Thursday, July 26, 2012

Snake in the grass

Bryan CrossNo Gravatar July 20th, 2012 4:13 am :

Well, John, you know what I would say in response to this. It is your own indictment, that you think you know better than the Church. This was the stance of Naaman too, that he knew better than Elisha. It was the stance of Eve too, in the Garden. It was the stance of Judas too, that he knew better than Christ. This is the most fundamental choice we face as humans: faith, or autonomy. If Christ founded a Church, and gave her authority, then even though she will look from the outside like a very human and earthy institution, and even though there will be many tares among the wheat, yet, to trust her is to trust Christ. That’s the test… That’s the choice that lies before us. Faith in Christ (which involves trusting His Church), or remaining on the road of autonomy. Liberals are just one more step down that road; atheists are two steps down that road.

You know that I agree that God has spoken in the Scriptures. But sola scriptura and “solo scriptura” are much more than the claim that God has spoken in the Scriptures. They declare in essence that every man’s interpretation of Scripture is no less authoritative than that of the Church’s magisterium, and are in this way a denial of Church authority.

Several basic problems:

i) As usual, we’re getting a purely hypothetical argument from Bryan. If this, then that. But when does he ever get around to proving the antecedent? Where is his argument for the conditional premise? 

What if the church of Rome is the serpent in the Garden? What if Bryan is heeding a serpent in vestments?

ii) He sets up a false dichotomy. We’re not limited to choosing between autonomy or Rome. What about the word of God (e.g. Scripture)?

iii) And, of course, he equivocates over the identity of “the Church.”

iv) Sola scriptura does not make every man’s interpretation equally “authoritative.” It’s tendentious to recast the issue in terms of “authority.”

The fundamental distinction is not between authoritative and unauthoritative interpretations, but between right and wrong interpretations.

In addition, some interpretations are better reasoned than others.

v) Finally, the church of Rome has liberalized quite a bit since the days of Pius IX and Leo XIII.

Bryan CrossNo Gravatar July 19th, 2012 3:53 pm :

I explained in “The Tradition and the Lexicon” how the lexical method, when used to determine concepts or positions against which the Church Fathers are then judged to be biblical or unbiblical, presupposes “solo scriptura,” by presupposing that Tradition has no authority to which our interpretation of Scripture is subject. I also explained in that post how the lexical method presupposes that the Church failed to preserve Tradition, and in this way presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic Church. For this reason the lexical method is not a theologically or ecclesiologically neutral methodology. Per Fr. Kimel’s third law, it fails to read Scripture through the Fathers. So instead of allowing St. Clement to inform our understanding of the New Testament conception of grace, it uses our [present paradigm informed] interpretation of Scripture as the standard against which the Fathers (including St. Clement) are measured. And so the question-begging presupposition underlying the methodology is doing all the work. Of course there is nothing wrong with using a lexicon; the theological question-begging arises when we use the lexical definition as the theological norm against which Tradition is judged.

Michael LiccioneNo Gravatar July 20th, 2012 12:18 pm :

In addition to all that Bryan just said in #543, I suggest that you simply don’t grasp the significance of the concept of an interpretive paradigm (IP). Everybody brings an IP to the data whether they admit it or not; even Keith Mathison and Michael Horton recognize as much. The foundational question at issue between us at CTC and Protestants of your sort is: “How to determine which IP is rationally preferable”? In other words, which way of giving theological significance to the raw data is best suited to distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion? It is no answer to that question to just continue applying your IP to the data and presenting the results as if they were rationally unassailable. They aren’t, and if they were, then those who disagree with you after due study would be either illiterate or willfully blind. I don’t think even you are prepared to embrace that consequence. Good thing too–because it would be absurd.

So we aren’t “hiding behind” anything. Rather, instead of proceeding as if your IP were the only one, we insist that you stop begging the question and instead approach the issues at the level I’ve been talking about. To object that IPs are “unfalsifiable” is simply irrelevant. Most Christian doctrines, on either your account or the Catholic, are unfalsifiable, but that doesn’t make them unworthy of belief; it simply leaves open the question how good are the reasons for accepting the Christian claim to have received, transmitted, and interpreted divine revelation. Similarly, no IP–whether yours or ours–is falsifiable by the data it interprets; but that leaves open the question which IP is rationally preferable. To insist that admitting as much, and addressing the basic questions accordingly, is “hiding’ is itself hiding from the basic questions.

i) This is the blocking maneuver that Liccione and Cross both resort to to deflect counterevidence. Now, I’ve already discussed some basic problems with Liccione’s appeal. Notice his habit of stipulating the “foundational question,” stipulating the level at which the issue ought to be met. Liccione is begging the question by his nakedly stipulative demands.

ii) But beyond that there’s another basic problem. Both Bryan and Liccione act as if they are contrasting “the Catholic” paradigm with the Protestant paradigm. As if there’s an official Catholic paradigm, with which they operate.

But let’s compare their approach to another Catholic philosopher: Merold Westphal. Here’s his CV:

Westphal has at least as much claim to represent a Catholic interpretive paradigm as Liccione or Cross. Well, here’s something he recently wrote:

Finally, Wall says that interpretation–presumably both as exegesis and as application insofar as the two are distinguished–is subject to the rule of faith, going back to Irenaeus. However, why should any churchly summary of the gospel, an extracanonical interpretation, be the norm for subsequent interpretation?…Should not our creeds be subject to Scripture and revisable in light of our growing, or at least changing, understanding of biblical teaching?…Appeal to any creed or rule of faith needs to be conscious of its human, fallible character.

Stanley Porter & Beth Stovell, eds., Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views (IVP Academic, 2012), 173.

Liccione and Cross are both begging the question of what constitutes “the Catholic” interpretive paradigm. 


  1. "As if there’s an official Catholic paradigm...."

    Here, Here. At what point when just about everything fits within the tent do you back up and just say we actually believe nothing but what the 'church' believes, and I go to mass take the eucharist and engage the sacraments. This constant referring to the deposit of faith as if, one; catholics by and large even know what it is and two: it's a coherent evolution without contradiction has just got to stop. What the CTCers have, at best, is their own peculiar proto-catholic sect/blog. Rome is the Mass and all the attendant parts; priestcraft, pageantry, sacraments and magic/mystery.

  2. Or hear, hear if you want to parse such things

  3. Know God, No Peace!

    ... wait ...

    No God, Know Peace!

    ... wait ...

    how does that go again? :)

  4. According to my IP it's; here hear!