Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ostrich Catholicism

Randy Gritter said:
<< You are young and you are still sure you are right about everything. >>

1. Not that it’s the least bit relevant to anything, but since he brought it up, I happen to be 45, going on 46. So I do have a fair amount of life-experience under my belt. Certainly the days ahead are fewer than the days behind. Perhaps he was misled by that photo taken twenty years ago.

2. Again, to say that I think I’m right about everything is duplicitous. Randy believes that he is right about the RCC. So why is thinking you’re right a virtue in a Catholic, but a vice in a Protestant?

3. The true definition of intellectual arrogance is someone who doesn’t hold himself intellectually answerable for what he believes. He believes willfully, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary—even from his own putative authority-source (e.g., the magisterium and its deputies).

<< That is why I prefer to use saints as my models. >>

1. There are saintly Christians in Evangelical church history as well.

2. Men and women of equal piety can disagree over various points of doctrine. So sanctity is no criterion of orthodoxy.

<< Still there is no error in what God promised to preserve from error. That is the point. >>

So true! Now we need to fill in the blank. What is repository for God’s promises?

<< Once you throw out a God-give authority you essentially leave biblical interpretation to the individual. >>

1. This assumes that the church is a God-given authority, but the Bible is not.

2. Remember that this is the divine arrangement which existed for the covenant community in OT times. And, yes, it did give rise to different schools of thought, viz. Pharisees, Sadducees, Hillelites, Shammaites, Essenes, Jewish Platonists, &c. But if all that diversity was good enough for God way back when, then why is it not good enough for God today?

3. As far as a Calvinist is concerned, sola Scriptura does not operate in a Deistic vacuum. It is regulated by the providence of God—just like OT times.

4. Actually, the RCC does leave Biblical interpretation to individuals. It’s just that, in RCC theology, some individuals are more equal than others. The Pope is an individual. The Prefect is an individual. The local bishop is an individual. So the question is whether the interpretation of one individual should trump the interpretation of another individual simply because the first individual enjoys a certain institutional standing, regardless of the actual quality of his reasoning.

<< You start by saying Christians of the first 1500 years were seriously wrong about a large number of major doctrines and you are smarter than them all. >>

1. And Randy starts by saying that many Christians in the last 500 years were seriously wrong about a large number of major doctrines, and he is smarter than all of them.

2. What is more, this is a very disingenuous comparison. For when Randy tabulates the votes for the first 1500 years of church history, he is only counting Catholic votes. He is not counting Donatists or Novatianists or Waldenses, &c. And he has disenfranchised the entire Eastern wing of the church, which has never acceded to the primacy of Rome. So what we end up with is an extremely selective, self-serving, and one-sided survey of Christian opinion. Randy is packing the ballot box. With Randy, there is always a suppressed synecdoche--the part for the whole—where Roman Catholicism conveniently stands for all of Christendom before the Reformation.

3. In addition, Randy doesn’t care what most Christians believed in the past. That is not the criterion in RCC theology. Nothing could be more phony than to lodge this democratic appeal when, in the preceding sentence, he had just derided the right of private interpretation. In RCC theology, the magisterium, and not the vox populi, is the vox Dei.

4. Even if you grossly oversimplify church history and say that Christians believed alike in the first 1500 hundred years, that’s only because they couldn’t read the Bible for themselves, due to widespread illiteracy and the absence of a printing press. So they were only given one interpretation to believe.

“It's really a logical impossibility. If Catholicism is wrong then Christianity is wrong.”

1. Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall if Randy every tried out that line on a bishop of the Greek Orthodox church?

2. Randy operates with a perfectionist view of church history. You begin with the preconception of the way things ought to be, and then frame your polity in accordance with your rosy preconception.

And the quandary for the perfectionist is then to square his rosy preconception with the thorny reality. Why does God allow evil? But he does. Why does God allow evil in the church? But he does. If Randy were God, none of this would happen, but since it does happen, there is something amiss with his theology.

<< Protestantism is just half-baked catholicism. >>

And Vatican II is just half-baked modernism.

<< Accepting scripture defined by a church council yet rejecting the concept of councils. >>

Is this an allusion to the canon of Scripture?

1. I’ve already gone over that ground in my essay on the canon of Scripture (under that very title). Been there, done that. Nice try. What’s your plan B?

2. Notice, once again, how Randy’s appeal assumes an ersatz concept of the
church. As far as the historical case for the canon is concerned, this was by no means limited to the testimony of the Roman Church. Its historical witnesses include the churches of Alexandria, Asia Minor, Syria, Jerusalem, and Constantinople--as well “schismatics” such as Donatus, Cyprian, Tertullian, and Novatian.

You see, Randy’s definition of the church isn’t based on the actual fact of the church, but upon his idea of the church—and especially his ideal of the church. It’s an abstract universal, not a concrete particular. He dehistoricizes church history whenever it suits him.

3. To suggests that the Protestant Reformers merely rubber-stamped the Catholic canon while rejecting the Catholic church itself is blatant falsehood. For, had that been the case, they would have rubber-stamped the Catholic canon of the OT as well, instead of going back to the Jewish canon.

BTW, this might be a good place to correct Patrick’s claim that the LXX was benchmark for the Catholic canon of the OT. The problem with this claim is that the our uncial codices for the LXX—Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus—vary in what books they include.

<< Accepting Sola Scriptora in spite of the fact that it isn't in scripture. >>

Again, I’ve already addressed that red-herring and several others in my essay on “Ten objections to sola Scriptura.” I’ve covered all my bases. What about you, Randy? Here’s a little challenge for you. Either address the answers I’ve already given, or raise an objection I’ve not already addressed.

<< Ignoring centuries of church history. >>

Actually, we’re very attentive to church history—to a history of corruption and fraud. You, on the other hand, cherry-pick what parts of church history affirm your church and ignore all the other parts of church history that disaffirm it.

<< Embracing a model of church that gives contradictory answers to every possible question. None of this is plausable. It's just a mass of contradictions. >>

1. If you’re oh-so concerned about contradictory answers, a good place to start would be your own church, with the contradictory answers given by the magisterium to such elemental questions as who is saved? What is tradition? Is Scripture inerrant? Your church adds to the sum-total of contradictions, not subtracts from it.

2. As to whether the Evangelical church is all that contradictory, I have an essay on that as well: “The 4-Door Labyrinth.”

BTW, the following blogger scores some good points against the RCC (as well double-standards in academia). Check it out: http://pedanticprotestant.blogspot.com/

10 comments:

  1. Very disappointing reply. Major cherry picking going on. Anyway, there is a differance between saying I am right and saying God reveals enough truth to allow us to live together in one church. I have to be obedient to that revelation. You don't need to be obedient unless it makes sense to you. Unconditional obedience is harder but does bring you closer to God. That probably meets your definition of intellectual arrogance. I think the church as a body can defend all it's teachings so maybe I am answerable that way.

    I think sanctity has to be a criteria. Otherwise you end up in a purely intellectual debate. I do think there is a real gap in sanctity between catholic saints and your saintly evangelical christians you refer to. Protestantism can never produce a Mother Theresa.

    I don't assume the bible is not a God-given authority. You know that but choose to misrepresent my position. Just that God didn't stop with the bible. He walks with us and clarifies things as we go. Otherwise we would fight and end up killing eachother as we have now proven.

    There is intended to be diversity of opinion. Most issues are not defined by dogma. On critical issues we must have unity. On lesser issues we must allow diversity. In all things we must pracitce charity. The only thing is we are precise about what the first part means.

    Calvin's idea of Sola Scriptora has been disproven by history. He and many other of his day thought unity would come through the word and this providence. It has not. In fact, Calvin and Luther did not allow for dissent in their fellowships either. It just doesn't work. They acted as popes in their own domain. Now many pastors are de facto popes to their flock. It's a case of choosing your own pope or letting God pick.

    Anyway, this is getting long so I won't address the rest of the points. Maybe later.

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  2. << I have to be obedient to that revelation. You don't need to be obedient unless it makes sense to you. >>

    I don’t see any difference in the way Catholics submit to the church and Protestants submit to the Bible. You have devout Catholics who submit to the church, and nominal Catholics who don’t. You have devout Protestants who submit to Scripture, and nominal Protestants who don’t. The fact that both are supposed to submit to their respective authority-source is irrelevant to whether they do or not.

    << Unconditional obedience is harder but does bring you closer to God. >>

    Begs the question of to whom or to what we should render obedience. If you’re going to give someone or something your unconditional obedience, you’d better be pretty sure it’s of God. You have no right to contract out your duty to God to a second-party.

    << Protestantism can never produce a Mother Theresa. >>

    To judge by Christopher Hitchens, that may be a good thing. More to the point, you are now defaming all of the selfless wives and mothers and missionaries in the history of evangelicalism.

    << Calvin's idea of Sola Scriptora has been disproven by history. He and many other of his day thought unity would come through the word and this providence. It has not. >>

    1. That’s a non sequitur. It only disproves sola Scriptura if the only or primary reason for a rule of faith is to ensure unity. God didn’t give us Scripture to ensure our unity, but to reveal our duty. Sola Scriptura isn’t supposed to “work,” as if it were some problem-solving device. That is not what a rule of faith is for. Actually, Scripture is supposed to be divisive to some degree.

    2. And, I’d add, that your own rule of faith has done nothing to ensure unity over the course of church history.

    << Now many pastors are de facto popes to their flock. >>

    There’s some truth to that statement, but so what? Since the rest of us know better, we’re in a position to judge them for what they are.

    << It's a case of choosing your own pope or letting God pick. >>

    Begging the question again.

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  3. What a high-minded debate. Here is something much easier for the academically challenged. Go to http://www.eotc.faithweb.com/orth.html and read through the links there on the sacraments, the creed, the main doctrines, etc. Must be just another Roman Catholic site. Seven sacraments, Mary, Images, Real Presence, baptismal regeneration, etc. The whold ball of wax, right?. Nope. Its actually the Ethiopian church which has been cut off from the rest of orthodox christianity for over 1500 years due to their refusal of the council of Chalcedon. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'll stick to a church grounded in this period rather than believe God gave us the true religion 1500 years after his death in Geneva.

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  4. Of course, I don't agree with Tom, but his church (and a number of others) has at least as much of a traditional purebred pedigree as the RCC.

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  5. I don’t see any difference in the way Catholics submit to the church and Protestants submit to the Bible. You have devout Catholics who submit to the church, and nominal Catholics who don’t. You have devout Protestants who submit to Scripture, and nominal Protestants who don’t. The fact that both are supposed to submit to their respective authority-source is irrelevant to whether they do or not.

    Checkmate. You are in such a corner you have to resort to a bold-faced lie. You are not that dumb. You understand the differance.

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  6. Thanks for the plug, Steve.

    Regarding the comment about scripture: it IS divisive. We shouldn't deny that.

    More generally, any true propositional statement in scripture is divisive, dividing those who adhere to it into a different party than those who do not adhere to it.

    In the same breath, the RCC is a very divisive institution if one looks at the results of its rulings throughout history. Rome speaks on X, which divides people into the camp that supports X and the camp that denies X.

    Given that both Rome and scripture speak in propositional language, why is the use of scripture as a norm referred to derivisely as divisive, but Rome is somehow immune.

    This is another example of letting a word with negative connotation ["divisive"] do the work of an actual argument.

    PP

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  7. Hello, just visited your bible blog, I also have a bible related website, it's about some books which is helpful to understand the God's Words

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Relevant to this discussion are Steve Hays' critique of Philip Blosser's critique of sola scriptura, "By Scripture Alone," and Blosser's rebuttal, "Sola Scriptura revisited: a reply to Steve Hays (in 95 antitheses)."

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