Thursday, October 28, 2010

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Introduction (Guest Series)

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers' views.

The Scriptures are the Word of God. Their purpose, among other things, is to bring people who read them to a saving knowledge of God - to bring them to faith in God and repentance from sin.
John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
They accomplish this purpose, as it is written:
Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Scripture, the fathers, and the Reformers all agree that the Scriptures are able to thoroughly furnish the man of God:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Indeed, the Scriptures themselves illuminate the reader:
Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
And the Scriptures are capable of educating even those who lack mental sophistication:
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
This sufficiency of Scripture is hard to deny. Nevertheless, those who follow Rome sometimes try to affirm what they term "material sufficiency," while denying what they call "formal sufficiency."

These terms, as such, are not terms that are especially ancient. For example, one does not find a theologian like Thornwell, Dabney, or even Hodge talking about the "formal sufficiency of Scripture." That's just not the way they expressed themselves.

Whether the exact expression "formal sufficiency" is an invention of Roman theologians is hard to say for sure. Nevertheless, one influential theologian that brought in the term to distinguish the Roman position from the reformed position was the Roman cardinal Yves Congar.

Congar explained what he meant this way:
Personally, I find no difficulty, and not a little joy, in discovering there the positive affirmation that Scripture contains, at least in the form of suggestion or principle, the entire treasury of truths which it is necessary to believe in order to be saved (provided there is an adequate presentation of the Gospel message).

To say that, in the sense in which the Fathers and the medieval theologians held it, does not in any way amount to a profession of the principle of Scriptura sola demanded by the Reformers. They were reacting against a sovereignty of the Church’s power, more precisely of the papal power, over the word of God contained in Scripture, a sovereignty which they considered exorbitant, as indeed it would have been if in fact it had corresponded to the image they had formulated of it. It was with the intention of restoring the sovereignty of God alone that they presented that of Scripture as exclusive. In order to do this effectively, they affirmed the sufficiency of this Scripture, not uniquely in a material sense, that is to say as the object quod creditur, but in a formal sense, that is to say as the means whereby we know, the constitutive light by which we understand, the principle of the rule of faith, in short, using scholastic terminology, as the object quo. Not only was the whole of faith contained in Scripture, but the Christian, benefiting from the interior witness of the Holy Spirit, could find it there.
Yves M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay (London: Burns & Oats, 1966), pp. 116-117.(bold emphasis added).

In another place Congar provides a similar definition:
The doctrine that has just been presented is that of all the Fathers of the Catholic tradition, as much in the East as the West. It denied in the Protestant theory of the sufficiency of Scripture, expounded systematically in the Protestant Orthodoxy of the beginning of the seventeenth century. According to this theory, Scripture possesses by itself and in itself, that is, without needing the addition of any other principle, the qualities of a real sacrament of salvation, or rather of saving faith. It possesses authority, making it recognized and developing it unaided; it possesses efficacy, being the principle—and for some the sole—means of Grace; it contains all that is necessary for the Christian; it is clear, explaining itself without help and needing nothing besides itself to make known God’s thoughts.
Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1964), pp. 87-88. (bold emphasis added)

While we may disagree with Congar's view of the fathers, and while we may feel that some further distinctions and explanations are necessary to help explain the difference between the Reformed and Roman positions, Congar's position provides a helpful illustration of the contemporary Roman position - and its view of the Reformed position.

Yves Congar was a cardinal, but Sean Patrick is a layman of the same church. Sean recently challenged Pastor King to discuss the fathers and sola scriptura, particularly the issue of whether any church fathers held to the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Sean worded his challenge this way:
Not one father taught the formal sufficiency of scripture. Full stop. If you disagree here is your chance. Tell me which fathers taught the formal sufficiency of scripture. ... By the way, can you name one church history scholar . . . who conclude[s] that any father taught that scripture was formally sufficient?
(source)

Subsequently, while waiting for this challenge to be met, Sean posted a blog article of his own. In his blog article, Sean wrote:
... for scripture to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all that is needed for salvation, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it (e.g. the church is not needed to interpret scripture.)
(source)

You may notice that in the comments above, we had observed that Cardinal Congar's view might need a little refinement - Sean's needs a lot of careful qualification. It's not so much that he's headed in the completely wrong direction, but his statement "the church is not needed to interpret scripture" is sufficiently vague that it can be easily misunderstood.

There is always a concern in this sort of challenge that the Roman advocate will define the meaning of material and formal sufficiency from his own perspective, and in doing so will essentially be asking us to advocate something we don't actually advocate. Now, to be sure, scholars can and do often differ, but the challenge is simply to name one father and one church history scholar. Nevertheless, he may move the target of “one” by either dismissing all of the ensuing witnesses, and/or insisting on more (i.e., others) in addition to these which we shall list.

In the same comment box with the challenge Sean also provided his definition:
Formal Sufficiency and Material Sufficiency:

For Scripture to be materially sufficient, it would have to contain or imply all that is needed for salvation. For it to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all of this data, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it.

Now please tell me which fathers taught that scripture was formally sufficient.
(source)

Of course, we do not let others decide for us what we mean when we affirm that Holy Scripture is formally sufficient. It is important to understand what the Reformed mean and thus believe with respect to the formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture. We define formal sufficiency in the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

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

9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
(From Chapter 1 of the WCF)

Thus, we differ from Sean's assertion regarding the meaning of formal sufficiency, because he fails to include in his definition the necessity of the work of the Spirit of God, apart from which no man is ever converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is presupposed by all members of the early church *who* affirm the principle of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture with respect to those things necessary for the salvation of men. We should note, however, that Congar - at least sometimes - is more careful.

The formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture, as set forth by the Westminster Confession (although the Westminster confession does not use the expression "formal sufficiency"), defines it in the context of the need for “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God,” that “all things necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word,” that “a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them, and that “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. The 17th century Reformed theologian, Francis Turretin, explains further how the concept of formal sufficiency (the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity) is to be understood…

Francis Turretin (1623-87):
As to the state of the question, observe: (1) The question does not concern the perspicuity or the obscurity of the subject or of persons. For we do not deny that the Scriptures are obscure to unbelievers and the unrenewed, to whom Paul says his gospel is hid (2 Cor. 4:3). Also we hold that the Spirit of illumination is necessary to make them intelligible to believers. Rather the question concerns the obscurity or perspicuity of the object or of the Scriptures (i.e., whether they are so obscure that the believer cannot apprehend them for salvation without the authority and judgment of the church—which we deny).
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.ii, p. 143.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):
The question is not whether things essential to salvation are everywhere in the Scriptures perspicuously revealed. We acknowledge that there are some things hard to be understood (δυσνόητα) and intended by God to exercise our attention and mental powers. The question is whether things essential to salvation are anywhere revealed, at least so that the believer can by close meditation ascertain their truth (because nothing can be drawn out of the more obscure passages which may not be found elsewhere in the plainest terms).
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.v, p. 144.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):
The question does not concern the perspicuity which does not exclude the means necessary for interpretation (i.e., the internal light of the Spirit, attention of mind, the voice and ministry of the church, sermons and commentaries, prayer and watchfulness). For we hold these means not only to be useful, but also necessary ordinarily. We only wish to proscribe the darkness which would prevent the people from reading the Scriptures as hurtful and perilous and compel them to have recourse to tradition when they might rest in the Scriptures alone.
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.vi, p. 144.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):
The question then comes to this—whether the Scriptures are so plain in things essential to salvation (not as to the things delivered, but as to the mode of delivery; not as to the subject, but the object) that without the external aid of tradition or the infallible judgment of the church, they may be read and understood profitably by believers. The papists deny this; we affirm it.
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.vii, p. 144.

Bauckham offers the following summary.

Richard Bauckham:
The notion of the formal sufficiency of Scripture does not, of course, mean that Scripture requires no interpretation at all—a notion which anti-Protestant writers have frequently and easily refuted, thus missing the real point—but that it requires no normative interpretation. Protestant interpretation of Scripture employed all the ordinary means of interpreting a text, especially the tools which humanist scholarship had developed for interpreting ancient texts, and respected the views of theologians and exegetes of the past as useful, but not normative, guides to understanding Scripture. The real difference between the classic Protestant and the classic Roman Catholic views lies in the Protestant rejection of the view that tradition, expressed in the teaching of the magisterium, possesses a binding authority against which there can be no appeal to Scripture. Behind this difference lies, on the one hand, the Reformation’s originating experience of a rediscovery of the Gospel in Scripture apart from and in contradiction to the teaching of the contemporary church, and, on the other hand, the Roman Catholic trust in God’s promise to maintain his church in the truth.
See Richard Bauckham’s chapter, “Tradition In Relation To Scripture and Reason,” in Benjamin Drewery and Richard J. Bauckham, eds., Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, A Study in the Criteria of Christian Doctrine, Essays in Honour of Richard P. C. Hanson (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), p. 123.

Or as Bavinck has expressed it…

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921):
The doctrine of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture has frequently been misunderstood and misrepresented, both by Protestants and Catholics. It does not mean that the matters and subjects with which Scripture deals are not mysteries that far exceed the reach of the human intellect. Nor does it assert that Scripture is clear in all its parts, so that no scientific exegesis is needed, or that, also in its doctrine of salvation, Scripture is plain and clear to every person without distinction. It means only that the truth, the knowledge of which is necessary to everyone for salvation, though not spelled out with equal clarity on every page of Scripture, is nevertheless presented throughout all of Scripture in such simple and intelligible form that a person concerned about the salvation of his or her soul can easily, by personal reading and study, learn to know that truth from Scripture without the assistance and guidance of the church and the priest. The way of salvation, not as it concerns the matter itself but as it concerns the mode of transmission, has been clearly set down there for the reader desirous of salvation. While that reader may not understand the “how” (πῶς) of it, the “that” (ὅτι) is clear.
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Prolegomena (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 477.

We may also add that the Westminster Confession of Faith is not the only Reformed confession to make this kind of claim. The Belgic Confession states:
Article 5: The Authority of Scripture

We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.

And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them-- not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.

For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

...

Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture

We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one-- even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says-- ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.

Therefore we must not consider human writings-- no matter how holy their authors may have been-- equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.

Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, "Test the spirits to see if they are of God," and also, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house."

...


Article 30: The Government of the Church

We believe that this true church ought to be governed according to the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in his Word. There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the pastors, to make up the council of the church.

By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their need.

By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.
Perhaps the great theologian John Owen sums it up well:
Protestants suppose the Scripture to be given forth by God, to be unto the church a perfect rule of that faith and obedience, which he requires at the hands of the sons of men. They suppose that it is such a revelation of his mind or will, as is intelligible unto all them that are concerned to know it, if they use the means by him appointed to come unto a right understanding of it. They suppose that what is not taught therein, or not taught so clearly, as that men who humbly and heartily seek unto him, may know his mind therein, as to what he requireth of them, cannot possibly be the necessary and indispensable duty of any one to perform. They suppose that it is the duty of every man to search the Scriptures with all diligence, by the help and assistance of the means that God hath appointed in his church, to come to the knowledge of his mind and will in all things concerning their faith and obedience, and firmly to believe and adhere unto what they find revealed by him. And they moreover suppose that those who deny any of these suppositions, are therein, and so far as they do so, injurious to the grace, wisdom, love, and care of God towards his church, to the honour and perfection of the Scripture, the comfort and establishment of the souls of men, leaving them no assured principles to build their faith and salvation upon.

Now from these suppositions, I hope you see that it will unavoidably follow, that the Scripture is able every way to effect that, which you deny unto it a sufficiency for. For where, I pray you, lies its defect? I am afraid, from the next part of your question, 'Has it ever done it?' that you run upon a great mistake. The defect that follows the failings and miscarriages of men, you would have imputed unto the want of sufficiency in the Scripture. But we cannot allow you herein.

The Scripture in its place, and in that kind of cause which it is, is as sufficient to settle men, all men, in the truth, as the sun is to give light to all men to see by: but the sun that giveth light doth not give eyes also. The Scripture doth its work, as a moral rule, which men are not necessitated or compelled to attend unto or follow. And if through their neglect of it, or not attendance unto it, or disability to discern the mind and will of God in it, whether proceeding from their natural impotency and blindness in their lapsed condition, or some evil habit of mind contracted by their giving admission unto corrupt prejudices and traditional principles, the work be not effected; this is no impeachment of the Scripture's sufficiency, but a manifestation of their weakness and folly.

Besides, all that unity in faith that hath been at any time, or is in the world, according to the mind of God, every decision that hath been made at any time of any difference in or about religion in a right way and order, hath been by the Scripture, which God hath sanctified unto those ends and purposes. And it is impossible that the miscarriages or defects of men can reflect the least blame upon it, or make it esteemed insufficient for the end now inquired after. The pursuit then of your inquiry which now you insist upon, is in part vain, in part already answered.

In vain it is that you inquire 'whether the written word can settle any man in a way that neither himself, nor present adherents, nor future generations shall question:' for our inquiry is not after what may be, or what shall be, but what ought to be. It is able to settle a man in a way, that none ought to question unto the world's end: so it settled the first Christians. But to secure is that none shall ever question the way whereinto it leads us; that it is not designed for, nor is it either needful or possible that it should be so: the oral preaching of the Son of God, and of his apostles, did not so secure them whom they taught.

The way that they professed, was everywhere questioned, contradicted, spoken against, and many, after the profession of it, again renounced it: and I wonder what feat you have to settle any one in a way that shall never be questioned. The authority of your pope and church will not do it: themselves are things as highly questioned and disputed about, as any thing that was ever named with reference unto religion.

If you shall say, But yet they ought not to be so questioned, and it is the fault of men that they are so: you may well spare me the labour of answering your question, seeing you have done it yourself.

And whereas you add, 'or with as much probability dissent from it either totally or in part, as himself first set it,' when the very preceding words do not speak of a man's own setting, but of the Scriptures settling, the man only embracing that what settleth and determineth. It is answered already; that what is so settled by the Scripture, and received as settled, cannot justly be questioned by any.

And you insinuate a most irrational supposition, on which your assertion is built, namely, that error may have as much probability as truth. For I suppose you will grant, that what is settled by the Scripture is true, and therefore that which dissents from it must needs be an error; which, that it may be as probable indeed as truth (for we speak not of appearances, which have all their strength from our weaknesses), is a new notion, which may well be added to "your many other of the like rarity and evidence.

But, why is not the Scripture able to settle men in unquestionable truth? When the people of old doubted about the ways of God wherein they ought to walk, himself sends them to the law and to the testimony for their instruction and settlement; Isa. viii. 20. And we think the council of him, who cannot deceive nor be deceived, is to be hearkened unto, as well as his command to be obeyed. Our Saviour assures us, that if men will not hear Moses and the prophets, and take direction from them for those ways wherein they may please God, they will not do whatsoever they pretend from any other means, which rather approve of; Lukexvi. 29.31.

Yea, and when the great fundamental of Christian religion, concerning the person of the Messiah, was in question, he sends men for their settlement unto the Scriptures; John v. 39. And we suppose that that which is sufficient to settle us in the foundation, is so, to confirm us also in the whole superstructure. Especially considering that it is able ' to make the man of God perfect, and to be thoroughly furnished unto all good works ;' 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.

What more is required unto the settlement of any one in religion we know not; nor what can rationally stand in competition with the Scripture to this purpose; seeing that is expressly commended unto us for it by the Holy Ghost, other ways are built on the conjectures of men. Yea, the assurance which we may have hereby is preferred by Peter, before that which any may have by an immediate voice from heaven; 2 Pet. i. 19.

And is it not an unreasonable thing, now for you to come and tell us, that the Scripture is not sufficient to give us an unquestionable settlement in religion? Whether it be meet to 'hearken unto God or men,' judge you.

For our parts, we seek not for the foundation of our settlement, in long uncertain discourses, dubious conclusions and inferences, fallible conjectures, sophistical reasonings, such as you would call us unto; but in the express direction and command of God. Him we can follow, and trust unto, without the least fear of miscarriage. Whither you would lead us we know not, and are not willing to make desperate experiments in things of so high concernment.
John Owen, Works, Volume 18, A Vindication of the Animadversions on Fiat Lux, Chapter VI

(to be continued)

Note: David King is the prime mover and shaker on this series, but I (TurretinFan) have done a significant amount of editing. So, please blame me for any errors that have crept in, while giving credit to Pastor King for the hard work that went into it.

31 comments:

Coram Deo said...

I've been looking forward to reading this article since Algo mentioned it in channel at pros a few days ago, and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

As expected it was well researched, well documented, well organized, and utterly devastating to the Romanist position. Kudos!

I did notice a couple of editorial housekeeping items that need to be addressed:

"Nevertheless, one influential theologian that brought in the term to distinguish the Roman position from the reformed position with the Roman cardinal Yves Congar."

Given the context I think "with" should have been "was".

And again:

Perhaps the great theologian John Own sums it up well:

"Own" should be "Owen".

I look forward to the rest of the series!

In Him,
CD

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Excellente!

Also, I'm sure both Pastor King and TurretinFan are looking forward to Sean Patrick's devastating critique that's sure to follow!

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for the corrections, CD. For the record, those were both my typos, not Pastor King's.

Blogahon said...

TFan -

I noticed this post via seeing that you linked Called to Communion. Given that the post is directed at a challenge I gave David T King I hope you don't mind weighing in on your argument thus far.

Firstly, my challenge to David T King is pretty simple:

Name the church father(s) that taught that scripture was formally sufficient.

I am still hoping that David (or you?) will just do that and then we can examine the words of those particular fathers in total and determine if they held that the church and tradition held no normative (binding) interpretive authority.

Here is another passage from Yves Congar highlighting the difference between formal and material sufficiency, "We can admit sola scriptura in the sense of a material sufficiency of canonical Scripture. This means that Scripture contains, in one way or another, all truths necessary for salvation. This position can claim the support of many Fathers and early theologians. It has been, and still is, held by many modern theologians." . . . At Trent it was widely . . . admitted that all the truths necessary to salvation are at least outlined in Scripture. . . . We find fully verified the formula of men like Newman and Kuhn: Totum in Scriptura, totum in Traditione, `All is in Scripture, all is in Tradition.' .. `Written' and `unwritten' indicate not so much two material domains as two modes or states of knowledge" (Tradition and Traditions [New York: Macmillian, 1967], 410-414)

I really don't understand the complaint about discussing the inward illumination of the Spirit of God. As a Catholic I believe in the third person of the Holy Trinity and I believe in the Spirit's work in the hearts of the elect and in the guiding of the Church. In other words the working of the Holy Spirit in this discussion is a given.

Apparently you don't like the definitions I gave or that Congar gave. Instead of using the definitions provided by myself or Congar you want to say that you believe that scripture is formally sufficient, which means that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of the reader of scripture and that scripture normatively interprets itself.

Fine. Which church fathers taught that to the exclusion of the interpretive authority of the church?

Really the request is not that hard and does not require a laboriously produced 'series.' Any citation of scripture you produce will be affirmed by me and other Catholics with a hearty AMEN. We believe what scripture teaches. Perhaps you should read Dei Verbum if you want to understand what the Catholic Church teaches about scripture.

Since David T King (and apparently you?) has claimed in his book and online that the fathers taught that scripture was 'formally sufficient' than it should not be very hard to just name them.

If I said, 'The church fathers taught baptismal regeneration' and you said, 'Which ones?' I would simply name some fathers.

Turretinfan said...

Sean,

You wrote: "Which church fathers taught that to the exclusion of the interpretive authority of the church?"

You'll notice that neither Congar's nor even your own (at least in the part we quoted) and certainly not our definitions said anything about the exclusion of the interpretative authority of the church.

If you want to change your challenge into "please identify one father who specifically criticizes my heresy," then you're probably not going to get too many takers.

If, on the other hand, you sincerely want to learn what the fathers said on the subject of Scripture's sufficiency, then be patient. There are more parts coming. This was the first part, and there is already a second part posted.

But let's be honest. You didn't really post your challenge in order to learn. You posted your challenge for another reason.

In any event, the series will be posted (Lord Willing) for those more interested in truth than yourself. And you will, of course, get a clear statement from us about what we affirm, what the Scripture teaches, what the fathers taught, and what scholars acknowledge that the fathers taught.

-TurretinFan

Blogahon said...

But let's be honest. You didn't really post your challenge in order to learn. You posted your challenge for another reason.

I posted my challenge to David T King because he claimed something about the church fathers that I know is false.

You cite Yves Congar and then compare him to me by saying that I am a lay person. Leaving the ad hom aside, I am saying pretty much exactly what Yves Congar is saying. Congar says that the view of the sufficiency of scripture of the Reformers was not that of the fathers.

You quote of Congar that starts: "The doctrine that has just been presented is that of all the Fathers of the Catholic tradition...." is a great quote.

But what does he mean by 'what has just been presented?' Here is the preceding statement:

"For the Fathers, tradition presents first the content of the Scriptures, which contain in one way or another all that is necessary to live as God wishes us to, and it interprets the meaning of the Scriptures. In fact, this meaning is not given clearly by Scripture itself and is found, in a certain way, outside it...The Scriptures do not surrender their meaning by the bare text; they surrender it to a mind that is living, and living in the conditions of the Covenant. This mind, or living subject, is the one we studied in the last chapter; it is the Church, God's people, the Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in a certain way, Scripture possesses its meaning out itself....The reality contained in the sacred text would be described as literary, historical or exegetical meaning but its dogmatic meaning is found outside the text...which supposes the intervention of a new activity, the faith of the Church. The place where this is found is precisely tradition as it is understood by the early Fathers; it is there, in this setting and in these conditions that the holy Scriptures reveal their meaning..."

Anybody can continue reading here.

I agree that Congar says it much better than I am able.

Turretinfan said...

Sean:

a) The fact that you gloss over the differences between what you and Congar said demonstrates to me that you don't appreciate the significance of the distinctions he's making and not making. Perhaps the significance will become more transparent as the series continues.

b) When it comes to defining "the Roman Catholic position," Congar is a better source for me to cite than you are. That's because you're a layman and he's a famous theologian and cardinal. That's not an illicit ad hominem, although it does address the issue of who you are. Most of my readers, both on your side of the river and your side of the river, should be able to appreciate the use of an actual Roman Catholic theologian as opposed to someone whose depth in theology consists of approximately once through RCIA.

c) You wrote: "I posted my challenge to David T King because he claimed something about the church fathers that I know is false."

Maybe if you were less sure of the conclusion prior to seeing the evidence you'd be better able to learn. I realize learning is not your reason for being here, but why not seize the opportunity?

-TurretinFan

Blogahon said...

T Fan -

a) Can you explain to me the difference in what I said and what Congar is saying?

b) It looks like an ad hom to me but a strange one to use considering Congar's position.

c) I realize learning is not your reason for being here, but why not seize the opportunity?

I am not going to continue this discussion if my motives are continually going to be called into question. This is the pattern with you guys lately. Motives are either called into question or we are called dishonest or liars. I

If you want to dedicate the time and effort of engaging the topic and desire to have some Catholic interaction than I'd be happy to oblige. If, however, you just want to try to score some apologetic 'gotchas' by undermining me by the use of ad homs and calling into question my motives than you can have this conversation with yourself. Your call.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I am not going to continue this discussion if my motives are continually going to be called into question. This is the pattern with you guys lately. Motives are either called into question or we are called dishonest or liars.

I have seen this done by Catholic apologists as well. Among them Dave Armstrong and Matthew Bellisario.

In addition I am sure that TurretinFan has had his motives wrongly questioned as well by Catholic interlocutors.

Furthermore, I'm not saying that TurretinFan is wrong for questioning your motives in this case either.

Turretinfan said...

Sean,

You wrote: a) Can you explain to me the difference in what I said and what Congar is saying?

I already did so, both in the post and again in comment box.

You wrote: b) It looks like an ad hom to me but a strange one to use considering Congar's position.

I've already explained this issue also.

I had written "I realize learning is not your reason for being here, but why not seize the opportunity?"

You responded: I am not going to continue this discussion if my motives are continually going to be called into question. This is the pattern with you guys lately. Motives are either called into question or we are called dishonest or liars. I

If what I said is true, why are you whining? If it is false, why don't you deny it? Your stated reason for the challenge confirms what I said. You already think you know ("I posted my challenge to David T King because he claimed something about the church fathers that I know is false."), you're not here to learn. I speak the truth, and you gripe about me speaking the truth.

You wrote: If you want to dedicate the time and effort of engaging the topic and desire to have some Catholic interaction than I'd be happy to oblige. If, however, you just want to try to score some apologetic 'gotchas' by undermining me by the use of ad homs and calling into question my motives than you can have this conversation with yourself. Your call.

If you want to address actual issues, feel free. If you want to gripe about not being treated in the manner you think is appropriate, go away. That kind of comment adds nothing of real value to anyone else.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

Sean,

in light of the following verses and your own words above, why take any offense when your motives are being brought into question by TF or anyone else for that matter?

Psa 119:161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.
Psa 119:162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
Psa 119:163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
Psa 119:164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psa 119:165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Psa 119:166 I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.
Psa 119:167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
Psa 119:168 I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.


I am having a difficult time reconciling those verses with your own words, Sean:

I really don't understand the complaint about discussing the inward illumination of the Spirit of God. As a Catholic I believe in the third person of the Holy Trinity and I believe in the Spirit's work in the hearts of the elect and in the guiding of the Church. In other words the working of the Holy Spirit in this discussion is a given.

I am not going to continue this discussion if my motives are continually going to be called into question. This is the pattern with you guys lately. Motives are either called into question or we are called dishonest or liars.


So, are we now led to believe you are a hypocrite seeing with your own words you affirm your belief in the Spirit's work in the hearts of the elect and yet equivocate by taking offense with TF questioning your motives?

Are you saying that the Holy Spirit did not inspire the writing of Psalm 119?

dtking said...

I posted my challenge to David T King because he claimed something about the church fathers that I know is false.

This claim to knowledge shall in due time here be shown to be the expression of ignorance. Our own divines met with it in times past. Owen rightly observed...

John Owen (1616-1683): Do you know that a volume might be filled with testimonies of ancient fathers, bearing witness to the sufficiency and efficacy of the Scripture for the settlement of the minds of men in the knowledge of God and his worship? The Works of John Owen, A Vindication of the Animadversions on Fiat Lux, ed. William H. Goold, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, Third printing, 1977), vol. XIV, p. 348.

John Owen (1616-1683): But if neither the testimony of God himself in the Scriptures, nor the concurrent suffrage of the ancient church, nor the experience of so many thousands of the disciples of Christ, is of any moment with you, I hope you will not take it amiss if I look upon you as one giving in yourself as a signal an instance of the power of prejudice, and partial addiction to a party and interest, as a man can well meet withal in the world. The Works of John Owen, A Vindication of the Animadversions on Fiat Lux, ed. William H. Goold, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, Third printing, 1977), vol. XIV, p. 348.

Blogahon said...

I am reminded why I stopped posting here previously. Refusal to engage but only deflect (you telling me that you already told me how my view differs from Congar-you haven't) and Nata coming in with a scripture citation that apparently suggests something about me and then calling me a hypocrite.

Here is the deal: Post as much of the 'series' as you want. When it's done then be sure to say that it's done.

I'll try to check back occasionally and look for the conclusion.

Turretinfan said...

Sean:

You wrote: "Refusal to engage but only deflect (you telling me that you already told me how my view differs from Congar-you haven't)"

You're not speaking the truth. I did already tell you how your view differs from Congar's in the post itself (here's the link) and I did so in a comment above (here's a link to the comment).

You've been offered a chance to engage, and instead, you are now offering simply whining and complaining about how you are being treated. Example:

"... and Nata coming in with a scripture citation that apparently suggests something about me and then calling me a hypocrite."

You continued: "Here is the deal: Post as much of the 'series' as you want. When it's done then be sure to say that it's done."

Thanks for the offer, but I'll just post the series as I had planned. You can choose to respond to the substance, or you can go away, as I already pointed out. Since you've now already ignored my request in my previous comment (If you want to gripe about not being treated in the manner you think is appropriate, go away. That kind of comment adds nothing of real value to anyone else.), I'll simply delete further comments from you that don't address the substance.

You concluded: "I'll try to check back occasionally and look for the conclusion."

Do as you like (aside from coming back to complain that you're not being treated the way you want - any further comments from you in that vein will simply be deleted). My hope is that you'll surpass my expectations and actually learn something about the fathers and Scripture from the series.

But even if you don't, the series may be of help and assistance to others who read it.

-TurretinFan

Blogahon said...

TFan.

Case and point. You have not addressed how my position is any different than that of Congar. You put his statements next to mine and then said that my position needs more refinement than his statement. That is not explaining how mine is any different.

And then in the comments all you have said is:

"You'll notice that neither Congar's nor even your own (at least in the part we quoted) and certainly not our definitions said anything about the exclusion of the interpretative authority of the church."

Huh? You said that NEITHER Congar's nor my own said anything about the interpretive authority of the church. If neither of us said anything about that than how is our position different?

I also posted Congar, at length, affirming my very thesis.

So - it kind of makes one want to bang their head against the wall.

It's your blog and you can do what you want with it. Like I said, until you actually address the issue and my challenge to David T King I'll leave the discussion to you and your cheering section.

Turretinfan said...

Sean:

Let me summarize what I've already said for you:

1) Congar provides a lot of careful qualifications, which may not be quite enough.

2) You (in your challenge) provide far fewer qualifications, leading to ambiguity.

3) You (in your revised challenge posted above, namely Which church fathers taught that to the exclusion of the interpretive authority of the church?) provide a feature that Congar does not, namely this feature of "to the exclusion of the interpretive authority of the church."

I hope that summary helps you better understand what I've already told you. If so, great. If not, I'm not sure I can make it any more clear for you.

As for the series, hopefully you'll understand that the first section (and the aside that I've posted) is needed to help clarify what it is we are affirming. If your challenge is for us to affirm something that's not our position, then your challenge seems meaningless.

Since your challenge is written in such ambiguous terms, it's helpful for us to clarify what our position is, before we get to the issue that interests you the most.

Moreover, before we get to what the fathers taught, we have presented to you what the Scriptures teach. I realize this doesn't particularly interest you (since it's not what your challenge requested) but it should still interest you because the Scriptures are God's Word, even according to your church.

If they teach formal sufficiency, it's ultimately a moot (yet historically interesting) question whether the fathers taught it.

-TurretinFan

Coram Deo said...

dtking observed: This claim to knowledge shall in due time here be shown to be the expression of ignorance.

We can surely be thankful that Romanist ignorance isn't the measure of true knowledge.

In Him,
CD

natamllc said...

Sean,

and Nata coming in with a scripture citation that apparently suggests something about me and then calling me a hypocrite.

So, you are taking offense, then, with me too?

Why not just answer the question instead of deflecting it?

I will restate the question:

"in light of the following verses and your own words above, why take any offense when your motives are being brought into question by TF or anyone else for that matter?"

The purpose for citing Scripture, [Psalm 119:161-168], as a foundation for my question, is because of the underlined portion of your own words that led me to believe the basis for all your argument is grounded in Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

These are your own words, aren't they?

Sean:

I really don't understand the complaint about discussing the inward illumination of the Spirit of God. As a Catholic I believe in the third person of the Holy Trinity and I believe in the Spirit's work in the hearts of the elect and in the guiding of the Church. In other words the working of the Holy Spirit in this discussion is a given.

You have, again, confused me with your objection of my use of Scripture and the issue that I am taking with your process.

The Roman Catholic Church does hold to the Word of God for one's salvation and as a major place for it being of material sufficiency, doesn' she?

I am assuming you believe she does?

That being a correct assumption, would you not agree with these Words of Scripture as well?

2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2Ti 3:17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.



Why not answer the question I posed instead of argue about how I asked it taking offense that I would use the Scripture's Light to see with when it comes to engaging you in here?

Let me also asked again the last question I already asked you? It is not to humiliate or slight you in any way. It is simply an attempt to find some common ground in Scripture as a basis of dialogue with you:

Are you saying that the Holy Spirit did not inspire the writing of Psalm 119?

john said...

If scripture was formally sufficient then it would have explicit teaching on how to interpret the text. Yet such teaching is not found in the text. Therefore the text requires information outside the text to understand all doctrine contained within the text. Therefore the text , which is scripture is not formally sufficient.

JM

Jeff Cagle said...

TF -- minor Grammar Nazi moment:

"While we may disagree with Congar's view of the fathers, and while we may feel that some further distinctions and explanations are necessary to help explain the difference between the Reformed and Roman positions."

There's no independent clause here.

Thanks for posting this.

John and Sean: Is the Catholic Catechism formally sufficient on your terms, meaning that it contains within it the key to its own interpretation?

[Hint: no text can do so]

Turretinfan said...

John:

"If scripture was formally sufficient then it would have explicit teaching on how to interpret the text."

Jeff has already pointed out one rebuttal to this, John. Perhaps it's enough to point out that we don't clam that Scripture is sufficient in that way.

"Therefore the text requires information outside the text to understand all doctrine contained within the text."

Yes. At a minimum the text requires some innate knowledge that lets the mind function, knowledge of the language in which the text is written, and the like. This is one reason that we don't affirm that Scripture is sufficient in the bizarre way that you wish to define sufficiency.

- TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Jeff,

Your assistance is appreciated. I have now completed the thought of that sentence which was (as you observed) missing its independent clause.

- TurretinFan

john said...

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.


“all good works” huh . . . show me where the text tells the believers how to do a good moral act concerning cloning and IVF. This should be interesting.

JM

john said...

You can also explain the morality of the share market and socialist economic from scripture as well.

JM

dtking said...

“all good works” huh . . . show me where the text tells the believers how to do a good moral act concerning cloning and IVF. This should be interesting.

Men, this is indeed a window into the anti-catholic mind of the Romanist, showing the contempt with which they regard Holy Scripture, and how much they detest it. Owen saw it in his day...

John Owen (1616-1683): He that shall read what the Scripture testifies of itself,—that is, what God doth of it,—and what the ancients speak concerning it, and shall himself have any acquaintance with the nature and excellency of it, must needs shrink extremely when he comes to see the Romanist’s discourse about it,—indeed against it. For my part, I can truly profess, that no one thing doth so alienate my mind from the present Roman religion as this treatment of the word of God. The Works of John Owen, Animadversions on a Treatise Entitled Fiat Lux, ed. William H. Goold, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, Third printing, 1977), vol. XIV, p. 36.

Romanists don't sweat that Bible stuff, because at heart they hate it. Nothing exposes Romanism more for what it is than the way they treat the word of the living God.

Turretinfan said...

John:

I let your mockery of Scripture stand (and Pastor King's response is more than enough of a response to it), but I removed the comment where you simply insisted on your own definition of formal sufficiency. We're already aware of your position.

- TurretinFan

Ken said...

excellent! Just saw this yesterday and enjoying reading it and your links and discussion at Green Baggins on "the verses that changed Luther". (that was a nice read for yesterday!) Wow. I am amazed I just now saw all this.

Anyway, there does not seem to be much difference between Conger's view of Formal Sufficiency and the Reformed view. ( I cannot tell; yet.)

What is the RCC definition of "a sacrament of salvation"? a means by which one can get in touch with grace"? means = something we can do, read Scripture, pray, partake in eucharist, etc.?

this quote by Anthanasius seems pretty close to formal Sufficiency of Scripture.

"Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture."

On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia - De Synodis 6

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.xxii.ii.i.html

Thanks TF and DK for excellent work!

Michael Gormley said...

Some Protestants have the notion that Catholics do not “believe” in the Bible, so they bring up Second Timothy 3:15-16 to support their belief of Sola Scriptura:"... from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

Certainly Catholics believe in the Bible (Catholics put together the Bible!) but this verse does not really support the belief of Sola Scriptura; it does not say that scripture alone is an adequate guide to the faith For that matter, the whole Bible does not say that we should believe in the Bible alone, nor does it say which books are inspired by God. This is only one hole in the belief of Sola Scriptura; there are many more.

Turretinfan said...

Define what it means to be "Catholic," Mr. Gormley.

As for your comments on the verses in question, how can the Scripture both make you wise to salvation and be an inadequate guide to faith?

William Tyndale said...

I'm a little slow and don't have any formal theological training. But what it sounds like is that both Protestants and Roman Catholics agree, fundamentally, that there is something to scripture - indeed, all of Truth - that requires further refining. The main difference is in what agency each put between the individual and full reception of that Truth. The Roman Catholics place the Church where Protestants put the Holy Spirit.

Almost (?) like an unprocessed mineral out of the ground. There is enough there to accept it as valuable, but not enough refining to realize its full and proper value. In that sense, the mediating agency then becomes critical to the Truth itself.

Is that a fair summation?

Turretinfan said...

No, Wm. Tyndale. There are multiple Roman views today, but the most common one is that the Scriptures are so ambiguous that believers cannot necessarily understand them even on points of doctrine that are essential.

In contrast, the Reformed view is that the Scriptures are sufficiently clear so that a person who has his eyes opened can understand them.

-TurretinFan