Let’s move on to some other critics, all from Kimel’s blog:
2. Jonathan Prejean Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 3:26 pm
“On what basis does he decide that his interpretation of Scripture is superior to the interpretation of the Church? By his private judgment. This, and this alone, is the ground of his conviction.”
On the contrary, he decides it on based on reading Leon Morris, D.A. Carson, Raymond Brown, and all the other commentaries on the Fourth Gospel and judging their respective arguments in an ordinary way.
That theory of revelation goes WAY beyond the “private judgment” of the Reformers. It’s the recourse of people who don’t actually believe in the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, except as some self-referencing tautology to the exercise of their own will. They don’t believe in God; they believe in themselves and conceive “god” as an appendage to their egos.
By what criterion does Prejean identify the action of the Holy Spirit? By what criterion does Prejean identify the true church? By what criterion does Prejean distinguish his own faith from mere egotism?
3. THE CLOSET CATHOLIC Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:13 pm
“On what basis does he decide that his interpretation of Scripture is superior to the interpretation of the Church? By his private judgment.”
When reading texts like these (the text you referred to), and while reading Scripture I tend to try and remind myself that it is the Church that is the “pillar and support of the truth”, not me or my personal interpretations.
By what criterion does Kjetil equate any particular contemporary denomination with the “church” in 1 Tim 3:15? Doesn’t he have to interpret 1 Tim 3:15 for himself in order to see its applicability (or not) to some church outside the text? There are, after all, many “churches” which lay claim to 1 Tim 3:15.
4. Tom Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:19 pm
Fascinating indeed. Yes the Scripture doesn’t teach a real presence as if this were too difficult for God. Now to be sure we don’t build doctrine on conjecture or what God could do if He so chooses but the fact is, in the Old Testament we have the Bread of the Presence, literally the bread of the face, in the New Testament we have our Lord say His flesh is real food and His blood real drink. We hear Him say “This Is My Body” “This Is My Blood.” We read Paul in 1st Cor 10-11 discuss the Eucharist as a present participation in the body and blood of Christ. So Steve what idiosyncratic use of the words “tinkering” and “tweaking” are you employing. Yes, just another reason why I came home to Mother Church.
i) This parallel proves too much or too little. Is Tom saying that transubstantiation applies to the OT showbread as well? Was the showbread the true body and blood of Christ? Is that Catholic dogma? I must of missed that.
ii) The blanket appeal to 1 Cor 10-11 proves too much (or too little) as well since “the body” in this passage sometimes has reference to the church. Or is Tom also applying transubstantiation to the church? Is the church the true body and blood of Christ?
iii) Catholics don’t take 1 Cor 11 literally. They don’t believe that the break and wine is identical with the body and blood of Christ. Rather, they interpose a distinction between species and substance.
This is what happens when you begin with dogma and then cast about for a prooftext.
The appeal to Jn 6 I’ll address further down.
5. Chris Jones Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:27 pm
It is useless to treat the Scriptures as the foundation for the Eucharist. The Church was celebrating the Eucharist before there was a New Testament. So you cannot treat the Eucharist as being in any way derived from the Scriptures.
The New Testament is a second-order phenomonon: Christ delivered the Gospel to the Apostles, who then wrote the New Testament. The Eucharist, on the contrary, is a first-order phenomonon: Christ instituted the Eucharist and delivered it to the Church, and the Church has been celebrating the Eucharist, unchanged in its essentials, ever since.
This confuses the existence of the Eucharist with is warrant and right interpretation. No, you don’t derive its existence from the NT. But deriving the warrant and right interpretation of the rite is something entirely different.
6. dilys Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:30 pm
If a Lone-Ranger dissenter, Protestant or Catholic, ranges himself against Tradition [hundreds of millions of Catholics as well as Orthodox] in this way, I see only 3 possible logical foundation-stones:
1. “I am smarter or more insightful than all those other [utterly Mickey Mouse tinkering and tweaking] people and/or God has granted me a special revelation He has withheld from them;”
1A. A subset of this is “Those old churches and what they teach are old-fashioned because [stragglers who gobble up whatever stale crumbs] their roots are so much older than mine, and time moves forward:”
2. “They know I am right but want to protect their turf and reputation.” This argument at bottom infers bad faith/fatal corruption on the part of the Church [the soiled apron of Mother Church], usually based on a proto-Marxist kind of analysis that credits sola money and power as the preeminent motive for social behavior, particular as regards those shifty priestly classes (see undergraduate anthropology, typical histories of Egypt);
3. “During an ‘imprinting’ window, somebody told me something different from the teaching of Holy Tradition (without necessarily coming to terms with ## 1 and 1 above), and my tribal allegiances formed around their position and now trigger this argument.”
3A. The subset here is “Look how enthusiastic our worship is, and how uneducated their followers.” Cultural de gustibus at best.
Numbers and centuries and the claim of continuity by the Ancient Church would seem to put the burden of persuasion or demonstration on Steve and his colleagues.
There is much more to these matters than logic, of course. But all the emotion and revelation in the world do not override my question on its own terms. Which is it?
i) All that Dilys has done here is to substitute a set of straw man arguments for the actual arguments I deployed. I congratulate him for conceding the force of my arguments by ignoring them and changing the subject.
ii) He appeals to “numbers and centuries” when it happens to support his contention. What about the areas where the Catholic church and the Orthodox church diverge? Both have numbers and centuries.
8. Fr. Stephen Freeman Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:57 pm
I feel, in reading this, that there is no use in arguing with someone who does not accept the authority of Christians who have gone before him. The hubris of a modernist protestant attacking the doctrine of real presence and the interpretation of John 6, against the universal interpretation of the fathers is beyond me. I pray that he will be saved - and I mean this in a way that will be soon manifest and not just in an eternal sense. God correct him and all who are in such delusion.
i) Notice how an initial appeal to the authority of Christians past instantly atrophies into a truncated appeal to the church fathers. So it boils down of a very selective and arbitrary appeal indeed.
ii) To my knowledge, all of the church fathers were also of the firm opinion that every child who died without benefit of baptism was damned. Does Fr. Freeman still believe that? If not, does his doctrinal revisionism reflect the hubris of a modernist in vestments?
14. Jonathan Prejean Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 7:35 pm
So the citation of the Church Fathers is more or less irrelevant, since the question is what St. Paul intended to convey by penning those words. Not what God intended to convey, but what St. Paul “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” intended to convey.
Of course, that would be an account of Scripture that every one of those millions and billions of Christians (including Luther) would have rejected, so it’s far easier to simply point out that this is not a Christian way of looking at Scripture any more than the Mormon view of Scripture is. If you hold this view of Scripture, then plainly, you don’t believe in the skopos of revelation as acknowledged by Christianity throughout the centuries, which means that your theology isn’t “Christian” except by abuse of language.
i) Inspiration does not imply omniscience. God does not reveal everything he knows.
Prejean intrudes a false dichotomy between God’s intent and Paul intent. This intrusive dichotomy would defeat the very purpose of inspiration.
ii) The fact that God knows more than Paul, and has a multitude of aims of which Paul is ignorant, is quite irrelevant to the fact that a word or set of words has a finite meaning. The words are vehicles of meaning, finite vehicles. “White” doesn’t mean “black,” “black and white” doesn’t mean “red.” The meaning is confined to the meaning of the words, in their concrete combination and cultural preunderstanding.
15. Fr. Glenn Spencer Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 8:21 pm
“The hubris of a modernist protestant attacking the doctrine of real presence and the interpretation of John 6, against the universal interpretation of the fathers is beyond me.”
I agree Father Freeman. The words of institution are powerful: “This is my body…” Of course we live in a day and time when it is considered perfectly reasonable to caste doubt on what the meaning of “is” is.
i) Oh, but according to Prejean, there is what St. Paul intended “is” to mean, and then there’s what God intended “is” to mean. So the “is-ness” of “is” gets quite convoluted in Prejean’s enigma machine.
ii) Notice that Fr. Glenn doesn’t really take the words of institution at face value. Rather, he mentally substitutes “become” for “is.” On his view, the bread is not the body of Christ: rather, the bread “becomes” the body of Christ, while retaining the outward accidents of bread.
This, again, is what happens when you have an ingrown theological tradition.
16. obpoet Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 9:08 pm
I have to admit, as a former Protestant, this teaching has always been difficult, because it cannot be reasoned. It in the end it is a matter of faith, unable to be proven or disproved. No doubt that is how it is meant to be. I see it as a gift from God that I must struggle with this idea for the rest of my life. What a wonderful place to turn our thoughts to again and again.
One don’t do exegesis by faith; one does it by reason. Faith applies to product of exegesis, not the process.
18. Apolonio Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 11:19 pm
First, it seems that Steve Hays has been polemical lately (is it just me?). This just takes my desire to fully interact with what he says. Second, again, I think his approach to scripture is faulty. He says,
“But there are not a few problems with this move. To begin with, it isn’t very sound exegetical method to complete your interpretation of one writer by ransacking another author. This is, frankly, a way of filling in the gaps of an interpretation that goes beyond the textual evidence. You can’t find everything you need in the text before you, so you import some putty to plug the cracks.”
What “exegetical method” he is talking about, I don’t know. Is it historical-critical? Is it spiritual? Is there room for both? How? On and on.
Since I explained what I meant at the time, it’s hard to account for Apolonios’s incomprehension. Continuing:
The Tradition has always been reading Scripture *as a whole* rather than an isolated piece.
i) To begin with, since the normative status of tradition is the very point at issue, Apolonio is begging the question.
ii) His characterization is very simplistic. As a rule, you don’t interpret one writer by another writer unless one writer is writing about another writer—by way of quotations and allusions. Absent specific evidence, you can’t assume that one writer knows what another writer was thinking and writing.
The way to read Scripture as a whole is to interpret each writer on his own terms, consistent with his own usage and citations and allusions and culture and context, as well as taking into consideration his relation to earlier authors. Once you’ve done that, then, and only then, are you in a position to read Scripture as a whole. But the cut-and-paste method whereby you start with a little snippet in John, but unable to find what all you were looking for, flip over to scissor out a little snippet from Paul to “complete” what is missing in John, is a miserable little patch-job which has no basis in what either author intended.
There’s a reason John says as much as he does and no more. There’s a reason Paul says as much as he does and no more.
If we apply his method to say, the doctrine that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, how exactly are we going to exegete passages which gives us that doctrine? One might say Matthew 28. But how would we read Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity in that passage alone (notice also how I speak of Jesus as the *Second* Person)? And does Matthew speak of the Holy Spirit as God? What about the phrase “the Son of God”?
Once more, the problem of an insular and hidebound theological tradition. If Apolonio read Evangelical scholarship, he’d wouldn’t have to ask that question since he’d know how we do theology.
Where the Trinity is concerned, we simply glean what various authors of Scripture have to say about the persons of the Godhead, and then integrate the data. That is quite different than using one writer as an interpretive grid through which to filter the statements of another.
I don’t find this type of circular reasoning as vicious. Al is warranted in interpreting the Scriptures within the lenses of the Church and Tradition simply because the Church and Tradition are reliable and are guided by the Holy Spirit. Guided by the Holy Spirit, it is truth-aimed, Christocentric. If someone asks, “how do you know they are reliable?” or “how do you know the Holy Spirit is guiding them?”, I think one is justified in avoiding the (internalist) objections. It seems that what I have said is analogous to Thomas Reid’s principle that our faculties are reliable. In fact, William Alston does not hold that epistemic circularity is vicious. In what way is Al’s argument different from the argument Alston presented on epistemic circularity?
The problem with this comparison is that it’s disanalogous at the very point where it needs to be analogous. We all have same faculties; we don’t all have the same church. So we don’t have the same universal and indispensable lens in both cases.
BTW, as the critics go, Apolonio is one of my better critics.
22. Brother Quotidian Says:
October 13th, 2005 at 6:33 am
For what it’s worth (probably not much) …
I came to faith in the theological matrix Steve did, at least insofar as its view of the Bible is concerned. I was reared on the views of the Eucharist that he was. I most definately did not read catholic teachers on any subject, especially the Eucharist.
I wasn’t raised in any particular theological matrix, and the matrices in which I was raise were not hostile to the Real Presence. From early childhood to my upper teens, I first attended a Lutheran church, then a Presbyterian church, then a Methodist church. After that I was old enough to strike out on my own.
23. Petra Says:
October 13th, 2005 at 7:52 am
What has always boggled my mind is the way evangelical Protestants read Jn 6 and then say: “There is no proof whatsoever that He is talking about the Eucharist (or whatever they call it) in this passage.”
I mean, Jesus keeps talking here about the necessity of eating His body and drinking His blood for about half a page, calling His body the Bread of Life several times, insisting on its importance etc.; all the way undeterred by questioning listeners and incredulous disciples, some of which even leave Him after this speech.
I mean, WHAT ON EARTH do Evangelicals (who absolutely LOVE talking about “the plain sense of Scripture” in other contexts) think He is reffering to? His mother’s cooking????
By the way, I’ve developed a new definition for evangelical Protestantism some time ago:
“To read Genesis 1-3 literally and ALL sayings of Jesus figuratively.”
i) There many similar epithets applied to Christ in the Fourth Gospel: he’s the lamb of God, the light of the world, the true vine, the door, the good shepherd. Does Petra intend to reify these other metaphors as well? Is the front door into his church the true body and blood of Christ?
What about the vine? Notice that Jesus doesn’t just call himself a vine. He adds an adjective: he is the “true” vine or “real” vine.
ii) The Bread of Life Discourse wasn’t addressed to Christians: it was addressed to Jews. The Eucharist hadn’t even been instituted at the time Jesus was speaking to the Jews. You can’t have the Lord’s Supper before the Last Supper, now can you?
How would if be sinful for his audience to disbelieve him if they couldn’t know what he was talking about? If he was talking about the Eucharist, they’d be in no position to know that. So in what sense, on a sacramental reading of Jn 6, is their disbelief culpable? The Eucharist didn’t exist at that time.
This, again, is the sort of thing that happens when your liturgical practice preconditions and overrides your reading of Scripture. You stop asking elementary questions like: When was this said? To whom was it said?
Finally, I wish to end on a more general note. The appeal to what billions of Catholics have believed for two thousand years is simply bogus.
For one thing, widespread literacy and the widespread availability of affordable reading materials is really quite recent—dating to around the 18C or so. So to say that billions of Catholics have always read Jn 6 eucharistically is historically false, and by a simply huge margin of error.
Billions of Catholics over the centuries have not read Jn 6 that way because billions of Catholics over the centuries have not read Jn 6 at all.
But, for the sake of argument, let us stipulate to this claim. Now, by any reckoning, the Catholic church has an unrivalled talent pool. Sheer numbers alone guarantee as much.
Now, if I gave several billion Catholics two thousand years to come up with an argument for the Real Presence, it’s quite something that this is the best they’d have to show for it: “we believe it cuz we believe it. You should believe it cuz we believe it too.”
“We believe in burning widows because our parents believed in burning widows, and their parents, and their grandparents, for as far back as anyone can remember.
“And if that weren’t proof enough, we’ve got the guidance of our ancestral spirits. Just ask the local Shaman.”
“Then here you come along, what with your new-fangled notions and modernistic airs and go spitting in the face of our widow-burning elders and betters! How arrogant! How hubristic!”
I might as well be debating with a witchdoctor over the intellectual merits of suttee.