Friday, December 04, 2009
The chart above shows the relationship of various parties with respect to a flow of communication. First, let's consider the left hand side of the chart. God spoke directly to Adam and Moses. Moses spoke directly to the people of Israel, but he also provided Scripture. Scripture speaks both to individual believers and the church, and the church speaks to individual believers.
On the other side, the Roman Catholic view with respect to public revelation is that it comes through the church, either directly from the church to Roman Catholics, or via Scripture, which Roman Catholics are not to read contrary to the teachings of their church.
It should be apparent, looking at a chart like this, that both Reformed believers and Roman Catholics claim that God is their ultimate authority. But here's a very odd thing we see sometimes in Roman Catholic arguments against Sola Scriptura. They make comments like this: “if the Holy Spirit directly and immediately [not through the Magisterium of the Church] guides my interpretation of Scripture (WCF I.10), then not only am I my own ultimate interpreter of Scripture, but I am my own ultimate interpreter of what the Holy Spirit is saying.” (Source, Comment by Bryan Cross - bracketed item in original)(Brought to my attention by Dr. White)
One thing, of course, is true: in any chain of communication, you interpret what you hear. So, if you are Adam, you interpret God's very voice. If you are people of Israel, you interpret God's voice as repeated by Moses. If you read the Scriptures, you interpret them. If you sit under a preacher, you interpret what the preacher tells you. Likewise, if you are a Roman Catholic, you interpret Scripture (assuming you read it) and your church.
You are always at the last link in the chain that ends with you, so you are always the "ultimate" interpreter, in some sense, of what you hear.
What is odd is the idea, apparently propounded by Mr. Cross, that it would be worse, not better, to be receiving communication directly from the Holy Spirit, as opposed to indirectly through the church. His rational as to why this would be bad is, that you would be the "ultimate interpreter" not only of Scripture but also of the Holy Spirit Himself. But who in their right mind doubts that it would be better to receive God's word directly from God rather than through some other intermediate mechanism? How does the inescapable reality that you will have to interpret what you hear change the fact that more direct revelation from God is preferable to less direct revelation from God?