Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 21/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 21/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

21) Who in the Church had the authority to determine which books belonged in the New Testament canon and to make this decision binding on all Christians? If nobody has this authority, then can I remove or add books to the canon on my own authority?

Simple Answer(s):

1) Everyone and no one.

2) Yes and no.

Important Qualification(s):

1) As usual, it depends what Steve Ray means. If he means who has the ability to assess whether something is the Word of God, the answer is that all believers have the ability. If Steve Ray means to ask whether that ability is placed infallibly in a single person, the answer is no one.

2) And likewise, yes, anyone can believe or not a particular book, but whether or not someone believes that a book is the Word of God does not change the objective fact of whether that book is the word of God.

3) More to the point, the canon of Scripture is an objective fact. Whether a book is inspired or not is something that we recognize - not something that we "decide" in the sense of exerting an authority over the books themselves. We recognize that by faith, through various instrumentalities - such as history, providence, and the inward moving of the Holy Spirit.

- TurretinFan

Friday, January 29, 2010

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 20/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 20/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

20) How did the early Church evangelize and overthrow the Roman Empire, survive and prosper almost 350 years, without knowing for sure which books belong in the canon of Scripture?

Simple Answer(s):

Same as they do now, they used the books that they believed were the Word of God!

Important Qualification(s):

1) There was no allegedly infallible proclamation of the canon until Trent came along after the Reformation was already well established.

2) Folks were confidently stating that certain books were Scripture before even the local councils of Hippo and Carthage to which Steve Ray is obliquely referring were held.

3) We accept the Scriptures on faith (same as they did before anyone had the nerve to try to claim to be able to say infallibly which books are in and out of the canon) - not on certainty that is rooted in faith in a church.

4) And the earliest Christian writers do demonstrate that the Scriptures are exactly what they used to evangelize. Thus, for example Ignatius (died between about A.D. 98 and 117) quoted from Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians when he himself wrote to that church.

- TurretinFan

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 19/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 19/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

19) Protestants usually claim that they all agree “on the important things.” Who is able to decide authoritatively what is important in the Christian faith and what is not?

Simple Answer(s):

Everyone, no one, and Scripture.

Important Qualification(s):

1) Which answer to use depends, of course, on the sense of "decide authoritatively."

2) Scripture is the authoritative standard for such a question.

3) Everyone who is a believer is competent to read and understand Scripture and to seek out an answer to the question of which are the important things.

4) No one is infallible.

- TurretinFan

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Response to Rev. Paul T. McCain regarding Smalcald Articles

Rev. Paul T. McCain (a Lutheran [LCMS] pastor) wrote:
Don’t misunderstand. Luther is perfectly clear elsewhere that he does not deny that Roman Christians are still Christians; the question is whether the Roman Pontiff is the voice of the Church and whether the curia and bishops submissive to him are the voice of the Church.

I have to wonder whether he and I read the same Smalcald Articles. In my copy we find this comment:
O Lord Jesus Christ, do Thou Thyself convoke a Council, and deliver Thy servants by Thy glorious advent! The Pope and his adherents are done for; they will have none of Thee. Do Thou, then, help us, who are poor and needy, who sigh to Thee, and beseech Thee earnestly, according to the grace which Thou hast given us, through Thy Holy Ghost, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Father, blessed forever. Amen.
- Smalcald Articles, Preface, 15 (emphasis mine)

And this:
Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, [Is. 53:5]. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.
- Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 1, 5

And this:
For all his bulls and books are extant, in which he roars like a lion (as the angel in Rev. 12 depicts him, [crying out] that no Christian can be saved unless he obeys him and is subject to him in all things that he wishes, that he says, and that he does. All of which amounts to nothing less than saying: Although you believe in Christ, and have in Him [alone] everything that is necessary to salvation, yet it is nothing and all in vain unless you regard [have and worship] me as your god, and be subject and obedient to me. And yet it is manifest that the holy Church has been without the Pope for at least more than five hundred years, and that even to the present day the churches of the Greeks and of many other languages neither have been nor are yet under the Pope. Besides, as often remarked, it is a human figment which is not commanded, and is unnecessary and useless; for the holy Christian [or catholic] Church can exist very well without such a head, and it would certainly have remained better [purer, and its career would have been more prosperous] if such a head had not been raised up by the devil.
- Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 4, 4-5

And likewise:
This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking to exalt himself above all that is called God as Paul says, 2 Thess. 2:4. Even the Turks or the Tartars, great enemies of Christians as they are, do not do this, but they allow whoever wishes to believe in Christ, and take bodily tribute and obedience from Christians.

The Pope, however, prohibits this faith, saying that to be saved a person must obey him. This we are unwilling to do, even though on this account we must die in God's name. This all proceeds from the fact that the Pope has wished to be called the supreme head of the Christian Church by divine right. Accordingly he had to make himself equal and superior to Christ, and had to cause himself to be proclaimed the head and then the lord of the Church, and finally of the whole world, and simply God on earth, until he has dared to issue commands even to the angels in heaven. And when we distinguish the Pope's teaching from, or measure and hold it against, Holy Scripture, it is found [it appears plainly] that the Pope's teaching, where it is best, has been taken from the imperial and heathen law, and treats of political matters and decisions or rights, as the Decretals show; furthermore, it teaches of ceremonies concerning churches, garments, food, persons and [similar] puerile, theatrical and comical things without measure, but in all these things nothing at all of Christ, faith, and the commandments of God. Lastly, it is nothing else than the devil himself, because above and against God he urges [and disseminates] his [papal] falsehoods concerning masses, purgatory, the monastic life, one's own works and [fictitious] divine worship (for this is the very Papacy [upon each of which the Papacy is altogether founded and is standing]), and condemns, murders and tortures all Christians who do not exalt and honor these abominations [of the Pope] above all things. Therefore, just as little as we can worship the devil himself as Lord and God, we can endure his apostle, the Pope, or Antichrist, in his rule as head or lord. For to lie and to kill, and to destroy body and soul eternally, that is wherein his papal government really consists, as I have very clearly shown in many books.
- Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 4, 10-14

(source for Smalcald Articles)

Obviously, Luther didn't refer (in the Smalcald Articles) to Romanism as paganism, but he certainly doesn't seem to have treated the adherents of the papacy as though they were justified in the sight of God. In fact, in the first quotation above he seems to indicate that by adhering to the pope ("the very Antichrist" in one of the later quotations) they have failed to adhere to Christ, and consequently are "done for" and about to face the wrath of God at the glorious advent (second coming) of Christ. I'm not sure Rev. McCain's picture is totally accurate when he describes the "first evangelicals'" (his characterization based on the usage of the term) response to Rome's claims:

What is the Church? Is Rome the Church? Ought we to listen to the Pope when he speaks as Bishop of Rome because there is some unique promise attached to his office? Smalcald Articles III, Article XII is joyously clear:

“We do not agree with them that they are the Church.” (Accent, should be on the Church) “They are not the Church. Nor will we listen to those things that, under the name of the Church, they command or forbid.”

As we've seen above, their claims were considerably more well-defined than simply stating that Rome is not the church.


The real Francis Turretin on: Inerrancy

εξο της παρεμβολης (exotesparemboles) has an interesting post in which he demonstrates from the real Francis Turretin's writings that the doctrine of Inerrancy is not a 20th century development (link to post).



Scott Windsor Index

This is an index post. Accordingly, the date stamp should not be taken as being really representative of the actual time/date that the post was either created or last edited. Scott Windsor is a Roman Catholic apologist who runs, as far as I know, the "American Catholic Truth Society" and CathApol.

Sola Scriptura Discussion (Starring Steve Hays and Featuring Francis Beckwith)

1. (Francis Beckwith) Sola Scriptura and the canon of Scripture: a philosophical reflection

2. (TurretinFan) Beckwith's Bait and Switch

3. (Steve Hays) Is sola Scriptura self-refuting?

4. (Scott Windsor) Is Sola Scriptura self-refuting?

5. (Steve Hays) (a) The supreme judge of all religious controversies & (b) Principles of Sola Scriptura

6. (Scott Windsor) Sola Scriptura Answering Steve Hays

7. (TurretinFan) Response to Scott Windsor (regarding Steve Hays and Sola Scriptura)

8. (Scott Windsor) Response to TurretinFan on Sola Scriptura

9. (TurretinFan) Second Response to Scott Windsor

10. (Steve Hays) Rube Goldberg prooftexting

11. (Scott Windsor) Non-Rube Goldberg Response

12. (Scott Windsor) QA with TurretinFan

(As far as I know, no further response is planned by TurretinFan or Steve Hays.)

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 18/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 18/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

18) Since each Protestant must admit that his or her interpretation is fallible, how can any Protestant in good conscience call anything heresy or bind another Christian to a particular belief?

Simple Answer(s):

By appealing to the authority of Scripture.

Important Qualification(s):

1) Everyone (not just "Protestants") has to admit that his interpretation is fallible. You don't become infallible by joining Rome.

2) When we say that something is heresy, we are not saying that we are infallible. Roman Catholics aren't claiming that when they call something heresy, neither are we.

3) The Roman Catholics judge heresy by the standard of their church's teachings - we use Scripture. Our standard is better than theirs, but the basic principle involved is the same.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Second Response to Scott Windsor

Scott has posted a response (link to response) to my prior post (link to post).

1) Definition of Sola Scriptura

Scott Windsor denies that there is any standard definition of Sola Scriptura. Then, he claims: "The problem we have is that TF didn't provide us with the 'standard definition,' and left us to assume." How that could possibly be "the problem," is beyond me, but I'll be happy to help Scott identify a standard definition. Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is one standard definition of Sola Scriptura. The first paragraph of that chapter reads:
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

2) Historical Aspect vs. Doctrinal Aspect of Sola Scriptura

Although Scott doesn't specifically state whether he understands and/or accepts the distinction, he nevertheless responds:
TF seems to be unaware of my argument that Scripture itself points us to another infallible source! The bishops! Matthew 18:18 shows us Jesus giving infallible authority to the bishops as a group - that whatsoever the bind or loose on Earth is bound or loosed in Heaven. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus gives this same authority to Peter alone (and noting this was two chapters earlier, Peter received this authority not only alone, but in primacy).
This is an interesting argument for two reasons: (1) the power of binding and loosing is understood in Roman Catholicism in reference to the supposed power of the confessional - not to the interpretation of Scripture and (2) there is no mention of infallibility in those passages, nor does Rome claim infallibility in matters of discipline (with respect to which the Confessional relates).

As evidence of the Roman Catholic view of Matthew 18:18, I provide the following catechism items.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) item 1444:
In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head."

CCC 553:
Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

3) The "You are no better than us" Issue

I had tried to explain to Scott that the "you are no better than us" argument is one that undermines the validity of a criticism (in this case his criticism of us is not a significant criticism because he doesn't offer us an alternative to which the criticism wouldn't apply). He doesn't seem to get it. I'm not sure how I can explain it more clearly. Perhaps a second example would help: If an Anglican were to criticize the Roman Catholics for having an hierarchical episcopate, it would be legitimate for a Roman Catholic to point out that Anglicans themselves have that approach. In this example, the criticism is right (the Roman system is hierarchical) - it's just not significant as a criticism in an Anglican-Roman dialog, because the Anglicans also have a hierarchical system.

4) Canon in Flux?

After complaining that he hadn't suggested that there were many debates over the canon, Scott seems to express confusion about my comment that the canon itself is not in flux. The reason for Scott's seeming confusion appears to be his continual conflation of the canon and the recognition of the canon. The canon itself is simply an objective reality: such and such a number of books were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The recognition of the canon is what varies: sometimes a person or group fails to recognize one or more books that are part of the canon or thinks they have recognized a canonical book when (in fact) it is not a book that the Holy Spirit inspired.

5) Infallible Knowledge of the Canon

Scott also appears not to have understood the fifth section. In the fifth section we had tried to help Scott understand the difference between the Scripture (which is an infallible rule of faith) and us the readers of Scripture (we are fallible men). Scott seems to have trouble following this distinction.

Scott actually goes so far as to write:
So TF is conceding, apparently for both White and himself, that Scripture does not contain infallible knowledge of the canon of Scripture. That satisfies my point! The canon itself cannot be infallibly known to Protestants for their "sole infallible source" does not, by TF's admission here contain "infallible knowledge of the canon of Scripture."
(emphasis his)

This comment from Scott is misleading. What we indicated is that we don't claim an infallible knowledge. However, Scripture itself is infallible. Infallibility is a property of divine revelation, not of the human listener. Whatever Scripture reveals it reveals infallibly - however, whatever we know, we necessarily know fallibly. That is because the Scriptures are infallible, but we are fallible.

6) Canon Closure vs. Canon Recognition

I had indicated that Scott is confused regarding the distinction between canon closure and canon recognition. Indeed he writes:
Here TF again accuses me of confusion, where I have none. He also misstates the closure of the canon as being when the last writer wrote the last book when that is not true!
Scott's wrong. That is exactly when the canon closed. When the Spirit stopped inspiring, the canon closed. The distinction between canon closure and canon recognition has been pointed out repeatedly to Scott (both by me and Steve) and yet Scott argues, as support for a later canon closure date:
The canon process took centuries to "close." Books by St. Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, etc. were included in several "canons" in the Early Church, yet were excluded when the canon process finally ended in the late 4th century. Then this closed canon was made de fide by the Council of Trent in the 16th century to end the discussion once and for all since protestors against the Faith had brought it up again.
This discussion from Scott, however, relates to canon recognition, not canon closure. Trent arguably closed the door on recognition of additional books or non-recognition of books in its list, but the canon itself (the objective fact of inspiration) has been exactly the same from the time of inspiration.

7) KJV 1611 and the Apocrypha

Scott seems to think that the fact that the 1611 KJV contained marginal notes including cross-references to the Apocrypha and cross-references from the Apocrypha to the canonical Scriptures is somehow significant. Why he thinks this is completely mystifying. After all, the KJV was published in light of the 1572 Thirty-Nine Articles, which stated:
And the other bookes, (as Hierome sayth) the Churche doth reade for example of lyfe and instruction of maners: but yet doth it not applie them to establishe any doctnne.Such are these followyng.

The third booke of Esdras. The fourth booke of Esdras. The booke of Tobias. The booke of ludith. The rest of the booke of Hester. The booke of Wisdome. lesus the sonne of Sirach. Baruch, the prophet. Song of the .3. Children. The stone of Susanna. Of Bel and the Dragon. The prayer of Manasses. The .1. booke of Machab. The .2. booke of Macha.

Likewise, the Scottish Confession of 1560 stated in Chapter 18:
And such kirks we, the inhabitants of the realm of Scotland, professors of Christ Jesus, confess ourselves to have in our cities, towns, and places reformed; for the doctrine taught in our kirks is contained in the written word of God: to wit, in the books of the New and Old Testaments: in those books, we mean, which of the ancient have been reputed canonical, in the which we affirm that all things necessary to be believed for the salvation of mankind are sufficiently expressed.

The Irish Articles of 1615 (while obviously post-dating the 1611 KJV) still express the contemporary sentiment among the churches that were behind the KJV and its translation/publication (from the section, Of the Holy Scripture and the three Creeds.):
3. The other Books commonly called Apocryphal did not proceed from such inspiration and therefore are not of sufficient authority to establish any point of doctrine; but the Church doth read them as Books containing many worthy things for example of life and instruction of manners.

Such are these following:

· The third book of Esdras.

· The fourth book of Esdras.

· The book of Tobias.

· The book of Judith.

· Additions to the book of Esther.

· The book of Wisdom.

· The book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, called Ecclesiasticus.

· Baruch, with the Epistle of Jeremiah.

· The song of the three Children.

· Susanna.

· Bel and the Dragon.

· The prayer of Manasses.

· The First book of Maccabees.

· The Second book of Maccabees.

It's puzzling that Scott would think that any reader would be unaware of this context, and yet if they were aware of that context, the cross-references would seem totally irrelevant to the discussion.


Scott posed the following questions:
Now, how about the significant points from my response to Mr. Hays? Agree or disagree?

1) The teaching of satis scriptura is NOT sola scriptura.

2) Sola scriptura is not taught in Scripture. Some Protestants will admit to this fact, will Mr. Hays or TurretinFan do so?

3) Nowhere in Scripture will we find the listing (canon) of what should comprise the Canon of Sacred Scripture.

4) Interpretation of an implicit teaching in Scripture is still extra scriptura.

5) Steve resorted to the invalid argumentum ad hominem several times (and I appreciate the fact that TurrentinFan did not).

6) Steve seemed to confuse the Pentateuch with the Canon of the Old Testament, and I quote: "So from the time Moses wrote the Pentateuch until the Council of Trent in the 16C, the Jews were without a canon of Scripture." The Pentateuch refers ONLY to the first 5 books of Moses, also known as the Torah.

7) Scripture remains a PART OF Catholic Tradition. No matter how much Steve or TF would like to remove that from OUR Sacred Tradition, they cannot.

There were other points, but these should suffice for now and I would like to know how both Steve and TurretinFan responds to them with a simple (Agree) or (Disagree) before going into an explanation of why they agree or disagree.
I tend to avoid answering loaded questions with a simple answer. It creates confusion for the reader.

As to item (1): "The teaching of satis scriptura is NOT sola scriptura"

I don't agree. Sola Scriptura reduces to Satis Scriptura.

As to item (2): "Sola scriptura is not taught in Scripture."

I don't agree. Sola Scriptura is taught in Scripture.

As to item (3): "Nowhere in Scripture will we find the listing (canon) of what should comprise the Canon of Sacred Scripture."

The listing as such is derivable, given that we have the books in hand. However, the listing as such is not. I guess that is a "disagree" as well, since I wouldn't use Scott's wording.

As to item (4): "Interpretation of an implicit teaching in Scripture is still extra scriptura."

I don't agree - at least, I don't agree if "implicit" includes things that are properly derived from Scripture but simply aren't explicit in Scripture. It's not completely clear what Scott views as "implicit."

As to item (5): "Steve resorted to the invalid argumentum ad hominem several times (and I appreciate the fact that TurrentinFan did not)."

I'll leave that one for Steve to answer.

As to item (6): "Steve seemed to confuse the Pentateuch with the Canon of the Old Testament ... ."

I disagree. The Canon of the Old Testament began with (the first book of) the Pentateuch and continued to expand as the Spirit inspired more and more books. It closed with the penning of the last book of the Old Testament. (Note that I am referring to the closing of the canon not the recognition of the canon.)

As to item (7): "Scripture remains a PART OF Catholic Tradition."

I disagree. It is (for Rome) made void through human tradition, just as it was for the Jews.

I hope those answers help Scott.


Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 17/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 17/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

17) Who may authoritatively arbitrate between Christians who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit into mutually contradictory interpretations of the Bible?

Simple Answer(s):

1) Scripture

2) The Elders/Church

Important Qualification(s):

1) What is meant by "authoritatively" is not spelled out. The Scripture is the infallible authority in the sense of being a standard. But the elders/church are a fallible authority in the sense of being judges who apply the infallible standard.

2) There's no reason to suppose that Christians are going to resolve all their disputes in this life. God hasn't promised that.

3) The Roman Catholic church also can't promise that it will resolve all the disputes.

4) The fact that the people claim to be "led by the Holy Spirit" is really irrelevant to the question. However, of course, the Holy Spirit will not lead two Christians into contradictory views.

- TurretinFan

Monday, January 25, 2010

Response to Scott Windsor (regarding Steve Hays and Sola Scriptura)

I see that Scott Windsor (Roman Catholic) has responded to Steve Hays (Reformed) on the topic of Sola Scriptura (link to response). Steve is more than capable of carrying on the discussion himself. I'd like to simply address a few of the issues in Scott's post:

1) The definition of Sola Scriptura

I realize there may be a few folks out there who use the definition "If it's not in the Bible, don't believe it!" but Scott knows full well that's not the standard meaning of the phrase Sola Scriptura: it's neither what the Reformers meant nor what the Reformed churches today mean by it.

2) Distinguishing between the Doctrinal and Historical Aspects of Sola Scriptura

Scott complains that Drs. Godfrey and White define Sola Scriptura in terms of the sufficiency of Scripture, which Scott feels leaves the "sola" out of Sola Scriptura. However, Scott seems to be unaware of the fact that the "sola" aspect of Sola Scriptura is not so much a doctrinal claim as an historical claim.

It's unclear whether Scott is unaware of this, or not. I hope that he's simply unaware of this, and that (now that it is pointed out to him) he'll stop looking for a definition of Sola Scriptura in which the "sola" is a doctrinal claim.

There is, of course, a sense in which Sola Scriptura's definition includes sola. When we explain the formal sufficiency of Scripture, we are explaining that the Scriptures are themselves (i.e. alone) able to make one wise unto salvation.

That said, the full sense of Sola Scriptura is the application of the formal sufficiency of Scripture to a time in which there are no other sources of direct propositional revelation: for example, a time when the prophets are dead and Jesus is ascended.

3) Scott wrote: "This discussion is about sola scriptura, a statement like 'you're no better' than we are is not a defense of sola scriptura (even if the statement were true)."

What Scott seems to miss with that comment is the fact that the argument "you're no better" (if true) undermines the significance of the criticism. It's kind of like if a "Protestant" were to argue: "clearly your (the Roman Catholic) rule of faith is wrong, since the pope isn't God." The Roman Catholic response might be to say, "OK but the Bible isn't God, either." That response doesn't actually dispute the fact that the pope isn't God, it just demonstrates that the criticism is misplaced as a criticism.

4) Scott wrote: "For nearly the first 400 years of Christendom the Canon of the New Testament was in flux. If it were so clear, why all the debates on the canon?"

a) There weren't lots and lots of debates on the canon in the first 400 years. Or, at least, if there were we don't have records of them. Even when there were some discussions about the canon, there was widespread agreement as to the bulk of the books.

b) The Canon itself wasn't in flux. The Canon is an objective historical reality grounded in inspiration. The knowledge of that canon was more or less certain (generally progressively more certain as time progressed).

5) Steve had written: "Why does knowledge [of the canon of Scripture] have to be infallible? What’s wrong with plain old knowledge?" Scott replied: "I was going with James White's definition which includes the term "infallible.""

This is another mistake on Scott's part. Dr. White's definition says that the Scripture itself is infallible. Dr. White didn't say that we obtain an infallible knowledge from Scripture (and certainly not an infallible knowledge of the canon of Scripture). Quite to the contrary, on one occasion Dr. White wrote:
Know for sure, or infallibly? I don't know the exhaustive teachings of the Bible. I don't have infallible knowledge of what the Bible teaches on *any* subject. But I do have *sufficient* knowledge of what the Bible teaches on the *central* subjects. The difference between infallibility and sufficiency is vitally important to recognize.

And on another occasion:
The Protestant openly admits his fallibility in approaching the infallible Scriptures.


You see, once Rome puts an interpretation of the Bible into writing (and there are precious few of these infallible interpretations around, I might add), that writing now becomes subject to interpretation. Shall we begin to look for an infallible interpreter of the infallible interpretation of the infallible Scriptures? The series would never end, of course, for one simply can't get beyond one fact: we as human beings are fallible. And you, as an individual human being, will always be fallible in your knowledge of any infallible source, whether that be the Scriptures, or some other source you hold in esteem.

5) Canon Closure vs. Canon Recognition

Another area of confusion in Scott's comments is on the difference between canon closure (when the last writer wrote the last book) and canon recognition (this was more gradual as to the worldwide church, for obvious reasons). Here's the exchange:
[Scott now]: Except of course if it were true what Mr. Hays said earlier, that "the canon was closed by writer of the last book of the Bible," at that point in time all the "raw materials" would have been available to generate this list - but he (that would be St. John) never put together such a list for us.

[Scott earlier]: “The truth of the matter is that for the first four hundred years of the Church the canon was not set…”

[Steve's response]: i) Trobisch has argued on text-critical grounds that the NT canon was standardized in the mid-2C AD. For a useful summary and evaluation of his argument, see the discussion by Kellum, Quarles, and Kostenberger in their recent intro. to the NT.

[Scott now]: So now Mr. Hays posits the canon was not closed when the writer wrote the last book, and does not even put forth evidence it was "closed" but that it was "standardized" in the second century A.D. I suppose we can accept that as concession of the earlier point.
Notice that Steve is arguing that the recognized canon of the NT was possibly widely standardized as early as the 2nd century A.D. That recognition does not change the fact that objectively the canon was closed at the end of the writing of the last book.

Interestingly, it seems that Steve had already pointed this same thing out to Scott:
Steve continues: iii) Scott is also confusing internal evidence for the canon with various forms of ecclesiastical recognition.

Scott replies: Mr. Hays does not seem to understand what a "canon" is. A "canon" is an ecclesiastical form of recognition of a standardized list.
Scott is confused. The word "canon" can have that sense - but that is not the sense that it has in this discussion.

As Bruce Metzger explains:
By way of summary, ecclesiastical writers during the first three centuries used the word κανών [canon] to refer to what was for Christianity an inner law and binding norm of belief (`rule of faith' and/or `rule of truth'). From the fourth century onward the word also came to be used in connection with the sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments. Scholars today dispute whether the meaning 'rule' (that is, 'standard' or 'norm') or the meaning 'list' was uppermost in the minds of those who first applied the word to the Scriptures. According to Westcott and Beyer, it was the material content of the books that prompted believers to regard them as the 'rule' of faith and life. On the other hand, according to Zahn and Souter, the formal meaning of κανών [canon] as `a list' was primary, for otherwise it would be difficult to explain the use of the verb κανονίζειν [kanonizein] (`to include in a canon') when it is applied to particular books and to the books collectively. Both the material and the formal senses eventually were seen to be appropriate, for the recognized custom of the Church in looking to a certain group of books as providing the standard for faith and life would naturally cause the books that conformed to it to be written in a list. And thus the canon of Scripture became equivalent to the contents of the writings included in such a list.
- Bruce Manning Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 293.

6) 1611 KJV and the Apocrypha

Scott wrote:
Even the initial King James Version includes the deuterocanonicals - without putting them in a separate appendix, that would come later - and then later still they would be left out entirely.
This is highly misleading. Although the 1611 KJV did including the apocrypha, and though it didn't use the mechanism of an appendix, it did place them in a separate section under the heading "The Bookes called Apocrypha" between the testaments (evidence), and the heading of every page in that section read: "Apocrypha. [Name of Book] Apocrypha." or "Apocrypha. Chap.[chapter number] Apocrypha." (evidence)

- TurretinFan

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 16/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 16/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

16) If the meaning of the Bible is so clear—so easily interpreted—and if the Holy Spirit leads every Christian to interpret it for themselves, then why are there over 33,000 Protestant denominations, and millions of individual Protestants, all interpreting the Bible differently?

Simple Answer(s):

1) There are some things in Scripture that are hard to understand.

2) It is wrong to presume that everyone who reads the Scriptures are Spirit-led Christians - some are unlearned and unstable men.

3) We know that, because the Bible tells us so.

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Important Qualification(s):

1) The 33,000 denominations claim is a lie that has been repeatedly exposed (example). Of course, Steve's lack of personal integrity isn't particularly germane to Rome's claims.

2) The church fathers agreed with us that things necessary for salvation are clear from Scripture. If the argument behind Steve's question is right, why do the church fathers disagree? Or, in other words, why was the obscurity of Scriptures only apparent in the post-Tridentine period?

3) Item (2) also highlights another point. Steve knows (or ought to know by now) that the Reformation principle of the perspicuity of Scripture is not that it is all perfectly clear, but that that the things necessary for salvation are sufficiently clear.

- TurretinFan

Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 4)

[Cont'd from previous section]

Is the Roman Catholic Magisterium More Sufficient than Sacred Scripture?
Bryan Cross answered on the subject of the ability of the Scripture to interpret Scripture sufficiently, from Scripture, reason, and tradition.
(Part 4)

Caesarius of Arles (about A.D. 470-543) commenting on Rev. 22:10:
Just as the divine Scriptures are sealed for those who are proud and who love the world more than God, so are they opened for those who are humble and who fear God.
- Caesarius of Arles as found in William C. Weinrich, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XII, Revelation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), p. 398. Cf. Commentary on the Apocalypse 22.10, Homily 19 (repeated twice in the homily).

The fundamental problems with Bryan's analysis seem to be his failure to recognize the divine nature and purpose of Scripture. The purpose of Scripture is to put in writing those things that God wants us to know.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430) commenting on Psalm 110:
God established an era of promises and another era for the fulfillment of his promises. The time for promises was the age of the prophets down to that of John the Baptist. From his day, and thenceforth until the end, is the era of fulfillment. God is faithful and has put himself in our debt not because we have given him anything but because he has promised us so much. Yet even promising was not enough for him. He wanted to be bound in writing as well, so he gave us a signed copy of his promises, as it were, so that once he had begun to fulfill them we could study the scriptures and learn the sequence of their realization.
- Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 19, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 99-120, Exposition 23 of Psalm 109.1 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2003), p. 261.

Hilary of Poitiers (about A.D. 315-67):
Salvation is far from the wicked, because they have not sought the statutes of God; since for no other purpose were they consigned to writing, than that they should come within the knowledge and conceptions of all without exception.
Latin text:
Ob id enim longe a peccatoribus salus est, quia non exquisierunt justificationes Dei: cum non utique ob aliud consignatae litteris maneant, quam ut ad universorum scientiam notionemque defluerent.
Citation: Hilary of Poitiers, Psalmi CXVIII, Littera XX, 5, PL 9:633; translation in William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, 3 Volumes (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 246.

Athanasius (about A.D. 297-373):
Since, therefore, such an attempt is futile madness, nay, more than madness!, let no one ask such questions any more, or else let him learn only that which is in the Scriptures. For the illustrations they contain which bear upon this subject are sufficient and suitable.
- Athanasius, C. R. B. Shapland, trans., The Letters of Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, Ad Serapion 1.19 (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 108.

Thus, Scripture is written with the purpose that we understand and benefit.

Ambrosiaster (flourished about A.D. 366-384):
The fact is that Scripture speaks in our own manner so that we may understand.
Latin text:
Sed Scriptura more nostro loquitur, ut intelligere possumus.
Citation: Ambrosiaster, In Epistolam Beati Pauli Galatas, v. 4:7, PL 17:360; translation in Mark J. Edwards, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 57.

Jerome (about A.D. 347-420):
Scripture speaks in terms of our human frailty that we may the more easily understand.
- Jerome, FC, Vol. 57, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 2, Homily 65 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1966), p. 57.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):
Anyhow, in case by wanting to make a display of these people’s stupidity we, too, find ourselves induced to utter unseemly remarks, let’s have done with their folly and turn aside from such idiocy; let us follow the direction of Sacred Scripture in the interpretation it gives of itself, provided we don’t get completely absorbed with the concreteness of the words, but realize that our limitations are the reason for the concreteness of the language. Human senses, you see, would never be able to grasp what is said if they had not the benefit of such great considerateness.
- Chrysostom, FC, Vol. 74, Homilies on Genesis 1-17, Homily 13.8 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1986), p. 172.

Thus, Scripture can be compared to a pharmacy, and lack of knowledge of Scripture can be viewed as a general source of all evil.

Basil of Caesarea (about A.D. 329-379):
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful, composed by the Spirit for this reason, namely, that we men, each and all of us, as if in a general hospital for souls, may select the remedy for his own condition.
- Basil of Caesarea, FC, Vol. 46, Saint Basil: Exegetical Homilies, Homily 10 on Psalm 1 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1963), p. 151.

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):
Tarry not, I entreat, for another to teach thee; thou hast the oracles of God. No man teacheth thee as they; for he indeed oft grudgeth much for vainglory’s sake and envy. Hearken, I entreat you, all ye that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul. If ye will not any other, yet get you at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befall thee, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take thence comfort of thy trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather dive not into them merely, but take them wholly to thee; keep them in thy mind.
This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how ought we to come off safe? Well contented should we be if we can be safe with them, let alone without them.
- Chrysostom, NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Homily 9.

Or even the "perfume of life":

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-97):
Divine Scripture confers salvation on us and is fragrant with the perfume of life, so that he who reads may acquire sweetness and not rush into danger to his own destruction. Read with simplicity, man; I would not encourage you, a misdirected interpreter, to dig up meanings for yourself. The language is simple: ‘God created heaven and earth.’ He created what was not, not what was. And the earth was invisible, because water flowed over it and covered it. Darkness was diffused over it, because there was not yet the light of day, or the rays of the sun which can reveal even what lies hid beneath the waters.
- Ambrose, FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: The Six Days of Creation, Book 1, the second homily, §30 (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1961), p. 34.

Part of the problem is that Bryan presents his case as though he were unsatisfied with the Scriptures as they were given. It is as though the thinks that Scripture could have been expressed better than it was.

Augustine (354-430) commenting on v. 6 of Psalm 147:
The psalm indicates to you what you must do if you have difficulty in understanding, for it goes on to say, The Lord welcomes the meek. Suppose you do not understand some passage, or understand only a little of it, or at any rate cannot master it: hold God’s scripture in honor, respect God’s word even when it is not clear to you, maintain a reverent attitude while you wait for understanding to come. Do not be over-bold and find fault with the obscurity of scripture or even allege that it is self-contradictory. There is no contradiction here. Some obscurity there may be, not in order that insight may be denied you, but so that your mind may be stretched until you can receive it. When some text seems dark to you, be sure that the physician has made it so; he is inviting you to knock. He wanted it to puzzle you so that you may be put through your paces as you keep on knocking; he wants it to be so, that he may open to you when you knock. As you persevere in knocking you will be stretched; as you are stretched, your capacity will be enlarged; as your capacity grows, you will receive what comes to you as gift. Do not be angry, then, when you find the door closed. Be gentle, be meek. Do not lash out against the obscure passage, saying, “That thought would have been better expressed if it had been put like this….” When will you ever be qualified to say it, or even judge how it ought to be said? It has been said in the right way. The patient has no business to alter his treatment; the doctor knows when to modify it. Trust him who is working on your cure.
- Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 20, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 121-150, Psalm 146.12 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2004), p. 431.

Or that the Scriptures should answer questions that they do not.

Athanasius (about A.D. 297-373):
These things are sufficient to refute your foolish speech. Mock no more at the Godhead. For it is the part of those who mock to ask the questions which are not written and to say, So the Spirit is a son and the Father a grandfather?
- Athanasius, C. R. B. Shapland, trans., The Letters of Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, Ad Serapion 4.7 (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 188.

Irenaeus (about A.D. 130 - 200):
(Scripture to be interpreted by Scripture) If, therefore, according to the rule which I have stated, we leave some questions in the hands of God, we shall both preserve our faith uninjured, and shall continue without danger; and all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonize with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear, shall serve to explain the parables; and through the many diversified utterances [of Scripture] there shall be heard one harmonious melody in us, praising in hymns that God who created all things. If, for instance, any one asks, “What was God doing before He made the world? ”we reply that the answer to such a question lies with God Himself. For that this world was formed perfect by God, receiving a beginning in time, the Scriptures teach us; but no Scripture reveals to us what God was employed about before this event. The answer therefore to that question remains with God, and it is not proper for us to aim at bringing forward foolish, rash, and blasphemous suppositions [in reply to it]; so, as by one’s imagining that he has discovered the origin of matter, he should in reality set aside God Himself who made all things.
- Irenaeus, ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:28:3 (note that the heading "Scripture to be Interpreted by Scripture" is, as far as I know, added by the editor)(Unlike Roman Catholic apologists, such as Bryan, Irenaeus tells us that God, not the Church, gave us the Scriptures, and that if a matter concerning God is not revealed in Scripture, it is because it is beyond the scope of extant revelation.)

Ambrose (about A.D. 339-97):
But subjects which are alien to our purpose and to divine testimony should be left to those ‘who are outside.’ We should adhere closely to the doctrine laid down by the celestial Scriptures.
- Ambrose, FC, Vol. 42, Saint Ambrose: The Six Days of Creation, Book 2, the third homily, chapter 2, §7 (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1961), p. 51.

[to be cont'd in Section 5]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 15/35

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 15/35. I'm trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

15) If the books of the New Testament are “self-authenticating” through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to each individual, then why was there confusion in the early Church over which books were inspired, with some books being rejected by the majority?

Simple Answer(s):

There was disagreement (confusion is not the right term) for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons for the disagreement arose because of human traditions: if a book was not included in the calendar of liturgical readings, this sometimes lead folks to question whether it was Scripture; or, if the book made it into a collection of Greek writings alleged to be the Old Testament Scriptures, it was taken for granted that this had been part of the Jewish Scriptures.

Important Qualification(s):

1) The fact that the Holy Spirit authenticates his Word to believers doesn't guarantee each believer that he will be 100% right about every last book or about every last part of every last book, or about ever last word, jot and title of every passage.

2) There doesn't appear to ever have been any significant uncertainty about most of the New Testament books like the gospels or Paul's epistles - especially the gospels.

3) There likewise doesn't appear to have been any significant uncertainty about more than one or two of the 37 canonical Old Testament books.

4) What should be truly remarkable for Mr. Ray is the fact of Protestantism's virtually unanimous acceptance of the 66 book canon (there are a few that would get lumped in with "Protestants" that would try to eliminate one or more books, but they are an insignificantly tiny minority).

- TurretinFan