Saturday, August 25, 2012

Undermining Rome’s supposed “infallibility”

In comments below, Nick said:

I'd like to get your take on This Imputation (logizomai) Article. To me, this is what everything comes down to. This might sound arrogant, but I believe there's somewhat of a 'conspiracy' on the Protestant (especially Reformed) end to run away from the plain Biblical teaching on this matter.

Devin Rose cites D.A. Carson on Romans 4:3-5, “The passage is notoriously complex” (pg 50)

Then he says:

This is quite an astonishing admission by a well respected and very conservative scholar, since Protestants teach that the Bible alone is the only inspired source for Christian teaching, including the idea that Scripture clearly teaches all essential doctrines (i.e. Scripture is “perspicuous”). So, from the get to, Carson has not only admitted that Romans 4 is “notorious complex,” but also that Paul does not clearly state Christ’s righteousness is imputed. This should leave room for a long pause to consider the implications of these admissions: the chief proof text for Justification by Faith Alone, Romans 4:3, does not, by their own admission, clearly teach what they need it to teach.

Right from the start, Rose is guilty of misrepresenting what the doctrine of Sola Scriptura actually teaches. Here is what it actually says about “perspicuity”:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

Bryan Cross is “out there” saying things like this:
“when the participants do not exercise the discipline to withhold criticism of prima facie appearances or impressions of their interlocutor’s position, without first confirming that these appearances or impressions are accurate characterizations of their interlocutor’s position. Charity calls us to avoid setting up straw men of our interlocutor’s position, and so it calls to refrain from a shoot first ask questions later approach to our neighbor’s position. That’s a virtue necessary for fruitful rational dialogue”.

And yet that is the very thing that Devin Rose does. He sets up a straw man about perspicuity, and when one New Testament scholar says that a particular verse is “notoriously complex”, he is talking not about the doctrine itself, but the exegesis which goes into following the concept through the Scriptures.

Much of what Rose reports afterward is the in-house discussion, wherein naturally there is some disagreement. That disagreement does not undermine the central truths of the Scripture (“those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them”).

“Imputation of Christ’s righteousness” is not one of “those things” “necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation”. It is rather one of those things which “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”, and it is a way of understanding how Christ’s work actually saves us.

* * *

Rose refers to “a serious lack of integrity and honesty in Protestant scholarship and thinking when approaching and speaking on this subject”. This is hogwash. Later on, he talks about “‘drive by’ exegesis”, failing to realize that incredible amounts of work on this topic have already been done by those we understand as “the Reformed Orthodox”, those theologians of the 17th century who explored this question every which way.

Lane Keister notes on one such question, “You need to read some of the older Reformed exegesis here.” I haven’t read it all, but knowing “the older Reformed exegesis”, it is very thorough and not in the least dishonest.

Carson’s article is a very thorough and honest exegetical treatment of this word and topic. Very few people have the ability to do the type of exegesis that Carson did. And there is no need to re-invent the wheel.

In dismissing John Owen, Rose says: This ‘analysis’ of Owen is some of the most in-depth philosophically that I’ve found (I only quoted a portion for brevity), but Biblically it holds no weight. He literally invents a distinction and projects it right onto the Bible. His “antecedent” distinction (i.e. speaking of a quality possessed beforehand) has no basis in Scripture; he invented it simply to make Imputation work.

First, since when is a Roman Catholic averse to a philosophical treatment? But that’s not the real issue with Owen.

Carl Trueman notes that in Owen’s multiple and complex arguments in favor of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that he “is working within an established framework of standard [Reformed] Orthodox responses to criticisms of the mainstream position”.

>“As is typical of Owen, however, this lack of originality in the basic trajectories of argument does not prevent him from engaging in significant theological elaboration, of a kind which lays bare the sophisticated underlying structure of the Reformed Orthodox theology to which he is committed, particularly as it finds its ground in the doctrine of the Trinity, specifically the covenant of redemption and its determinative impact upon both the history and the order of salvation.”

I have no objection to Owen’s pursuit of the implications of “Reformed Orthodox theology”. It’s true that not everyone accepts it. And it’s likely that there are honest objections to it.

But Devin Rose’s is not an honest objection.

On the flip side, none of these objections do anything to explain what Reymond calls “Rome’s tragically defective representation” of justification. Rome is not just wrong, it is tragically wrong, and it has doubled-down [authoritatively, because it can do nothing else but assert its own authority].

Devin Rose takes the argument form that “Protestantism has conflicts, therefore Rome is correct”. But that is very wrong. One of the chief complaints that Protestants have been having with Bryan Cross over at Green Baggins and other places is that Bryan (following Rome) never puts forth an argument for Rome’s supposed authority. The only thing forthcoming on that score is something akin to Newman’s statement that “it is not a violent assumption” to assume that the Roman Catholic Church is somehow today the bearer of the authority that Christ gave to the apostles. And if you don’t hold to that assumption, anything you say is “begging the question”. Everything a Protestant says is “Begging the question”, and that is the response over there.

But that is a violent assumption, in today’s environment, where we know so much more about the earliest church than Newman ever could imagine.

In asking for an argument for the authority of the papacy, the CTC guys have put up the “Papacy Roundup”, articles full of assertions and “philosophical” treatments of why there is some necessity for Roman style of authority. Philosophically, it is argued that there is some need for some authority who can “infallibly” posit “the formal proximate object of faith”. But never argument either from Scripture or history that such a thing was ever provided by God, or required by God. Nor that the historically-developed Roman Catholic Church was ever the bearer of the Apostles’s authority.

Rome is very much like the emperor with no clothes. Strutting around, without any Scriptural or historical foundation for itself, beyond the fact that it inherited the vacated seat of power in Rome in the fifth century. Prior to that, there was no agreement that Rome, as a church, had any authority outside of its sphere of influence.

The Protestants rightly rejected that.

Getting back to Nick:

If people are really interested in a theological novum, this is it. It's a red-herring to suggest Augustine's view of "righteousness" was the real issue if the very notion of imputation is not being addressed.

Augustine’s was the prior “novum”. His is a foundational error. The issue that I’ve brought up is to show specifically one place where Rome’s supposed “infallibility” is undermined, and specifically how it is undermined. McGrath does a very good job of detailing the problem. In order to maintain its “infallibility”, Rome must have the temerity to argue that even though Augustine made a mistake, and Roman dogma at Trent followed Augustine’s mistake, “we still got it correct because we have the authority to define it as such”.

So much for the “formal proximate object of faith”, and its foundation in error.

If Rome is not what it says it is (i.e., if Rome is not “infallible”), then all the disputing Protestants in the world don’t make Rome what it says it is.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent responses. This guy is a crazed idiot.