Friday, November 19, 2010

Formal Insufficiency - An Insult to Jesus

Those Roman Catholics who think that the Scriptures are an insufficient rule of faith and life - that the Scriptures are not clear enough to stand sola Scriptura as the way by which we know God: please consider that the Gospels give us verbatim teachings of Jesus himself in his own words.

It's bad enough that you are not satisfied by the Holy Spirit's teaching through the entirety of the Inspired Holy Scripture, but that may be less self-evidently divine. In other words, while you are to blame for not being satisfied with the divine teachings of the law, the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, we can understand that perhaps you do not understand that the Bible is the Holy Spirit speaking to us through men.

But are you going to seriously say that Jesus' preaching, recorded in the Gospels, is not clear enough for people to read it, understand it, and trust in Christ alone for salvation? Is God's own word, not spoken through prophets under inspiration but spoken directly by the God-man Himself not clear enough?

Don't you think that's a little insulting?

-TurretinFan

19 comments:

Nick said...

I think there is an unfair caricature going on here, notably the failure to distinguish between formal and material sufficiency.

When it comes to speaking of Scripture as "sufficient," it all depends on how "sufficient" is being used.

I hold the Scriptures as a very high standard and rule of faith for my life, and I believe using just them I can present superior arguments against many major Protestant doctrines. This allows me to not fall prey to the notion that I'm accepting false doctrines because I'm not using Scripture as my guide. (If you look back at our Penal Substitution debate, I used far more Scripture than you did, and only quoted Protestant theologians for a small part of my argument; your case, on the other hand, was mostly based on Patristic quotes, not Scripture. That's my take at least, people are free to judge for themselves.)

Your last two paragraphs are not a fair representation of the Catholic approach either, for you're framing the issue as if Catholics believed Scripture was utterly unclear and unintelligible - the the opposite is true. The problem comes in when disputed passages are brought up, since each side claims clarity for their particular interpretation. For example, Catholics see baptism clearly taught in John 3:5 and the real presence in John 6B. The Church Fathers also attest to this. The same can be said for various other passages.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Nick, but you've misunderstood the post. Your denial of the formal sufficiency of Jesus is an insult to Jesus.

The same for the Holy Spirit whose Scriptures you treat as formally insufficient.

As for what your church teaches, I'm confident that my characterization is exactly right. I'm glad you don't agree with your church (assuming you disagree with the position I've criticized), but it is what is.

As for our debate, I hope that readers will peruse it and see.

-TurretinFan

Nick said...

I never denied the "formal sufficiency of Jesus," and I'm not even sure what that even means.

When it comes to what the Catholic Church teaches on Scriptural sufficiency and clarity, here is a quote from Pope Leo XIII that I believe refutes your charge:

"Most desirable is it, and most essential, that the whole teaching of Theology should be pervaded and animated by the use of the divine Word of God. This is what the Fathers and the greatest theologians of all ages have desired and reduced to practice. It was chiefly out of the Sacred Writings that they endeavoured to proclaim and establish the Articles of Faith and the truths therewith connected, and it was in them, together with divine Tradition, that they found the refutation of heretical error, and the reasonableness, the true meaning, and the mutual relation of the truths of Catholicism. - Pope Leo XIII"

Turretinfan said...

Nick:

Perhaps you should re-read the post. It will help you understand what "the formal sufficiency of Jesus" refers to.

Leo XIII does not deny what I said about your church (not that every thing every pope ever wrote constitutes the official view of your church, anyway).

-TurretinFan

Viisaus said...

And on the other hand, as George Salmon observed (being an accomplished mathematician and logician, he struck at the very heart of the matter);

if the church really were infallible - thus possessing a divine attribute - as ecclesiolaters claim, then what really is the whole point of the Holy Bible's existence? What particular need would it fulfill that the church could not take care of in other ways, and with lesser risk?

http://www.archive.org/details/infallibilitych02salmgoog

p. 117

"If, in fact, the Church be infallible, it is impossible to understand why the Bible was given. It cannot be of much use in making men wise unto salvation, for that the Church is supposed to do already. But it may be used by the ignorant and unstable to pervert it to their own destruction. If a Christian, reading the Bible for himself, puts upon it the interpretation which the Church puts upon it, he is still no better off than if he had never looked at it. and had contented himself with the same lessons as taught by the Church; but if he puts upon it a different interpretation from that of the Church (and if the Church be infallible, her interpretation is right and every other wrong), then he is deeply injured by having been allowed to examine for himself. Thus, if the Church be infallible, Bible reading is all risk and no gain.

And so, in modem times the Church of Rome has always discouraged the reading of the Scripture by her people; and if her theory be right, she has done so consistently and wisely. And therefore I say it is a proof that this theory was not held in ancient times, when we find that the early Fathers had no such scruples, but incessantly urged on their congregations the duty of searching the Scriptures for themselves."

natamllc said...

Apparently they believe the Truth is insulting them, which I can understand, "He is". In fact, He teaches us to hate our own life, too!

Here is Truth. Everyone called of God and elected according to His Will finds here that insulting walk not found in the power of the Holy Spirit, Who, the Holy Spirit, teaches us to walk in the Word, the Light; and, to hate our natural life that produces the fruits of the flesh:

Isa 7:9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'"

and

Hab 2:4 "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

So that:

Jer 23:5 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Jer 23:6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'

One who does not settle in and accept Christ alone, so as to be conjoined to His Righteousness, will not accept His Word, Who He is; the Word became flesh and we find Him dwelling with and in His own and in a broader sense, with others also.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

It's probably prudent to draw a distinction between an intended insult and an unintended insult.

I should like to think that Catholics are not intending to insult Jesus.

Turretinfan said...

If I thought that those of the Roman communion were trying to insult Jesus, my post would be about why it is wrong to insult Jesus.

The reason for this post is - I hope it is clear - that they are in fact insulting both the Spirit and the Son, without intending to do so.

-TurretinFan

Constantine said...

Nick's quote from Leo XIII not only does not “refute the charge” it actually makes the case against him.

When Nick quotes Leo as saying, “It was chiefly out of the Sacred Writings ...” that shows beyond doubt that the Scriptures are not sufficient in his view. At best, they are “chiefly” sufficient.

By contrast, consider what the Apostle Paul did: “For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.” (Acts 18:28; see also Acts 17:2). Not “chiefly from the Scriptures.”

Secondly, Nick should read Leo's encyclical, Providentissimus Deus from which this is taken:

that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt outside of the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true faith, only gnaw the bark of the Sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith

In Leo's view the Scripture was totally insufficient – it requires the Catholic church for its proper exposition.

Score (another) one for T'Fan.

Peace.

Nick said...

Constantine,

I want to point out a popular fallacy when it comes to utilizing Acts 17:2 against Catholics.

The quote says Paul used the Scriptures to prove "Jesus was the Messiah."

Logically speaking, this (a) doesn't mean only the Scriptures could be used for such a task, and more importantly, (b) using Scriptures to prove "Jesus was the Messiah" is not equivalent or synonymous to using the Scriptures to prove or discern all essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

beowulf2k8 said...
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beowulf2k8 said...
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Turretinfan said...

Nick:

Again, you seem to be making some very fundamental errors in your thinking.

As to your (a), whether something else could be used is immaterial to the question. The formal sufficiency of Scripture does not logical entail the formal sufficiency or insufficiency of anything else.

As to your (b), "all the doctrines" isn't the issue - the issue is about bringing people to a saving faith. Now, maybe in your theory of salvation, one has to know all the doctrines, but I doubt that.

-TurretinFan

Constantine said...

Nick wrote,

“Logically speaking, this (a) doesn't mean only the Scriptures could be used for such a task,...”


The sufficiency of Scripture does not require its exclusive use. And if Scripture can be relied on to prove the Divinity of Christ, one might reasonably conclude it could be thus employed in lesser matters, no?

Where does the Bible teach us to rely on logic, Nick? In fact, Paul specifically warns against that sort of thing. You should be careful. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. “ (Colossians 2:8)


What Paul was doing was employing the teaching he received as a Pharisee. Psalm 138:2: “For you have exalted above all things your name and your word”. Proverbs 30:5: “Every word of God is flawless.” What other standard can compare?

Nick, again,,,(b) using Scriptures to prove "Jesus was the Messiah" is not equivalent or synonymous to using the Scriptures to prove or discern all essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

So you mean to tell me that the Scriptures are sufficient to prove Jesus was the Messiah but it can't prove lesser things? That's kinda silly, don't you think?

But again, Paul knew better. As a young man, Paul would have been required to memorize what we now call the Old Testament. So he would have been very familiar with the admonitions in Deuteronomy to not depart from the written word (Deut. 28:58) Paul would have known of Joshua's similar instruction (Joshua 23:6). He would have been able to cite from memory Proverbs 30:6 which forbids adding anything to God's word. That's probably why he wrote to us to “Do not go beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Why would Paul – personally instructed by Christ – tell us not to go beyond the written Scriptures if they weren't sufficient?

Peace.

natamllc said...

A couple more things, then.

Nick:

Logically speaking, this (a) doesn't mean only the Scriptures could be used for such a task, and more importantly, ...

So you, by these words have presupposed the doctrines of the faith of the RCC, leaving the question open to interpret those doctrines. That is a logical conclusion from where I am sitting when reading the citation of yours, above.

Constantine,

another thing that one most certainly would agree with with regard to your comments about [what, or, what not] the Apostle Paul while Saul of Tarsus held too before and then, after his personal conversion to the Faith, held too by so many of us commentors commenting in here as well are these Words from the Prophet Malachi:

Mal 3:13 "Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, 'How have we spoken against you?'
Mal 3:14 You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?
Mal 3:15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'"
Mal 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
Mal 3:17 "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
Mal 3:18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

beowulf2k8 said...
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Nick said...

TF,

My (a) only was to point out the Acts 17:2 text being appealed to said nothing one way or the other about about whether only Scripture could be used. This was pointed out simply because I was telling Const that he was reading too much into the text. In short, the text of Acts 17:2 wasn't affirming formal sufficiency.

Regarding my (b), I wasn't speaking of "all doctrines" indiscriminately, because I explicitly used the phrase "all essential doctrines." At most, the Acts 17:2 passage is speaking of proving Jesus is Messiah, and certainly there's more to the Deposit of Faith than that.


Constantine,

The Bible uses human reason (logic) all over the place to make points, and doesn't exclude it outright. What Paul was condemning was false philosophies that were taken as religions in themselves, not excluding any and all philosophical principles outright.

You said: "So you mean to tell me that the Scriptures are sufficient to prove Jesus was the Messiah but it can't prove lesser things? That's kinda silly, don't you think?"

That's begging the question. A tool can be used for an important task without requiring the tool be used for all other important tasks.

Turretinfan said...

Hi Nick:

You wrote: My (a) only was to point out the Acts 17:2 text being appealed to said nothing one way or the other about about whether only Scripture could be used. This was pointed out simply because I was telling Const that he was reading too much into the text. In short, the text of Acts 17:2 wasn't affirming formal sufficiency.

And again, you're failing to understand the concepts being discussed. The formal sufficiency of Scripture does not, in itself, say anything about the sufficiency of any alternative source.

You wrote: Regarding my (b), I wasn't speaking of "all doctrines" indiscriminately, because I explicitly used the phrase "all essential doctrines." At most, the Acts 17:2 passage is speaking of proving Jesus is Messiah, and certainly there's more to the Deposit of Faith than that.

Good point. I misread your comment. However, in context, it does appear to stand for the essential doctrines. The context being what Paul's purpose is ... and given other Scriptural use of this kind of expression, such as "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him." [1Jn 5:1]

-TurretinFan

Constantine said...

Hi natamllc,

Thanks for the comments.

My friend, Nick,

The Bible doesn't use human logic as an ultimate criteria, which I think is what we are discussing under the umbrella of Scriptural sufficiency. The primary epistemological place is always given the written word. (Regarding the failure of human “logic” and superior place of the written word, you may consider Jeremiah 8:8-9.)

Affirming God's direction is not begging the question. It is simply the end of the epistemological line.

Best to you, Nick.