Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Athanasius to Marcellinus: How Sufficient are the Psalms?

Athanasius wrote a letter to Marcellinus regarding the Psalms (full text). Athanasius wouldn't have fit into post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism very well for a lot of reasons, but one reason is his comment in this letter: "the knowledge of God is not with [the heathen and the heretics] at all, but only in the Church." Vatican II stated: "In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind." (Lumen Gentium, 2:16).

Bigger than that, however, the letter is a testimony to Athanasius' very non-Romanist views of Scripture. It's also a testimony to the same views of Athanasius' friend whom Athanasius relies on extensively throughout the letter so that is sometimes hard to say which part is originally Athanasius and which part is originally the work of his elderly friend.

Private Possession of Copies of Scripture

It's interesting to note that Athanasius points out that the old man who told about the Psalms did so while holding in his hands his own copy:
I once talked with a certain studious old man, who had bestowed much labour on the Psalter, and discoursed to me about it with great persuasiveness and charm, expressing himself clearly too, and holding a copy of it in his hand the while he spoke.
There is a popular myth spread by Rome's apologists today that folks of ancient times were too poor to have their own copies of Scripture and too illiterate to read it, even if they could own a copy. These sorts of comments from the ancients help us to see that the picture of ancient literacy and possession of Scripture was not quite as bleak as Rome's apologists like to suggest.

Scriptures Open to Individual Study

Athanasius' substantive comment begins:
Son, all the books of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction [2 Timothy 3:16], as it is written; but to those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure.
Before we even get to the substance we can note how Athanasius (adopting his old friend's words - his old friend calls him "son") understands 2 Timothy 3:16 to be referring not only to the Old Testament Scriptures but also to the New Testament Scriptures. This isn't a surprising interpretation, but it is an interpretation that contradicts the erroneous position taken by many contemporary Roman Catholics who try to say that Paul was referring only to the Old Testament Scriptures.

The substance here is that the Scriptures, but especially the book of Psalms, yields a treasure those who really study it. After a brief passage on the canon of Scripture (which we discuss below under the issue of the canon), Athanasius explains:
Each of these books, you see, is like a garden which grows one special kind of fruit; by contrast, the Psalter is a garden which, besides its special fruit, grows also some those of all the rest.
Athanasius comes back to this garden theme toward the end of the letter as well, when Athanasius writes:
So then, my son, let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need.
Notice how individual this metaphor is. Each individual person can go into the garden and get from it whatever help he thinks he needs.

It gets yet more individual after the discussion of how Scripture interprets Scripture, which we discuss below. The more individual part is that the Psalms describe you, the reader:
And, among all the books, the Psalter has certainly a very special grace, a choiceness of quality well worthy to be pondered; for, besides the characteristics which it shares with others, it has this peculiar marvel of its own, that within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul. It is like a picture, in which you see yourself portrayed, and seeing, may understand and consequently form yourself upon the pattern given. Elsewhere in the Bible you read only that the Law commands this or that to be done, you listen to the Prophets to learn about the Saviour's coming, or you turn to the historical books to learn the doings of the kings and holy men; but in the Psalter, besides all these things, you learn about yourself. You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries.
Notice how he says not simply that the Psalter is like a picture, but almost as though it is a mirror: it is a picture of you the reader. In it, you the reader learn about yourself.

The idea is not simply that the church can extract good medicine from this garden for you, or interpret the picture for you. Instead, Athanasius and the old man insist that the individual can pick out his own cure from this medicine chest:
Moreover, whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you do not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill.
After some commentary on the sufficiency of the Psalms (which we discuss below), Athanasius and the old man re-emphasize the individual's ability to learn from the Psalms to his own advantage:
In fact, under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls' need at every turn.
Thus, there is a theme that the individual needs to read and apply the words of the Psalms to his life.

There is also a theme presented in the letter that the Psalter is something that the individual is supposed to make his own:
And herein is yet another strange thing about the Psalms. In the other books of Scripture we read or hear the words of holy men as belonging only to those who spoke them, not at all as though they were our own; and in the same way the doings there narrated are to us material for wonder and examples to be followed, but not in any sense things we have done ourselves. With this book, however, though one does read the prophecies about the Saviour in that way, with reverence and with awe, in the case of all the other Psalms it is as though it were one's own words that one read; and anyone who hears them is moved at heart, as though they voiced for him his deepest thoughts.
It's interesting to note in this selection that it is not simply that the reader can start to internalize and take personally the Psalms, but that this is (according to Athanasius and the old man) an intended purpose of the Psalm - one of the reasons for which it is written.

After some brief Scriptural demonstration, Athanasius continues to emphasize how the Psalms are intended to be read, understood, and taken personally by the individual reader:
For he who reads those books is clearly reading not his own words but those of holy men and other people about whom they write; but the marvel with the Psalter is that, barring those prophecies about the Saviour and some about the Gentiles, the reader takes all its words upon his lips as though they were his own, and each one sings the Psalms as though they had been written for his special benefit, and takes them and recites them, not as though someone else were speaking or another person's feelings being described, but as himself speaking of himself, offering the words to God as his own heart's utterance, just as though he himself had made them up. Not as the words of the patriarchs or of Moses and the other prophets will he reverence these: no, he is bold to take them as his own and written for his very self. Whether he has kept the Law or whether he has broken it, it is his own doings that the Psalms describe; every one is bound to find his very self in them and, be he faithful soul or be he sinner, each reads in them descriptions of himself.
I'm not sure one could express a more individual understanding of the text than that. Yet Athanasius follows this passage with another of the same kind. In this instance he finally uses the mirror metaphor:
It seems to me, moreover, that because the Psalms thus serve him who sings them as a mirror, wherein he sees himself and his own soul, he cannot help but render them in such a manner that their words go home with equal force to those who hear him sing, and stir them also to a like reaction. Sometimes it is repentance that is generated in this way, as by the conscience-stirring words of Psalm 51; another time, hearing how God helps those who hope and trust in Him, the listener too rejoices and begins to render thanks, as though that gracious help already were his own. Psalm 3, to take another instance, a man will sing, bearing his own afflictions in his mind; Psalms 11 and 12 he will use as the expression of his own faith and prayer; and singing the 54th, the 56th, the 57th, and the 142nd, it is not as though someone else were being persecuted but out of his own experience that he renders praise to God. And every other Psalm is spoken and composed by the Spirit in the selfsame way: just as in a mirror, the movements of our own souls are reflected in them and the words are indeed our very own, given us to serve both as a reminder of our changes of condition and as a pattern and model for the amendment of our lives.
The use of the mirror metaphor is a great way to show that the individual is to look to the Scripture, since a mirror is the sort of thing that is distinctively individual - one doesn't ask his friend to look in the mirror for him - the mirror is specifically a tool for self-help.

After a very detailed explanation of how the Psalms can be applied to various occasions, Athanasius notes:
Such, then, is the character of the Book of Psalms, and such the uses to which it may be put, some of its number serving for the correction of individual souls, and many of them, as I said just now, foretelling the coming in human form of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Notice that in the quotation above, the individual is made explicit.

We see this same theme of individual benefit in Athanasius' argument as to why the Psalms must be sung:
But we must not omit to explain the reason why words of this kind should be not merely said, but rendered with melody and song; for there are actually some simple folk among us who, though they believe the words to be inspired, yet think the reason for singing them is just to make them more pleasing to the ear! This is by no means so; Holy Scripture is not designed to tickle the aesthetic palate, and it is rather for the soul's own profit that the Psalms are sung.
Furthermore, Athanasius insists that one cannot sing the Psalms simply to amuse oneself but specifically to learn from them:
Well, then, they who do not read the Scriptures in this way, that is to say, who do not chant the divine Songs intelligently but simply please themselves, most surely are to blame, for praise is not befitting in a sinner's mouth. [Sirach 15:9] But those who do sing as I have indicated, so that the melody of the words springs naturally from the rhythm of the soul and her own union with the Spirit, they sing with the tongue and with the understanding also, and greatly benefit not themselves alone but also those who want to listen to them.
Then Athanasius continues with the repetition of the garden metaphor (already discussed above) and he accompanies that with a summary of the preceding admonition that the Psalms have whatever we need for any occasion:
So then, my son, let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need. For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the Divine Psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own.
The final words of the letter re-emphasize that the investigation of Scripture is properly and fruitfully an individual task:
And so you too, Marcellinus, pondering the Psalms and reading them intelligently, with the Spirit as your guide, will be able to grasp the meaning of each one, even as you desire. And you will strive also to imitate the lives of those God-bearing saints who spoke them at the first.
We should also agree with Athanasius that of course the Spirit's guidance is not an optional component, as much as we have not specified that guidance above.

Scripture Interprets Scripture

One interesting point that Athanasius (and the old man) makes is that the Psalter is almost a stand-alone Bible. However, Athanasius is quick to point out that the Psalter must be interpreted harmoniously with the rest of Scripture because they have a common author, namely the Holy Spirit:
My old friend made rather a point of this, that the things we find in the Psalms about the Saviour are stated in the other books of Scripture too; he stressed the fact that one interpretation is common to them all, and that they have but one voice in the Holy Spirit.
The single voice is the explanation, of course, for the single common interpretation. After some Scriptural proof, the old man (and Athanasius with him) concludes:
You see, then, that the grace of the one Spirit is common to every writer and all the books of Scripture, and differs in its expression only as need requires and the Spirit wills.
This provides a slightly different twist on the comments above, in that it indicates that one may simply find the same thing expressed in different terms in the different books.

Sufficiency of Scripture

One of the points that the old man and Athanasius make is that the Psalter provides the final component and makes the rest of Scripture sufficient to the man of God:
Prohibitions of evil-doing are plentiful in Scripture, but only the Psalter tells you how to obey these orders and abstain from sin. Repentance, for example, is enjoined repeatedly; but to repent means to leave off sinning, and it is the Psalms that show you how to set about repenting and with what words your penitence may be expressed. Again, Saint Paul says, Tribulation worketh endurance, and endurance experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed [Rom 5:3, 5]; but it is in the Psalms that we find written and described how afflictions should be borne, and what the afflicted ought to say, both at the time and when his troubles cease: the whole process of his testing is set forth in them and we are shown exactly with what words to voice our hope in God. Or take the commandment, In everything give thanks. [1 Thess 5:18] The Psalms not only exhort us to be thankful, they also provide us with fitting words to say. We are told, too, by other writers that all who would live godly in Christ must suffer persecution;[2 Tim 3:12] and here again the Psalms supply words with which both those who flee persecution and those who suffer under it may suitably address themselves to God, and it does the same for those who have been rescued from it. We are bidden elsewhere in the Bible also to bless the Lord and to acknowledge Him: here in the Psalms we are shown the way to do it, and with what sort of words His majesty may meetly be confessed.
In other words, the entire Bible tells us how to live, but the Psalter shows us more clearly the way to fulfill the commands found throughout Scripture. The conclusion sentence talks explicitly about the ability of the Psalter to be sufficient, namely to meet the reader's needs:
In fact, under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls' need at every turn.
Another place where Athanasius makes the sufficiency point is in this comment:
For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man.
It's hard to be more sufficient than "nothing further can be found" - he might as well have said, "this is as good as it can possibly get."

As strong as that statement of sufficiency is, the sufficiency of Scripture gets even more underscored by Athanasius' insistence on the unadorned Psalms:
There is, however, one word of warning needed. No one must allow himself to be persuaded, by any arguments what-ever, to decorate the Psalms with extraneous matter or make alterations in their order or change the words them-selves. They must be sung and chanted in entire simplicity, just as they are written, so that the holy men who gave them to us, recognizing their own words, may pray with us, yes and even more that the Spirit, Who spoke by the saints, recognizing the selfsame words that He inspired, may join us in them too. For as the saints' lives are lovelier than any others, so too their words are better than ever ours can be, and of much more avail, provided only they be uttered from a righteous heart. For with these words they themselves pleased God, and in uttering them, as the Apostle says, they subdued kingdoms, they wrought righteousness, they obtained promises, they stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens, women received their dead by resurrection. [Heb 11:33-36]
The ideas that their words are "better than ever ours can be" is a great way of showing that the Scriptures themselves, standing alone, are sufficient.

Finally, Athanasius gets explicit - even using the word "sufficient":
For God commanded Moses to write the great song [Deut 31:19] and to teach the people, and him whom He had appointed leader He bade also to write Deuteronomy, to have it ever in his hand and to meditate unceasingly upon its words [Deut 17:18-19]; because these are sufficient in themselves both to call men's minds to virtue and to bring help to any who ponder them sincerely.
Notice that it doesn't just say "sufficient" leaving open the option of sufficient materially but not formally, but it even goes so far as to remove an doubt by saying "sufficient in themselves."

The parting words of the letter confirm the same thing:
And so you too, Marcellinus, pondering the Psalms and reading them intelligently, with the Spirit as your guide, will be able to grasp the meaning of each one, even as you desire. And you will strive also to imitate the lives of those God-bearing saints who spoke them at the first.
Notice how positive Athanasius is: he says not simply that Marcellinus "may" be able to grasp the meaning, nor does Athanasius qualify the quest by whether Marcellinus adheres to the unanimous consent of the fathers or the guidance of an infallible magisterium. Instead, Athanasius insists that if Marcellinus has the Spirit he will, by intelligent study, grasp the meaning of each of the Psalms.

Scripture as a Teacher

Athanasius, as noted above, refers to the Scriptures as a teacher:
Briefly, then, if indeed any more is needed to drive home the point, the whole divine Scripture is the teacher of virtue and true faith, but the Psalter gives a picture of the spiritual life.
Athanasius even goes further and compares Scriptures a teacher to mere human teachers:
Never will such a man be shaken from the truth, but those who try to trick and lead him into error he will refute; and it is no human teacher who promises us this, but the Divine Scripture itself.
Thus, for Athanasius, the Scriptures themselves are a teacher and the best possible teacher.

Scripture as the Rule of Faith and Life

Athanasius is very plain about this aspect of Scripture:
Briefly, then, if indeed any more is needed to drive home the point, the whole divine Scripture is the teacher of virtue and true faith, but the Psalter gives a picture of the spiritual life.
Notice how he treats the Psalter as almost filling in what would be a gap in the rest of Scripture. With the Psalms, the Scripture is a thorough and sufficient teacher of virtue and true faith.

Christ Himself is in Scripture

Sometimes Rome's apologists like to use the metaphor that the Church is Christ's body to emphasize the Church's authority. Athanasius makes an even stronger claim about Scripture:
On the other hand, daemons fear the words of holy men and cannot bear them; for the Lord Himself is in the words of Scripture and Him they cannot bear, as they showed when they cried out to Christ, I pray you, torment me not before the time.
Notice that Athanasius claims that "the Lord Himself is in the words of Scripture," which is as strong a claim as one can make about them.

Canon of the Old Testament

The old man's canon of the Old Testament only ends up referring to the canonical works:
Each book of the Bible has, of course, its own particular message: the Pentateuch, for example, tells of the beginning of the world, the doings of the patriarchs, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and the ordering of the tabernacle and the priesthood; The Triteuch [Joshua, Judges, and Ruth] describes the division of the inheritance, the acts of the judges, and the ancestry of David; Kings and Chronicles record the doings of the kings, Esdras [Ezra] the deliverance from exile, the return of the people, and the building of the temple and the city; the Prophets foretell the coming of the Saviour, put us in mind of the commandments, reprove transgressors, and for the Gentiles also have a special word.
Furthermore, the old man ends up excluding the Apocrypha (deutero-canonical books) fairly plainly by (after discussing only the canonical works) stating:
You see, then, that all the subjects mentioned in the historical books are mentioned also in one Psalm or another; but when we come to the matters of which the Prophets speak we find that these occur in almost all.
Of course, the canon of the Old Testament is not the main point of the letter, and consequently there is no explicit discussion of the topic.

Unsurprisingly, one apocryphal part of one book is mentioned: "as when Daniel relates the story of Susanna ..." and the Septuagint (or similar related Greek translation) title of the Psalms are referenced "if you want to know how Moses prayed, you have the 90th ... ." There's also an allusion to Sirach 15:9 ("Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the Lord.") as noted above.

Penal Substitution

It is interesting to note that the old man (Athanasius adopting his words) explains that the atonement, and particularly penal substitution, is set forth in the Psalms:
For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses. [Mt 8:17] So in Psalm 138 we say, The Lord will make requital for me; and in the 72nd the Spirit says, He shall save the children of the poor and bring the slanderer low, for from the hand of the mighty He has set the poor man free, the needy man whom there was none to help.
It's interesting that he even brings Isaiah into the discussion. I've left the editorial bracketed citation to Matthew 8:17.

That's not the only place that Athanasius mentions this theme - he repeats it slightly later on:
This is the further kindness of the Savior that, having become man for our sake, He not only offered His own body to death on our behalf, that He might redeem all from death, but also, desiring to display to us His own heavenly and perfect way of living, He expressed this in His very self. It was as knowing how easily the devil might deceive us, that He gave us, for our peace of mind, the pledge of His own victory that He had won on our behalf. But He did not stop there: He went still further, and His own self performed the things He had enjoined on us. Every man therefore may both hear Him speaking and at the same time see in His behavior the pattern for his own, even as He himself has bidden, saying, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. [Mt 11:29] Nowhere is more perfect teaching of virtue to be found than in the Lord's own life. Forbearance, love of men, goodness, courage, mercy, righteousness, all are found in Him; and in the same way no virtue will be lacking to him who fully contemplates this human life of Christ. It was as knowing this that Saint Paul said, Be ye imitators of me, even as I myself am of Christ. [1 Cor 11:1] The Greek legislators had indeed a great command of language; but the Lord, the true Lord of all, Who cares for all His works, did not only lay down precepts but also gave Himself as model of how they should be carried out, for all who would to know and imitate. And therefore, before He came among us, He sketched the likeness of this perfect life for us in words, in this same book of Psalms; in order that, just as He revealed Himself in flesh to be the perfect, heavenly Man, so in the Psalms also men of good-will might see the pattern life portrayed, and find therein the healing and correction of their own.
Notice how Athanasius indicates that Christ both serves as penal substitute ("He ... offered His own body to death on our behalf") but also as example of the godly life.

Conclusion

This letter of Athanasius has value for a variety of reasons. For example, included in the letter are some very detailed and at-length suggestions for times and occasions upon which to sing the various psalms. This is of great practical value to those planning worship, either their own worship or corporate worship.

Athanasius' letter also has value for providing insight into many aspects of Athanasius' view of Scripture:
  • the practice of private possession of Scriptures,
  • individual study of the Scripture and the fruitfulness of such study,
  • the self-interpretation of Scripture,
  • the sufficiency of Scripture,
  • the magisterial role of Scripture,
  • Scripture as the rule of faith and life,
  • Christ himself being "in" Scripture, and
  • the canon of the Old Testament.
Athanasius' letter even provides some insight into Athanasius' view of the atonement. The discussion on the atonement even provides some discussion related to the doctrine of penal substitution.

In all, the letter is a very rich work. I hope that the reader of this article will not content himself with my report above, but will follow the link I have provided and see for himself not only that I have reported Athanasius accurately, but that I have not provided the full treasure that this letter offers.

- TurretinFan

27 comments:

The Catholic Apologist said...

Very good,

Now I ask: So what?

Quite frankely sir, (and I an open to correction on this from any Catholics, becasue the position has never been expressed this way before to my knowledge) the more I read and research the Protestant Catholic debate on this subject, the more I wonder if the Church condemned the position of "Solo Scriptura" rather then "Sola Scriptura." (Even though the term Sola Scriptura was used)

Everytime I hear a Catholic theologian or priest, or take your pick talk on the subject of Sola Scriptura, they are really it seems to me more condeming Solo Scriptura then Sola Scriptura. So, as I said, I wonder if the Church really means Solo Scriptura when she condemns Sola Scriptura.

Certainly there would have to be more theological development in this regard, but I believe Sola Scriptura can be workable for the Catholic. It is beyond the scope of my comment to discuss this further, but I can elaborate if you so wish, kind sir.

In fact- IF I were to do doctoral work in theology (which I would love to do if given the oppertunity, it would be this position which I would explore in a thesis.)

Coram Deo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coram Deo said...

TF,

Methinks you should have subtitled this post Athanasius contra Romanism.

In Christ,
CD

Turretinfan said...

TCA:

The post as it stands is mostly a series of historical observations that tie into many discussions that we have.

I recently had a Roman Catholic try to argue that Athanasius did not hold to the sufficiency of Scripture in a formal sense.

- TurretinFan

Sean McDonald said...

One other thing to note is that Athanasius followed the Hebrew numbering of the Psalms, rather than that provided in the Septuagint. This demonstrates that his reference to the title of Psalm 90 is to the Hebrew and not to the Septuagint -- both read identically (as any English translation will show), but in the Septuagint, that Psalm is Psalm 89.

Of course, I would also make similar arguments for the Psalter as the all-sufficient and exclusive hymnal of the church... but that's just me. :-)

Turretinfan said...

The numbering issue may simply be the translator's assistance. My impression was that he was reading from the Septuagint (or a related) translation of the Psalms.

The Catholic Apologist said...

I wanted to offer a brief comment on the fact that Athanasius believes the second chapter of the second book of Timothy of the
16th verse of the chapter (known to the rest of you as 2 Timothy 3:16) refers to the New Testament as well.

Again, I ask: So what? This position is allowable in Catholic Thought. However- the position would not be allowable in the Historical Critical Method which you folks seem to value so much. When Paul penned that verse, he would have had in mind the Old Testament. That is fact. Does that mean we cannot recieve this particular verse to also refer to the New Testament? Of course not, and no one ever said that. The point is that going by the Historical Critical Method alone, it cannot be denied that contextually Paul is referring to the Old Testament.

My larger point: The Historical Critical Method has it's limitations, which you and White don't seem to get. Scripture is much broader, and the meanings much broader then a simple exegesis will allow.

The Catholic Church (as was pointed out in an article recently in citing Ratzinger's book) is quite content to let the Fathers be the Fathers. Maybe Keating isn't, but the Church as a whole is. I do not grant that Athanasius believed Sola Scriptura in the sense that Protestants mean it, but if he did, so what if he did? What does that prove exactely?

MG said...

Turretinfan--

You wrote that Athanasius' letter teaches the following:

"the practice of private possession of Scriptures, individual study of the Scripture and the fruitfulness of such study, the self-interpretation of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture, the magisterial role of Scripture, Scripture as the rule of faith and life, Christ himself being "in" Scripture, and the canon of the Old Testament."

Though as David pointed out this is all well and good in showing that Athanasius did not believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of authority, it does not seem to touch on a crucial issue in the debate about Sola Scriptura: the role of private judgment. In order for Athanasius to believe Sola Scriptura, he must think that no interpretation of Scripture can be inherently binding on the conscience. In other words, no one (or no institution) can obligate us to believe or do certain things in virtue of their own authoritative role as interpreter of Scripture if Sola Scriptura is true.

If all you are claiming is that Athanasius believed in the sufficiency of Scripture, its clarity, its teaching role, and its usefulness for individuals, then of course you are right. But all that these points get you is *prima* Scriptura--the doctrine that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and practice that provides the content of Christian tradition, but also thinks that some interpretations of Scripture are unrevisable and conscience-binding. In order to get *Sola* Scriptura, we need the additional thesis of private judgment, and a denial of the infallibility of the Church's formulation of biblical doctrine in councils, inherited oral tradition about how to interpret Scripture, and the consensus of the Fathers about how to interpret Scripture. And given what Athanasius says about the divine power of the consensus of the Fathers and the unrevisability and divinity of the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, I don't think this is plausible. Are you claiming Athanasius goes all the way and teaches Sola Scriptura, or just that what he says is incompatible with the Roman Catholic understanding of Scripture and tradition?

You wrote:

"Athanasius' letter even provides some insight into Athanasius' view of the atonement."

and you cite:

"He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses."

as evidence of his belief in penal substitution. But the penalty of bearing weaknesses is probably in reference to contracting the corruption of human nature inherited from Adam. And human nature received its corruption as a natural consequence of Adam's sin--not by God deciding to willfully impose a penalty of "causing human nature to become corrupt". Athanasius teaches (in On the Incarnation) that the possibility of corruption is explained by the fact that human nature is created out of nothing--not because God made it able to become mortal with a pre-planned retribution. The corruption is an intrinsic and necessary consequence of the rejection of the eternal good things of God. In other words if you choose to be wicked you become wicked because of the intrinsic and necessary relationship between choice and character; if you alienate yourself from life, then you end up dead by the intrinsic and necessary connection between choice and character. So this does not seem to be talking about penal substitution in the sense that the Reformers understood it; though if by "penalty" you mean a divinely-permitted intrinsic and necessary consequence of sin, (ala Paul in Romans 1 or 6) then you could say Christ bears our penalty and God's wrath.

MG said...

Sorry, thought that "Coram Deo" was an old friend named David; I guess he isn't... hope the misunderstanding didn't muddle things too much.

Turretinfan said...

"Though as David pointed out this is all well and good in showing that Athanasius did not believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of authority, it does not seem to touch on a crucial issue in the debate about Sola Scriptura: the role of private judgment."

That topic is somewhat addressed under the heading "Scriptures Open to Individual Study."

"In order for Athanasius to believe Sola Scriptura, he must think that no interpretation of Scripture can be inherently binding on the conscience."

That's a very nuanced statement. Assuming I've understood your nuances correctly, that's one aspect of the doctrine. I'm not sure that implication is a sine qua non of the sola scriptura position.

"In other words, no one (or no institution) can obligate us to believe or do certain things in virtue of their own authoritative role as interpreter of Scripture if Sola Scriptura is true."

That's why I view your comment as more of an implication than a core essential of the doctrine.

"And given what Athanasius says about the divine power of the consensus of the Fathers and the unrevisability and divinity of the Ecumenical Council of Nicea, I don't think this is plausible."

I've previously considered Athanasius' comments in that regard. You don't actually provide an analysis here to indicate the basis for your position. Upon carefully examining Athanasius' comments regarding Nicaea, it keeps coming back to their agreement with Scripture, not their interpretation as such.

"Are you claiming Athanasius goes all the way and teaches Sola Scriptura, or just that what he says is incompatible with the Roman Catholic understanding of Scripture and tradition?"

I was mostly positively setting forth Athanasius' own doctrine here. His doctrine is inconsistent with modern Roman Catholic apologetic positions in a number of ways, and apparently also in conflict with the modern Roman Catholic position on a number of other things.

I'm not trying to commit the anachronism of turning him into a 17th century Reformer, and I don't expect to find every implication of every doctrine he held fully explicated. I also don't expect to find him free from error or free from inconsistency.

[cont'd in part 2]

Turretinfan said...

[cont'd from part 1]


"But the penalty of bearing weaknesses is probably in reference to contracting the corruption of human nature inherited from Adam."

In context, in Athanasius, it refers to Christ's death.

"And human nature received its corruption as a natural consequence of Adam's sin--not by God deciding to willfully impose a penalty of 'causing human nature to become corrupt'."

I have no idea where you get your theology in that regard. Perhaps Pelagius? Augustine ascribes such a position that school: "if what the Pelagians say were true—that ignorance and difficulty, without which no man is born, are elements, not punishments, of our nature, ... ."

"Athanasius teaches (in On the Incarnation) that the possibility of corruption is explained by the fact that human nature is created out of nothing--not because God made it able to become mortal with a pre-planned retribution."

That seems to have to do with Athanasius' view (perhaps a deficient view, though I'd hesitate to claim that) of Providence and Predestination.

"The corruption is an intrinsic and necessary consequence of the rejection of the eternal good things of God."

Even assuming this is both true and what Athanasius held, that doesn't mean that it is not a penalty from God.

"So this does not seem to be talking about penal substitution in the sense that the Reformers understood it; though if by "penalty" you mean a divinely-permitted intrinsic and necessary consequence of sin, (ala Paul in Romans 1 or 6) then you could say Christ bears our penalty and God's wrath."

It looks to me like you are trying to load into the term "penalty" a fully developed Reformed understanding of God's Providence and Predestination. That kind of loading is unwarranted.

-TurretinFan

Nick said...

I have posted a (late) rebuttal here:
http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2010/03/judica-me-domine.html

Jae said...

You said, "Scripture interprets Scripture" this is self-refuting statement!

The definitive problem with making the Scripture as the authority is that it has to be necessarily subjected to interpretation on the first place and INTERPRETATION IS A HUMAN ACT. If everyone is their own authority, nobody can claim authoritative authority because everyone can not claim their authority is higher than anybody else thus result in subjectivism (relativism) For the proper interpretation to occur it can not come from within either the person reading the text or the text itself, it can only derive correct interpretation and thus doctrine from text in the objective sense if being properly taught the Scripture in the context of Apostolic Tradition.

Because Scripture must be interpreted, and because Scripture cannot interpret itself by itself, it follows that some person or persons must interpret Scripture if Scripture is to function as an authority. Otherwise, irreconcilable hermeneutical disputes can only end in division, as each faction has no recourse but to separate.

ANY BOOK/DOCUMENT WRITTEN CAN NOT MAKE A DECISION AND PASS A JUDGMENT AS TO WHO'S GOT IT RIGHT OR WRONG.

This is the reason why we as people have the Supreme Court to make interpretation and pass judgment eventhough we have the Book of U.S. Constitution.



Don't you just realized it by reading and thus interpreting and making up your own conclusions based on what you read in the Bible (outside the Apostolic Tradition) you are already exercizing and affirming authority by yourself?

Don't point to the Bible as your only authority, in REALITY it is not! IT IS YOU!...only YOU!...it is only a novel excuse (men like Luther, Ellen White, Calvin, Joseph Smith, Nestorius, etc.) to point the responsiblity on the Bible.

Peace and Grace:-)

Further reading: (cut and paste)

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

John Bugay said...

Irenaeus said: If we cannot find the solutions for all the questions raised in the Scriptures, let us not seek for another God than he-who-is, for this would be the worst impiety. We must leave such matters as these to the God who made it and correctly realize that the scriptures are perfect, since they were spoken by God’s Word and his Spirit, while we, as we are inferior and more recent than God’s word and his Spirit, need to receive the knowledge of his mysteries. ...

If therefore, even in this created world there are matters reserved for God and others also coming under our knowledge, what harm is done if in questions raised by the scriptures (which are entirely spiritual) we resolve some by God’s grace but leave others to God, not only in this age but in the age to come, so that God may be always teaching and man always learning from God? ... If, then, as we have said, we leave certain questions to God, we shall preserve our faith and remain free from peril. All Scripture, given to us by God, will be found consistent. The parables will agree with the clear statements and the clear passages will explain the parables. Through the polyphony of the texts a single harmonious melody will sound in us, praising in hymns the God who made everything.


(“Irenaeus of Lyons,” “Against Heresies,” 2.28.3, Robert M. Grant translation, pgs. 117-118. Emphasis supplied.)

MG said...

Turretinfan--

You wrote:

“That topic is somewhat addressed under the heading "Scriptures Open to Individual Study."

I don’t think it is addressed there. The issue of the conscience-binding authority of the interpretations of hierarchs is different from the issue of whether or not private study of Scripture benefits the individual.

You wrote:

“That's a very nuanced statement. Assuming I've understood your nuances correctly, that's one aspect of the doctrine. I'm not sure that implication is a sine qua non of the sola scriptura position.”

I’m not saying Athanasius would have to explicitly state this. I’m just saying the concept would have to be present. Athanasius himself would not need to express the nuances or state the definition; he would just have to say things that imply it.

Would you say Sola Scriptura is compatible with the idea that the Ecumenical Councils give an infallible interpretation of Scripture? By infallible I mean not just totally factually correct, but (1) incapable of error and (2) having an unqualified (divine) conscience-binding normativity.

You wrote:

”That's why I view your comment as more of an implication than a core essential of the doctrine.”

Which aspect of your definition of Sola Scriptura does my comment follow from?

You wrote:

“I've previously considered Athanasius' comments in that regard. You don't actually provide an analysis here to indicate the basis for your position. Upon carefully examining Athanasius' comments regarding Nicaea, it keeps coming back to their agreement with Scripture, not their interpretation as such.”

Sure, it is based on its agreement with Scripture. But it seems there is a mechanism that keeps the Church’s teaching in agreement with Scripture. Consider for instance this quote:

"And the first to put on this appearance was the serpent, the inventor of wickedness from the beginning—the devil,—who, in disguise, conversed with Eve, and forthwith deceived her. But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power. Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians, because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions. And the Lord most righteously reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Wherefore do ye also transgress the commandments of God on account of your traditions.’ For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. And about these, a little after, the blessed Paul again gave directions to the Galatians who were in danger thereof, writing to them, ‘If any man preach to you aught else than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’ Festal Letter 2

Here we have a statement about the normativity, not just the correct content, of Holy Tradition. Athanasius criticizes the heretics not for simply disagreeing with Scripture, but for failing to recognize the divine power of the Tradition. They “do not rightly know them nor their power” refers to the traditions of the Church. “Rightly knowing them or their power” is thus put in opposition to “receiving them as traditions of men”. The fact that they are looked at as traditions of men is not directly related to their truth or falsity; being a “tradition of men” is not equivalent to being false. Being a tradition of men is, however, equivalent to lacking unqualified, conscience-binding authority, something that would follow if a teaching is “received from God”. So Athanasius is saying that one of the errors of the heretics is that they do not understand the divinely-authoritative (infallible) teachings of the Fathers, and that they do not understand these teachings as divinely-authoritative.

MG said...

(cont)

You wrote:

”I was mostly positively setting forth Athanasius' own doctrine here. His doctrine is inconsistent with modern Roman Catholic apologetic positions in a number of ways, and apparently also in conflict with the modern Roman Catholic position on a number of other things.

I'm not trying to commit the anachronism of turning him into a 17th century Reformer, and I don't expect to find every implication of every doctrine he held fully explicated. I also don't expect to find him free from error or free from inconsistency.”

Alright, fair enough.

You wrote:

“In context, in Athanasius, it refers to Christ's death.”

Sure, but this one aspect of the inherited “infirmities” of Christ.

You wrote:

“I have no idea where you get your theology in that regard. Perhaps Pelagius? Augustine ascribes such a position that school: "if what the Pelagians say were true—that ignorance and difficulty, without which no man is born, are elements, not punishments, of our nature, ... ."

Actually this is not the Pelagian doctrine, but the consensus of the Fathers. Notice that I have specified what I mean by “natural consequence”; and I do not mean that humanity is initially made in a state of corrupt ignorance and difficulty (the Pelagian view). The idea of “natural consequence” is not necessarily Pelagian, especially since Pelagians taught that corruption and death were not natural consequences of sin, but necessary constituents of human nature from the get-go (as your quote points out). I’m precisely saying that ignorance and difficulty (understood dysteleologically) are punishments of our nature; I’m just specifying what being a “punishment of our nature” means. I think it means the punishment is imposed by our nature, as an intrinsic and necessary consequence of sin, instead of being extrinsically inserted into our nature by God’s willful imposition.

MG said...

(cont)

You wrote:

“That seems to have to do with Athanasius' view (perhaps a deficient view, though I'd hesitate to claim that) of Providence and Predestination.”

I couldn’t agree more that it has to do with Athanasius’ view of providence and predestination. But it carries implications for his view of punishment, and ends up making it incompatible with the Reformed understanding of God’s wrath and punishment. And actually I think you would probably have to say Athanasius’ view on this is bad, given that he understands providence and predestination partly in terms of God’s image as one of the predestining activities of God within human nature.

You wrote:

“Even assuming this is both true and what Athanasius held, that doesn't mean that it is not a penalty from God.”

What do you mean by penalty? I agree, but I doubt we are using the word “penalty” in the same sense when I state my agreement (given the sense I have already offered for what “penalty” means is different from what you mean by “penalty”).

You wrote:

“It looks to me like you are trying to load into the term "penalty" a fully developed Reformed understanding of God's Providence and Predestination. That kind of loading is unwarranted.”

I’m not entirely sure I understand this response. Are you agreeing with me that Athanasius’ doctrine of Christ’s death can’t necessarily be described as penal substitution in the Reformed sense, and that it may even be incompatible with it in some respects?

MG said...

John Bugay--

Though your quote does effectively show that Irenaeus believed the Scriptures were clear enough for people to understand in the proper context, and that they were complete and perfect, this does not prove he held to a doctrine of Sola Scriptura. In order to do that, one would have to show that Irenaeus denies the inherent authority of the interpretations of hierarchs. As I pointed out about the quotes from Athanasius that Turretin Fan uses, Sola Scriptura requires more than just the clarity, perfection, and sufficiency of Scripture. It must be be argued that Irenaeus does not think that the Church's interpretations of Scripture (in received oral tradition and councils) are conscience-binding. Otherwise everything that Irenaeus says is perfectly compatible with the doctrine of prima Scriptura.

Do you have any arguments that Irenaeus denied the concience-binding authority of the Church's interpretations of the Apostolic deposit in Scripture?

John Bugay said...

MG: ...this does not prove he held to a doctrine of Sola Scriptura. In order to do that, one would have to show ..."

I wasn't trying to "prove" anything. Nor does it seem to me that you really understand what "Sola Scriptura" really is.

Do you have any arguments that Irenaeus denied the concience-binding authority of the Church's interpretations of the Apostolic deposit in Scripture?

Do you have any arguments that Irenaeus affirmed the concience-binding authority of the Church's interpretations of the Apostolic deposit in Scripture?

Turretinfan said...

John Bugay,

You are very generous to MG.

If the correct way to approach this discussion were to insist that the other side find the father explicitly denying one's own position, let MG find the place where Irenaeus denied that the bishop of Rome is always fallible.

Or to get more focused on the particular claim of MG here, let MG find a place where Irenaeus denied the freedom of conscience of believers in those circumstances where the Church departs from the apostolic faith set forth in Scripture.

Of course, he won't find either.

The fundamental flaw in his approach is that he wishes to argue from silence, but silence is a hollow reed - one that punctures the hand of him who leans on it, and one that breaks when the force of actual evidence is applied laterally.

You've already supplied the actual evidence above, so I won't repeat your work.

-TurretinFan

Jae said...

Of course the Scripture is inerrant, free of error, no argument but the question is, are you?

When your answer is NO, then conclude otherwise that your own brand of interpretation which is a HUAMN ACT is TRUE (outside Apostolic Tradition)therefore in the process proclaiming yourself inerrant, right? without of course realizing it and pass the interpretive authority back to the Bible.


Ironically, while one group of Protestants is touting “once saved always saved” another group is stating that you can never really be sure who has REAL faith until the end because it might turn out that one is “overcome” by the world at the last minute. Maybe the salvation really never “took” in the first place.

I’m just curious, which of these groups is “rightly dividing the word of God” and which is wrongly dividing it? They can’t both be right (aside from hundreds more) yet both claim scripture as their sole rule of faith. So much for the doctrine of sola scriptura. (this is just one example, how about gay-marriage, artificial contraception, sabbath day, baptism etc). Well, as long as we have the "essentials" and the rest are not important in Scripture. Mind you, but by who's authority to say which one is important or not? The same reason why protestants hated the Catholic Church for; besides the fact that such a doctrine is not even found in the Scripture.

If only the Bible could only make a decision and pass judgment of who's got it right and wrong!

Well, it is clear from the Bible!

Peace and Grace

John Bugay said...

TF: You are very generous to MG.

Well, you know me, always erring on the side of being too generous. ;-)

Jae: Of course the Scripture is inerrant, free of error, no argument but the question is, are you?

When your answer is NO, then [to] conclude otherwise that your own brand of interpretation which is a HUAMN ACT is TRUE (outside Apostolic Tradition)therefore in the process proclaiming yourself inerrant, right? without of course realizing it and pass the interpretive authority back to the Bible.... I’m just curious, which of these groups is “rightly dividing the word of God” and which is wrongly dividing it? They can’t both be right (aside from hundreds more) yet both claim scripture as their sole rule of faith..... If only the Bible could only make a decision and pass judgment of who's got it right and wrong! Well, it is clear from the Bible!



This is a two part answer. In the first case, even if Protestantism is in as bad a shape as you seem to think it is here, that still doesn't mean that Rome's system is the correct one. Protestants may not agree on everything, but the one thing that IS almost universally agreed upon is that Rome's heirarchical system, sacraments, and other accretions are very far from Scriptural.

The second point I would make, briefly, is to say, yes, there is unity in the most important things. Paul concedes that we now see "through a glass darkly." And in terms of coming to what he calls "a mature way of thinking," "and if any of you think otherwise, God will reveal that to you also." Not everyone is at the same level of maturity. As for the big "divisions" you cite: baptism, and monergism/synergism -- in neither of these categories are the differences keeping people from turning to Christ as Savior. That really is the most important thing. "Turn and be healed" (Acts 28:27). Who wants to be part of a meddling nanny-Church that wants to tell you when to eat, when not to eat, when not to eat it, etc.?

Here's a good Protestant motto: "Unity in essentials, charity in less-than-essentials, and love in all things."

Think of it, there are millions and probably billions of Christians. God DOES create individuals. The one true church is not simply one pantheistic blob of like-minded robots. It's a kaleidescope-full of different individuals, "each with his own new name." (Rev 3:12). Now that's individualism!

MG said...

John Bugay--

You wrote:

“I wasn't trying to "prove" anything. Nor does it seem to me that you really understand what "Sola Scriptura" really is.”

I’m not sure what your first sentence means exactly, but if you think I’m asking for proof in the strict sense of a demonstration granting epistemic certainty, that’s not what I was asking. What I’m curious about is this: do you consider your selected quotation to specifically support the idea that Irenaeus taught the doctrine of Sola Scriptura over and against Prima Scriptura? What function did your quotation serve, if not to support the idea that Irenaeus taught Sola Scriptura as the Reformers understood it?

Can you tell me in what specific ways I have erred regarding my representation of the content of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura?

You wrote:

“Do you have any arguments that Irenaeus affirmed the concience-binding authority of the Church's interpretations of the Apostolic deposit in Scripture?”

Although I think such texts do exist in Irenaeus, let me explain what I was trying to do before giving a positive argument. You seemed to be offering an argument (implicitly, via quotation) that Irenaeus taught the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. In order to make such an argument, one must offer some evidence that Irenaeus believed the set of ideas that, when taken in conjunction, entail the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Or one must show that Irenaeus believed things that are incompatible with competing interpretations of his understanding of Scripture, Tradition, and authority (for instance the Roman interpretation or the Orthodox interpretation). If one can only offer evidence that Irenaeus believed some of the ideas that are necessary for someone to affirm for belief in Sola Scriptura, but one lacks evidence that he affirmed more of the ideas that are necessary conditions for the truth of Sola Scriptura than some other doctrine, then we would only have an argument that he believes some, not all, of the parts of the definition of Sola Scriptura.

Now consider a hypothetical theory (incompatible with Sola Scriptura) that interprets Irenaeus’ views of Scripture, Tradition, and authority that can take into account all of the arguments offered for the conclusion that Irenaeus believed Sola Scriptura. And lets say there are no good arugments put forward for this theory as an interpretation of Irenaeus over and against the Sola Scriptura interpretation. The evidence, then, is compatible with either interpretation. Nothing favors one interpretation over the other. Then we should say that the evidence is underdetermined with respect to these two competing theories. Either interpretation would be permissible if the evidence supports some of the necessary conditions for both theories, the evidence does not support any of the necessary conditions that are exclusive to one theory instead of the other, and the evidence does not support a denial of any of the necessary conditions of either theory.

(cont...)

MG said...

(...cont)

Such, it seems to me, is the state of the question regarding Irenaeus’ doctrine at this point in the discussion. Prima Scriptura is an alternative theory set forth as an interpretation of Irenaeus’ doctrine. Furthermore, Prima Scriptura is incompatible with Sola Scriptura because Prima Scriptura contains a concept incompatible with Sola Scriptura (that some interpretive judgments of hierarchs are conscience-binding). Both agree that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice that provides all the content of Christian teaching. Both agree that Scripture is clear, and that individuals can benefit from the study of the Scriptures. So given the evidence I allege you have offered at this point, either theory seems compatible with what Irenaeus says. There is thus an underdetermination of the evidence with respect to our two competing theories. So we don’t have an argument that Irenaeus believes in Sola Scriptura as opposed to Prima Scriptura; nor do we have an argument that he believes in Prima Scriptura as opposed to Sola Scriptura. That seems to be where we are at in the dialectic when we take into account the quotations you offered in the last comment. Hence my previous statement: “Otherwise everything that Irenaeus says is perfectly compatible with the doctrine of prima Scriptura.” I was saying that necessary conditions common to both our theories are fulfilled in Irenaeus, and nothing tips the scale in the direction of either your or my theory.

And in order to end this stalemate, it seems one side of the dispute must do one of the following: (1) Show that Irenaeus positively expresses at least one more necessary condition of view x than the number of necessary conditions Irenaeus teaches of view y, or (2) Show that Irenaeus denies (implicitly or explicitly) at least one of the necessary conditions of view x.

Before offering positive evidence for my interpretation of St. Irenaeus, I’d like to get clear about whether or not we are on the same page. Do you agree with my characterization of the state of our discussion, and my characterization of what constitutes a good argument for an interpretation of the text in question?

Jae said...

Dear bro John,

Peace of Christ with you.

Thanks for the reply. You said, "The one true church is not simply one pantheistic blob of like-minded robots. It's a kaleidescope-full of different individuals,".

We don't believe it either of a blob of like minded ROBOTS, you are right in the sense that the church is a kaleidescope of individuals BUT not in the sense what you are implying. God didn't call people to gather and align with similar beliefs but rather He called His people to a society, what we called the Church.

The Church of the apostles resembles in all essentials the Church of today by showing how the early Church already bore the marks, or "notes," of the true Church of Christ which are still professed today in the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed declares the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Thus, the Church of the apostles was definitely one: "There is one body and one spirit," Paul wrote, "just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all" (Eph. 4:4-5). Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church's common Eucharistic bread: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread" (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised at the outset that "there would be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16).

Besides these verses would otherwise be meaningless without the UNITY and FULLNESS of His Truth.

..... (JN 16:13)

"Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into ALL truth. He will not speak on his own accord, but will speak whatever He hears and will declare to you THE THINGS that are to COME". Notice He said ALL, in dictionary: every single one, whole, FULLNESS..not one or two only.

.... (1 Timothy 3:15)

"God's household, which is the Church of the living God, the PILLAR and FOUNDATION of the TRUTH."

When you say the words "PILLAR and FOUNDATION of TRUTH" it is what it is - not one's meaning of the "church" as a collection of differing churches who proclaim different truths according to their understanding of the Scripture.

How could the Bible call the FOUNDATION OF TRUTH is the CHURCH, if the truth is just subjective to men or majority votes? Clearly with what's happening in the Anglican, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, Unitarian, Church of Christ, Episcopalians and many more independent Evangelical Churches who voted that gay-marriage is biblical truth! aside from the fact that before the 30's ALL christian churches AGREED that artficial contraception is against the Will of God, what happened to the unchangeability of Truth?.

... (Matt 16:18)

" And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the GATES OF HELL WILL NOT OVERCOME IT." Besides the given authority to "Bind and Loose" and to "Forgive and Retain".

We Catholics believed of this Great Promise of God Himself to Peter and His Church that in spite and midst of human sins and corruption God is still faithful to His promise...that NO heretical teaching (error) will be declared, taught and proclaimed as Divine and Morally True because otherwise the promise is forfeited. This guarantee is not from men but from God.

So, thus we as Catholics believe in this Church as Jesus founded and gave His authority to speak for Him in His absence that can not make an error in terms of faith and morals - if we are to say that Christian doctrines are from Divine Source and MUST be believed under the pain of eternal lost then this Gift and Great Promise by God is necessary indeed to His Church because if she could ERR at all is could ERR in ANY POINT. There is NO guarantee to any doctrine to His flock.

Peace and Grace!

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