Friday, July 20, 2012

Called to an Unfalsifiable Refuge

My conversation with Bryan Cross on the topic of Torrance's analysis of Clement of Rome (try saying that one three times fast!) seems to have come to an impasse. I've posted the following over there; I believe every one of my comments has been getting through over there.

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Bryan, it seems as if we’ve come to an impasse here, as you have retreated (as Mike did above) into an unfalsifiable refuge. You can’t allow Clement to speak for himself. You can’t allow an analysis by Torrance to say what Clement was saying.

But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner (Acts 26:26).”

Paul did not hide behind an unfalsifiable refuge. Paul preached a Christ and a Christianity that the whole world could see.

It sounds very pretty and even obedient to say that you are “reading Scripture through the Fathers”, but assuming that Torrance is correct in his analysis (and if Torrance is wrong on any specific point, other than his presupposition, I am open to seeing just where his analysis is flawed), here we have one of the “Fathers”, evidently making “Tradition”, in a usage which very much seems to be somewhat different from the New Testament concept of grace.

[It’s funny, but when David King’s work came out, “Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of our Faith” – that title citing Irenaeus, by the way], no Roman Catholic had any really substantive responses to him. The only thing that all the Catholics were saying around the echo chamber in those days was “it wasn’t peer reviewed” And that was a good enough reason to reject it. Now, here you are, telling me, in a non-peer-reviewed way, what Irenaeus meant (up above), and what Clement means here, and the “peer-reviewed” Torrance is dismissed because he doesn’t hold to the correct paradigm. It’s definitely ironic.]

For me, as a Roman Catholic who was attending Mass weekly, attending Opus Dei “evenings of recollection”, in fact, wanting to *do* all the right things, it was this type of thing that sorely turned me off. There are just too many places where the unverifiable had become dogma -- from the supposed “perpetual virginity” of Mary (contra such words as “adelphoi”) to the Immaculate Conception (sourced from a late second-century gnostic/fictional work) to the [in my opinion simply brazen] “Assumption of Mary” dogma (sourced from fifth century transitus literature) -- those were places where I began looking, but there were plenty more, and the weight of the momentum of my investigations on various topics has carried me through to where I am today.

I know that there is such a thing as “obedience of faith”, that you hold that “the Church that Christ founded” had “authority”, but there are just far, far too many things where one must “exercise obedience” and put aside good and sound analyses like the one done by Torrance. He is not one of those bitterly skeptical “critical scholars”. He was one of the truly helpful theologians.

At some point I just came to say “the Church” really isn’t wiser than I am. There are too many such incidents where one has to make excuses, to hide behind the “unfalsifiable refuge”, such as your quick rejection of “the assumption of solo scriptura” or “the Catholic Interpretive paradigm” -- you all just seem to me to be hiding behind things like that.

Whether you call it “solo” or “sola Scriptura”, God HAS spoken in the Scriptures. He HAS proposed what must be believed. In Micah 6, and similar verses, he even clarifies: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”, to cite just one example.

The type of “binding” that the Roman Catholic Church has done is just a travesty when you consider what God himself has said, in many words that are, yes, telegraphed to be perspicuous. “These things were not done in a corner”.

I’m not saying that no “ministerial teaching” is required. And I allow that the church in earliest times did exercise a “ministerial” teaching function.

But the whole authority structure that evolved out of that -- and yes, I mean “evolved” in the way that’s described by even Roman Catholic scholars such as Francis Sullivan and John Meier and others I’ve mentioned – Catholics in good standing whom you choose to reject – the first and second century church did not have the kind of “divine authority” that you all here attribute to it.

I very much appreciate what the Apostles went through. They shaped the world around them by preaching the Gospel to them – a Gospel of things that could be verified by independent investigation. And I appreciate the struggles and the persecutions that the church went through in the second and third centuries. But these were just men - guided by the Spirit, yes, but in no way infallible. They erred, too, in some very important things, and over the centuries, Rome just seemingly ossified those errors under the cover of “infallibility” and for the sake of protecting its own perceived authority.

And on the other side of this, no, I do not believe Roman Catholics are damned. As I continue to think through the implications of my position, I think it’s fair to say that Roman CatholicISM retains many Christian features, which are obscured, first of all, by the supposed (yes, supposed) authority of the present Roman Catholic hierarchy. But what I see is not an infallible body, protected [in some supposed “infallibility”] by Christ, but a very large body of men simply play-acting at authority, who are doing real harm, not only to the cause of Christianity by their posturing at authority, but harm to many thousands of sex-abuse victims.

Have you all seen just how swiftly the Penn State Board of Trustees has been acting to simply uncover the whole story about the Sandusky sex abuse, and Paterno’s efforts to hide it? They can’t rid themselves of Paterno fast enough. And yet, we are talking about this body of bishops and their motivations to hide the abusers, in a completely opposite response.

IMO, at best, Roman CatholicISM is one of many denominations -- a bad one that has gotten many things wrong. I do appreciate the spirituality of someone like my mother, who remains Roman Catholic. (My sister has since become a Baptist and my brother is one of those who just simply doesn’t go to church, even on Christmas and Easter.)

I’m glad to have had an opportunity to go through this long exercise here, just to see where you do and don’t draw the lines. And how you draw them.

If you all honestly want “the Reformation” to “meet Rome”, it seems to me that you need to do a lot better job of genuinely responding to objections, rather than just hiding behind your own presuppositions.

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