Perry Robinson and Bryan Cross have been posting long comments on a long thread over at Green Baggins. By now I expect they’ve both had enough time to present their major arguments and counterarguments, so I’ll take the occasion to comment on their comments. In this post I’ll comment on Bryan’s arguments.
One preliminary observation: Keith Mathison draws a distinction between sola Scriptura and solo Scriptura. I think their objections have immediate reference to something like his distinction. Since I’m more of a Biblicist than Mathison, even if their objections had some purchase on his position, that doesn’t mean they have the same traction on mine.
I’d add that in the course of a lengthy thread, the dialogue over spills over into other issues. So the original framework is not the only bone of contention.
I don’t know for sure what it means for a statement to be “in response” to Scripture. I’m assuming you mean that you have derived this conclusion from Scripture. If so, then is your derivation falsifible or not? If it is falsifiable, then what would it take [empirically] to show that this conclusion was wrongly derived from Scripture? In other words, at what level of interpretive confusion, disagreement and division would you conclude that your derivation was false?
i) Suppose the average Christian doesn’t have an answer to that question? So what? Does God require the average Christian to be able to answer a question like that? This is the sort of thing that philosophers could bat back and forth for years on end with no definitive resolution.
ii) Likewise, where has God ever made infallible understanding a prerequisite for believing and obeying his word?
ii) I’d add that one can easily pose a parallel question to a Catholic: “I’m assuming you mean that you have derived this conclusion from Tradition. If so, then is your derivation falsifiable or not? If it is falsifiable, then what would it take [empirically] to show that this conclusion was wrongly derived from Tradition? In other words, at what level of interpretive confusion, disagreement and division would you conclude that your derivation was false?”
I agree with you that there are things that logically follow from Scripture. But, the claim in question, that human reason [apart from the guidance of the Church] has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text, does not logically follow from Scripture. If you disagree, then you would need to provide the syllogism showing how this claim logically follows from Scripture.
Sola Scriptura doesn’t turn on the claim that human reason has the ability to overcome any faulty presupposition we bring to the text. For example, if the reprobate bring faulty presuppositions to Scripture, then that serves to aggravate their guilt.
A distinct claim (from the one directly above) is that it is God’s purpose to preserve the unity and orthodox of His Church by giving the Holy Spirit to individuals so that by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, apart from the teaching authority of the Church, each individual comes to the true understanding of Scripture. Having been raised Pentecostal, I’m quite familiar with this claim.
It would be more logical to turn this around. Given the degree of disunity and heterodoxy in Christendom throughout the ages, God has a purpose is allowing that state of affairs. Put another way, it was never God’s purpose to insure unity and orthodoxy in Christendom.
But this claim too raises important questions. How do we know who has the Spirit? In practice, the answer is simple: find those who agree with you, because (1) you know you have the Spirit, and (2) you know the Spirit doesn’t contradict Himself. Hence, all those who claim to have the Spirit, but who disagree with you, are being deceived by lying spirits. This is where a non-incarnational, and hence non-sacramental, understanding of the operation of the Spirit leads.
Well, that presents a problem for Bryan’s alternative. Bryan thinks the Church of Rome is guided by the Holy Spirit. If, however, we’re unable to recognize Spirit-led leaders, then we can’t verify the claims of Rome. We can’t distinguish the claims of Rome from rival claimants.
Jesus expected that many who were within earshot while He spoke not to hear and understand His words. In fact, not only did He expect it, He intended it. When the disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables, He responded by saying that to the Apostles had been granted the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom, but not to the others. This understanding had been granted to the Apostles, in that He explained to them in private the meaning of the things He taught in public. That’s why He says, “while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13), “and hearing they may not understand” (Lk 8:10). I think Jesus says seven times in the gospels “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” That wouldn’t make sense if everyone who heard Jesus had ears to hear.
I agree. And this means the Bible has more than one purpose. More than one audience. God never intended that everyone who reads the Bible would understand it, or understand it to the same degree. So misunderstanding the Bible is consonant with God’s appointed purpose for the Bible. Misunderstanding is not an argument against sola Scriptura.
My statement, by contrast, is that it does not logically follow from Scripture that human reason has the ability to overcome any faulty presuppositions we bring to the text. We might be able to overcome some faulty presuppositions without the help of the Church, but no passage of Scripture entails that we (simply by the power of human reason, and apart from the help of the Church) can overcome any faulty presupposition we might have, or overcome all the faulty presuppositions we might have, when interpreting Scripture.
Andrew P is saying that we as individuals can certainly get some things right when we come to Scripture. I am saying that Scripture does not entail that we as individuals can overcome any (or all) faulty presuppositions we might have when we come to Scripture. My claim implies that we need the Church to help us understand Scripture in a way that allows us all to attain and maintain the “one faith” of which St. Paul speaks. But our two claims are fully compatible.
i) Of course, an elementary and elemental problem with this claim is that it applies with equal force to Bryan’s alternative. If faulty presuppositions can impede our understanding of Scripture, then faulty presuppositions can also impede our understanding of tradition. The Magisterium can’t help us overcome our faulty presuppositions since our faulty presuppositions could just as well block our understanding of Magisterial teaching.
ii) While we’re on the subject, when Jesus taught the crowds, who did his audience have to help it understand the words of Jesus? Was it the religious establishment? No, for the religious establishment was opposed to the teaching of Jesus. His audience had to understand him apart from the religious establishment. Indeed, in spite of the religious establishment.
I agree that the Pharisees were culpable for their disbelief. But there is a non-culpable form of hearing without understanding, and it seems that this applies to the many ordinary people who heard His parables without understanding them. Here’s why. If Jesus expected everyone to understand His parables, then there would be no reason for Him to explain the meaning of the parables to His Apostles in private, unless He thought His Apostles were more thick-headed than everyone else who heard Him speak (and I see no good reason to believe that He thought this about His Apostles). So the fact that He explained the meaning of His parables in private shows that He did not expect everyone to understand everything He said. And it would be ad hoc to assume that everyone else who did not understand the parables was purposefully or willfully disbelieving them, but that the Apostles (and only the Apostles) didn’t understand the parables (when they were spoken in public) not because of purposeful ignorance or disbelief, but simply because of stupidity.
Of course, as Jesus explains in Mt 13:10ff., the parables were designed to harden as well as illuminate. They were a winnowing fan. So that reinforces the point that a lack of understanding does not represent a failure of Scripture to communicate. Rather, it represents a successful function of Scripture. For Scripture was intended, in part, to harden unbelievers.
Your point seems to be that the Church needs to be accountability to the scholars, as though academia has higher interpretive authority than the successors of the apostles, those uneducated fisherman. And when the Church hierarchy does not accept the verdict of academia, rebellion against Church hierarchy is justified, because academia is a higher interpretive authority (so it is really not rebellion, but submission).
That’s a very tendentious characterization at several levels:
i) Notice how Bryan uses the word “Church.” Now you might think the “Church” is synonymous with the people of God. But he uses the “Church” as code language for the “church hierarchy.” So, when he talks about the “Church,” he really means a tiny subset of the church. A little elite.
ii) This also exposes the equivocation in his usage. What about Christian scholars? Aren’t they part of the church? Don’t they belong to the church? It’s a false dichotomy to talk about Christian Bible scholars (to take one example) in contrast to “the Church,” as if Christian Bible scholars were a bunch of outsiders. Notice how small “the Church” becomes in Bryan’s usage. His usage excludes the laity from his definition of “the Church.” For Bryan, the true church consists of the bishops. The rest of us are outsiders.
iii) He begs the question of whether the pope and Roman bishops are successors to the apostles.
iv) Even on his own terms, Bryan doesn’t care about the successors to the apostles. He only cares about the successors to just one apostle.
v) The contrast between “uneducated fishermen” and “academia” is also invidious. If you were living in 1C Palestine, you didn’t need a college degree to know what life was like in 1C Palestine. You were there.
A 21C Roman bishop is hardly in the same position. The point of modern scholarship is to recover what was common knowledge to uneducated fishermen.
But academia is incapable of being the highest interpretive authority, because it is not a unified entity. What do you do when scholars disagree? Do you start weighing graduate degrees from more prestigious institutions? Majority vote among scholars? Anglican, Pentecostal, Mormon, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, and Seventh Day Adventist, etc. they all have their own scholars, and they all think their own interpretation is better. Is the authoritative interpretation of Scripture ultimately a matter of scholarly authority?
Notice that Bryan is constitutionally unable to think about this issue outside his authoritarian categories. But, as a rule, the appeal to a scholarly interpretation is not an appeal to “authority.” Rather, a scholar defends his interpretation. Presents his evidence. Argues for his position.
And how do we determine the quality of scholarship in a non-question-begging way?
Does Bryan never sift the quality of Catholic literature? Are Alfred Freddoso and Mother Angelica on a scholarly par?
This option seems to leave us in the morass of postmodern relativism. That seems to be the ultimate outcome of Renaissance humanism’s influence on the Reformation, placing scholarly authority over sacramental ecclesial authority.
You mean, like the way Lorenzo Valla exposed the False Decretals?
And what if the majority of contemporary biblical scholars rejects something like imputation? (See here, where Gundry claims that that is already the case.) Will you then accept that conclusion, or will you claim that the scholars have all gone liberal?
We’d have to examine their arguments. And it has nothing to do with majorities versus minorities.
If you reject their conclusion, then how is it not the case that *you* are functioning as the final interpretive authority?
It’s not the case inasmuch as interpreting the written or spoken word is not an exercise of authority. A mother tells her 10-year-old to clean up his room. He has to interpret her words. Is that an exercise of authority? When a 10-year-old interprets a parental command, is he exercising authority over his parents? Hardly!
And if he tries to misinterpret the command, he may learn very quickly, not to mention very painfully, where the real locus of authority resides!
In that case the appeal to academia to justify 16th century Protestantism turns out to be a cover for “they are authoritative when I agree with them, but not when I disagree with them,” which in actuality is indistinguishable from “I am my own pope.” Or more likely, you will just accept as authoritative only those scholars who agree with you. But that’s just the academic version of sola scriptura (see comment #5), i.e. selecting as the Church only those persons who satisfy your determination of the marks of the Church, according to your own interpretation.
Notice Bryan’s own behavior. He converted to Rome. He selected as “the Church” only those persons who satisfy his determination of what the true church is like.
Where in Scripture is there a promise that the Holy Spirit will guide academia into all truth, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against academia?
Where in Scripture is there a promise that the Holy Spirit will guide a guy named Joseph Alois Ratzinger into all truth?
In order to determine whether it was right for the early Protestants to go against the Church authorities, we need to know the principled difference between those situations in which one is justified in acting against Church authorities, and those situations in which one is not justified in acting against them.
When church authorities act against the Bible, we’re justified in acting against church authorities.
The Protestant position, by implication from the very history of its separation, is that unless the individual is convinced from his own interpretation of Scripture that what the Church is saying is correct, he is not obligated to accept it.
“His own interpretation” is a straw man. It’s not as if we lock ourselves in a closet with our Bibles. Evangelical commentators arrive at their interpretation by reviewing and interacting with other interpretations.
The Catholic position, by contrast, is that holding a different interpretation from the Church is not a justification for not conforming to the Church, because the Church has an interpretive authority that we do not have. By discovering what the Church has determined about a doctrine, we discover what the Holy Spirit teaches about this doctrine. Moreover, by recognizing the Church’s interpretive and teaching authority, we can know what has been definitively determined, and thus in those matters we can distinguish between what is orthodox and what is heterodox.
The Mormon position, by contrast, is that holding a different interpretation from the LDS Church is not a justification for not conforming to the LDS Church, because the LDS Church has an interpretive authority that we do not have. By discovering what the LDS Church has determined about a doctrine, we discover what the Holy Spirit teaches about this doctrine. Moreover, by recognizing the LDS Church’s interpretive and teaching authority, we can know what has been definitively determined, and thus in those matters we can distinguish between what is orthodox and what is heterodox.
If some bishop is going against what has already been definitively determined by the Church, or what has been universally believed and taught by the bishops, then we must not accept what he says.
The average Catholic is in no position to know what has been universally believed and taught by the bishops. At best, only a church historian could know that.
BTW, how many bishops have there been in Catholic church history? Is there polling data on what they all taught and believed?
But if the bishops in ecumenical council come to a conclusion about a hitherto unresolved question in the Church, and their conclusion is contrary to our interpretation of Scripture, then we must submit to the interpretive authority of the Church.
But if the Quorum of the Twelve in consultation with the First Presidency comes to a conclusion about a hitherto unresolved question in the LDS Church, and their conclusion is contrary to our interpretation of Scripture, then we must submit to the interpretive authority of the LDS Church.
One important difference between Catholics and Protestants on this point is that Protestants accept, but Catholics reject ecclesial deism. We believe that by the imparted gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and their successors, the teaching office of the Church will never depart from the faith, but will ever be guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth. But Protestantism cannot believe that (without undermining itself). As a result, in Protestantism the individual necessarily has final interpretive authority, because for any Church decision or council, he has to judge for himself whether or not that decision or council came to the ‘right’ conclusion, based on his own interpretation of Scripture. Hence ecclesial deism serves as the basis for the solo scriptura that is intrinsic to Protestantism.
This is the Catholic version of hell house. Bryan tries to scare us into becoming Catholic by using spooky words like “ecclesial deism” (doesn’t that send a shill up your spine?) to brand our position. I guess I’ve seen far too many horror films to be frightened by Bryan’s Halloween costume.
That’s why the ecclesial deism issue is so important. Ecclesial deism undermines the possibility of reconciliation and reunion, because it leaves each individual to do what it is right in his own eyes, according to his own interpretation.
Like the pope, you mean.
The question is: Who has teaching and interpretive authority in the Church?
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John…
Your point might be that there was no need for Christ to establish a teaching and interpretive authority in the Church, because Scripture “contains its own explanations,” so that it’s meaning is plain.
This is another one of Bryan’s false dichotomies. There’s a difference between teachers and a magisterial teaching office. Some people have the aptitude and training to teach the Bible while others do not.
(If you hold to the premise that Scripture *is* sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians, then you must hold to the following disjunct: either all Christians holding interpretations contrary to yours are wicked or stupid, or you are wicked or stupid. Are you prepared to bite that bullet?)
(If you hold to the premise that Tradition *is* sufficiently plain and clear to unify all Christians, then you must hold to the following disjunct: either all Christians holding interpretations contrary to yours are wicked or stupid, or you are wicked or stupid. Are you prepared to bite that bullet?)
Not only that, but the fact that we’re dealing with different canons shows that some ecclesial authority is needed so that Christ’s sheep may know which books belong to sacred Scripture.
So, until the Council of Trent defined the canon in the 16C, Christ’s sheep were at a loss to know which books belong to sacred Scripture.
Likewise, all the Jews were also in the dark regarding the content of their own canon, right? If you asked John the Baptist where to find the word of God, he’d slap his brow and exclaim, “Beats me! I’m waiting for the Council of Trent to convene in 1545.”
If your position is that the identity of the canon is self-evident, then again, you must conclude that anyone who disagrees with your judgment about the content of the canon is wicked or stupid, or that you yourself are wicked or stupid.
This is another straw man argument. The identity of the canon doesn’t have to be “self-evident” to be reasonably certain.
No. Unity is one of the four essential marks of Christ’s Mystical Body: one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
If you accept Catholic criteria–which begs the question.
That is a unity greater than any the world can produce, because the Church’s unity is Christ’s unity. Those Catholics who depart from the Catholic faith (e.g. so-called “cafeteria Catholics” on the one hand, and sedevacantists on the other), have separated themselves from the Church’s unity, either by material heresy, or by formal heresy, and/or by material or formal schism.
Except that sedevacantists are arguing from Catholic presuppositions. It’s the reductio ad absurdum of Catholicism.
Question: How can we be sure that it is our own interpretation of Scripture that is wrong and not our interpretation of the ruling of the ecumenical council?
By asking our priest or bishop to confirm that our interpretation of the council is correct.
I see. Well, then. Hans Küng is still a priest. He’s never been defrocked. Moreover, he was a participant at Vatican II. So if he were my priest, I should ask him to confirm my interpretation of the Council. That way, I’d be sure I got it right.
Likewise, Marcel-François Lefebvre was a bishop. Indeed, an Archbishop. So he’s someone I should turn to to confirm my interpretation of the Council.
The actual point in question is: Who has greater interpretive authority: the individual, or the Church?
Why not ask: Who has the most plausible interpretation?
BTW, isn’t the pope an individual?
We never assume that must choose between the Holy Spirit and the Church. We believe that the Holy Spirit ordinarily speaks and acts *through* the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit never intended the Scripture to govern us in a solo scriptura way. Rather the Holy Spirit intended the Scripture to be known and used in an ecclesial/liturgical context.
Notice that Bryan is simply giving us an exposition of Catholic dogma without giving us a single reason to believe it. He seems to think that if you just quote from the relevant section of the Catechism, we should instantly acquiesce.
Part of the content of the faith is believing in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”, because that is part of the Church’s Creed, which term comes from ‘Credo’ = I believe. Protestantism has no visible catholic Church. It has only denominations (none of which is the visible catholic Church), and individual congregations, and individual believers. There is in Protestantism not some one additional entity to which the term “visible catholic Church” refers, and to which those denominations, congregations, and individual believers, belong. NAPARC, for example, is not the catholic visible Church. (Anything with the name “North American” in its name is not catholic.)
Why should we accept the need for “one additional entity”–over and above the fellowship of the faithful?
So when a Protestant speaks that line of the Creed, he has to redefine the term ‘Church’ to refer to the set of all the elect. But of course that wasn’t at all the meaning of the term as used by those bishops who wrote the Creed at the second Ecumenical Council, or by the entire Church at that time, or anywhere until the 16th century.
I’m less concerned with how the Nicene Fathers define the term than how the Apostles define the term.
The Protestant’s faith is deficient precisely in that line of the Creed; he does not believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Notice that Bryan keeps reciting the Nicene marks of the church. But the NT church is my standard of comparison, not the Nicene church.
When I said that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church, I wasn’t intending to specify the referent of the term ‘Church’, because I assumed that we would agree that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church, even while we recognize that we each believe that the term ‘Church’ picks out a different referent.
No. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Bible, not the Church.
Protestants pick out the Church in a different way than do Catholics. For Protestants, the gospel (as determined by their own interpretation of Scripture) picks out what is the Church. But for Catholics, the Church (as determined by apostolic succession) gives us the authoritative interpretation of Scripture, and hence teaches us what is Christ’s gospel. Those are two different paradigms, and it is difficult to evaluate them against each other, in a non-question-begging manner.
If its difficult to evaluate the rival claimants in a non-question-begging manner, then Bryan has unilaterally disarmed his own position.
If the local church must be hierarchical in order to be visible…
Where does the Bible make hierarchicality precondition of visibility?
The Bible uses various metaphors to model the church. For example, it uses a flock of sheep to model the church. Must a flock of sheep be hierarchical to be a visible flock?
In a flock of sheep, which sheep correspond to the sheepish deacon, priest, altar boy, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, &c.?
Your question, in #470, is essentially this: Since some priests and even some bishops are rebellious, how can we determine whether a priest or bishop is rebellious? And the answer is to see whether his teaching agrees with that of the other bishops in communion with the successor of the Apostle Peter.
I see. To find out whether one bishop is rebellious, ask another bishop. Hmm. Isn’t that circular? To find out if Bishop A is rebellious, I should ask Bishop B.
And how does that work out in practice? I mean, if Bishop A were not rebellious, but Bishop B were rebellious, then Bishop B would rebelliously claim that Bishop A was rebellious to make himself look good.
We’re part of a community that extends around the world. So our access to the Church’s magisterium is not limited to our local priest or bishop.
Does Bryan have the pope’s cellphone number on speed dial?
The context of there being other bishops in the Church cannot be abstracted away, without creating an artificial hypothetical. The bishop, since he is a successor of the Apostles, has greater interpretive authority than does the individual lay person. So, all other things being equal, I must submit to my bishop regarding the teaching of the Church. But, as I pointed out above (#485) if I come to discover that my bishop is rebelling against the Church, then I must submit to the Church’s Magisterium, and not follow this rebellious bishop.
That’s a fascinating claim. Take careful note of what this means:
If a layman has the right interpretation, and a bishop has the wrong interpretation, the bishop still enjoys greater interpretive authority even though the bishops interpretation is dead wrong while the layman’s interpretation is dead to rights.
See how Bryan’s ecclesiology detaches truth from authority. For Bryan, an authoritative falsehood trumps an unauthoritative truth.
If Bryan tries to deny that implication, then truth is the broker–in which case a bishop has no intrinsically superior interpretive authority.
How does that differ from the Protestant view of the Scriptures? The Protestant makes himself the final interpretive authority of Scripture. The orthodox Catholic never takes that authority to himself. He submits to the teaching/interpretive authority of the Magisterium.
And the devout Mormon submits to the teaching of the First Presidency.
Scripture can play a role, as I pointed out here, and so can the Church herself. But the external basis for believing the Magisterium of the Church to bear Christ’s authority, and for believing that His authority is handed down by apostolic succession, is Tradition. Wherever the Apostles went, throughout the world, there we see in the Tradition the practice of apostolic succession. (I explained the problem (for those who deny apostolic succession) in comments #24 and #27 of this thread.) In this way, the Tradition of the Church testifies that this was the Apostles practice and teaching. To reject this universal practice of the early Church, we must fall into ecclesial deism, which is a lack of faith in Jesus Christ.
i) What’s the “external” basis for believing in the Magisterium? Bryan says the “Tradition of the Church.” And how does the “Tradition of the Church” constitute an external basis for belief? Wouldn’t the “Tradition of the Church” be, by definition, internal to the church? Likewise, isn’t apostolic traditional internal to the church?
ii) Moreover, doesn’t Tradition depend apostolic succession? So how does Bryan verify apostolic succession? By appeal to Tradition? And how does he verify Tradition? By appeal to apostolic succession? Where is his external basis for either one?
Because Christ has given to divinely appointed men both the authority and the gift of explaining the Sacred Scripture to His people. There would be no point to the gift of teaching, if the teacher’s words did not clarify that which he taught. Just as God ordained the Levites to teach the Scripture to the people of the Old Covenant, so we believe He ordained a perpetual succession of bishops to teach the Scripture to the people of the New Covenant.
What evidence is there that God “gifted” the Levites to teach the Bible? The Levitical priesthood was dynastic, not charismatic. It didn’t consist of “gifted” individuals with a special aptitude to teach. It was a matter of pedigree. Bloodlines.
As I said in #503, we believe that the Magisterium is indefectible. It will never be the case that the Magisterium will depart from the faith delivered once and for all to the saints. The Holy Spirit will guide the successors of the Apostles into all truth. The Church will remain the pillar and ground of truth, until Christ returns. The gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. If the Magisterium fell away from the faith, the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church. So, your scenario is for us an impossible hypothetical (e.g. what would have happened if Jesus had sinned?).
Of course, a Protestant can also say that worse-case scenarios which a Catholic apologist raises in objection to sola Scriptura are also impossible hypotheticals.
I didn’t claim that “the authority for Tradition is apostolic succession”. There is both internal evidence and external evidence. Internal evidence is evidence that is uniquely available to us once we have accepted the Church’s authority and teachings. Those outside cannot perceive this evidence as evidence.
i) Sounds like a blood pact to join a coven. You must become a witch to discover the internal evidence. Of course, by then it’s too late to renege on the bargain.
ii) Moreover, what about lapsed Catholics, cafeteria Catholics, and converts from Catholicism to Evangelicalism. They were privy to the internal evidence. I guess they didn’t find the internal evidence that compelling.
But, there is also external evidence, i.e. evidence available to the outsider, and thus not seemingly circular to the one outside the Church. If we want to find where Christ’s Church is today, we need to start with the Apostles and then trace it forward through time until we come to the present day.
I see. Well, to take one example, who was the true successor to Gregory XI?
The person who, living in 2009, says, “I’ll find Christ’s Church by reading the Bible, and then finding that group of persons who agrees with my interpretation of Scripture”, fails to recognize that the Body of Christ is a living organic being, that was born on Pentecost and has been growing continuously through space and time over the last two thousand years. That historical evidence of the geographical expansion and theological and liturgical development of Christ’s Church over these past two millennia is available to anyone, inside or outside the Church.
Historical evidence of historical expansion and development is merely evidence of a historical process. Like the expansion and development of Islam.
For that matter, the Protestant movement can also be traced back through the past 2000 years of church history.
Evidence for a historical process doesn’t count as evidence for truth.
If we want to understand Scripture, we need to try to understand it as those who first received it understood it. And how do we do that? By reading the Fathers.
Really? Was John Damascene among the first to receive the Scriptures? Muhammad was born a century before John Damascene. Perhaps, if we want to understand Scripture, we should read the Koran instead of the church fathers. At least, if we adhere to Bryan’s criteria.
In the Fathers we find the mind of the early Church, and thus the mind of the Apostles…
Begging the question is such a handy shortcut, don’t you think?
For a Protestant, the Church and tradition and creeds all have only derived authority. Derived authority means that they only have authority insofar as they conform to his interpretation of Scripture. He is not obligated to conform his interpretation to that of the Church; rather, the Church is picked out precisely by his own determination from Scripture of the marks of the Church.
In a parallel universe, Bryan is a Mormon. Imagine a debate between Catholic Bryan and Mormon Bryan. Plug different titles into the same arguments.
Correct. But notice how they define ‘church’. (I began to explain in this comment #5.) They define ‘church’ by using their own interpretation of Scripture (as influenced by whatever particular traditions have played a role in their formation), to find that denomination or broader tradition that seems to match most closely their interpretation of Scripture. If what they refer to as ‘church’ deviates too far from what they think church should be (according to their own interpretation), they leave, and find another congregation/denomination that is a better fit.
Like Bryan leaving his Protestant church for the Catholic church.
We’re so used to this, that we don’t even see it for what it is. We *expect* to see different denominational church signs on every other street corner. We don’t see this as a myriad of schisms, each satisfying a demand niche in the ecclesial consumerism market, in fulfillment of what St. Paul predicts in 2 Tim 4:3.
We see this in large part because America is a nation of immigrants, so different national churches are all represented here. And, of course, if you’d toured the Roman Empire in the 1C, you’d also see a wide variety of Judaisms.