Friday, February 05, 2010

On councils and scriptures

One of the stock objections to sola Scriptura is that Biblical teaching is subject to interpretation. Therefore, over and above Scripture itself, we requires an authoritative interpretation of Scripture actually teaches. Hence, the necessity of infallible teaching organs like ecumenical councils. Ironically, Catholic epologist Jonathan Prejean sabotages that argument by citing a truly embarrassing counterexample:

"It seems to me that if you really wanted to go after the infallibility of Nicaea, then you could point out that many of the 318 (or so) bishops who voted FOR the Council later ended up espousing an Arian interpretation, which is exactly what they thought they were supporting when they agreed to the words (or at least, they supported them only with mental reservations to placate the Emperor). Rather than simply pointing out the change in creeds, you could point out that bishops freely present at the ecumenical council had their own position later treated as an authority to contradict that same position!"


  1. Well, this would be a problem for common sense, but not necessarily for Roman teaching. They hold that the reasoning behind an infallible teaching can itself be fallible or even dead wrong. Heads they win, tails we lose.

  2. The question at issue is whether church councils can settle the correct interpretation of Scripture.

  3. "Ironically, Catholic epologist Jonathan Prejean sabotages that argument by citing a truly embarrassing counterexample:"

    Should Catholics be angry with fellow Catholic Jonathan Prejean for sabotaging their stock argument with his truly embarrassing counterexample or should they ignore it and instead focus their ire and displeasure with the one who points it out? In this case, Steve Hays.

  4. Sounds like the Magisterium needs a Magisterium of its own.

  5. In context, Jonathan's statement was made to defend the necessity of the Papacy. Since, when necessary, the Pope can determine which doctrines or councils are truly orthodox. It could be argued that the Arian councils were just as Catholic as Nicaea I (or Constantinople I) since both had bishops who had genuine apostolic succession in attendance. In fact, if you want to go by numbers, there were many more Arian councils than what we would now consider "orthodox".

    But it seems that a similar problem occurs when figuring out which Pope to follow. How could a Catholic living during the Western Schism, but dying before the Council of Constance, know which Pope to follow when there were multiple claimants to the Papal See? Even at the present time, a minority of Traditionalist Catholics (often called Conclavists) have competing alternative Popes. Competing not only with Benedict XVI, but with each other. It does no use for to appeal to numbers since it not only commits the ad populum fallacy. But also, many who would defend their version of the Catholic faith look up to Athanasius who resisted the majority (but erroneous) position of the Church during the (aprox. 50 years!!!) Arian Ascendancy (hence Athanasius Contra Mundum). Sometimes the truth is with the minority rather than the majority.

    Also, an appeal to the recent nature of such a situation in comparison to the rest of the long history of the Church will do no good. Since, for all we know, Christ doesn't return for another 15,000 years. In which case, from the perspective of the future post-2nd Advent Church (i.e. after Christ returns), we might still be living during the "early Church". And just as it took time to hammer out which Christological positions were orthodox, it might take time to discover which Papal See is genuine. Maybe we're still waiting for a future "Council of Constance II" to settle the matter (heh).

    Or maybe Catholics of all sorts have simple and consistent answers to the pseudo-problems I've posed. If there are, I'm just not aware of them because I don't know all that much about Catholicism (though I used to be Catholic being born in a Catholic family). Until I encounter those answers, it seems to me that so long as there are competing Popes, Catholics of all sorts worldwide need a way of determining which See is genuine. My understanding (wrong?) is that Catholics believe that Popes can determine which Councils are truly Ecumenical (or can retroactively take on Ecumenical status). But on the other hand, Ecumenical Councils can determine which Popes are genuine. What if competing Popes (say 3 out of 4) and a Council disagree with which Pope is genuine (the 4th)? How would Catholics determine it then? It would end up being three different Popes disagreeing with a Pope and a Council (a Council that itself is disputed by the combined agreement of three disputing Popes). I guess it was fortunate that Honorius I was dead over 40 years when Constantinople III anathematized him for the heresy of monothelitism. Otherwise could have disputed it's verdict.

  6. I am going to be very bold and assert, I will sum this one up nicely and not!

    If you have more than one head on your shoulders as you look into the mirror in front of you in the morning while shaving, you are a freak!

    On the other hand, if while looking at your head in the mirror in the morning shaving and know you have the Mind of Christ, you are not!

    Now, with the Mind of Christ if you happened to be pondering this verse:

    Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

    You realize that capacity of Christ by one Spirit brings you access to the Father of Lights.

    And if you realize you are looking deeply into the darkness of a soul forgiven by the Father of Lights:::>

    1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    You rest in His Forgiving Grace and Mercy and Peace realizing your head is now a beacon for those who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death wanting His Love:::>

    Rom 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
    Rom 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Rom 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
    Rom 15:8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
    Rom 15:9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name."
    Rom 15:10 And again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people."
    Rom 15:11 And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him."
    Rom 15:12 And again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope."
    Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

    But..., however...., just a minute....., hold on now......, if the one you wanted to welcome into fellowship brings a different Gospel, let him be accursed!

    Gal 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--
    Gal 1:7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
    Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
    Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.


    "In context, Jonathan's statement was made to defend the necessity of the Papacy...But it seems that a similar problem occurs when figuring out which Pope to follow."

    Yes, his fallback merely kicks the can down the block.

  8. I said...

    But on the other hand, Ecumenical Councils can determine which Popes are genuine.

    Maybe I should have said, "But on the other hand, Ecumenical Councils can apparently appoint a new Pope that seems to have no real successive connection to any of the competing Popes. Which of the three competing Popes was Martin V a successor of? Or was the Papacy sede vacante prior to the appointment of Martin V? In which case, there might not be a need for any connection to any of the three competing Popes."

    Also, there's also the possibility that the majority of sedevacantists are correct in saying that the Papal seat is current vacant. So that ANOTHER possibility to be added to the number of competing Popes.

    Finally, when I said...

    (hence Athanasius Contra Mundum).

    I should have said "(hence the well known phrase "Luther....Ahem!...I mean...'Athanasius Contra Mundum' "). Hehehehehe