Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Distinction Gets Narrower Again - Further Response to Bryan Cross

In previous posts, we have seen that there is a principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura (link to post), as well as that there is a principled difference between Mathison's view and the Roman Catholic view with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority (link to post).

I. Introduction to Bryan's Argument

Now, Mr. Bryan Cross has suggested that we look specifically to his "argument." Section IV(A) of Bryan's post contains a section titled "the argument." I reproduce that section here:
1. According to solo scriptura, Scripture is the only ecclesial authority. [def]
2. If solo scriptura is true, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential. [1]
3. According to sola scriptura, Scripture is the only infallible ecclesial authority. [def]
4. If sola scriptura entails that each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential, then in this respect there is no principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura.
5. If apostolic succession is false, then no one’s determination of the marks of the Church is any more authoritative than anyone else’s.
6. If no one’s determination of the marks of the Church is any more authoritative than anyone else’s, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential.
7. If apostolic succession is false, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential. [(5),(6)]
8. The doctrine of apostolic succession is false. [A]
9. If sola scriptura is true, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential. [(7),(8)]
10. There is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. [(4),(9)]

II. Most Obvious Problem - Improper Generalization to obtain 10

Right off the bat, one will notice that conclusion 10, does not follow from the premises. Conclusion 10 is an invalid generalization.

Premise 4 stated: "If sola scriptura entails that each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential, then in this respect there is no principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura." (bold emphasis supplied)

Conclusion 10, however, drops the necessary qualification "[with respect to] each individual [being] his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential." Notice that this qualification significantly narrows "no principled difference" and even further narrows "no principled difference with respect to the ultimate holder of interpretive authority."

III. Some Less Obvious Problems

Even if we correct Bryan's argument to make 10 read: "There is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to each individual being his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential," there remain some less obvious problems.

A. "Final Interpretive Authority"

No matter who one's final authority is, one is necessarily the final interpretive authority of that authority. That is true whether one uses oneself, Scripture, tea leaves, or the Roman Catholic magisterium as one's final authority. If one looks to oneself for guidance, one has to read one's own mood. If one looks to Scripture for guidance, one has to interpret Scripture. If one looks at tea leaves - one has to interpet their significance. Even if one has a "living magisterium" one must interpret what that magisterium tells someone. That's so, because we must interpret information in order to understand information. That's just the way that humans work.

In some cases, of course, the interpretation involved seems trivial. If one's authority is an oracle (like the Urim and Thummim or - to pick a more familiar example - a magic eight ball) it may be that you ask a specific question and the oracle provides you with a yes/no answer. In that case, the interpretation involved seems trivial, particularly if one has chosen one's question well (As in the cases of Achan and Jonah).

Even if such an oracle provided an example of an authority that needed no interpretation, that's not one of the available options today. Even the Roman Catholic church does not claim that one get an infallible answer to a yes/no question posed to the magisterium. So, all of the available options require the individual to be the "final interpreter" or, as Bryan prefers to express it, "the final interpretive authority."

This issue ends up plaguing premises 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9. In each of 2, 6, and 9, there is a statement that is in the form "If [x] is true, then each individual is his own final interpretive authority [as to y]." In 7, the same form is used, except that it is introduced by "if [z] is false ... ." Premise 4 begins with "If each individual is his own final interpretive authority [as to y] ... ."

The impact of the fact that each individual is always his own final interpretive authority as to every source of information that he receives is significant with respect to these premises. Each of the premises is in the form If A, then B. However, since B is always the case, premises 2, 6, 7, and 9 are trivial. Furthermore, premise 4 is in the form If B, then C. Premise 4, therefore, is simply reduced to an assertion of C, which ends up being modified 10 (as modified above).

B. "Concerning what he considers to be essential"

This expression ends up creating ambiguity. I believe that Bryan is trying to avoid conceding that the Reformed person can know what is essential and what is not essential. As such, the whole phrase: "each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential" probably is intended to mean that each person is the final interpreter on those points where the matter is an essential matter (in the judgment of the individual), in contradistinction to those points where the matter is a non-essential matter (again, in the judgment of the individual). The alternative sense, however, is that the individual is interpreting his own opinion of what is essential, i.e. the individual is simply the one who decides what is essential. The lack of clarity as to the intended sense could have been avoided if the expression had simply been "concerning essential doctrines."

That would mean that a modified 10 would be "There is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to each individual being his own final interpretive authority concerning essential doctrines."

Since, as we noted above, the individual finally interprets all information he receives, essential doctrines are no exception. That's true regardless of whether one employs the category of essential doctrines. That suggests that the "essential doctrines" issue is really a red herring.

C. Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent (Almost ...)

Bryan's syllogisms form three chains:

5 (If A, then B)
6 (If B, then C)
∴ 7 (If A, then C)

2 (If D, then C)

9 (If E, then C)

Where A = "apostolic succession is false"
B = "no one’s determination of the marks of the Church is any more authoritative than anyone else’s"
C = "each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential"
D = "solo scriptura is true"
E = "sola scriptura is true"

In view of aleph, bet, and gimel, premise 4 is constructed, which in essence asserts that in principle A, D, and E are the same, because they all entail the same thing. But, of course, the following is an invalid syllogism:

7 (If A, then C)
2 (If D, then C)
9 (If E, then C)
∴ A = D = E

After, as we've noted above, we could construct a further item:

11 (If notA, then C)

which would then yield the odd result:
∴ A = notA

The reason we could construct 11 is that even if apostolic succession is true, each individual is still going to be the final interpreter of his source(s) of authority.

I will note, however, that Bryan does not explicitly state that 4 is supposed to derive from 2, 7, and 9. Instead, he simply states the premise. However, 4 is based on the reasoning that if D and E both entail C then "in this respect there is no principled difference between" D and E, to which we might as well add A, though Bryan neglects to do so. Since we've proven above that C is always the case, when apply the rationale behind 4, we obtain not just our modified 10, but the further addition that there is no principled difference as to C with respect to notA (apostolic succession is true), D(solo is true), and E (sola is true).

This demonstration is what Bryan mislabels a tu quoque objection. Section V(A) of his article attempts to address this objection, but fails. I explain why in the following part.

IV. Bryan's Response to III(C)

Of course, Bryan hasn't read this article yet (at the time of my writing it) but I can reasonably anticipate that he'll respond to III(C) of my comments above, by referring to V(A) of his own article. That's where he attempts to argue that an individual following apostolic succession avoids C ("each individual is his own final interpretive authority concerning what he considers to be essential"). In symbolic terms, Bryan is disputing my:

11 (If notA, then C)
12 (If noA, then notC)

In that section of the article he claims:
But when a person finds the Magisterium, and recognizes it for what it is, he immediately ceases to be his own final interpretive authority. He recognizes that his interpretation of Scripture ought to be conformed to the teaching and interpretation of the Magisterium, and that to reject the teaching of the Magisterium would be to reject Christ ... .

What Bryan has overlooked is that nothing has fundamentally changed about the way in which the person mentally functions. The choice to submit to "the Magisterium" does not change the fact that the person will still have to interpret what the magisterium says.

Bryan essentially anticipates this objection describing it thus:
This objection can also take the following form. Even if the Church possesses final interpretive authority, yet because the individual must nevertheless interpret the Church’s dogmatic pronouncements, therefore, the individual must be the final interpretive authority of the Church’s dogmatic pronouncements.
Bryan replies to the objection he has stated by responding:
This objection conflates two senses of the term ‘final.’ ‘Final’ can mean the terminus of a movement or of a series of movements, as an airplane has a final destination, the terminus of a series of flights for the day. ‘Final’ can also mean the terminus in an order or hierarchy, as the Commander in Chief is for the military. In a communication, the individual receiving that communication is, by definition, the terminus of the movement whereby knowledge is transmitted. He is, in that sense, the final interpreter. But he is not thereby the final interpretive authority in the sense of a terminus in an order or hierarchy. He may be the terminus of the motion of the communication, while remaining subordinate in the order of interpretive authority. The exercise of interpretive authority by the Magisterium, say, at an ecumenical council, does not prevent believers from interpreting Scripture or any other communication. Nor does it withhold from them the skill by which to interpret Sacred Scripture. On the contrary, the exercise of this teaching and interpretive authority provides a supernatural light by which the believer ought to interpret Scripture. We ignore or disregard that interpretive authority at our peril, because it is God-given authority, for our good.
(footnotes omitted)
There are four rebuttals to Bryan's response:

1) In sola scriptura and Mathison's position, the individual is only the "final" interpreter in the sense of communication. Scripture itself is the final authority for the sola scriptura position and scripture plus the ecumenical creeds (in essence) is for Mathison. Even in solo scriptura, it is not necessarily the case that the individual grants himself any authority over the text (though it appears that Mathison thinks this does happen in solo scriptura). So to the extent that Bryan's escape from lack of principled distinction works for the RC position, it proves too much, in that it undermines premises 2, 7, and 9.

2) Mathison explicitly selects the ecumenical creeds as his extrinsic grid to which he submits. That's the same as Bryan's example. If submitting to the outcome of an ecumenical council liberates you from matching the solo position, Mathison is liberated in the exact same way.

3) The key weakness (and perhaps I ought to have placed it first, so bored readers would find it) to Bryan's response is that he is comparing the whole governing authority of the solo person to a part of the governing authority of the RC person. In other words, where he ought to compare (Scripture, Oral Tradition, and the Magisterium) to (Scripture) he compares (Scripture, Oral Tradition, and the Magisterium) to (Scripture), hiding the Oral Tradition and Magisterium from consideration. In the process, Bryan himself conflates the finality of communication with the finality of authority, as noted above. The true comparison would be that for the solo person the Scriptures are the final authority, whereas for the RC person (per Bryan) the final authority is the Magisterium.

4) Does Bryan really mean to say that the Magisterium is above Scripture in a military-like hierarchy? Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 86 states:
"Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith." (Quoting from Dei Verbum, Section 10, paragraph 2)
Interestingly, Bryan's analogy is the usual Reformed criticism of the RC position, whereas CCC 86 is the usual response by Roman Catholic proselytizers and apologists.

V. Conclusion

Bryan's argument is plainly invalid on its face since conclusion 10 is an invalid generalization. Furthermore, even when corrected, Bryan's conclusion can be just as legitimately expanded to include the RC position. And if the RC position is permitted to escape by distinguishing between finality of communication and finality of authority, the sola scriptura position (whether in the classical reformed sense or in the Mathisonian form - and even solo scriptura) also escapes.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Leithart and the SJC of the PCA

The Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA has ruled that the Presbytery of the Northwest (PNW) erred with respect to Peter Leithart:
The error made by PNW was twofold. First, PNW erred in judging Leithart's views "to be not out of accord with the fundamentals of our system of doctrine." Second, PNW also erred in not finding a strong presumption of guilt that some of the views of Leithart are "out of accord with the fundamentals of the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards."

As you may be aware, Leithart is one of the signers of the Federal Vision Joint Statement. The expectation is that if Leithart continues to maintain the same positions and continues to remain in the PCA he will come under discipline.

Principled Distinctions - Again - This Time in a Narrower Category

Tim Troutman (here) and Bryan Cross (here) have each responded to my previous post (here). My previous post pointed out that there is, indeed, a principled distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. Tim and Bryan have both responded, albeit somewhat differently.

I. Introduction - Bryan and Tim Respond

Bryan and Tim end up with similar-sounding responses, so I'll provide both and then answer them:
In our article we explain carefully how there can be subordinate authority, both of the civil government, and even within heretical sects. See also comment #149.

The conclusion of our argument is not that there is no [conceptual] distinction between solo and sola, but that there is no principled distinction between them with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority. And that is why in essence they are the same, even though they are defined differently. Sola is merely the indirect form of solo. I can either directly act as my own ultimate interpretive authority (that’s solo), or I can pick people who agree with my interpretation, and then ’submit’ to them (that’s sola). The underlying principle or essence is the same in both cases (i.e. the individual is his own ultimate interpretive authority), but in the latter case this essence is hidden by a layer of customized secondary ‘authority.’
(source - from Brian - bracketed and parenthetical comments in original)\
I went to those posts earlier but I confess I did not read them. I’ll let Bryan respond directly if he wants to; I’m more interested in the direct refutation of the article.

We need to more carefully define what we mean by “principle of distinction” since the obvious meaning seems to be in question now (for the sake of winning a debate I guess). We mean a principle of distinction in regard to the principle of the thing in question. For example, is there any principle of distinction whatsoever in any way between solo scriptura and sola scriptura? Sure, 1. the former is spelled “solo” and the latter is spelled “sola.” We can always distinguish them by inspecting the last letter of the word. That is a principle of distinction as regards spelling. Another principle distinction: The former is improper Latin and the latter is proper Latin. That is a principle of distinction as regards grammar. If we examine the concepts themselves, there might be principles of distinction in one regard, but not in regard to the principle of the things in question. The principle here is authority. So while there is a principled distinction in regard to spelling, there is no principled distinction in regard to authority.

Suppose a government started an education lottery. “We will raise $1 million and all of it will go to education” they said. Having raised the money, the tax payers realized that the $5 million education spending stayed the same. They question it, and the authorities reply that they indeed used the $1 mil from the lottery to pay for education, but that freed up $1 mil of the education money to be used elsewhere. We can say without qualification that what the government did is no different in principle than if they had directly misappropriated the fund. They rebut: “No there is a principle of distinction in what we did, we respected the law and we did everything according to the book. The $1 mil was designated to education exactly as promised.” So there is a principle of distinction in the action of the government, but not in regard to the principle of the things in question, namely whether or not the government misappropriated the funds. One way does it directly; the other does it indirectly. But they both do the same thing in principle.

There are some accidental differences and those differences could be considered principles of distinction but only in regard to a certain aspect of the question. For example, in regard to the question, per se, of whether or not the money was designated according to the law, is there a distinction between the government designating 1 mil and then moving other funds and them not designating 1 mil? Yes there is. But there still is no principle of distinction in regard to the very thing in question: whether the funds were misappropriated.

We can probably think of many examples. But to tie it into your argument, the question is whether or not one’s private interpretation of Scripture is authoritative for a believer. In regard to this, there is no principle of distinction between sola and solo scriptura. Your argument shows that there is a principle of distinction in regard to an accidental aspect, namely whether one acknowledges church authority in any way whatsoever, but not in regard to the very thing in question: whether one’s private interpretation of Scripture holds more authority than the Church.
(source - from Tim)

Both Bryan and Tim attempt to make the issue more specific. Bryan suggests that there is no principled distinction "with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority" whereas Tim says there is none "in regard to authority" (in fairness, the introduction section of the original article says there is none "with respect to the locus of “ultimate interpretive authority:”") In the conclusion, Tim returns to the opening theme and indicates that he thinks "the question is whether or not one’s private interpretation of Scripture is authoritative for a believer," which does not really seem to be the question at all. Even Roman Catholics formally admit that a believer is bound to obey Scripture.

More interestingly, Tim's example of government spending suggests that "in principle," to Tim means "in effect" or "in practice." That's not an obvious meaning to the expression "in principle," in fact, Tim has elsewhere attempted to distinguish between differences in practice and differences in principle.

Nevertheless, I wonder if this is also the sense that Bryan intends. After all, the original article quotes approvingly from Mathison who says of solo scriptura: "What this means in practice is that the individual is to measure his teacher’s interpretation of Scripture against his own interpretation of Scripture."

Indeed earlier in the same comment box, Tim had written in response to the comment "2) Even if in principle they are the same, in practice they can be different.":
I agree that there is a practical difference between Reformed and many other denominations on the subject of Church authority. The point of this article isn’t to try and paint the Reformed as if there is no difference whatsoever between their approach to ecclesial authority and the ‘me & Jesus’ evangelical. But this article does show that without a principle of distinction between solo and sola, their position amounts to the same thing. As you said above, it might still be a viable position, but we agree with Mathison that it is not.

Interestingly, in response to the same comment, Bryan answered:
See section IV of the article. That’s where we respond to the claim that sola scriptura allows one to appeal to “the church.”

Returning to Tim, he not only provided that comment in the comment box, but also provided a whole post, entitled "But is There a Practical Difference" (link to post). In that post Tim asserts: "That practical difference that I saw previously, though real in certain limited respects, was ultimately an illusion." However, the proof that it was an illusion seems to be summed up as: "Logically then, since Bryan and Neal actually demonstrated there to be no principled difference between solo and sola scriptura, an appeal to a practical difference is insufficient."

Furthermore, I had previously suggested to Bryan that perhaps he meant that there was no practical difference, and he responded with his now-debunked argument in favor of an explanation of natural necessity. Likewise, he now distinguishes between "no [conceptual] distinction" (his brackets) and no distinction as to the ultimate interpretative authority.

II. Simplifying the Response

Although there is some mixture of ideas in the response, giving Bryan's comments the greatest weight, I don't think they really mean to argue that there is a difference in theory (rather than in practice) between sola and solo scriptura. Instead, I think that they simply mean that "the holder of ultimate interpretive authority" in both is the same, and that consequently there is not even a theoretical ("in principle" or "principled") distinction between the two on this point. Furthermore, apparently, any apparent practical distinction between the two is illusory in view of the lack of difference in theory on this particular point between the different ideas of sola scriptura and solo scriptura.

III. Altering the Way to Refute

One effect that this clarification (assuming it is) of the article has is that it leads us to a short form of direct refutation of the article. Since, apparently, the article stands for the idea that "the holder of ultimate interpretive authority" in both approaches is the same, the only direct refutation of the article would be to argue that the holder of ultimate interpretive authority is different. There are also indirect ways, as we'll discuss below.

IV. Considering Whether Direct Refutation is Desirable

Recall that the article started by stating (in the opening paragraph) that "The direct implication of solo scriptura is that each person is his own ultimate interpretive authority." The argument, as presently explained by Bryan and Tim, is that the indirect implication of sola scriptura is that each person is his own ultimate interpretive authority.

However, this leaves open the possibility that there are other important differences (both in theory and practice) between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. The fact that there may be some commonality between them isn't necessarily troubling. In fact, both views agree that the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and life. That's a commonality, and there is no way to distinguish the two views with respect to that particular issue.

Assuming, for the moment, that the alleged ultimate holder of interpretive authority commonality is a real commonality, it doesn't follow (without more) that we should be concerned that there is no principled distinction with respect to that aspect, since there are important principled distinctions with respect to other aspects.

V. Disposing of a Red Herring or Two

If the real claim is that both sola scriptura and solo scriptura share the common trait that in both cases the ultimate holder of interpretive authority is the individual, then claims about solo scriptura being a natural consequence of sola scriptura is essentially a red herring. It's irrelevant to the question. So also, if we've identified the question, are the issues of there being many denominations of "Protestants." Those issues aren't germane to the question of whether in both the solo and sola formulations the ultimate holder of interpretive authority is the same.

VI. But What About Mathison?

The careful reader has probably noticed that I ended section IV hanging on a "without more." The "more" here that I think Bryan and Tim would try to argue for is what they assert Mathison is arguing against solo scriptura. I suspect that Bryan is likely to take the position that Mathison has essentially conceded that placing ultimate interpretive authority in the hands of the individual is intrinsically bad. Actually, though, Mathison criticizes neglecting the fallible "interpretive ministerial authority" (p. 140) of the church, although some comments that Mathison makes (for example, describing solo scriptura advocates as "claiming that the reason and conscience of the individual believer is the supreme interpreter") could be viewed as coming close to that. We'll discuss this more, below.

VII. Distinguishing Mathison

I've made it clear elsewhere that I don't agree with everything that Mathison says. I do agree with him that there is an error of solo scriptura that involves a neglect of the subordinate authority of the church. I don't agree with his analysis at pp. 246-47, and particularly with his claim "It renders the universal and objective truth of Scripture virtually useless because instead of the Church proclaiming with one voice to the world what the Scripture teaches, every individual interprets Scripture as seems right in his own eyes." (p. 246) I believe that here, as at a few other places in his book, Mathison departs from the Reformed view. Nevertheless, I don't think that necessarily makes a difference to this particular discussion with Bryan.

VIII. Looking at Mathison's Shadow

Even if Mathison thinks that ultimate interpretive authority is in the hands of the individual in solo scriptura in some way, Mathison also thinks that solo scriptura is somehow distinguishable from sola scriptura. In fact, it is much more clear that Mathison distinguishes between the two positions than what Mathison means by his comments regarding the individual and interpretation.

I call this looking at Mathison's shadow, because Mathison doesn't clearly spell out what distinguishes sola and solo at the level of interpretation. However, in matters of interpretation, Mathison commends a particular hermeneutic principle:

1) "The regula fidei was the necessary context for the correct interpretation of Scripture." (p. 23, describing - seemingly favorably - the practice of Irenaeus)

2) "The traditional apostolic rule of faith is the foundational hermeneutical context of Scripture. To reject the rule of faith on the basis of an appeal to Scripture is to immediately read Scripture outside of its Christian context." (p. 277)

More examples could be provided, but it seems that repeatedly Mathison suggests that part and parcel of sola scriptura is the use of the regula fidei or "rule of faith" as an hermeneutic principle.

IX. What is the "Rule of Faith" for Mathison?

It is challenging to get a precise definition of the "rule of faith" from Mathison. He describes it as follows:
  • "that rule of faith is the apostolic faith" (p. 137)
  • "Christian orthodoxy – as defined for example in the Nicene Creed" (p. 150)
  • "the apostolic gospel" (p. 275)
  • "outlined in the ecumenical creeds" (p. 278)
  • "expressed in the ecumenical creeds" (p. 280)
  • "expressed in written form in the ecumenical creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon" (p. 321)
  • "the essential truths of Christianity" (pp. 321-22)
  • "has found written expression in the ecumenical creeds of the Church. The Nicene Creed and the definition of Chalcedon are the creedal confessions of all orthodox Christians and serve as the doctrinal boundaries of orthodox Christianity." (p. 337)
These statements suggest that Mathison's view of the rule of faith is different from that of the Reformers, who taught that the rule of faith is Scripture. At one place, Mathison seems to cite to Hilary of Poitiers as a positive patristic example, while mentioning that “The apostolic rule of faith and the Holy Scripture are essentially one and the same for Hilary.” (p. 31)

X. Mathison's Sola Scriptura Distinguishable from Solo Scriptura

Getting back to the challenge at hand, Mathison's Sola Scriptura is distinguishable from solo scriptura in that the individual must essentially make his interpretations consistent with the ecumenical creeds (apparently Mathison only views the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian definition to be ecumenical) and, in theory, with any future ecumenical creeds that may emerge. Thus, while the individual's interpretive authority is broad for Mathison, it is not unbounded.

XI. Mathison's Position Compared with the Roman Catholic Position and the Eastern Orthodox Position

The Roman Catholic position essentially takes Mathison's interpretive grid further. Rather than limiting the grid to the ecumenical creeds, the Roman Catholic position makes the grid a vast array of canons and decrees from twenty-one allegedly ecumenical councils and additionally the ex cathedra definitions of the popes and any items that are de fide by universal consent of the faithful. Within that grid, the Roman Catholic layman is permitted to interpret Scripture, but he is not permitted to interpret Scripture so as to contradict the grid. The same goes for Mathison, though the grid is much more bare-bones. The Eastern Orthodox position is somewhere in the middle, accepting only seven councils as ecumenical, the EO position has far fewer dogmatic definitions.

XII. The Multi-Pronged Rebuttal

The above points lead us to a multi-pronged rebuttal to Bryan and Tim.

First, Mathison's interpretive authority is not simply the individual, but the individual looking through the grid of the ecumenical creeds. Thus, there is a principle with respect to the ultimate holder of interpretive authority that distinguishes Mathison's view from solo scriptura in which the creeds are not binding.

Second, Mathison's methodology is functionally the same as the methodology of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox positions, with respect to the way in which the individual interprets the Scripture. In Mathison's, the RC's and the EO's positions, the individual is not permitted interpret Scripture in any way contrary to the rule of faith. Thus, if Mathison's position shares a commonality with solo scriptura as to the ultimate holder of interpretive authority, then so do the RC and EO positions, in which case, who cares.

Third, it may be objected that Mathison's methodology is submission to a grid that one has selected based on what one already agrees with, and that one will abandon if one ceases to agree with it. However, of course, the same is true of any grid - whether Mathison's or the RC or EO. One assents to the grid as a requirement for communion, and one who rejects the grid is (at least in theory) excommunicated. In other words, the objection that because the submission to the grid is voluntary, it is not true submission, is an invalid objection.

Fourth, the absence of a binding extrinsic hermeneutic grid is not the chief or main problem of solo scriptura. Accordingly, the fact that neither sola scriptura (in the Reformed sense as distinct from Mathison's sense) nor solo scriptura has such a grid is a commonality that does not cause us concern.

Fifth, the absence of a binding extrinsic hermeneutic grid does not preclude the presence of a binding intrinsic hermeneutic grid. In other words, Scripture interprets Scripture as both the Reformers and the early church fathers taught. Consequently, Scriptures must be understood harmoniously with one another, the more clear helping us to understand the less clear. Thus, the absence of a binding extrinsic hermeneutic grid does not mean the death of hermeneutics.

XIII. Conclusion

It has been demonstrated that there is a principled distinction between Mathison's view and Solo Scriptura with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority in that the individual is not subject to a binding extrinsic hermeneutic grid in the solo position, but is subject to such a grid in Mathison's position, as well as in the RC and EO positions. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that if the sense in which the Reformed position of sola scriptura and the erroneous view of solo scriptura overlap is in not applying a binding external hermeneutic grid, that is an overlap we are comfortable with.


Where in the Golden Rule is That?

Someone (I'd use their name or handle, if they had left one) asked where in "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (sometimes called the "Golden Rule") did Jesus authorize "religious persecution," which (one supposes) is the pejorative term that folks these days us to refer to the Reformed position on the civil magistrate.

The simple answer is that the golden rule is not relevant to the government (I mean of course, the government of the state, though the same could be said of any government, as such), it wasn't intended to be, and we get God's instructions for the government elsewhere.

However, that may sound a bit glib, so let's look at Jesus' words in context first:

Luke 6:30-31
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

If you think that "as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" is supposed to be applied to the government, do you think that giving to everyone who asks is also to be applied to the government? Is this the welfare verse? Surely you can recognize that it is not intended that way. Nor is it a uniform principle that we must always give whatever anyone asks from us, nor that we must always do unto others as we would want done to us.

But that's just a start. From the slightly extended context, we learn that this is an exposition of the command to love our neighbour as ourselves:

Luke 6:27-29 & 32-35
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
[The passage above]
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

The whole thrust of the passage is toward doing good to those who personally injure you. It's not an absolute mandate that you can never seek legal recourse, but rather a general principle of how we should treat people who are our personal enemies.

In a parallel account of this teaching in Matthew, we see an additional point which shows that this teaching is part of an exposition on the law: "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Matthew 5:43-44
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That law was not new. It was an Old Testament law:

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

And yes, the same Old Testament law authorized:

Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Numbers 33:52-53
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: and ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.

Leviticus 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

Exodus 31:14-15
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Obviously, the government can't make anyone believe (nor prevent them from coveting). Obviously, as well, the government executing witches, destroying idols, stoning blasphemers, and enforcing the sabbath will not, in itself, save anyone (just as punishing rebellious children, murderers, adulterers, and thieves cannot save anyone). Nevertheless, it is consistent for the government to enforce such laws and for the duty of believers to be that they love their neighbor as themselves.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Living in Sin is not a New Thing

It is, however, remarkable that a fairly new Britney Spears track (that one hears constantly on the radio if one has not glued one's radio dial to the classical music frequency) about a particular sexual perversion contains the line: "Livin' in sin is the new thing" as well as the claim that "What we do is innocent Just for fun and nothin' meant." It's really not. Sexual union is only appropriate within marriage. Living in sin is nothing new, but it's also nothing good. Far from being innocent, it produces guilt in the participants: not subjective guilt in the form of feelings of guilt (though it may), but objective guilt in the form of being under the wrath and curse of God. At least, however, Ms. Spears recognizes that what she is promoting is sin. Perhaps others will also note that and repent.

Radical Two-Kingdoms and the Reformed Confessions

Everyone already knows, I suppose, that the radical, supposedly Lutheran, view of the two kingdoms (R2kT for short) advocated by folks like Darryl Hart is contrary to the 1646 (original edition) Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF1646). In fact, advocates of R2kT typically brag that the American revisions to the Westminster Confession (WCF-AR) removed the language that they would have to take an exception to (as well as other language, which appears to be unrelated).

What is less well-known is that the Article 36 of the 1618 (original edition) Belgic Confession (BC1618, one of the three forms of unity) says the same thing. Remarkably, it is Darryl Hart who is now pointing out this fact (link to his post).

Hart has been fond of mislabeling traditional Reformed believers (folks who subscribe to the BC1618 or WCF1646) as Kuyperians. Now, he expresses shock that "Kuyperians" don't listen to Kuyper - after all, Kuyper himself took an exception to Article 36.

Interestingly, Kuyper was somewhat more frank than the R2KT proponents on this matter, for he stated: "We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians." Whereas it seems that some folks who disagree with Calvin, the Confessions, and the Reformed theologians want to insist that they are "Reformed" while their "Reformed Baptist" brethren are not.

What is interesting is that, despite his exception to Article 36, Kuyper is not radical enough for Hart. After all Kuyper "apparently launched" "transformationalism" - by which Hart apparently means the notion (be prepared to be shocked) that the gospel may transform not only individual people but whole societies of people.


Postscript: Of course, Hart is now bragging about how American revisions to the Belgic Confession axed the corresponding parts regarding the duties of the civil magistrate. Those Americans - what can I say!

The English also revised (though not as radically) Article 37, which originally was consistent with the other Reformed confessions, and which could still be read consistent with them, though it seems unlikely that such was the intent of the revisers.

However, at least to my knowledge, there is no American or Anglican revisions of the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560), which declares essentially the same thing as the other Reformed confessions with respect to the Civil Magistrate, at chapter 24. The Scottish Confession was superceded, in the Church of Scotland, by the original Westminster Confession of Faith.

So-called Jehovah's Witnesses Cult Suppressed in Russia

This is something that would have happened in Geneva under a Reformed view of the two kingdoms, but would not happen under a Lutheran view of the two kingdoms (link to story).

Of course, calling the radical view of two kingdoms theology promoted by Darryl Hart and others "Lutheran," is perhaps unfair to modern Lutherans. After all, Germany recently (two years ago) declared Scientology not to be a religion, which opened the possibility of banning it in Germany (link).

Finally, let's not forget modern-day Geneva, or at any rate, Switzerland, where the people and the cantons voted to prohibit further construction of minarets (link to story).

None of these actions, of course, is a substitute for gospel preaching. And none of these actions will be of ultimate good to the people of Switzerland, Germany, and Russia, if the gospel is not preached, heard, and followed in those lands. Nevertheless, we would be wise to consider Jesus' remarks on hearing that there were those who cast out demons in his name, but did not follow Jesus with the disciples:

Mark 9:38-42
And John answered him, saying, "Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us."

But Jesus said, "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, 'he shall not lose his reward.' And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Only Infallible Authority We Have - Not Only Authority

David at Pious Fabrications, an Eastern Orthodox blog, has assigned himself an interesting project. He's going to, well, in his words: "What I'm going to try to do here is to actually look at that individual [church father], their life and writings as a whole, and really, finally answer the question: did he believe in the authority of Scripture alone?" (link to source)

I think it's important to clarify to David that the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura is not the view that the Scriptures are the only authority, but rather that they are the only infallible authority that we have. That's an important distinction, because we assign real (albeit subordinate) authority to the elders in the church, as well as persuasive authority to the teachings and explanations of our fellow believers.

I realize that David may sincerely believe that "Protestants" simply "proof-text" from the fathers (he writes: "What I'm going to attempt not to do is just do the inverse of what Protestants do; I'm not going to simply proof-text and quote mine for sentences which support Tradition, although we will look at those in the process."), but actually the folks he highlights (James White and William Webster) are quite willing to let the fathers be the fathers. If the fathers hold to sola scriptura, great! If not, that's fine too. We believe that men are fallible, and we recognize that even godly men make mistakes. So we don't feel compelled to find fathers who are copies of ourselves.

I look forward to David's exploration of the fathers, but if David has read Holy Scripture: the Ground and Pillar of the Faith, by David King and William Webster, he knows he has a long row to hoe.


A Distinction in Principle between Sola Scriptura and Solo Scriptura

Tim Troutman over at the Roman Catholic blog Called to Communion wrote:
The Reformed claim to believe in Church authority but they subject that authority to their own private interpretation of Scripture and thus their self-view of Church authority is no different in principle than the Protestant who would explicitly state that his only authority is his private interpretation of Scripture. That’s what the article demonstrates. If someone disagrees they need to say so and start out with something like this: “There is a principle of distinction between sola and solo scriptura and it is this:” (and then go on to explain what that principle is).

But if they do not do that or something very similar, then they do not refute the article and don’t really engage it. In 349 I gave two very explicit examples of what a refutation would look like. So far, nothing has looked like that at all.

I answer:

Tim is mistaken about how the article can be refuted. He is correct that one way to refute the article would be to use the format he mentioned: “There is a principle of distinction between sola and solo scriptura and it is this:” (and then go on to explain what that principle is). However, there are other ways to refute the article, such as by demonstrating that the article is unfounded or that the article is self-defeating. Those sort of refutations of the article have been offered (both by myself - here, for example - and by others.

Yet, lest he continue to assert that no refutation has been offered according to his preferred form:

There is a principle of distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura and it is this: respect for subordinate authority.

Scriptures teach that the elders are overseers (Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.) and that they are to be accorded special dignity (1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; & 1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. ). This respect, of course, is not without limits. An elder can be accused by a plurality of witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19), an elder can be entreated when in error (1 Timothy 5:1), and there will be false teachers that will come in (2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. ).

Submission to the elders of the church is part of a Christians overall duty to submit to authority to authority (Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. & Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,). Indeed, even the civil authorities in an ungodly empire are called ministers of God:
Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
Indeed, Jesus himself commended human authority to his disciples (Matthew 23:1-3 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.") However, this submission to human authority was rightly understood by the apostles to be tempered by a higher duty toward God (Act 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, "We ought to obey God rather than men.")

The elders, like the civil magistrate, are ministers of God (1 Thessalonians 3:2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:). They accordingly ought to be obeyed and respected, so long as obedience to them does not conflict with obedience to God.

There is one further parallel that must be made. Obedience to parents is repeatedly emphasized in Scripture:
Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Micah 7:6 For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

Malachi 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

Matthew 15:4-6
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

Matthew 19:19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Mark 7:10-13
For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Mark 10:19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Luke 18:20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Ephesians 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Yet even the divinely commanded obedience to father and mother is tempered by a necessary trumping obedience to God (Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. & Matthew 8:21-22 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. & Luke 9:59-60 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.)

Now the Roman Catholic church does not deny that the authority of parents and kings are subordinate to the authority of God. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic church (at least in theory) affirms that God is a higher authority than the church. Thus, this principle of distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura ought to be understandable, at least, to the Roman Catholic reader.

Finally, and this is where the refutation extends beyond simply stating the principle of distinction and explaining it, the sola scriptura position is the position that best fits our present circumstance. Our elders are men. They are not incarnations of the Logos - they are not divinely inspired prophets. They are teachers and pastors. They are owed submission and respect, but not absolutely. Even the apostles (who were sometimes divinely inspired prophets) were not given absolute respect (Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. & Galatians 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.).

Even Jesus himself, though he could have insisted on his divine prerogative, opened his ministry to Scriptural examination (John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. & Matthew 11:2-5 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said unto them, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." & compare Isaiah 35:4-6 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. & Luke 24:25-27 Then he said unto them, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.).

The Scriptures, after all, are the very word of God, not the private interpretations of men (2 Peter 1:20-21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.) Furthermore, the Scriptures are both formally and materially sufficient (2 Timothy 3:15-17 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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. )

Accordingly, not only is there a principled distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura, but sola scriptura is distinguishable from (and superior to) an unbounded submission to the successors (real or alleged) of the apostles. I'm aware of Bryan Cross' objections to this distinction and I've answered them (here - where I demonstrate that his objection amounts to a denial that there can be subordinate authority).


Monday, December 07, 2009

Clerical Celibacy Rebuttal - Extremely Short Version - Option 2

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 9:7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

Psalm 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Titus 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

1 Timothy 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

1 Timothy 3:12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

1 Timothy 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

1 Timothy 5:14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

William Forbes relates for us the inconsistent comments of Estius on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
But before we leave this subject, let us quote a few sentences from Estius concerning that most celebrated passage, and "on which the fate of purgatory (so to speak) depends" [FN: Andrews Response to Cardinal Bellarmine Apologian, Chapter 8, page 208] in the opinion of most Romanists; "Others again," he says, [[Estius] Commentary on 1 Corithians 3, at vs. 13, at the words "dies enim [] declarabit"] alluding to Bellarmine chiefly, whose opinion he here refutes without mentioning his name [TurretinFan's note: This is an odd assertion, in view of what we've seen in Bellarmine on this passage.], "think that the Apostle uses the word fire in more than one signification. For in the first place they understand the fire of the general conflagration; in the second, they interpret fire as being the severe and just judgment of God by which all the works of men are tried and examined; lastly, in the third place, when it is said, that 'the man himself will be saved, yet so as by fire,' they maintain that the purgatorial fire of the souls after this life is meant. But to others it not undeservedly seems absurd, that the Apostle in a single passage of few words should use the word fire in so many senses; nor will any one easily persuade himself that on the third occasion, the purgatorial fire of souls is signified, if on the first and second a different fire is intended. Wherefore," he says, "in order that in this obscurity we may reach the meaning of S. Paul, it appears, first, that the word fire ought to be taken in a single sense, in this place &c." He therefore affirms that this whole passage must be understood of "the fire of the burning" at the day of the last judgment, and here he cites many testimonies of the ancients about the fire of the last day, as S. Basil [Of the Holy Spirit 15:36], S. Hilary [can. 2 in Matthew Section 4], S. Ambrose [Sermon 3 on Psalm 118, Section 15], Eucherius [Homily 3 on the Epiphany], Alcuin [3 of the Trinity, Chapter 21], Lactantius, [7 Divine Institutes, Chapter 21] &c." See the author himself discussing at great length this subject.

In the end of his explanation, however, of this passage, he puts among other questions, this one also; "The third question; Whether and in what manner is the Purgatory of souls after this life proved from this passage? For if," he says, "fire shall try every man's work, and that trial is not to take place till the day of the Lord, and the expression, 'saved as by fire,' is to be referred to that same day, not only it does not seem that a Purgatory of souls immediately upon the death of the bodies can be built up from this passage, but rather the reverse; since the whole purifying is reserved for the last judgment. Nevertheless in the Council of Florence, the Latin Fathers, in spite of the dissent of the Greeks, held that Purgatory was to be established from this Scripture." The author, lest he should irritate, and too much offend his own party, answers shortly that "the Purgatory of souls may be well and firmly collected from this passage," also "of S. Paul." But how coldly he performs this, judicious Reader, see with thine own eyes. For he rather plays than treats seriously about deducing that opinion from thence. Nay, he immediately after puts the question, "Why the Apostle, omitting all mention of the purifying of souls which takes place in the mean time, speaks only about the fire of the last judgment." Reader, weigh his answer to this question, and you will very clearly see that the whole of this passage is to be referred in no respect to the Purgatory of souls, but to the fire of the last day trying the works of all men. Although in his commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences, this very learned man thought the passage should be very differently understood, namely, of the Purgatory of souls after death.
- William Forbes (Gulielmum Forbesium) A Fair and Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy concerning Purgatory, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 15