"So here is my question for you, if scripture is the only infallible rule, who is the judge to apply the rule?"
As you know, Jesus conducted public debates with members of the religious establishment. So did John the Baptist. So did the Apostles.
Bystanders overheard the debates. Who was to judge which side got the better of the argument?
Clearly the religious establishment was not the final arbiter, for Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles were challenging the religious establishment.
As a practical matter, every man (or woman) in the crowd had to judge for himself. Some judged rightly and some judged wrongly.
That's a leading theme in the Gospel of John (to take one example).
“Your example of Jesus and the Jewish leadership would be germane if all things were equal, but all things are not equal so it is not an apt comparison. Jesus has a commissioning superior to theirs. Jesus’s commissioning is attested to by the miracles and prophecy. (Jn 10:38) In a similar fashion the prophets had a commissioning superior to the ordinary commissioning of the Levitical priests, which is why they could correct them. The judgment in both cases is that of a superior degree of normativity.”
My example presupposes that Jesus, OT prophets, and NT apostles are more authoritative than scribes and Sadducees and Pharisees and Levitical priests–or even the high priest.
“Further, when you ask among the bystanders, who was to judge, there is an equivocation on the term , judge.”
It’s an equivocation from your standpoint, not from mine.
“For the question is not, who is to ascertain the truth of the matter for their own conscience, but who can settle the matter with a normativity that goes beyond in application their own conscience to that of others.”
That’s how you frame the question, not how I frame the question. I don’t think it goes beyond ascertaining the truth of the matter for one’s own conscience. I don’t think God has authorized church officers to settle the matter with normativity for others.
“The judgment of the prophets and Jesus was not on a normative par with the ordinarily commissioned Hebrew/Jewish leadership. At best they can claim Abraham and Moses, since they have no miracles and prophecy since they were ordinarily commissioned, through a succession. (Neh 7:64) Jesus clearly one-ups them through an appeal to the Father directly with attesting miracles.”
There are two separate issues here:
i) Intrinsic/contingent authority
ii) Verification of intrinsic/contingent authority.
Apropos (i), the authority of Jesus is inherent in his person. By contrast, merely human authority, however exalted, is derivative and conditional.
Apropos (ii), verification doesn’t confer authority. It merely furnishes a means of recognition.
“Jesus and the prophets by virtue of their superior commissioning and attestation with miracle and prophecy were in a position to challenge those lower down on the commissioned and normative ladder.”
It would be simpler to say that one party was right while the other party was wrong. And that’s because one party had access to the truth in a way not shared by the errant party. “Normativity” is secondary to truth.
“So the question is, in the church, who is to act as the judge in terms of normatively settling a matter or dispute in applying the rule or is there to be as many judges applying the rule as there are readers of the rule.”
Since the church has a corporate life, there has to be some decision-making process to set policies for the fellowship as a whole. But there’s nothing inherently normative about those decisions. Such decisions are only normative to the degree that they accurately apply biblical teaching to the matter at hand.
“In which case, there is no judge which can settle a matter with the normativity to bind the conscience of any man other than himself and all ecclesiastical judgments are in principle revisable.”
I accept that consequence.
At the same time, every individual is also in the hands of God. Nothing happens apart from God’s providential purpose for the church.
“Clear problems arise in say cases of excommunication.”
How is that a problem? Excommunication is a fallible process. It’s quite possible to be unjustly excommunicated.
That’s only a problem if you have a sacramental view of the church such that excommunication severs the individual from the saving means of grace. I don’t.
“In 2 Tim 3, Paul seems to indicate the Scripture is the rule to be employed by the ‘man of God’ and the way that Scripture uses that term doesn’t seem to indicate that the ‘man of God’ is just any believer.”
Yes and no. Paul lays down certain qualifications for church office. Church office doesn’t qualify the candidate. Church office doesn’t confer a set of qualifications on a candidate. Rather, the candidate, in his lay identity, must bring these qualifications to the job.
A pastor is a qualified layman. A layman who’s qualified to hold church office.
“The Scriptures are a rule to be employed by those appropriately sent and commissioned such that the question becomes, who sent these ministers? For how will they preach, unless they have been sent?”
Prophets and apostles are “sent.” Pastors are not.
Prophets and apostles have a special divine vocation. A charismatic calling. Their authority derives from their inspiration.
By contrast, pastors have natural abilities. The Pauline qualifications for church office involve natural human abilities.
Timothy himself may have had a prophetic gift of some sort, but that’s not a qualification for church office.
“Who commissioned the Reformers and with what commissioning, ordinary or extraordinary?”
No one. The only relevant question is whether the Reformers met the Pauline qualifications for church office.
Your reasoning might have more traction with someone like Scott Clark, who has a more authoritarian concept of the church than I do. But it’s a nonstarter for a Biblicist and low/free churchman like me.
“Steve, in Orthodoxy, authority is predicated on the spiritual life such that the prophets, apostles, and saints in seeing the glory of the Lord have this authority.”
I appreciate the explanation. However, I have no reason to put the saints in the same class as the apostles and prophets. Indeed, I have good reason not to.
“Those who know and are of God are the final arbiter. Like the men you quote.”
But I the pertinent knowledge is tied to inspiration, which had its terminus at ad quem with the death of the apostles and some of their handpicked deputies.
“The prophets, Christ, and the apostles held men accountable to their testimony whether some judged it true or not.”
True, which is why heretics and impenitents don’t get away with anything in the long run.