Saturday, December 13, 2014

Can we be sure?

Over at Beggars All I got into a lengthy exchange with a Catholic apologist ("Cletus Van Damme"). I'm posting my side of the exchange:

steve said...
Two quick points:

i) The canon is "ever-provisional" in the hypothetical or counterfactual sense that if God did not intend his people to have a stable position on the canon, then it's fluid.

But, of course, God doesn't promote instability for the sake of instability. If God intends his people to have the correct canon of Scripture, then it isn't "ever-provisional" in practice. It would only be revisable in practice if, say, there was some hidden counterevidence which God preserved for centuries before it was discovered. Say, finding a lost letter of Paul.

ii) Although extrascriptural criteria violate SS, extrascriptural evidence does not. And by "criteria," we mean superior criteria.
"A self-admitted opinion that never changes is still an opinion."

i) If you think all opinions are equal, then your own opinion is self-refuting. You evidently have a favorable "opinion" of the Roman church.

ii) If you're going to frame the issue in terms of opinion, don't you need to distinguish between true and false opinions? "That's just your opinion!" is the slogan of the alethic relativist.

ii) "Opinion" is your word, not mine. Why cast the issue in terms of "opinion" rather than "knowledge."

Is there a correct canon? If so, is that an object of knowledge?

iii) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that it's a matter of opinion, the question at issue is whether God intends his people to have a correct "opinion" on the canon. If their opinion is the result of divine intention, who cares if you call it an "opinion"?

"If the canon and its attendant doctrines are (irreformable) articles of faith and not just opinion, I fail to see how Protestantism can offer it as such without violating its own principles."

One of your problems is a failure to distinguish between ontology and epistemology. An irreformable belief corresponds to an irreformable fact. If there are only so many extant scriptures, then that's fixed–unless God intended continuous public revelation. And unless there's reason to believe that God intended continuous public revelation, then the canon is irreformable in that ontological sense. There's nothing more that could be canonized, and nothing less that should be canonized. We hit bedrock with what there is.

"If God intended SS as the rule of faith, why was the recognition of the full canon amongst his people a centuries-long process (that many still ended up blowing with the OT canon)?"

I don't equate the Orthodox church or the church of Rome with "God's people"–if that's your tacit frame of reference.

There's also a distinction between custom and codification. God's people can have and use the full canon before it's formally recognized.

"Why does the canon now have asterisks on disputed passages? If Scripture is to function as the sole infallible authority, isn't it critical that the recognized extent and scope of it be and remain irreformable from the outset?"

SS doesn't preclude the need for textual criticism. You're talking like Bart Ehrman, as if the Christian faith hinges on constant miraculous intervention to rewind or reset the watch.

"Again, if semper reformanda and 'fallible collection' hold (consistent with Protestant principles), that the opinion never actually changes according to whatever Protestant body I ally myself with does not entail such does not remain ever-provisional opinion."

It would be irrational to change a settled "opinion" unless it was poorly reasoned in the first place or new evidence comes to light which challenges the status quo.

"So the canon is not irreformably closed. It is not an article of faith that it is closed, just an opinion consonant with what we have now."

I'm discussing hypothetical scenarios. "Closed" in relation to what? Closed in relation to what's actually available? Closed in relation to some hypothetical future rediscovery?

"Right, so the only criteria that can be used in establishing the canon consistent with SS principles is self-attestation and inner witness."

Once again, you're blasting past my stated distinction between criteria and evidence. We can include extrabiblical evidence in establishing the canon.

Scripture is not a self-referential fantasy novel. Scripture refers to God's providence in the world. It's hardly at odds with Protestant theology that God sometimes provides "outside" evidence to corroborate Scripture.

A few other points:

i) There's the implicit invidious contrast between "ever-provisional" Protestant theology and "irreformable" Catholic dogma. However, that's just a paper theory. it can't be seriously argued that Catholic dogma is irreformable. Yes, there are diehard Catholic apologists who devote much special pleading to that futile cause, but Rome has clearly reversed herself on several crucial issues.

ii) Moreover, there's no virtue in being irreformably wrong. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Catholic dogma is irreformable, then so much the worse for Catholic dogma.

iii) You can't just ask whether or not Protestant theology is "ever-provisional" in a vacuum. That's context dependent. For the answer depends on other questions.

When people ask whether the canon is really closed, that invites the hypothetical question of what we'd do if a lost letter of Paul were discovered. That hypothetical pops up in debates over the finality of the canon.

Now, I don't have the slightest reason to think that's a realistic scenario. But it does crop up in these debates.

Moreover, it's not just a hypothetical question for Protestants. If you can pose that hypothetical to Protestants, you can just as well pose the same hypothetical to Catholics. Is the Tridentine canon irreformable even if a lost letter of Paul was discovered?

iv) Suppose the Protestant canon is not closed given that scenario? How would it be a problem for Protestant theology to be "provisional" in that situation? A newly-discovered letter of Paul wouldn't contradict what he taught elsewhere. So we wouldn't have to recant traditional Protestant theology.

v) There are three possible answers to this conjecture:

a) God wouldn't permit a lost letter of Paul to resurface.

b) Even if that did happen, it would be too late to make the cut.

c) If that did happen, we should incorporate it into the canon.

It's a bit presumptuous to insist on (a). However, I don't think it's the least bit likely that God has a lost letter of Paul hidden away, to be found at some later date.

I think (b) is arbitrary. I think (c) is the preferable response. That, however, assumes it could be authenticated. Of course, one could built that into the hypothetical as well.
"Why does the canon now have asterisks on disputed passages?"

It isn't just Protestant commentaries and editions of Scripture that have that. Catholic Bible scholars and textual critics face the very same issue.

And you can't brush it off by saying the Roman church doesn't rely on SS. For Catholic theology is supposedly anchored in the once-for-all-time deposit of faith. Public revelation ended.

Hence, it's a problem for Catholic theology if the Johannine Comma, Long Ending of Mark, or Pericope Adulterae (to take three disputed passages) is spurious.

Let's back up. Notice how Catholic apologists frame the issue. Their modus operandi is to stipulate some artificial threshold of (alleged) religious certainty. They then try to put Protestants on the defensive. Unless we can cross their stimulative threshold of (alleged) religious certainty, sola scripture is a failure.

There are three fundamental problems with that framework:

i) Catholicism fails to offer religious certainty even on its own terms. Catholic apologists oscillate between two conflicting arguments. When attacking Protestantism or advertising Catholicism, they tout the superior religious certainty which Rome allegedly offers.

When, however, they are defending Catholicism against examples of theological error or reversal, they do an about-face and resort to various escape clauses and face-saving distinctions to savage the infallibility/indefectability of Rome from logical or historical disproof.

They end up with a position that's unfalsifiable at the cost of being unverifiable. When promoting Rome, they lead with (alleged) certainties. When defending Rome, they fade into vagueness.

ii) Another basic problem is a fatally flawed starting-point. As a Protestant, I don't begin by setting the bar at some a priori height, then spend the rest of my time trying to get over the bar.

Rather, I begin with reality. I begin with the church God has actually given us. I begin with revelation. I accept revelation as it comes to us from God's hand. I start with how God has chosen to reveal himself. What he's chosen to reveal and what he's chosen to keep to himself.

It's not incumbent on me to decide ahead of time how God is supposed to reveal himself or govern the church. It's not incumbent on me to cast the issue in terms of artificial, postulated conditions which must be met to warrant the assent of faith. I don't begin with a category of "irreformability," then measure the success of failure of my faith in those terms.

That's an exercise in theological fiction. It begins, not with revelation, not with providence, but with a Catholic's preconceived notion of what faith should be like or the church should be like.

I reject your fictional framework. I reject your diktats.

Catholics invent problems, then invent solutions to their manufactured problems. I don't play the game by your rules. The whole exercise is a self-referential confabulation from start to finish.

iii) To the extent that Catholics offers religious certainty, these are ersatz certainties in nonentities and nonevents. Historical fantasies like Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and virginity in partu. That's certain in the same sense that Legolas is the son of the elf-king Thranduil of Mirkwood.

Catholic dogmas are true by definition, but that's the nice thing about fiction–including pious fiction. It's true that Legolas is an elf. True–but imaginary.

The whole Catholic set-up is an elaborate exercise in make-believe.

That doesn't mean I reject the possibility of religious certainty. But I don't define it on your terms.
Here's further evidence of Rome's doctrinal reversals. Just compare the positions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission under Leo XIII, long before Vatican II, with the positions of the PBC under recent popes, after Vatican II. There's been a tectonic shift away from traditional adherence to the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.

iv) The nature of tradition

"In this connection I would like to relate a small episode that I think can cast much light on the situation. Before Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven was defined, all theological faculties in the world were consulted for their opinion. Our teachers’ answer was emphatically negative…”Tradition” was identified with what could be proved on the basis of texts. Altaner, the patrologist from Wurzburg…had proven in a scientifically persuasive manner that the doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption into haven was unknown before the 5C; this doctrine, therefore, he argued, could not belong to the “apostolic tradition. And this was his conclusion, which my teachers at Munich shared. This argument is compelling if you understand “tradition” strictly as the handing down of fixed formulas and texts…But if you conceive of “tradition” as the living process whereby the Holy Spirit introduces us to the fullness of truth and teaches us how to understand what previously we could still not grasp (cf. Jn 16:12-13), then subsequent “remembering” (cf. Jn 16:4, for instance) can come to recognize what it has not caught sight of previously and was already handed down in the original Word,” J. Ratzinger, Milestones (Ignatius, n.d.), 58-59.

Let's take another example of Rome reversing herself:

Any memory of old theories of verbal inspiration was to be omitted, and hence any form of an impersonal, mechanistic interpretation of the origin of Scripture... But this little word veritas that intruded here proved to be a living cell that continued to grow. But what did it mean? Only, "religious" or even "secular7' truth, to use the language of the 1962 schema? This was the real problem that now had to be taken up with full force both inside and outside the conciliar discussion. This did not happen, and new suggestions for the solution of the inerrancy question, as modem research posed it, could be made only hesitantly.
Form F was worked out in the third session of the Council. The first change that strikes us is in the title of Article 11: "Statuitur factum inspirationis et veritatis S. Scripturae." Inerrantia is replaced by the positive term veritas, which is notably extended in the text. In the course of the discussion on the schema in the autumn of 1964, various fathers from the Eastern and the Western Churches made important speeches on the necessity of an interpretation of the inerrancy of Scripture that would be in harmony with the latest findings of exegesis. It was variously pointed out that the doctrine of inerrancy received its particular and narrower formulation in the 19th century, at a time when the means of secular historical research and criticism were used to investigate the secular historical accuracy of Scripture, and this was more or less denied - which had inevitable consequences for its theological validity. The teaching office of the Church sought to concentrate its defense at the point of immediate attack: i.e. to defend the inerrancy of Scripture even in the veritates profanae generally defending the claim of the Bible and of Christianity to be revelation. To defend scriptural inerrancy in this sphere of secular truths various theories were employed which sought to prove the absolute inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of these conditions and attitudes. Because of the apologetical viewpoint from which they started, they were in danger of producing a narrowness and a false accentuation7 in the doctrine of inerrancy. Also in the area of the interpretation of Scripture and the rules pertaining to this we can see a similar phenomenon, which the Council observed in different spheres of theology and endeavoured to nullify: namely, the tendency to an apologetical isolation and the claim to absolutism of a partial view. With this kind of motivation for the defense of the inerrancy of Scripture in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, there was a weakening of the awareness that Scripture as the inspired, written word of God is supposed above all to serve the preservation and expansion of the saving revelation and reality given through Christ in the world. Of course it was always realized that this was the real purpose of Scripture. In the question of inerrancy, however, the emphasis was placed on the one-sided and isolated - accentuation of the veritates profanae. This tended to create uncertainty rather than a joyful confidence that God's truth and salvation remain present in the world in an unfalsified and permanent form--namely through the inspired word. It was necessary to reawaken this awareness. The doctrine of inerrancy needed its own centre and the right accentuation.
In this respect the most important contribution was undoubtedly the speech by Cardinal Koenig on 2 October 1964. Several other fathers who took part in the discussion from 2 to 6 October either verbally or in writing came back to this point. The Cardinal first of all pointed out the new situation that exists in relation to the question of inerrancy. As a result of intensive Oriental studies our picture of the veritas historica and the fides historica of Scripture has been clarified. Many of the 19th century objections to the Old Testament in particular and its reliability as an account of historical fact are now irrelevant But Oriental studies have also produced another finding: “ . . . laudata scientia rerum orientalium insuper demonstrat in Bibliis Sacris notitias historicas et notitias scientiae naturalis a veritate quandoque deficere." Thus Cardinal Koenig admitted that not all the difficulties could be solved.
The fact that this speech could be held in a plenary session without any protest being made is surely significant... Thus Cardinal Koenig implicitly gives up that premise that comes from the aprioristic and unhistorical thinking that has dominated teaching on inerrancy since the age of the Fathers: if one admits that a sacred writer has made a mistake, then one is necessarily admitting that God has made a mistake with the human author. The actual aim of inspiration allows us to find a better solution: one can still maintain the true influence of God on the human authors without making him responsible for their weaknesses. These relate only to the form or the outer garment of the Gospel, and not the latter itself, however much the two might be inwardly connected- indeed, without this genuine humanity, with all its limitations, Scripture would appear like a foreign body in our world. But God speaks to us in this way, in our language, from out of our midst.
A number of Council fathers followed the example of Cardinal Koenig and refer to him as an authority: others, admittedly in the minority, produced the traditional statements, without, however, dealing with the new points raised by Cardinal Koenig. H. Vorgrimler, ed. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Herder & Herder, 1969), 3:204-207

Back to Cletus:
"God's people who got the NT right (to varying degrees) in the early centuries blew it with the OT. And then they also blew it with other widely held doctrines you reject."

i) That's simplistic. Some people got it right (e.g. Jerome) and some got it wrong.

ii) Moreover, early church fathers were better positioned to be historical witnesses to the NT canon than the OT canon.

Apart from the NT witness to the OT canon, the Jews were better positioned to be historical witnesses to the OT canon than most church fathers.

"Protestantism can easily deflect the charge by actually offering infallible/irreformable teachings/interpretations."

The Bible contains infallible teachings. LIkewise, the NT contains infallible interpretations of the OT.

That's good enough for me. Pity it's not good enough for you.

"Right so again 'articles of faith' are no such thing in Protestantism - they are simply reasoned opinions based on the best available evidence we have according to whatever erudite scholars we sub-select for who bring their own biases, analytical methodologies, expertise, etc to the data set (that data set itself being a matter of opinion)."

i) You're straining to typecast me in your imaginary drama. But I don't select for commentators who agree with me. I don't know ahead of time how many will agree with me. I own commentaries by liberals, conservatives, Catholics, charismatics, Arminians, Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Dispensationalists, Calvinists, &c. You've miscast me in your imaginary drama.

ii) You're recycling postmodernist cliches about how everyone is biased. One problem with that line of attack is that it boomerangs on Catholicism. The Latin Fathers were culturally conditioned. The Scholastic theologians were culturally conditioned. The popes were culturally conditioned. Rome's representatives are not exempt from bias, social conditioning, &c. Do you think the views of Pope Francis aren't shaped by Latin American history?

iii) There's not much methodological difference between contemporary Catholic and Protestant commentators. Catholic Bible scholars like Ray Brown, John Meier, Joseph Fitzmyer, Luke Timothy Johnson, Mgr. Jerome Quinn, John J. Collins, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor et al. use the same toolkit as Protestant Bible scholars. The main difference is that contemporary Catholic Bible scholars are overwhelmingly liberal.

iv) I admit that my own viewpoint is historically situated. No doubt my views are influenced by where and when I was born and raised. I don't apologize for that. That's a reflection of divine providence. Assuming that's a problem, it's beyond my control.

Popes, Catholic bishops, Catholic theologians et al. don't form their views in a hermetically-sealed bubble chamber.
Catholic apologists bask in safe abstractions about the religious certainty afforded by Rome. But it looks very different at ground level.

For instance, consider how complicated and iffy it is to interpret just one famous papal proclamation:

Likewise, Cardinal Dulles penned a monograph on the magisterium, which I reviewed:

"The Reformers would carry more weight if they did 'wonders and mighty deeds' to prove themselves approved by God. This was one of Francis de Sales arguments. But they fell far short of that."

i) How many popes, priests, Latin Fathers, scholastic theologians, bishops, and cardinals perform miracles to prove themselves approved by God? Your argument cuts both ways.

ii) In addition, your argument is a red herring. The Reformers weren't prophets. Signs and wonders are irrelevant in this situation.

The only salient question is whether their exegetical and church historical arguments are superior to those of Rome. The fact that you deflect their arguments by broaching the question of miraculous confirmation is a backdoor admission that your side lost the argument.

One doesn't need to perform a miracle to present a logical argument from Scripture. A miracle won't make an illogical argument logical or a logical argument more logical than it already is.

And the way to be approved by God is to be faithful to his Word. The Reformers don't require any divine authorization over and above the divine authorization of Scripture itself. A sound interpretation of Scripture carries the divine authority of Scripture. For a sound interpretation of Scripture captures the sense of Scripture. Likewise, a necessary inference from Scripture carries the divine authority of Scripture.

"Because the prophets and itinerant preachers performed signs and wonders to demonstrate their authority as revelation was still developing."

There's no evidence that every OT prophet and/or Bible writer performed miracles.

"The Reformers offer no such miracles…"

Aside from your double standard (see above), there are many reported miracles involving the Huguenots and the Covenanters (among other Protestants), so be careful what you ask for:

Let's grant that Rome allows for an open canon if a lost letter of Paul was discovered. Is that catastrophic to the STM-triad of authority? No. Just as asterisked passages are not.

Really? The deposit of faith can be added to?

"Now is an open canon and disputed passages catastrophic to SS as the sole final authority? I would think so - if Scripture interprets Scripture and is the sole final authority, it seems rather important that the scope and extent of the recognized canon be irreformable and closed. How can you have a sole infallible standard when that standard itself is reformable?"

i) To begin with, this is just a hypothetical. And it's not "open" in the sense of new future revelation. Rather, the hypothetical concerns old past revelation.

ii) Since a lost letter of Paul would be Scripture, finding a lost letter of Paul would hardly be incompatible with sola scripture. If we now had a 14th letter of Paul, that doesn't change the Scripture-only principle. It's not something other than Scripture.

iii) An additional Pauline letter wouldn't contradict Scripture. It wouldn't violate "Scripture interprets Scripture."

"The only stipulation I'm making is that articles of faith are irreformable. If you think that is "setting the bar at some a priori height" you're free to demonstrate how."

i) Yes, "irreformable" is an a priori stipulation. There's no justification for that demand. For instance, why should we insist on *irreformable* articles of faith rather than *true* articles of faith?

ii) Moreover, that's not your only stipulation. Another artificial stipulation is what you posit to "warrant to the assent of faith."

"When, however, conservatives are defending inerrancy against examples of error or corruption, they do an about-face and resort to various escape clauses and face-saving distinctions to salvage the inspiration/inerrancy of Scripture from logical or historical disproof."

Two basic problems with your attempted tu quoque:

i) I've documented cases, including from Catholic sources, where Rome reversed course. Even if your tu quoque were successful, proving that Protestants have a parallel problem does nothing to disprove your own.

ii) Unlike me, you haven't documented your allegation.

"Rome's claims can be falsified."

How are the Immaculate Conception, virginity in partu, and Assumption of Mary falsifiable? How is transubstantiation falsifiable?

"However, in examining a system, it is important to evaluate that system by its *own* defined standards and criteria."

It's legitimate to evaluate a system on either internal and external grounds.

"Rome has defined her standards for infallibility, you may think it should operate differently, but you can't then disprove its claim by foisting your foreign standard upon it (your examples of alleged contradiction suffer from this)."

i) To the contrary, I can judge a system by a foreign standard so long as I justify my foreign standard.

ii) And if, for the sake of argument, we grant your contention, then you can't invoke Catholic criteria to disprove Protestantism.

"Just as you would not let atheists get away with foisting their standard upon how inerrancy should work in examining your position."

I don't simply deny their standards. I challenge their standards.

"So God intended and illuminated the minds of God's people to get the NT right (well, most of it depending on who and where) in the early centuries, but clouded their minds so they blew the OT but kept it clear among those who rejected his Son and were no longer His people. Odd."

Historical knowledge doesn't depend on illumination, but personal or historical memory.

"And again appealing to this consensus of "God's people" in establishing the canon is invalid…"

I didn't deploy a consensus argument to establish the canon.

"…you can’t use a posteriori knowledge in justifying/recognizing the canon since that wasn’t used in the process of its initial recognition."

That's an illogical principle. Take the stock distinction between knowledge by description and knowledge by acquaintance. I had a great-grandfather who believed in the Civil War because he fought in the Civil War. But that's not why I believe in the Civil War. I believe in the Civil War because I've read things about it and seen period photographs.

There can be evidence for the canon which wasn't used in the process of initial recognition. Neglected evidence is still evidentiary and probative.

"On what basis do you offer that? Does every book of the bible (indeed every verse given textual criticism) claim infallibility for itself?"

For starters:

"By deflating the church’s authority and notions of infallibility, Protestantism in one swoop opens the door for liberalism to do the same with Scripture."

Your denomination is increasingly dominated by liberals. You have a paper theory that's at odds with the facts on the ground.

"So what happens when you interpret the NT? Can such an interpretation or teaching ever become irreformable based on Protestantism's starting principles?"

Once again, you're imposing your tendentious categories on me. It's sufficient that a teaching be true.

"Right - and I would assume you admit your own fallibility and inherent limitations."

And I admit the fallibility and inherent limitations of bishops, popes, church fathers, and scholastic theologians.

"And this is all upstream from the point where you apply your current provisional filtering of that state of analysis to accept certain conclusions as opposed to other ones."

You mean…the way popes, church fathers, scholastic theologians et al. apply their timebound provisional filtering to accept certain conclusions as opposed to other ones?

"Such criteria does not and cannot form the basis for articles of faith. You trade submission to an infallible magisterium that can offer articles of faith to a self-admitted fallible scholarly magisterium that has erudite scholars on all sides of various questions that can offer you nothing more than plausible opinion by its own admission."

No, I trade submission to a fallible magisterium with infallible pretensions that's incompetent to offer articles of faith to consulting scholars and theologians who must argue for their conclusions by appeal to reason and evidence. Whose process of arriving at their conclusions is transparent and accountable to the scrutiny of the reader. Scholarship is not a magisterium. Reading commentaries is not an act of submission. It's not an argument from authority. You're indulging in sloppy, boilerplate rhetoric.

"One who submitted to Christ/Apostles did not thereafter continually hold their past and future teachings hostage to his own personal interpretation or arbitrary threshold of acceptance before he would submit to them."

i) To begin with, subscription to Catholicism is "hostage" to your own plausibility structures.

ii) You're the one who's setting up an arbitrary threshold of acceptance before you submit to Christ, the apostles, and the prophets.

"If all religious truths reduces to probable/confident opinion, we're stuck in sheer fideism, or you reduce articles of faith to natural knowledge and we become stark rationalists."

i) You are pointing Protestants to a Catholic target, then telling us that that's the target we should aim for. Unless we hit that target, our religious epistemology is a failure.

But that simply begs the question. If your target is the wrong target, then the fact that we miss your target does nothing to disprove or even undermine the Protestant position.

All you've done, all any Catholic apologist ever does, is to posit that sola scripture fails because it falls short of your target. So what? Hitting your arbitrary target isn't what God requires of me–or you, for that matter. It's just an exercise in misdirection. And evasion of your true religious duties.

ii) Moreover, your argument is just a rehash of the same stale argument that Michael Liccione has been dishing out for years. I've been over that ground repeatedly. For instance:

"There's no boomerang because RCism claims divine authority and protection in offering its doctrines."

The operative word is "claims." You haven't begun to demonstrate that claim. What you've done is to begin with your preconception of what you think Christianity should be like, then shop around for an available religious tradition that suits your preconception. You haven't justified your preconception. Rather, you take that for granted. You begin with your self-imposed necessity, then cast about for something to feed it.

By contrast, I begin with revelation. What are my duties to God? That's something to be discovered, not posited. Something I find out by reading God's word. You dictate to God, I listen to God.

"So atheist or liberal biblical scholars aren't biased in their methodology?"

You mean the liberal bias of contemporary Catholic Bible scholars?

"Rome sees ghm exegesis as useful, but limited and not the sole final tool in which to ascertain divine truth - that's already a methodological difference. GHM does not answer whether it is to be the primary (let alone ultimate) method to be used in ascertaining divine truth, or if it is to be combined with other methods, nor does it answer how it should best be applied to the biblical data (hence the differing conclusions amongst ghm-only proponents). And it is itself subject to change as scholarly/historical analysis and evidence in the fields that inform it grows and develops - it's built on shifting sands of changing data and abductive/inductive reasoning and tentative probable conclusions. So it again doesn't get you out of the sea of opinion. So while Roman scholars may use some of the same toolkit as Protestants, they also have a much larger shop with supervisors they are working in - they aren't stuck with the toolkit alone."

i) To begin with, there's a difference between the party line and how modern Catholic Bible scholars actually exegete Scripture.

Officially, Rome can't dispense with the allegorical method because too much Catholic dogma is traditionally invested in the allegorical method. You can only prooftext Catholic dogma from Scripture by resort to fanciful interpretations. Take the comical prooftexting of Ineffabilis Deus.

So Rome must hold in tension two or more conflicting hermeneutical methods. It's quite a strain.

ii) But that stands in contrast to how modern Catholic Bible scholars actually exegete Scripture. For instance:

"Sure - which is partly why infallibility is a negative protection against error and has specific criteria to be met."

Which assumes what you need to prove.

"Rome's claims can be falsified."

In one sense, I agree with you. Rome's claims are eminently falsifiable–when judged by impartial criteria. Not just falsifiable, but falsified.

"However, in examining a system, it is important to evaluate that system by its *own* defined standards and criteria."

i) Ah, there's the catch. So now you're claiming that it's only falsifiable by its own standards and criteria. Of course, that's a way of rendering a system unfalsifiable. The standards and criteria are formulated so that nothing in practice can ever count as evidence against it.

ii) Admittedly, that takes a certain amount of foresight. Since Rome is having to make things up on the fly, it may trip itself up even on internal grounds.

iii) Apropos (ii), let's go back to your notion of a tiebreaker. The pope is the tiebreaker.

Even if we grant that for the sake of argument, who breaks the tie when the legitimacy of the pope is the very issue in dispute? A pope can't be the tiebreaker to adjudicate which claimant is the true pope and which is the antipope, for that's viciously circular. Only the true pope can play that role. So you need a tiebreaker above the pope to resolve that dilemma. And that isn't just hypothetical.

"Is that catastrophic to the STM-triad of authority?"

Let's clear that up. Rome doesn't have a triadic authority. It isn't STM. It's only M. Indeed, just a subset of M. The triad is illusory.

It isn't scripture plus tradition plus the magisterium, for scripture only means what the magisterium says it means, and tradition only means what the magisterium says it means. Scripture and traditional have no independent authority. Only the magisterium.

So it boils down to the magisterium, which boils down to the papacy, which boils down to the current pope. It isn't the magisterium in general, or even the papacy in general. In Catholicism, Christianity is whatever the current pope says it is.
Speaking of the "infallible" church of Rome, here's what the Pope emeritus said about the "infallible" Vatican II council:

Ratzinger’s commentary on the first chapter of Gaudium et Spes contains still other provocative comments. The treatment of conscience in article 16, in his view, raises many unsolved questions about how conscience can err and about the right to follow an erroneous conscience. The treatment of free will in article 17 is in his judgment “downright Pelagian.” It leaves aside, he complains, the whole complex of problems that Luther handled under the term “ servum arbitrium”...

Back to Cletus et al.:
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19).
"Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 18:18).

For muddledheaded Catholics like Guy, the keys of the kingdom and binding and loosing are two separate prerogatives. Therefore, even though the power to bind and loose is granted to the congregation generally in Mt 18:18, Guy cluelessly assumes that Mt 16:19 still reserves a unique prerogative for Peter.

It does't occur to him that these are two (or three) related metaphors to express these same idea: locking/unlocking, opening/closing, binding/loosing. The power of the keys simply is the power to bind and loose, and vice versa.

"Binding and loosing" is epexegetical for the keys. The "keys" is, itself, a partial metaphor. The full metaphor is locking or unlocking doors, which, in turn, involves opening or closing doors. And that's further defined by the Rabbinic idiom of binding and loosing.

Scripture frequently uses multiple metaphors and synonymous parallels to vividly depict the same concept.

A further indication that these two metaphors are synonymous is their shared "heavenly" motif–with the contrast, by turns implicit and explicit–between heaven and earth.
"So sound interpretations that carry divine authority are infallible right?"

You have a hang-up about infallibility. An interpretation needn't be infallible to be right. Fallible people are right some of the time.

i) Your demand for an infallible interpretation is unreasonable. It's sufficient that an interpretation be right. What necessary contribution does infallibility make to a correct interpretation?

ii) Moreover, your infallibilist alternative is chimerical. The church of Rome can't make good on that claim.

"STM-triad guards the deposit of faith."

You're ducking the issue of whether a newly-found letter of Paul would add to the deposit of faith, and, if so, whether that's compatible with the traditional definition of the deposit of faith.

"Scripture interprets Scripture and Scripture is the sole infallible authority is your rule of faith. I'm interested in knowing how that works if the recognized scope and extent of the canon is reformable."

The addition of a newly-found letter of Paul wouldn't change the principle.

"But does SS work with just the OT canon?"

That's how it worked during the Intertestamental period.

"Secondly this still doesn't answer how you establish the 'irreformable' baseline standard to compare the new Pauline letter against."

i) You're a slow learner. As I've said before, I don't grant your operating framework. God doesn't require me to posit an "irreformable" baseline. You keep imposing that extraneous category onto the discussion. But that's not a divine mandate.

ii) Who said a newly-found Pauline letter must be compared against a baseline standard? Every Pauline letter is a standard in its own right.

"Divine revelation is true but not irreformable?"

i) You've done nothing to justify your a priori insistence that articles of faith must meet a condition of "irreformability" over and above the condition of being true.

ii) Moreover, "irreformability" is ambiguous. Divine revelation is "irreformable" insofar as truth never needs to be corrected. However, it's reformable insofar as progressive revelation (during the period of public revelation) augments divine revelation and/or articles of faith.
"As I said, to put your faith into mere plausible opinion (whether it be true or not) is either sheer fideism or stark rationalism."

Once again, you disregard the elementary distinction between true and false belief. You also fail to show why true belief never counts as knowledge.

"Yes and atheists have documented cases, including from liberal Protestants, where Scripture is errant. Further, there are two relevant questions - whether Rome has actually reversed course and whether it has reversed course in such a way that damages or is relevant to infallibility."

Your tactics to take refuge in safe, fact-free abstractions. You have a paper theory which you refuse to compare with the actual output of your denomination.

"that's a fair non question-begging approach."

You exhibit a pattern of defective responses. You raise an objection, I present a counterargument, then you repeat your original objection without engaging the counterargument.

As I already pointed out to you, it's not question-begging to judge a belief-system by external standards so long as the critic justifies his own standards.

Your persistent deficiency in refusing to acknowledge and engage counterarguments betrays a lack of good faith on your part.

"You seem to freely admit it can't offer irreformable doctrines. Great."

I reject your arbitrary and impious conceptual scheme.

"Okay so the 'God's people' stuff you were arguing before is irrelevant?"

Are you attempting to be clever, or are you really that uncomprehending? I didn't appeal to God's people as a criterion or evidence for the canon. Go back and reread the context of my remarks.

"Why did you forget your own advice - Even if your tu quoque were successful, proving that Protestants have a parallel problem does nothing to disprove your own."

i) It's revealing how you consistently evade your own burden of proof. That's a tacit admission that your own position is indefensible, which is why you constantly shift the onus onto the Protestant.

ii) I've defended sola scriptura in detail on numerous occasions.

"You sidestep the entire argument pertinent to the difference between Protestantism and Rome's rule of faith (and associated warrant) to deflect."

You haven't presented a scintilla of evidence that the Catholic rule of faith is true, much less rebutted evidence to the contrary.

All you've done is to pull out of thin air the claim that your alternative must be true.

"Wonderful - so articles of faith are just reasonable conclusions. Faith is just rationalism. You weigh and evaluate all these evidences to come to your tentative probable 'true' conclusions you assent to. It can never rise above that because of the very starting principles you agree to."

You're working with some shadowy epistemology which you haven't bothered to spell out. Sounds like crude foundationalism, which its appeal to "first principles."

Suppose reliabilism is a good model of knowledge/justified true belief. If my beliefs are the result of a reliable belief-forming process, then my beliefs count as knowledge.

i) Let's plug that into Calvinism. God can give the elect knowledge by providentially arranging their experience to put them in contact with true theological information, which they are socially conditioned to believe. Say God predestines them to be born and raised in a Christian home where they have access to the Bible–as well as indoctrinated in a theologically sound church.

By prearranging the circumstances of their lives, God fosters faith. And their faith is "warranted" by a divinely-guided process which aims at the formation of true beliefs. These aren't accidentally true beliefs, but divinely intended true beliefs.

That wouldn't be mere "opinion." That would be justified true belief.

You can try to take issue with reliabilism, but whatever your unstated alternative epistemology happens to be, that, too, will be subject to philosophical scrutiny.

ii) One of your problems is the gratuitous assumption that we can only arrive at knowledge by the application of an external criterion. That, in turn, suffers from two fundamental objections:

a) It generates an infinite regress. What's the criterion for your criterion?

b) It fails to distinguish between first-order knowledge and second-order knowledge. It confuses knowledge with proof.

"It's a fallible scholary magisterium."

I already corrected you on your cutesy parallel between the Roman magisterium and a "scholarly magisterium."

"You run around amassing all your commentaries and books touching on all the relevant fields…"

You're simply repeating yourself and failing to absorb my prior response. All of us are at the mercy of providence for what we know and believe. God puts some people in an advantageous situation where they can (and do) arrive at the truth while putting others in a disadvantageous situation where the truth is inaccessible.

That's out of my hands. If God intends me to be mistaken, I can't do any better.

I don't fret over matters beyond my control. That's really not my responsibility.

It's not as if your supposed alternative can bypass the circumstances in which God places each individual.

"Yes the arbitrary threshold that divine revelation is infallible and irreformable."

You're playing a bait-n-switch. The question at issue isn't whether divine revelation is infallible, but whether faith must be infallible. Or do you just not know the difference?

"Protestantism doesn't make the claim and actively rejects it in the first place, so it removes itself of its own accord."

You haven't begun to demonstrate that what you require of Christians is what God requires of Christians. Rather, you impose artificial standards and conditions in defiance of what God actually demands. Protestantism doesn't claim more than God claims.

"So Christ and the Apostles claims to divine authority were completely superfluous then?"

Christ and the Apostles didn't make your claims about "irreformability" or what "warrants the assent of faith." That's your claim, not theirs, which you make in spite of what they say.

What is the warrant for believing Jn 20:31? Not the papacy. Not the Roman Magisterium. That's not what's given in the text.

A reader doesn't need any warrant over and above the document itself. That's how it's stated.

By contrast, you're telling the reader that he doesn't have a right to accept what Jn 20:31 says unless he also submits to the pope. You're telling the reader not to believe what it says. You're telling the reader to disbelieve the claim unless the Magisterium authorizes him to believe it.

Your position is nothing short of impious.

"Have to have a way to coherently identify revelation first according to your starting principles."

i) To begin with, I've done that on many occasions.

ii) However, your methodology is flawed. We don't need "first principles to identity revelation. God can simply put Jews and Christians in a time and place where they *have* divine revelation. God identifies it for them by handing them the finished product. For instance, God providentially gives them a copy of a Protestant Bible.

iii) You're confusing faith with apologetics. We don't need to begin with first principles to know things or have access to the truth. That can be useful for confirming or disconfirming our religious legacy.

"So Rome doesn't use the same toolkit as Protestants."

That's a simpleminded retort. On the one hand there's the quasi-official position of Rome. Take the PBC's "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" (1993). That, itself, is a compromise document, subject to revision.

On the other hand, there's the way in which contemporary Catholic Bible scholars actually go about their business. And their religious superiors are aware of this. In practice, they use the same toolkit as Protestants.

"If this was true, M would not be beholden to S and T. It could chuck out Romans and say Mary is eternal or that Nicaea never happened or that Orange endorsed Pelagianism. It could just make up whatever it wants."

Catholicism plays a double game. On the one hand it claims that even the pope can't change dogma. Even the pope is bound by the deposit of faith.

On the other hand, since the pope is the supreme interpreter of Scripture and tradition alike, they have no independent meaning or authority. So, *by definition*, the pope hasn't contradicted dogma or the deposit of faith even if he chucks Romans or says Orange endorses Pelagianism.

For he's not contradicting dogma or the deposit of faith. He's "interpreting" dogma or the deposit of faith. That's the sense in which your system is unfalsifiable.

A Catholic can't over over the head of the pope by appealing directly to Scripture or tradition.
"You run around amassing all your commentaries and books touching on all the relevant fields and try to assimilate as much as you can and weigh all the conflicting tentative conclusions and arguments of these scholars with their varying presuppositions and analytical methodologies. Of course you will never become competent or an expert in all these fields. And even if you magically could, such would still just be your expert opinion (which is nothing more than the most erudite specialists can offer). So your conclusions remain ever-provisional."
"they are simply reasoned opinions based on the best available evidence we have according to whatever erudite scholars we sub-select for"

Let's see. Catholic apologists run around amassing evidence for Rome from sundry sources. Catholic apologists will never become competent or expert in OT studies, NT studies, patristics, church history, canon law, liturgics, dogmatic theology, &c.

Thus their case for Roman Catholicism can never rise higher than the conflicting tentative conclusions of the scholars they sub-select for. Their faith in the Roman church is never more than ever-provisional opinion.
"Bingo. The claim is a necessary, though not sufficient. Rome makes the claim. So do EO and Mormons and Crazy Dave on the street and David Koresh. The next stage would be evaluating the credibility of those claims. Protestantism doesn't make the claim and actively rejects it in the first place, so it removes itself of its own accord."

Free free to count yourself out. God isn't groveling for your consideration.
"The principle of Bible Alone is a totally unworkable principle."

The Magisterium is a totally unworkable principle:

We are in fact constantly confronted with problems where it isn’t possible to find the right answer in a short time. Above all in the case of problems having to do with ethics, particularly medical ethics...We finally had to say, after very long studies, "Answer that for now on the local level; we aren’t far enough along to have full certainty about that.

"Again, in the area of medical ethics, new possibilities, and with them new borderline situations, are constantly arising where it is not immediately evident how to apply principles. We can’t simply conjure up certitude...There needn’t always be universal answers. We also have to realize our limits and forgo answers where they aren’t simply is not the case that we want to go around giving answers in every situation..." (J. Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth [Ignatius, 1996], 100-101).

Back to Cletus:
"You tied sound interpretation to divine authority. Is divine authority fallible?"

You're being evasive and equivocal. An interpretation of divine revelation needn't be infallible to be authoritative. If revelation is infallible, then a fallible, but correct interpretation, has derivative authority.

I asked: "What necessary contribution does infallibility make to a correct interpretation?"

You reply: "So why does Protestantism fear it like the plague?"

Notice that Cletus didn't answer the question.

"Rome doesn't offer any infallible/irreformable teaching? If it offers one such article, it's made good on (and is consistent with) the claim."

The operative word is "if." You've done nothing to demonstrate that the conditional is true.

"Public revelation has ended with the death of the last apostle, resulting in a fixed deposit of faith. That is irreformable doctrine. A newly discovered letter would not alter that public revelation has ended."

And if that's the case, then a newly-discovered Pauline letter wouldn't alter sola scriptura.

"You're free to offer how Protestantism can affirm that public revelation has ended as irreformable."

You seem to lack adaptive intelligence. You try to dictate the terms of the debate (e.g. irreformability). I've explained to you why I reject your framework.

When I do so, you offer no counterargument. Rather, you simply push the rewind button and replay your prerecorded message.

That's fine with me. All you have is slogans. You have nothing to back up the slogans.

"Isn't a 'canonical hermeneutic' essential to SS?"

The OT was the "canonical hermeneutic" during the Intertestamental period. The OT and NT form the "canonical hermeneutic" after NT times.

"So the oral torah/tradition was not in effect during the IT period?"

Another example of your persistent equivocations.

i) To begin with, the oral torah was often wrong. Jesus frequently took exception to the oral torah in public debates with the Jewish authorities.

ii) To the extent that oral torah/tradition sometimes represented a valid interpretation or valid application of the OT, that's a derivative authority. It has no inherent authority.

"Is it a divine mandate that Scripture is infallible?"

Modern Catholicism treats Scripture as eminently fallible.

"I see. So how do you evaluate psuedo-Pauline letters from the genuine article? Doesn't a 'canonical hermeneutic' apply in evaluating credibility of proposed writings?"

i) We're dealing with a hypothetical case, so it depends on what type of hypothetical verification we propose. That doesn't require a canonical hermeneutic.

ii) Furthermore, a "canonical hermeneutic" isn't necessary to validate actual individual books of Scripture.

"Can something be true without being irreformable?"

i) Why do you need something to be more than truth? Why do you act like truth is inadequate?

ii) And, yes, I already explained to you how something can be reformable in one respect, but irreformable in another. You're not paying attention.

"I see - so we are still in the era of progressive revelation now?"

Are you uncomprehending? I didn't say or suggest we're still in the era of progressive revelation. Rather, I made the point that during the period of progressive revelation, divine revelation is both "reformable" and "irreformable" in different respects.

Do you think it's clever for you to offer these snappy, unintelligent comebacks? Don't try to be clever at the expense of intellectual honesty or comprehension.
"If not, why the persistent a priori denial of irreformability applied to articles of faith?"

You think it's cute to take my words (e.g. "a priori") and put them into your replies. You need to master the distinction between parallel phrasing and parallel arguments. You're not presenting parallel argument. You're just resorting to a superficial verbal tactic.

The truth of divine revelation a pervasive biblical theme. My appeal to the truth-criterion is not a priori. By contrast, your irreformability-criterion is an a prior imposition on what God requires of us.

i) I don't deny that a priori. I deny that because it runs counter to our revealed duties. That's a posteriori.

ii) Moreover, inasmuch as you persistently refuse to present any evidence for your criterion, I'm well within my rights to deny it.

"If a Jew randomly falls to Christ's feet and starts following him even though he's heard nothing about his claims to divine authority, even though objectively he is right, would he have actually been submitting in faith and commended by God? Protestants get lots of things right. But they are just correct *opinions*. It never gets above that, due to the nature of the starting claims/principles - it shot itself in the foot before the race even started."

i) I notice that when your claims are challenged, you have nothing in reserve. So you just repeat the original claim. You don't rebut the counterargument.

ii) You mindlessly recite your mantra about "opinions." I've already corrected you on that. Let's go back to my example of reliabilism.

Traditionally, knowledge was defined as true belief. However, true belief is a necessary, but insufficient condition for knowledge inasmuch as the cognizer may have a true belief without adequate grounds or evidence. The link between truth and belief may just be coincidental. A lucky guess.

So the challenge was how to redefine knowledge to avoid "epistemic luck." What added condition (i.e. "justification," "warrant") in tandem with true belief converts true belief into knowledge?

According to process reliabilism, knowledge is true belief caused in a suitable way. A cognizer knows a proposition if the proposition is true and his belief is produced by a reliable process. Likewise, that's how his belief is justified.

I then sketched a model whereby God providentially cultivates true justified (or warranted) theological beliefs by having predestined some people to be indoctrinated in an epistemic environment where they are exposed to true theological propositions, and where, as a result of monergistic regeneration, they are receptive to the revealed truths they read or hear.

That isn't mere "opinion." It's not a matter of luck or coincidence that they have true theological beliefs. Rather, that's the result of a divinely-orchestrated process aimed at the cultivation true beliefs. As such, that counts as knowledge.

Now, you may try to attack the reality of that scenario. But you haven't even shown that, as a matter of principle, such beliefs fall short of knowledge (i.e. defeasible opinions).

iii) Moreover, it's not as if you have even outlined your own preferred epistemology. All I've gotten from you is a vague appeal to "first principles." So what is your religious epistemology, or epistemology in general? Is it some version of foundationalism?

"Do you think conservative RC scholars do not exist?"

i) To begin with, there are no contemporary RC Bible scholars of any prominence who affirm the inerrancy of Scripture.

ii) Moreover, if a denomination is so latitudinarian that it tolerates liberals and conservatives alike–with liberals in the dominant position, no less–then that's a theologically compromised denomination. To have a few token conservatives is hardly exculpatory.
"Christ/Apostles didn't value sheer fideism and incoherent rules of faith."

i) To begin with, all you've done is to assert that the Protestant rule of faith is incoherent or fideistic.

ii) You don't accept what Christ or the Apostles say on their own authority. You only accept what your denomination gives you permission to accept.

"You employ tu quoques all over the place as if they are sufficient."

And I'm prepared to back them up if challenged. You, by contrast, resort to tu quoques as a rhetorical gimmick with nothing in reserve when challenged.

"No I'm answering you on your own terms."

To the contrary, I give evidence for my claims. You do nothing of the kind.

"Is justified true belief irreformable or not?"

You're playing hopscotch, where you jump back and forth from one square to the other.

The question at issue is whether a justified true belief is knowledge in contrast to true opinion. You haven't shown that irreformability is a necessary condition for knowledge.

And if it's not a necessary condition for knowledge, then why do you demand an additional condition over and above knowledge?

"Secondly, how would one falsify 'divinely-guided process which aims at the formation of true beliefs' which you criticize Rome for lacking? Any Muslim or Mormon could use your exact same argument - I doubt you'd be swayed."

One of your problems is an inability on your part to keep track of either your own argument or mine.

i) The question at issue, as you yourself often cast the issue, is whether Protestant beliefs are necessarily reducible to "mere opinion." You are asserting that, as a matter of *principle*, these never rise above the level of "opinion."

To rebut your argument, my model of theistic process reliabilism needn't be true. I don't have to prove that that's actually the case.

That's because this is a question of principle. In responding to you on your own grounds, it's sufficient for me to show that Protestant beliefs are not "mere opinion" as a matter of principle. Get it?

ii) Second, my model of theistic process reliabilism dovetails nicely with the Reformed doctrine of providence. So the evidence for the Reformed doctrine of providence also counts as evidence for theistic process reliabilism.

iii) Since Mormonism doesn't espouse meticulous providence, a Mormon couldn't use the exact same argument. Not even close.

Muslim metaphysics ranges a long a spectrum. However, even if a Muslim could use "the same exact argument," that's a red herring. I'm not using this argument to prove Protestantism.

Even if a Muslim could use the same argument in isolation, that doesn't mean he can use it to defend Islam apart from all other considerations.

iv) BTW, given the favorable things that Vatican II says about Islam, it would behoove you to avoid that comparison. It boomerangs against your own position.
"There was no infinite regress when NT believers submitted to Christ/Apostles claims to divine authority."

i) You don't submit to their claims of authority. Rather, you submit to the pope's claims of authority. You accept what Christ or the Apostles say on condition that your denomination allows you to accept what they say.

ii) Your response is an exercise in misdirection. You haven't shown had your criterion can avoid generating an infinite regress. If you insist that we cannot submit to Scripture directly, that there must be some criterion external to Scripture to authorize or warrant submission, then what's the basis for your belief in that extrabiblical criterion? By what additional criterion do you evaluate the claims of the papacy?

"By saying you don't submit to scholars - even though you rely on them to weigh arguments and come to reasonable conclusions."

Consulting commentaries is not an argument from authority. I don't accept what they say on authority. Rather, they cite evidence and give reasons for their conclusions. That's a transparent process that's open to the scrutiny of the reader.

"Which then yields only ever-provisional probable opinion."

i) As I've explained to you, that doesn't follow on theories of knowledge like theistic process reliabilism. You need to learn how to engage the argument.

ii) And if what you say is true, then you're in the same bind. For in making a historical case for the claims of Rome, you yourself "rely on patrologists and church historians to weigh arguments and come to reasonable conclusions. Which then yields only ever-provisional probable opinion."

"My supposed alternative says it has divine authority to identify (irreformable) articles of faith. It is not subject to the ever-shifting seas of competing scholarship and evidence that can never offer such."

How do you established your supposed alternative in the first place? You rely on historical evidence. Alleged evidence for Petrine primacy, Roman primacy, papal primacy, papal infallibility, &c.

That forces you to dive right into the "ever-shifting wave" of competing interpretations by patrologists, church historians, canon lawyers, &c.

Even if the papacy is a short-cut to certainty once you arrive at the papacy, there's no shortcut for getting to the papacy. And if you rely on probabilities in making your case for the papacy, then you will end no higher than where you began. You're chasing a receding mirage.
"So it's hardly an artificial standard by your own admission."

Once again, you play hopscotch by jumping back and forth between different categories. The question at issue is whether your condition (e.g. "irreformability") to "warrant the assent of faith" is an artificial standard. That imposes something on Christians (and OT/2nd Temple Jews) which God doesn't require of us. And you haven't begun to show that God requires that of us.

"so Christ and the Apostles claims to divine authority were completely superfluous then?"

You don't credit their claims to divine authority.

"And I'm telling readers to believe Jn 20:31 on the same basis they should believe 2 Peter and reject Shepherd of Hermas."

Which is not the basis that John gave. You substitute a different basis, thereby rejecting John's authority. You refuse to accept what he said on his own stated grounds.

"And the document has to be reliably identified."

Not if it's true. You fail to distinguish to draw an elementary and essential distinction between truth and verification. Truth doesn't require verification. If Jn 20:31 is true, then the promise holds truth regardless of whether we have independent evidence.
"God identifies it for them by handing them the finished product. For instance, God providentially gives them a copy of the Koran or book of Mormon."

i) Once more, you're unable to keep track of your own argument as well as mine. Try to think rather than reflexively reacting.

I'm not discussing how to prove the Bible or disprove the Koran or the book of Mormon. Are you capable of absorbing that distinction?

ii) BTW, you need to stop citing the Koran as a counterexample. It's your own sect, at Vatican II, that said Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

iii) The question at issue is whether Protestants need an infallible church to know true doctrine. I've presented a mechanism. God can place an individual in a cognitive environment that engenders true theological beliefs. Indeed, this providential process is divinely aimed at the production of true beliefs. The resultant belief isn't mere opinion. Rather, that amounts to knowledge.

That mechanism doesn't require the individual to either start from scratch or apply a criterion. Rather, he's on the receiving end of that propitious process. He's the beneficiary.

And this doesn't mean the end-result can't be subject to types of confirmation (if true) or disconfirmation (if false). But knowing the truth isn't contingent on proving the truth.

"Yes and the PBC is a consulting arm to the Magisterium (as it was made in 1971), not the magisterium itself."

An example of "ever-provisional opinion."

"Read Benedict's Verbum Domini and the section 'The Interpretation Of Sacred Scripture In The Church' to see the proper hermeneutical balance."

What Roman Catholic commentators have you read?

"Since the Apostles interpreted Scripture and tradition alike, they have no independent meaning or authority."

That's more cute than acute. Look at how two popes go about prooftexting Marian dogma. After going through the motions, this is how it ends:

"by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith." 
"by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." 
Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart."

That's not how Jesus and the Apostles reason from the Scriptures. In the Gospels, in Acts, in Romans, in Hebrews, they don't fall back on an appeal to their personal authority to leverage the interpretation. Rather, they appeal to reason. They use logical arguments which a reader or listener can follow for himself. 

"This reduces all development to contradiction. Something can be understood deeper and develop without contradicting what came before."
Classic, post-Newman special pleading.

"I'm giving you just a sampling of how it would be falsified."

That's a throwaway concession. For you it can only be falsified in theory, never in practice.

"Protestantism has had 500 years to come up with these obvious contradictions and hasn't yet done it…"

I provided specific documentation which you've studiously dodged. Your faith is all theory, sealed away from contaminating contact with reality.

"This completely misses the point about something changing pre and post submission. An NT believer evaluated the claims of credibility Apostles/Christ offered. That does not mean after submitting he would continue to hold their current and future teachings in a dock perpetually to continually re-evaluate to see if they meet his current provisional criteria and threshold of acceptance. If he did that, he would not have submitted to their claims in the first place - nothing would have change pre and post submission. In Protestantism, nothing changes - everything remains ever-provisional probable conclusions by virtue of the rejection of the claims in the first place."

You've boxed yourself into a hopeless dilemma. You scorn "opinion," however reasonable. You scorn scholarship as "ever-provisional." Yet that's your bridge to Rome. Your conclusion is only as solid as the process by which you arrive at your conclusion.

Suppose (ex hypothesi) that if the church of Rome is infallible (under specified conditions), then Catholics can know theological truths.

But that only pushes the problem back a step. How can you know if church of Rome is infallible? You can't. You can only believe that, based on juggling probabilities. Based on sifting "every-provisional scholarship."

You can't invoke your opinion regarding the infallibility of Rome to retroactively turn your opinion into knowledge. You believe that you believe in "irreformable" articles of faith. But you don't know that. You can't know that. For you can't bootstrap infallibility from your fallible starting-point.

What you've really give us is the proverbial leap of faith into the dark. You simply hope it's true. But your evidence, even on your own partisan interpretation, is merely probable and provisional.

Yes, you can drive an artificial wedge between pre and post submission, but that's make-believe. That's you pretending that post submission is more certain than pre submission. Yet you don't have any mechanism to convert pre submission uncertainty into post submission certainty.
"Is it really so difficult to see that a revealed religion demands, from its very nature, a place for private judgment and a place for authority? A place for private judgment, in determining that the revelation itself comes from God, in discovering the Medium through which that revelation comes to us, and the rule of faith by which we are enabled to determine what is, and what is not, revealed. A place for authority to step in, when these preliminary investigations are over, and say 'Now, be careful, for you are out of your depth here.'"

i) That's an exercise in mirror-gazing. The authority that "steps in" is just a projection of private judgment. in you private judgment, such an authority exists.

Given your authority source, that could then confirm your "preliminary investigations." But your authority source is not a given. That's not something you have at the outset. Rather, that will never be more than a reflection of the state of your preliminary investigations, at whatever stage you gave up. The "Medium" is the face you see at the bottom of the well, staring back at you.

ii) Judaism was a revealed religion. But there was no infallible tiebreaker in 2nd temple Judaism. That's why you had a profusion of Jewish sects and schools of thought in the 1C. Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots. Rabbi Shammai. Rabbi Hillel. And so on and so forth.


  1. Steve do you consider Rome to be a christian church and part of the visible western church? And if not then what does Rome need to do to become part of the western church?

    1. I consider Rome to be an apostate denomination with some residual truths. It can become a Christian church by renouncing its Roman Catholic errors and embracing classic Protestant theology.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. When you mean classic Protestant Theology do you mean Lutheran, Reformed, Arminian or Anglican? Which model should Rome embrace?

    4. Would you say Rome became apostate at Trent or way before that? I think it went off the rails at Vatican II when it embraced universalism and post-modernism. At least before that it stood for traditional Christian truths like the inerrancy of scripture, the trinity, no ongoing divine revelation, salvation only by grace (not like Vatican 2 says).

    5. The apostasy was incremental. Apostasy in practice as well as official error. It can vary in time and place with a far-flung religious institution. Pockets of orthodoxy.

      Classic Protestant theology including Lutheran, Reformed, Arminian, Anabaptist, Anglican.

  2. I understand but which model should Rome embrace? They are not all in agreement. Would you commune with Rome if it became Anglican? Also what is your opinion of Ratzinger? On many issues he came close to Protestant doctrine. He was mongergistic in doctrine and held to the Augustinian doctrines of grace. He also had a biblical understading of purgatory and held to material suffeciency. I know many Protestants that respect him, especially Lutherans and Anglicans. Do you think the EO church is apostate?

    1. i) Well, as a Calvinist, I think they should embrace Calvinism. Of course, one can be a Reformed Anglican.

      Again, though, there are degrees of error.

      ii) How can you be a monergist if you believe in baptismal regeneration? If everyone who receives valid baptism is born again, that's indiscriminate grace rather than discriminate grace.

      iii) "A biblical understanding of purgatory" as in purgatory is false?

      iv) I doesn't surprise me that Protestants who espouse sacramental realism like him. In that respect they have more in common with Rome.

      v) I think the EO church is a beautifully decorated empty shell.