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How Sola is Scriptura?

June 26, 2010
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Sola Scriptura is one of the cornerstones of the Reformation. However, like most cornerstones of the Reformation it has undergone significant evolution between the time of Luther and the average American church-goer. I have no intention of looking at what Luther meant, which is a job for someone who knows Luther much better than I do. Instead, I want to ask what might seem to be a simple question: to what degree can Scripture stand alone and be authoritative?

There are a good number of people who will feel that the right answer to this must be that Scripture can stand completely alone, free of all human institutions, cultures, and transmitted knowledge and from this elevated position shine God’s light into our darkness. It simply sounds good, the highest of high views of Scripture. Unfortunately, this method fails when applied to actual passages. For the sake of demonstration I have selected, at random, the first story in Matthew 12 as an example.

This story, Matthew 12:1-8, certainly demands extra-Biblical knowledge. For starters, it demands a knowledge of Greek. This may not be immediately apparent if the person with that knowledge was a translator on a committee that was hired by the publisher of your Bible but it is most certainly true. The Greek language, in case this was in the least unclear, is shaped by Greek culture, and, in the form found in the New Testament (koine Greek) by the demands of its use as a trade language amongst non-native speakers. It does not come out of the Bible itself.

Another set of culturally-bound questions should also appear in the reading of this passage. For instance, the dispute between a group called disciples and a group called the Pharisees about what the Law allows on a day called the Sabbath is fairly impenetrable at a first uneducated guess. Now, the Bible does contain information on all these things, but it does not perhaps provide enough. The online ESV contains, for instance, a helpful cross-reference for the Pharisees’ claim, but the link to Exodus 20:9-11 does not really explain why picking grain while walking and eating it is considered work. (I may as well mention here that I cannot stand cross-references of this sort. They are wonderful for quotations, but it’s just irritating to get sort-of-references.) The problem is really that the Sabbath laws have been strengthened between the time of Moses and the time of Jesus. Similarly, the Pharisees appear frequently in the New Testament. The New Testament’s treatment, however, would never tell you that the Pharisees arose as the group that opposed the Hasmonean kings in their decision to combine the high priesthood with the monarchy. Similarly, the New Testament would not help you determine the Pharisees’ attitudes towards the Romans and the Messiah. Disciples, also, are a concept not familiar to us except in the guise of those who followed Jesus, and so it is impossible from Scripture alone to determine if Jesus is doing something completely new here or if his disciples are functionally equivalent to the rarely-mentioned disciples of John the Baptist or other religious teachers.

Now, none of these problems is crippling. You can get the gist of the story without untangling the various historical threads. Very few Biblical stories are completely impenetrable to someone of sound mind who is willing to use the Bible itself to construct a model of Biblical culture. However, Scripture clearly loses something by standing only on itself. (When taken to the extreme it would lose all comprehensibility, as I noted when discussing language.) Scripture is essentially incarnational, not in the major sense of God’s own Incarnation, but in the sense that it is God’s work thrust in amongst us, and tied to our means of knowing and expressing ourselves. If it helps to make this concept less threatening imagine explaining the theory of relativity to a third grader. By talking down to your audience you make it possible for them to understand something rather than nothing, but by talking down to them you also lose a lot. Scripture is God talking down to us.

Assuming for a moment that we might wish to go beyond the first and most accessible levels of Scripture how might we go about this? I would like to introduce you to our second player, lurking in the wings: tradition. At one point someone read Matthew 12:1-8 in their native language about groups who some of their friends belonged to, and it made perfect sense. There were no cultural barriers to cross for this early reader. If we could access this person’s understanding of the story we would have a leg up on understanding it for ourselves. Tradition is, hypothetically, just that.

I say hypothetically because tradition can come from other sources, too. First century tradition coming from Palestinian farmers who heard Jesus speak in their villages is not the same thing as fifth-century tradition coming from the scholarly consensus of Greek-trained philosophers, for whom Jesus’ original audience would be fairly foreign. Traditions can be invented out of whole cloth (at least at the margins of stories) to serve various agenda-driven needs. This is one reason I am always suspicious of additional tales of various Biblical characters, especially ones that seem to be excellent evidence for a particular side in an early Church conflict.

So how should Scripture be handled? Scripture is our first, best, and most authoritative source. The problem with Sola Scriptura (and I here embrace all sorts of views running under this name) is mostly with the “sola” part, for first, best, and most authoritative do not add up to “only”. Tradition may hold a second place to Scripture, as it is much more corruptible, but tradition is often the only clear voice on an issue. For instance, when we look at the early Church’s organizational structure we have only a handful of verses from Acts and the Epistles. Within one hundred years, however, we have discussions about ecclesiastical authority that mirror modern ones. The voice of tradition may be corrupted here, but it is hard to imagine that the apostles laid one foundation which was then entirely reversed across the entire Church in a short span of time. The Biblical witness, which is hotly debated, is unclear. The second, subordinate, voice of tradition can clarify the matter.

In practice this really amounts not to “how should Scripture be handled?” but “how should tradition be handled?” Scripture should not be handled differently; it remains first and foremost. But tradition needs to be given more weight than it often is. We need to regain a sense that disagreeing with the unanimous voice of the entire early Church is bold, to say the least. Now, it may also be correct (especially when “the unanimous voice” means “all two people who spoke on the issue”), but to be correct we must be ready to explain how the tradition became incorrect (which can happen). It is insufficient to pretend that a view held for a verifiable 1,600 years stands on the same footing as one no one has thought of until yesterday.

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40 Comments leave one →
  1. Dustin permalink
    June 14, 2010 6:43 am

    I was with you until the very end. In your example regarding ecclesiastical structure, I struggle to say, necessarily, that tradition mirrors, or at least retains (even if marginally), necessarily what came before. In fact, I would go so far as to say that facts on the ground often dictate final product, not necessarily always what came before. So, while I may be able to affirm that tradition has a place, I’m not sure I can affirm that it necessarily reflects, wholly, the past, nor does it necessarily reflect the best conclusion.

    But, I understand your position becomes necessary if one is trying to hold to some sort of orthodoxy while also rejecting, mostly, sola scriptura.

    But, this probably is a point of disagreement you and I have had for quite some time…going back to the Relevant boards :) Overall, though, I liked this post.

  2. thenewrobertdavis permalink
    June 14, 2010 9:09 am

    Not sure if you have read it yet, but when I was plowing through John Piper’s (terrible) response to NT Wright I just about jumped out of my seat when I came across a certain passage. Then, in Wright’s response (“Justification”) he attacks that argument head on. I’ll have to find exactly what I am talking about, but sadly that approach seems to be the norm among seemingly level-headed, educated Baptists and Reformed folks in the U.S.

  3. Eric permalink
    June 14, 2010 9:27 am

    To Dustin:
    I think I’ll perhaps quote myself, “The voice of tradition may be corrupted here, but it is hard to imagine that the apostles laid one foundation which was then entirely reversed across the entire Church in a short span of time,” and highlight “may be corrupted” and “entirely reversed”. The Didache, for instance, seems to say that communities elect their own leadership. It’s not too hard for me to see a structure in which the episkopos, diakonos, and presbuteros of the NT have become more official roles for which (as in Acts, actually) men are selected by the community. This would require little but the expansion of the Christian community, requiring a new layer of organization. Getting to, say, the structure at 400 AD requires more changes, but at no point does it require a complete reversal of the structure. The structure is always in continuity with the one before it. (Now, that said, I also don’t think the NT mandates a structure. We can tell what was laid down in part from the early Church, but I also have a problem claiming that these structures were laid down for any reason other than that they worked.) However, as you point out, this is a central disagreement between us. Because I don’t believe in sudden, ex nihilo changes I will always retain a link to orthodoxy.

    To Rob:
    Piper makes me want to hit myself in the head until I forget what he said. But do tell me if you hit the passage you’re thinking of.

    • thenewrobertdavis permalink
      June 14, 2010 4:37 pm

      I’m pretty sure I sold Piper’s terrible book. But, Wright does reference it and summarize that section basically saying that Piper doesn’t believe you need to read the NT in its first century context. But, he does propose that we use 16th century authors somewhat authoritatively rather than patristic ones.

  4. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 14, 2010 10:47 am

    “Tradition may hold a second place to Scripture, as it is much more corruptible, but tradition is often the only clear voice on an issue.” — The Jews of Jesus’ day placed tradition on equal footing with Scripture (namely the Pharisees). Jesus showed the Jews that in many ways their traditions nullified scripture and rebuked them for it. “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Jesus quoting Isiah). “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). If scripture has to be interpreted by tradition, then it is subject to it. That is to say you are putting tradition on the same level implicitly even though explicitly you are trying not to.

    Are you merely looking at tradition to understand church structure? What other areas do you feel scripture is dependent upon tradition to understand?

    • thenewrobertdavis permalink
      June 14, 2010 4:43 pm

      From what I can tell, Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees not simply because of their tradition but because they were using their tradition as a means of oppressing people. It wasn’t simply that they went “beyond the text” (which is unavoidable) but the way that they did it. They were imposing ethical stipulations that weren’t rooted in love.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        June 14, 2010 7:58 pm

        Are you saying that it is okay to impose ethical stipulations which reach beyond scripture’s stipulations so long as they are rooted in love? If so, let’s take what you are saying to the extreme. Let’s say that in order to keep one’s kid from being sexually immoral a parent decided to add to scripture and claim a new tradition that says pecking a girl on the cheek is highly sinful. This is done out of love for the child to keep them pure and on the fasttrack to heaven. This seems like it would quickly become a burden to heavy to bear just like the pharisees once put upon others. IMO, Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Adding to scripture increases that burden…

    • thenewrobertdavis permalink
      June 14, 2010 8:10 pm

      Josh, I agree. I was just trying to say that there’s a big difference between saying “this is what I think” and “this is what God says.”

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        June 14, 2010 8:45 pm

        I see what you’re saying Rob. And I see your original point too in that the pharisees weren’t blasted for “tradition” per se… They were blasted for their abuses…

  5. Dustin permalink
    June 14, 2010 12:49 pm

    @Eric,

    While I tend to agreeing with the assessment you make regarding church structure, I guess what I’m disagreeing with is more the principle implied, and not necessarily whether it is a reality or not. By that, I mean that I’m struggling with the notion that simply because tradition is consonant with what came before, or at least an expansion upon it (which often includes institutionalization), means it should be retained for orthodoxy. In effect, by arguing a structural example (i.e., church leadership), one is able to avoid stickier subjects.

    I guess, at the end of the day, what I’m asking is if facts on the ground and their effect upon theological conclusions mean they should be retained or held in esteem simply because they are “traditional” or historic (I’m not necessarily saying this is what you’re arguing, but rather that it is a danger inherent within the position you’re advocating).

  6. Ray permalink
    June 14, 2010 5:00 pm

    @Eric,

    I haven’t been able to peruse you entries for awhile, but I hope to catch up over time. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this issue which gave me some good food for thought coming from a very Protestant background. I certainly agree with Sola Scriptura pertaining to Scripture being totally sufficient in revealing God’s way of Salvation to us. I.e. we don’t need additional revelation (aside from the Holy Spirit’s enlightening) in order for us to be on “The Way” (such as a Book of Mormon, for example). However, growing up even in my very Protestant churches, preachers would often cite extra-biblical references in order to give context to a passage that the passage itself does not supply. The book of Jude itself cites an extra-Biblical source when it talks about Satan and the archangel Michael contending for the body of Moses. This type of fleshing out certainly increases our understanding of any particular passage.

    I concur with some of the sentiments that warn against making tradition say more (or less) than it should. It’s a constant balancing act, to be sure. At least where ecclesiastical structure is concerned, understanding tradition can give great insight and probably be of help. However, keeping in view the notion that Scripture trumps tradition, if Scripture is vague and tradition able to fill in many details, it might mean that the Holy Spirit didn’t deem the establishment of a particular structure as critical. Thus, tradition may illuminate and suggest, but “what works” now may mean taking a different course of action than that of the early church (provided it doesn’t contradict Scripture).

    Interesting reading Eric. I look forward to the next installment.

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      June 14, 2010 9:08 pm

      “However, keeping in view the notion that Scripture trumps tradition, if Scripture is vague and tradition able to fill in many details, it might mean that the Holy Spirit didn’t deem the establishment of a particular structure as critical.” – Well said!

  7. Eric permalink
    June 14, 2010 9:05 pm

    To Josh:

    “If scripture has to be interpreted by tradition”
    Let’s just cut that thought off right there: I never said that. In fact, the quote you place before this discusses using tradition where Scripture is silent to nearly-silent. This would not include any central issues, since central issues get written on extensively.

    “Are you merely looking at tradition to understand church structure?”
    Let me underline that “understand”. Central to the way I read Scripture (as discussed in my article “Inspiration”) is that the Bible requires several steps to be applied. The Bible is not, as I say in that article, a cookbook-style text. If it were understanding the structure of the early Church would be synonymous with a command to use such structures. But, because I do not have this view of the Bible, understanding the early Church structure is just another data point. It requires another, separate, interpretation to decide what should be done with this information.

    “What other areas do you feel scripture is dependent upon tradition to understand?”
    I’m tempted to say, “I just wrote an article on that,” but I suspect you mean big T tradition. And, honestly, I can’t answer that. Every church in the world today depends on (or reacts to, which is a form of dependence, ultimately) interpretive traditions. To actually remove tradition you’d simply have to forget everything anyone else had said. The Trinity? There’s a lot of tradition there. Atonement? Again, tradition frames how we understand that. I suspect more people would get atonement out of the Bible without help than would get the Trinity (although there’s no question in my mind that both are there), but we don’t have many people with no tradition reading the Bible. What’s more, the ones we do have don’t know anything about the world of the Bible – there aren’t any Near Eastern scholars specializing in the Iron Age who don’t know anything about Christianity and who have read the Bible.

  8. Eric permalink
    June 14, 2010 9:09 pm

    To Dustin:
    I’m simply advocating for using tradition to understand the past. I’m granting it informational authority, not command authority. For instance, when discussing the Trinity it’s worth knowing that the Didache, which is almost certainly a compilation of traditions and not a work full of new ideas, states that baptism should be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    What one does with this information is a different story. I have, however, seen a lot of misuse of vague verses. I actually picked the church governance verses because my current church leans quite heavily on them, but comes to completely different conclusions about what they meant than one might if one assumed that the structures discussed by, say, Clement had anything to do with the ones mentioned in the letters of Timothy and Titus.

  9. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 14, 2010 9:23 pm

    “This would not include any central issues, since central issues get written on extensively.” — My understanding after reading the new testament numerous times is that there isn’t too much writing concerning the Eucharist (i.e. not a central issue as you put it since there isn’t much scripture on it). However, Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxy would beg to differ as I think it may in fact be their central of central issues. It’s became their central issue via their traditions. In those two religions, would you say that they have overstepped their boundaries regarding tradition according to your “central issue” argument?

    • Dustin permalink
      June 15, 2010 7:04 am

      I would argue that theology is the art of the creative imagination–in that, when one seeks to speak of divine things one must very much rely upon the creative faculties. Although, I realize some may disagree with me on this point, as a strict adherence to a position such as sola scriptura, or even an infallible or inerrantist position, tend to frown upon this idea.

      So, in response to the Catholic/Orthodox positions on the Eucharist, I would say that it is well within their role as part of the body of Christ to creatively reflect upon what is something shown to come directly from Christ in the Gospels and determine what is appropriate for their communities of faith.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        June 15, 2010 7:46 pm

        I don’t really know that I support your argument that “theology is the art of the creative imagination”. Then again, I’m a supporter of sola scriptura. I guess I can see creativity factoring into things that scripture is silent upon. For example, worship music. From hymns to rap music to heavy metal, they are all legit in my book if done out of a spirit of humbleness and service to God. All of these originate from creativity. I also support creativity in evangelism efforts. Nonetheless, regardless of whatever evangelistic means brought the individual, at the end of the day faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). I could see creativity in delivering the Eucharist to the congregants. Perhaps some say a prayer before and perhaps some sing and perhaps others read from the word. But at the end of the day as long as communion is correctly recognized for what it is (symbolic of Jesus’ sacrifice), then creativity in the delivery is fine with me. Where I think it goes bad is that when religions approach communion in a manner that does not align with scripture (Transubstantiation) and claim that all who do not approach the symbolic event in the same manner are damned to Hell.

  10. Dustin permalink
    June 16, 2010 6:29 am

    @Josh,

    The point I’m really making is that much of what I read in scripture has a contextually and historically contingent character to it (this is not to say that there aren’t principles to be gleaned). I tend to think of theology as a creative enterprise because it must wrestle with the two things already mentioned–i.e., scripture and tradition–all the while taking into consideration contemporary contexts, etc. Creativity in theology comes in because of the changing nature of current situations.

    In the end, though, I agree that if one were to hold to sola scriptura, then one would be hard-pressed to affirm what I’m saying.

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      June 16, 2010 8:19 am

      I’m pretty sure I understand what you are saying in terms of creativity. It kind of sounds in a large way what the seeker-sensitive model churches are doing these days in how they claim to re-package what the bible is saying and deliver sermons that are “relevant” to our contemporary context. Would you agree with that assessment?

  11. Dustin permalink
    June 16, 2010 8:41 am

    That’s exactly NOT what I’m saying. In the seeker-sensitive idea, the creativity is in the conveying of the message, and not in the message itself. What I’m saying is that the role/job of the theologian is to tackle an issue as vast as the divine and in service to the Church, help people of faith grapple with meaning. In doing so, their task is both creative and interpretive in nature. If theology wasn’t about imagination and creativity and using those faculties to engage larger issues, then the Church would have one systematic theology that was functional for all. Obviously, this is not the case.

    In many respects, theology is the continued conversation that Church has with itself in seeking to make sense of sometime, intellectually, that is often beyond the totalizing force of reason.

  12. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 16, 2010 10:00 am

    “In the seeker-sensitive idea, the creativity is in the conveying of the message, and not in the message itself.” — Having attended a seeker-sensitive church off and on for the past seven years (don’t ask me why!), I would contend that there is definitely an element of creativity in the message itself. Granted, there is only a shell of the gospel present, if even that. But creativity is being utilized in converting this shell into relevance via the medium and the message.

    “What I’m saying is that the role/job of the theologian is to tackle an issue as vast as the divine and in service to the Church, help people of faith grapple with meaning.” — Agreed…

    “then the Church would have one systematic theology that was functional for all. Obviously, this is not the case.” — But shouldn’t it be the case for the most part? Didn’the apostles warn that deceivers would come? IMO it seems as if the apostles were well aware that the gospel would get perverted by some groups. Nonetheless, the true gospel would persevere to eternity…

    “theology is the continued conversation that Church has with itself in seeking to make sense of sometime, intellectually, that is often beyond the totalizing force of reason.” — I’m not completely sure I understand this sentence?? Do you think there is a danger in the subjectivity associated with creativity?

  13. Dustin permalink
    June 16, 2010 10:29 am

    **”Having attended a seeker-sensitive church off and on for the past seven years (don’t ask me why!), I would contend that there is definitely an element of creativity in the message itself. Granted, there is only a shell of the gospel present, if even that. But creativity is being utilized in converting this shell into relevance via the medium and the message.”**

    Believe me, I understand the seeker-sensitive approach. I work for one of those churches, and have for seven years (attending even before that). So, while I understand your point, I would contend that even in the shell there is a relative coherence to an understood, often Evangelical, theology that is common to most if not all. Where the “creativity” comes in is in both the conveyance of the message and the APPLICATION of the message/theology to contemporary settings. Yet, it is not the underlying theology which is changed other than to say that it has been hollowed out.

    **”But shouldn’t it be the case for the most part? Didn’the apostles warn that deceivers would come? IMO it seems as if the apostles were well aware that the gospel would get perverted by some groups. Nonetheless, the true gospel would persevere to eternity…”**

    I would contend that even in asserting this one misses the multi-voiced theology of the NT. In fact, just look to the metaphors, analogies, and language used to speak about the purpose, accomplishment, and nature of Christ’s death. There are multiple images/metaphors used, not all saying the same thing. In addition, one cannot read the NT outside its attendant historical context (which includes its theological leanings). For instance, I would say that one who reads the NT without understanding the apocalpytic worldview of early Judaism, and eventually early Christianity, may take away points and applicaitons that are not necessarily beneficially applied to modern settings. EXAMPLE: In reading Paul, at least the “authentic” (disputed term and conclusions, I understand), there is very much an apocalyptic worldview underlying his thoughts and conclusions. In the earliest of the NT books, 1 Thessalonians, one sees the challenges to this worldview underlying Paul’s point and his theological means of wrestling with those challenges. Yet, we, in the 2010, largely live outside such a worldview and would be remiss to assume a 1 to 1 application of Paul’s point. Thus, theologians are left to wrestle with the nature of things like the second coming, Christ’s death, Christ’s role in the life of the community of faith today in largely different terms, as not all of us assume such an apocalyptic worldview. Or, another example, Paul, in Romans, urges submission to governing authorities. Many have made interpretive conclusions of what Paul is saying without fully acknowledging the reality he was facing–i.e., Roman totalitarianism and risk of persecution should one be thought to step “outside the lines”–and have concluded that the Christian duty is to support the government as God-ordained entities. I would conclude that this is a misuse of Paul’s very contextual text in an attempt to provide a universal application. Granted, there are others that wholeheartedly disagree.

    Granted, this may fall outside the designation of the “gospel message,” but it still signifies how the theologian’s work, in my opinion, is largely a creative, interpretive enterprise.

    **”I’m not completely sure I understand this sentence?? Do you think there is a danger in the subjectivity associated with creativity?”**

    I am not necessarily using the term “creativity” in such a way that one should assume the theologian makes stuff up out of thin air. Rather, I’m trying to affirm the notion that rather than being restricted to a codified book, written over many years, in many different voices, with worldviews different from our own, the theologian has great freedom in the Spirit to speak of that which is often beyond rationalizing in order to benefit the community of faith.

    As far as the danger of subjectivity, I think the fear that is underlying such a question lies at the heart of such doctrines as sola scriptura, inerrancy, and the like. I would rather contend that if we had a higher ecclesiology and a higher pneumatology–i.e., we believed in the discerning character of the body and the function of the Spirit within the body–then we wouldn’t require such things, nor would we fear subjectivity. I would also say that largely reading scripture is a subjective endeavor. There is a realm of study known as philosophical hermeneutics that has intrigued me as of late. As I’ve come to understand it, this deals with hermeneutics as an enterprise of meaning-making–i.e., scripture becomes a platform for application in the life of the person of faith for the purpose of creating meaning. Thus, it is always subjective. This is why the Spirit and the community of faith become vitally important.

    All this is, obviously, opinion on my part, and I understand that there will be a great many people who disagree with me. Hopefully, in my long-windedness, I’ve made sense :)

  14. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 16, 2010 4:08 pm

    “I would contend that even in the shell there is a relative coherence to an understood, often Evangelical, theology that is common to most if not all.” — I agree with you on this…

    “Where the “creativity” comes in is in both the conveyance of the message and the APPLICATION of the message/theology to contemporary settings.” — Can you give me an example of creativity in the application just so I can better understand what you are saying please.

    “There are multiple images/metaphors used, not all saying the same thing.” — I agree that the NT is multi-voiced as you put it. However, I’ve always felt that all these folks were saying the same thing albeit through different metaphors and even literary styles I guess. Can you provide me with an example specifically where two NT authors are discussing (I know you mentioned Christ’s death but what specific verses).

    “Yet, we, in the 2010, largely live outside such a worldview and would be remiss to assume a 1 to 1 application of Paul’s point.” — What do you mean specifically by Paul’s apocalyptic view that we no longer share in our modern world? I guess I personally still feel this way even though many may disagree with me. I think the return of Christ is imminent just as Paul did. I think all the stuff in Revelation will play out after Christ’s return. So basically, I would consider myself to have the same apocalyptic view that Paul did…

    “…have concluded that the Christian duty is to support the government as God-ordained entities. I would conclude that this is a misuse of Paul’s very contextual text in an attempt to provide a universal application.” — Where specifically do you feel that we should not support the government or even the law of the land? I think someone could protest the war in a manner that the government describes as legal and maintain Paul’s command. The simple manner in which most people approach this scripture is fine with me: obey the government/laws unless they contradict the laws of god. I think people get into a little bit of danger when they go too far with the context thing. For example, homosexuality, was it scrictly forbidden in certain contexts or is that universal?

    “the theologian has great freedom in the Spirit to speak of that which is often beyond rationalizing in order to benefit the community of faith.” — How do we know someone is speaking from the Holy Spirit other than to weigh what they say against scripture? My opinion is that it would basically come down to how someone feels about what is being said. For example, I can rationalize homosexuality in my mind. It’s not hurting anybody, etc. etc. If the word of god had not enlightened me as to how God felt about it, I could easily believe someone claiming to be under the Holy Spirit that homosexuality is a great thing. I guess my point is that anything the Holy Spirit says should be checked against scripture, otherwise it’s not legit. Then again, I’m sola scriptura and you’re not. :) .. One time I was in a pentecostal church that I had attended for 2-3 years and the services were becoming more and more chaotic. Someone during the week had emailed the pastor and asked him why he had abandoned preaching the word. He responded from the pulpit and claimed that it was not his job to preach the word but to follow the Holy Spirit. That was pretty much the last time I ever attended that church again…

    “scripture becomes a platform for application in the life of the person of faith for the purpose of creating meaning” — I don’t know that I would say scripture so much creates meaning as much as it enlightens an individual as to what the meaning is or should be for their life…

    “Hopefully, in my long-windedness, I’ve made sense”– You’re definitely making sense even if we agree to disagree on these issues. Appreciate the dialogue bro…

  15. Eric permalink
    June 16, 2010 9:20 pm

    “However, Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxy would beg to differ as I think it may in fact be their central of central issues.”
    This, combined with this:
    “Where I think it goes bad is that when religions approach communion in a manner that does not align with scripture (Transubstantiation) and claim that all who do not approach the symbolic event in the same manner are damned to Hell.”
    makes me think that you have a very strange view of the Catholic and Orthodox belief, which undermines your entire premise before we ever hit the argument. Neither one of these statements makes much sense, and one of them (the comment about being damned) is just flat-out wrong.

  16. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:59 pm

    Taken from Council of Trent…

    “If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.”

    When did the Catholics stop believing this? If they don’t believe this any longer they sure seem to change their mind a lot about what they believe. That in and of itself seems pretty sketchy…

  17. Eric permalink
    June 17, 2010 8:26 pm

    “When did the Catholics stop believing this?”
    Sometimes before 1911, judging by the material in the easily-accessible Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911.

    “If they don’t believe this any longer they sure seem to change their mind a lot about what they believe. ”
    The Council of Trent was a reaction to the Reformation. That rate of change would be one change for the entire lifetime of the Protestant church.

    “That in and of itself seems pretty sketchy…”
    I was going to point out how incredibly sketchy it was that you had taken the time to look up the documents from the Council of Trent, but not taken the time to get the doctrine right, since your error is, frankly, amazingly strange (and Catholic doctrine is readily accessible online). However, for the purposes of determining exactly how difficult this was I punched “transubstantiation” into Google and read the first two links. I have trouble believing you read the second, but the first, Wikipedia, contains the exact quote you have repeated from the Council of Trent.

    Please put a little more effort into your research before you lambaste a third of the world’s Christians.

  18. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 18, 2010 12:52 am

    “That rate of change would be one change for the entire lifetime of the Protestant church.” – The Catholic church has only changed one belief since the Council of Trent? That being they no longer condemn those who deny transubstantiation…

    “I was going to point out how incredibly sketchy it was that you had taken the time to look up the documents from the Council of Trent, but not taken the time to get the doctrine right, since your error is, frankly, amazingly strange” — So the Council of Trent (which is still very important to Catholics) affirms exactly what I said and this was amazingly strange? What I claimed does not seem that far fetch at all given that the Council of Trent expressly stated exactly what I was saying. I didn’t know that the church had changed their position, that’s all.

    “I have trouble believing you read the second, but the first, Wikipedia, contains the exact quote you have repeated from the Council of Trent.” — Where does it matter where I got the quote from? If I got it from Wiki, the Dummies Guide to Catholicism, or the guy down the street, it really doesn’t matter as long as the quote was correct and it was!

    “Please put a little more effort into your research before you lambaste a third of the world’s Christians.” — I’m not convinced that these folks are genuinely saved. I’m on the fence on this one and that’s what I’m trying to figure out. As stated before, I think a lot of their beliefs are ridiculous, but are they to the point of being excluded from Heaven is really what I’m trying to discern. Please answer the questions below and provide more than a yes/no answer. Tell me if the answer is yes if you believe it is heretical position for the catholics. Also, is it heretical to the point of being damned. I’m genuinely trying to learn more about the Catholic faith and you seem to be the master of all things Catholic!

    Do Catholics still contend that a bishop/priest can forgive sin?
    Do Catholics still have confession to a priest?
    Do Catholics still believe in purgatory?
    Do Catholics still sell indulgences?
    Do Catholics still command that priests be celibate?
    Do Catholics still pray to saints?
    Do Catholics still believe Mary redeemed the world alongside Christ (co-redeemer)?
    Do Catholics still believe the pope is infallible when speaking ex-cathedra?
    Do Catholics still believe tradition is equal with scripture?

  19. Dustin permalink
    June 18, 2010 10:51 am

    I wanted to let you know, Josh, I haven’t abandoned the conversation. I’m going to have to put on hold for the moment. My 3 year-old daughter had her tonsils out this morning. So, we’re tending to her at present. But, I intend to return and address the most recent points/questions you made directed towards me.

  20. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 18, 2010 12:42 pm

    No worries Dustin. Definitely tend to your daughter and I hope she gets to feeling better. That has got to be rough especially at such a young age.

    Sometimes I take a whole week to respond so take your time. Eric and I have had a long running debate/dialogue on another one of his articles and when my life gets hectic with school/kids/work/etc. it takes me awhile to respond. Anyhow, I look forward to your response…

  21. Eric permalink
    June 18, 2010 3:50 pm

    “The Catholic church has only changed one belief since the Council of Trent? That being they no longer condemn those who deny transubstantiation”
    I haven’t counted them. You, however, made a claim based on bad evidence. You cited a single change within roughly 500 years and referred to it as “changing their mind a lot”. Maybe they do, but you certainly had no evidence for it, and so you shouldn’t have said it.

    “So the Council of Trent (which is still very important to Catholics) affirms exactly what I said and this was amazingly strange? What I claimed does not seem that far fetch at all given that the Council of Trent expressly stated exactly what I was saying. I didn’t know that the church had changed their position, that’s all.”
    Except that this is common knowledge. I had initially believed that you did quite a lot of research on this issue, including digging up a primary source document, but, somehow, missed one of the most basic pieces of information. That would have been weird. Instead, you read a Wikipedia page, failed to acquire enough information to understand it properly, and made a statement so odd that I have yet to find anyone who has even heard it before.

    “Where does it matter where I got the quote from? If I got it from Wiki, the Dummies Guide to Catholicism, or the guy down the street, it really doesn’t matter as long as the quote was correct and it was!”
    The quote was correct, and nothing else in the statement was. That’s why you read better sources than Wikipedia, so you have proper context. I mean, you do understand that this is like someone thinking that Calvinists are big on self-flagellation because Calvin once wrote something about “mortifying the flesh”?

    “I’m not convinced that these folks are genuinely saved.”
    I’m quite convinced that this isn’t your place to judge, nor do I agree with your ideas about what the criteria are.

    “Tell me if the answer is yes if you believe it is heretical position for the catholics. Also, is it heretical to the point of being damned.”
    To the best of my knowledge “heretical to the point of being damned” is a medieval-only idea. Heretics are split into two categories: those who start and teach heresy, and those who are led astray by heretics. The first category is sinning, the second merely misguided.

    “I’m genuinely trying to learn more about the Catholic faith and you seem to be the master of all things Catholic!”
    Emily wrote an article called “Why I am Becoming Catholic” for this very blog. I suggest that you comment on her article and ask her for more thoughts on specific points if you really want good answers.

    Do Catholics still contend that a bishop/priest can forgive sin?
    – To the best of my knowledge this was never anything but a distortion of Catholic belief.

    Do Catholics still have confession to a priest?
    – Yes.

    Do Catholics still believe in purgatory?
    – Yes. It was more formalized recently.

    Do Catholics still sell indulgences?
    – No. That’s been long gone.

    Do Catholics still command that priests be celibate?
    – Priests within the Latin rite are expected to be celibate as a matter of discipline. Priests within the Eastern and Coptic rites are not.

    Do Catholics still pray to saints?
    – They never really did. Catholics “praying” to saints are actually asking the saints to pray for them, much as you might ask a living friend to pray for you. This said, a number of Catholics who are less than theologically astute do end up praying to saints.

    Do Catholics still believe Mary redeemed the world alongside Christ (co-redeemer)?
    – That would depend upon what you mean by “alongside”. Catholics would certainly insist that Mary played a vital and special role in the redemption of the world by bearing and raising the incarnate Christ. However, I don’t think they ever meant what I think you mean.

    Do Catholics still believe the pope is infallible when speaking ex-cathedra?
    – Yes. That’s actually a fairly recent doctrine, and he’s only done it three or four times.

    Do Catholics still believe tradition is equal with scripture?
    – Yes, although they also don’t believe the two conflict.

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      July 5, 2010 10:51 pm

      “You, however, made a claim based on bad evidence.” – Hardly. A quick google search yielded this site listing all the changes/additions that the Catholic church has made. Quite a few. http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/catholic_heresies-a_list.htm .. You claim that it’s common knowledge that the Catholic church reversed their council of trent position. Well I contend that it’s pretty common knowledge as well that the Catholics change up their religion quite often. I’ll make a strong attempt in the future to provide evidence for things that seem pretty fundamental so I don’t get blasted for making outlandish claims.

      “…and made a statement so odd that I have yet to find anyone who has even heard it before.” Are you serious? You’ve never heard a Catholic in person or on a message board claim that Protestants are damned because they have shunned the “true church”? Do you get out very often? lol

      “I’m quite convinced that this isn’t your place to judge” — Obviously I’m not the one that casts someone to Hell or allows entrance into Heaven. However, the whole not judging thing seems ridiculous. As christians we have to make judgments of all kinds. And some of those judgments should be about who is and is not in the kingdom. In other words, we need to try and know who we need to evangelize. Should Peter have spent his whole life trying to evangelize people like Paul (who were saved)? That would have been a wasted life! No, he should have taken the gospel to those people who he believed were damned without it (which is precisely what he did).

      “To the best of my knowledge “heretical to the point of being damned” is a medieval-only idea. Heretics are split into two categories: those who start and teach heresy, and those who are led astray by heretics. The first category is sinning, the second merely misguided.” – This paragraph fascinates me! So those who follow after false doctines (heresy) are not warned in scripture that they will be damned for such? This notion was just some creation in medieval times! Here is where I’m at with regards to heresy. I think that there may be two types: damnable and secondary. Lets say that I come up with some new dogma that says believers must visit Chuck E. Cheese at least once a week. People could buy into this crap for sure. And for those that did, perhaps they probably wouldn’t be damned for their stupidity. They would have just wasted a lot of $$ at Chuck E. Cheese. This would be a secondary heresy. Now if I worked to convince people that we are not saved by Faith alone in Christ, but rather faith and works, then that would be a damnable heresy. I think from what you said, Catholics now affirm being saved by faith alone and always have (Sola Fide). That still seems peculiar to me. Why did the Reformation happen if that were the case? Anyhow, if that’s the case, then I think they could partake in all the secondary heresies they want and still be good. But I’m still thinking about that…

      I understand you not wanting to label any of your friend’s beliefs as heresy so I will not push for you to do that anymore. But let’s just take a look at purgatory (which I consider heresy). Even if we are to classify this as a secondary heresy, it has some pretty far reaching, highly negative effects. For starters, this takes away motivation to lead a holy life. As long as a Catholic just barely makes it in to purgatory, they may have to stay there for thousands of years longer than a holy catholic, but they will inevitably get to heaven. The problem is that purgatory doesn’t exist. So I would imagine those Catholics that plan on just barely making it and serving their time in purgatory will find a rude awakening in Hell (which is eternal).

  22. Ben permalink
    June 26, 2010 10:51 am

    Eric,

    I agree with your actual points, but your choice of words in this article appears to set up a drama of conflict by situating various things as opposites.

    Someone once did a similar thing by creating an example teaching situation, asking how you should respond if a student
    (a) stands up in the middle of a lecture
    (b) to announce that young-earth creationism is true
    (c) says that evolution is “just a theory”
    (d) is stupid, but questions your ability to teach
    (e) won’t be quiet
    (f) questions your ability to teach knowledgeably
    (g) tries to turn the class against you, and says you are a heretic

    I eventually came to the conclusion that the example itself is wrong, because it artificially sets up two sides, where one side contains
    I: religion, stupidity, disorder, accusation, loudness, and low status
    where the other side contains
    II: science, intelligence, authority, the right to speak, knowledge, and being treated unfairly
    To top it off, the question that was asked was something like “how do you impose goodness on the situation.”

    This contrast was a set-up. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but just creating a hypothetical situation does not put “religion” on the side of stupidity and disorder, against “science” and the right to speak.

    But I suspect that your positioning of opposites in this article IS intentional. It reads almost like the gospel of John. I suppose for extra credit I could exegete your article to figure out what you are suggesting is on each side. But I presume you will tell me your true authorial intent in person :-P

    -BenRI

    • Ben permalink
      July 10, 2010 7:41 pm

      So, having talked to Eric in person, it seems that he had so such intent at all. So, I’m sorry for over-reacting.

      -BenRI

  23. Eric permalink
    July 10, 2010 1:45 pm

    “Hardly. A quick google search yielded this site listing all the changes/additions that the Catholic church has made.”

    This changes nothing. You made a claim based on bad evidence. Having made the claim, and having been called on it, you then went and looked for some evidence. That’s a horrible procedure for finding truth. It is suitable, perhaps, for scoring points in internet debates, but I will have none of it.

    And then, of course, there’s your site: http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Roman%20Catholicism/catholic_heresies-a_list.html
    Really? Did you read the URL? The False Religions directory of Jesus-Is-Savior.com? This is the sort of thing I fail freshmen students for. I realize that incredibly biased anti-Catholic propaganda props your point up, but if you have a point you can find evidence somewhere legitimate.

    “You claim that it’s common knowledge that the Catholic church reversed their council of trent position.”

    Exceedingly common. I tested this by asking some people if the statement you had made about Catholics damning people over the Eucharist was something they’d heard. No one had, and most people seemed to regard it as on par with claiming that the Pope was a balloon animal.

    “Well I contend that it’s pretty common knowledge as well that the Catholics change up their religion quite often.”

    Without, of course, any evidence that this is common knowledge.

    “I’ll make a strong attempt in the future to provide evidence for things that seem pretty fundamental so I don’t get blasted for making outlandish claims.”

    Way, way too late for that.

    “Are you serious? You’ve never heard a Catholic in person or on a message board claim that Protestants are damned because they have shunned the “true church”? Do you get out very often? Lol”

    1) Yes, I am serious. I actually checked. Because I’m a scientist, and so I use things like data I collect myself and primary sources.

    2) This paragraph is written in such a manner as to convey the impression that what I am saying is ridiculous. Unfortunately, you’ve made a massive and exceedingly lazy mistake which renders your entire response nonsense. You have a habit of leaving for a week or two and returning. When you return I re-read a portion of our conversation to reorient myself. It’s very easy, since it’s all printed right above your response. You don’t, and so you say crazy things. Like this. In this case what I’d actually said was that I’d never heard anyone make the claim that Catholics think those who don’t believe in Transubstantiation are damned. You would have had to read all of three comments up to notice that, although why you would respond at all to something without figuring out what the critical “it” being referred to was is completely beyond me. Suffice to say, your response is not a response at all. It is a tangent on another topic completely.

    3) That said, no, I haven’t heard anyone make that claim. I hang out with intelligent people.

    “As christians we have to make judgments of all kinds. And some of those judgments should be about who is and is not in the kingdom.”
    Ironically, I’ve already written an article-length response to this because someone else made this claim to me. Suffice to say I think this is both wrong and spiritually dangerous.

    “Should Peter have spent his whole life trying to evangelize people like Paul (who were saved)?”

    There is no plausible way to imagine this scenario.

    Peter: “Paul, I want you to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.”
    Paul: “Already did, man.”
    Peter: “Ok, but I’m going to keep talking for my entire life, anyway.”

    I highly recommend thinking these things out before responding with them.

    “This paragraph fascinates me!”

    And yet you didn’t actually read it. Somehow you missed that the entire paragraph was a response to, “Tell me if the answer is yes if you believe it is heretical position for the catholics. Also, is it heretical to the point of being damned.” The answer to that is that, for Catholics, holding a heretical position because you were taught wrong is something that can be corrected by replacing the heretic who taught you with an orthodox teacher. Holding a heretical position because you are the heretical teacher is the real offense.

    “I think from what you said, Catholics now affirm being saved by faith alone and always have (Sola Fide). That still seems peculiar to me. Why did the Reformation happen if that were the case?”

    The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity has a pretty good and readable medieval section.

    “I understand you not wanting to label any of your friend’s beliefs as heresy so I will not push for you to do that anymore.”

    Yes, I tend to like the term “heresy” to mean something. Arianism is a heresy. Pelegianism is a heresy. There’s a Monophysite heresy. None of the things you’ve named as heresies have this level of formal condemnation.

    “For starters, this takes away motivation to lead a holy life.”

    Josh, this bears no relation to the reality of how Catholics actually behave.

    Nor is this article about Catholics. I will, however, overlook this on two conditions:

    1) You go talk to a Catholic priest about Catholicism until you understand what Catholics actually believe on these issues you feel are so important.

    2) You read The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity up until the modern section – it’s the clearly marked second part of the book and begins around 1800, if I remember (I’ve loaned my copy out). I’m not endorsing this book fully, but the parts it skips are probably the parts you already know.

    This should provide an actual basis to discuss these issues. I realize this may take some time, but I’ll still be here.

  24. Ben permalink
    July 10, 2010 9:09 pm

    Hey Josh,

    To run the risk of redundancy, I’ll repeat Eric’s point that this article really isn’t about Catholics & Protestants. (I know for certain, because I asked him. :-)

    Another book that I’d recommend, is Eusebius’s Church History. This is from the fourth century, and has a ton of interesting stuff about things that happened even earlier. My Dad recommended me the Paul Maier translation to start off with — it is much easier to read.

    http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Illustrated-History-Christianity-Histories/dp/0192854399/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278813875&sr=8-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Eusebius-Church-History/dp/082543307X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278813368&sr=8-1

    These books are only about 400 pages each (effectively). So, you could read one in maybe two or three weeks, reading bits in your spare time.

    -BenRI

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      July 12, 2010 6:34 pm

      Thanks for the info Ben. I’m definitely going to read one of these two books the month of August. Who knows, maybe both, but at least one of them. After examining the Amazon reader reviews, it appears that quite a few people really like the Eusebius one so I may opt for that one over the other if I only read one.

  25. Josh Reynolds permalink
    July 12, 2010 6:26 pm

    “You made a claim based on bad evidence.” – I don’t think it’s fair to say that I made the claim on “bad evidence”. Perhaps no evidence maybe. But again, the reason I didn’t provide any evidence is because I thought it was pretty fundamental knowledge that the catholic church has changed up quite a bit through the years…

    “It is suitable, perhaps, for scoring points in internet debates, but I will have none of it.” — You’ve misjudged my actions. I’m not here to “score points”. That’s actually pretty laughable. I see now how extremely serious you take this blog from this comment and the one on your other blog post about how you had worked through six separate drafts to merely respond to one of my comments. Again, I’m not knocking your intensity or fervor. I applaud that and to an extent I’m thankful that you go to such effort to teach me your understanding. I’ll even cop to being pretty lazy on the legwork which you are quite good at. But you got to understand that I don’t take your blog nearly as serious as you do. I’m merely using it as a starting point to jumpstart my thinking into some different areas of Christian thought. And this blog has been successful in that manner to me.

    “Did you read the URL?” — I did. And I left it there on purpose. For starters, I’m not trying to convince you of anything really. I’m just showing you why I believe what I believe. So obviously I’m not going to waste 30 minutes of my life trying to find a source that will win your approval when the end result says the same thing. Sometimes I think you can’t see the forest from the trees. You consistently knock WHERE I get my information, but you never knock WHAT the information itself says. Perhaps this is because you can’t argue against the information that was presented, so you resort to blasting the source. Let’s say that I claim a human must have oxygen to survive. I don’t provide evidence because it seems pretty fundamental to me. You attack me and say, well you did not provide any evidence for your claim. So I Google the whole oxygen being necessary claim and lo and behold, Pee-Wee down the street has listed this fact on his web site. You then proceed to tell me that my understanding is faulty because Pee-Wee is an ***clown. While Pee-Wee may indeed be an ***clown, we cannot logically deduce that a fact listed on his web site is then by default automatically incorrect. Furthermore, I would imagine that it’s somewhat of an embarrasment to the catholic church all of the changes that have been made through the years. That being the case, I’m probably not going to run across a pro-catholic web site listing these changes for obvious reasons.

    “Without, of course, any evidence that this is common knowledge.” — Just for clarification, the evidence that you list to support your position is that you talked with some people and they agreed with you? If that’s the standard, then yeah man, I have gobs of evidence…

    A quick google search yielded the following result. This individual is a catholic and pretty much claims the exact same things that I’ve heard NUMEROUS catholics claim. But somehow, you’ve never heard this understanding uttered. Amazes me actually. Anyhow, I’ve included her comment and a link to the page. Hope this suffices for “data collection”…
    ————————–
    “PLEASE don’t shoot the messenger here ok? The Catholic church has taught for centuries (see quotes below) and it has been proclaimed from the throne of Peter by many many past popes/saints, that there is absolutely no salvation outside the Catholic church. Now having typed that, the church also teaches that non-Christians in jungles where missionaries have yet to go can be saved, as the laws of God are printed on all of our hearts. This is up to God though. There is a huge difference between those who will never ever in their life time encounter a Catholic missionary, a bible, be baptized, etc. and most Protestants. Every single Protestant I know personally, knows what the Catholic church has to say, and they willingly rejetc it. A human being cannot knowingly reject the one, true religion that Christ came to earth to found and expect to be saved. For instance, most Protestant denominations are well aware that Catholics believe they are truly eating the flesh or Christ in Communion, that contraception is a mortal sin, that God hates divorce,etc etc. You would really have to be living under a rock to not know Catholic church teachings on moral issues, and yet, most Protestants openly reject much of Catholic teaching. Actually, the only things the 20000 or more global “flavors” of Protestant have in common is the belief that the Catholic church is wrong! In love and charity we need to witness to our Protestant friends and relatives that there is ONE flock and one Shepard.
    Outside the Church there is no salvation” is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught By Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:
    – “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
    – “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
    – “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)”
    http://community.babycenter.com/post/a15101405/protestants_go_to_hell
    ————–

    “There is no plausible way to imagine this scenario.” — The scenario you presented is exactly my point. There is no need for Peter to evangelize Paul because he is already saved. He wouldn’t have wasted his whole life witnessing to Paul. You missed the point! But let’s say the conversation went like this…

    Peter: “Hey Paul, where are you going when you die?”
    Paul: “Well duh Peter, I’m going to purgatory just like you so that I can have my sins purged.”
    Peter: “Paul, I must inform you that there is no such place, merely Heaven and Hell. Furthermore, you can only reach Heaven via your Faith in Christ.”
    Paul: “That’s nonsense! Mother Mary came to me the other night and briefed me on how many Hail Mary’s were required so that I would only spend a minimal amount of time in Purgatory.”
    Peter: “*discerning that Paul is not truly saved continues to share the true gospel message*”

    In this scenario, Peter has made a judgement that Paul is not saved and thus deserves to hear the true gospel message and be witnessed to. He doesn’t just go, oh wait, Paul says he is a Christian so it must be so. He makes a judgement…

    “Yes, I tend to like the term “heresy” to mean something” — I’m more or less defining heresy as something that is not biblically true.

    “You read The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity up until the modern section” — I will do this. Probably read it the month of August. Not sure that I’m going to hunt a priest down, but I will make an effort to question 3 separate devout catholics on the honest to goodness beliefs regarding the issues we’ve discussed.

    Again, I think you’re a sharp guy Eric. I don’t try to raise your blood pressure with my posts. But I get a feeling that tends to happen sometimes… :-)

  26. Eric permalink
    July 14, 2010 9:33 pm

    “But you got to understand that I don’t take your blog nearly as serious as you do.”
    This is exactly the problem. Because you DO take some parts quite seriously – you expect me to take you seriously. You just don’t expect to have to do serious work for this to happen.

    I’m quite happy for people to come by and comment casually. But you are telling me that I’m wrong, and then citing for evidence complete crap. I totally get to call you on this. Those are the terms when you challenge me.

    See, there’s this massive imbalance. In an actual conversation I’d put out good sources and make a case and you’d put out good sources and make a case. We’d each be doing two tasks: filtering our sources and logically connecting them. What’s actually happening is I’m doing three tasks: filtering your sources, filtering my sources, and logically connecting my sources. Filtering is what takes time, and so you get to invest minimal time responding but for me to respond back takes forever.

    You’ve provided me with two good examples of this.

    First, there’s that craptacular website. An examination of the claims shows me, right off the bat, that something like 80% of all the ones I know anything about are wrong. This suggests that the ones I don’t know much about will be similarly awful. It’s a terrible source. However, for me to demonstrate to you that this site is, for instance, making ridiculous claims about the Apocrypha I’d have to educate you about the formation of the canon. I happen to be working on a post about this, and it’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of primary sources, but you probably don’t know what the Septuagint is right off the bat, so I can’t just say, “Wrong, see Septuagint, note the date of Jamnia,” I’d have to explain the sources and then cite the sources, and that’s one claim on the list!

    Going through that website (which, incidentally, isn’t even a list of things that demonstrate your case anyway) would take hours. Or, option two, I can challenge the source. I can say, “The false religions directory of Jesus-is-Savior.com is not evidence, because it’s not a source we can trust to say anything right. I do not have to respond to non-evidence, and you cannot cite it for your case.” That works great. Now you have to do the filtering. You’d have to find a reputable site, maybe a seminary site, and actually look at what’s being said and see if these people are quoting primary sources or making stuff up. But as long as I have to do research to disprove whatever random crap someone on the internet makes up I’m doing all the work. And that’s not happening.

    Second, there’s the quote from the Catholic. It’s great stuff. I can understand how you’d have trouble understanding the error, except that we’ve already discussed exactly this section of the Catechism, which is far more official than your online Catholic, and you claimed to have read that section. So when your source says, “The Catholic church has taught for centuries (see quotes below) and it has been proclaimed from the throne of Peter by many many past popes/saints, that there is absolutely no salvation outside the Catholic church,” you should have recognized this claim. It’s right next to the claim in the Catechism about how lots of non-Catholics are potentially saved. Obviously this person does not understand the position correctly. (Specifically, Catholics believe that “through the Catholic church” does not need to mean “by being a confessing Catholic”, and so they would say that a Protestant who is saved is still saved through the Catholic church.) Again, you skipped a primary document written by theologians for a person on the internet whose knowledge is an unknown. But I just had to do work, and that was easy work because I’ve cited those sections of the Catechism elsewhere! What if I actually had to track them down for the first time? I’d be spending half an hour refuting a source that no one should have treated seriously to begin with. (Now, you could have stolen her citations, which are primary sources, and then I’d be doing work for a reason. Except that you should already be aware that the Catholics and Orthodox split in 1054, and wondered what the Catholics did about the Orthodox church for all those centuries.)

    This is why I have imposed the conditions I have.

Trackbacks

  1. Does Religion Exist? « The Jawbone Of an Ass
  2. Canon Part V: Concluding Remarks « The Jawbone Of an Ass

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