufficiency of Scripture. Depending on what definition of material sufficiency you are going with, I would argue that Saint Thomas did not subscribe to either position. I would base this on reading Saint Thomas' writings themselves, not on other people's opinions about what Saint Thomas may have believed. Also, just because Catholic answers writes something on the subject, does not mean there are not other theological positions on the matter.

Turretinfan said...

"I would base this on reading Saint Thomas' writings themselves, not on other people's opinions about what Saint Thomas may have believed."

a) You know, Bellisario, you only have to read what Aquinas said to see him affirming formal sufficiency.

b) You only have to read the Bible, not other people's opinions about the Bible ... or do you permit Aquinas a perspicuity that you deny to Scripture?

"Depending on what definition of material sufficiency you are going with, I would argue that Saint Thomas did not subscribe to either position."

If you would argue that, the burden would be on you to establish that. I'm not 100% sure you know what material sufficiency is, either, considering how your qualifying your comment by "depending on what definition of material sufficiency you are going with" - but at least that's better than a whole post that has nothing to do with formal sufficiency!

"Also, just because Catholic answers writes something on the subject, does not mean there are not other theological positions on the matter."

LOL

-TurretinFan

Matthew Bellisario said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew Bellisario said...

If I recall, you are the one making all of these claims as to Saint Thomas and how he viewed Scripture. I simply responded to them. I have provided several passages from several different writings of his that prove Saint Thomas did not hold to material sufficiency, let alone formal. The quote you used on this post does not even fall into the context that you used it in concerning formal sufficiency or even material sufficiency. You still haven't admitted to that. Maybe instead going around telling everyone that they are misinterpreting your position, you should define it before you make an argument, instead of leaving yourself a loophole to slide out of. I simply do not have time to play games with you on the internet.

How about this, you set up an argument to affirm Saint Thomas' belief as to the formal and material sufficiency of Scripture, based purely on your readings of Saint Thomas' writings. It is tiresome and boring to go off and find people that agree with your position. You read his writings and affirm your position, then I will respond to it in the negative. Kind of a mini debate, if you will. One post each, just debating the facts of his writings concerning material and formal sufficiency of Scripture, no side comments or insults. Make it as long as you want. Then I will respond in the negative. I have nothing else to say about it on this blog post.

Turretinfan said...

"I have nothing else to say about it on this blog post."

A wise move.

"I have provided several passages from several different writings of his that prove Saint Thomas did not hold to material sufficiency, let alone formal."

I had not noticed that claim in your original post, but I'll factor that in when I respond to you.

"How about this, you set up an argument to affirm Saint Thomas' belief as to the formal and material sufficiency of Scripture, based purely on your readings of Saint Thomas' writings."

As fun as that might be, I actually have a few other things to get to, first.

"You read his writings and affirm your position, then I will respond to it in the negative."

My minimal expectation would be for you to offer some alternative to the position I take, if you're not persuaded by the evidence. That is to say, I would hope you would do something more than just claim that Aquinas isn't affirming formal sufficiency, but instead tell us what he is affirming.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

I realize my "wise move" comment above could be misunderstood. The reason it is a wise move is because, Bellisario, you've failed to answer the question posed to you above.

Anonymous said...

hmm, after reading your quote of Aquinas and the comments so far I believe Thomas Aquinas is not teaching formal sufficency.

I don't think Thomas is saying all things necessary for the faith are contained in the literal sense, but that all things necessary for the faith contained in the spiritual sense are also found in the literal sense.


If you believe this quote advocates an understanding of formal sufficiency I think you need to show that Thomas believed everything that is necessary for the faith is contained in the spiritual sense and therefore also in the literal.

Turretinfan said...

Anonymous,

If I may be so bold, your comment essentially would require Aquinas to deny material sufficiency. That's not a tenable argument in view of the further comments from Aquinas in this post: (link to post).

-TurretinFan