Saturday, July 04, 2009


Dan has been furiously beating his wings, attempting to get out of the webs I've spun for him. The bad news for Dan is that things are only going to get worse.

So, here's some crucial Assumptions Dan's argument makes:

[A1] The "common man" is a libertarian and defines choice in libertarian fashion.

[A2] The dictionary is the repository of "common mans'" definition of choice, the dictionary defines "choice" assuming the rubric of libertarian metaphysics.

[A3] The Bible was written by and to the "common man".

[A4] For any word, x, that the Bible uses, the Bible means x however the "common man" understands that word at any time, t.

These crucial assumptions somehow are supposed to get to the Conclusion:

[C] The Bible uses the word choice, the "common man" understands choice under the rubric of libertarian metaphysics, and therefore the Bible asserts that libertarian metaphysics is the case when it uses the word "choice."

Now, in response I (as well as Steve Hays) have offered literally dozens of Objections to Dan's argument, not all of them have been dealt with. Here's a few:

[O1] We don't know what the referent of "common man" is supposed to be, and don't have necessary and sufficient conditions to demarcate "common man" from "uncommon man". Just what is a "common man".

[O2] There is empirical evidence which suggests that, especially considering Dan has offered absolutely zero empirical evidence of his own to support his assumption, the "common man" is not libertarian, head for head. The evidence I brought forth makes it, at the very least, far from obvious that all "common men" whoever are dyed-in-the-wool libertarians. Besides that, I pointed out that there have been many human societies that have been fatalists. So Dan's assumption about all "common men" whoever are just false, and obviously so.

[O3] Some (many?) "comon men" hold thatan indeterminate action is random or a lucky happening. So this is a massive problem for Dan, it makes his argument prove too much. Surely we aren't going to attribute some sort of sophisticated, technical, philosophical understanding of (one of the many forms of) "agent causation" to "common man."

[O4] It is demonstrably false the the Bible was written only by and to the "common man."

[O5] Dictionaries and "common men" can be wrong; therefore, Dan's argument could be used to support the errancy of Scripture.

[O6] It is possible that dictionaries and "common men" could take a "determinist turn", which means that freedom is at least compatible with determinism. Dan's argument allows for the compatibility since it allows for the possibility that the Bible could mean certain words in a sense compatible with determinism and choice.

[O7] There is a way that "alternative possibilities" could be read in compatibilist terms, e.g., hypothetically. Dan simply ignores this, forcing his square-peg argument through the round hole.

So far, these objections have gone unanswered.

Now, to be fair, Dan doesn't like the word "choice". Dan makes it clear that his argument depends on the word "choose" and not "choice." Dan

In our debate, I argued that the dictionary definition of choose rules out determinism. In Paul's recent rejoinder he states: “I cited numerous dictionaries that didn’t include a PAP (Principle of Alternate Possibilities) element”. (link) This is true, but misleading. Paul defined choice, but not choose. My argument was based on the verb choose, not the noun choice. In this post I would like to revisit the dictionaries, and explain why it's important to distinguish between choice and choose.
Using the word "choose" is important for Dan argument because:
...the 'dictionary definition' of choose includes at least two possibilities. But determinism prohibits twofold possibilities, so the dictionary rules out determinism.
Dan has already admitted that I found definitions of choice which were compatible with determinism, that's why he won't use "choice" but only sticks with "choose." Therefore, if I offer definitions of "choose" which are neutral with respect to determinism, then Dan must admit, to be intellectually honest, that I have indeed fully, finally, and completely driven the last nail in the coffin that houses his (bad to begin with) argument against Calvinism. I will supply such definitions shortly.

Before I do, however, it is important to note that more than a couple dictionaries have, as part of their definition of "choose," this: "to make a choice" (cf. Merriam-Webster's Intermediate Dictionary, p.133; The Princeton Review Essential High School Dictionary. 91, etc.). Thus it seems clear to me that if "choosing" is "to make a choice", and if "to make a choice" is consistent with determinism, then choosing is so consistent.

But given Dan's refusal to admit that his argument was bad, especially when I cited numerous libertarian philosophers who opposed Dan's argument, the above point will not be enough. Neither will this next point, I suppose.

Dan has indicated on his blog that he has learned the most about LFW and how to defend it in its strongest theistic form (Molinism) from William Lane Craig. Now, Dan claims that it is essential to the definition of choice that we be able to choose alternative possibilities. Yet his guru states: "So long as a person's choice is causally undetermined, it is a free choice even if the person is unable to choose the opposite of that choice" (Craig, "The Middle-Knowledge View," in, Foreknowledge: Four Views, IVP, 130). So, even Craig disagrees with Dan.

But as I said, this won't be enough. Over all of the libertarian philosophers who specialize in the field Dan is incompetently dabbling in, Dan trusts the dictionary. So I will now fillet Dan's argument, leaving it dead once and for all.

Dan self-servingly cited some dictionaries that he thinks (remember, even the definitions he pushes can be read in a way that has been friendly to compatibilism) makes his case that "the dictionary" (there's no such thing) defines "choose" strictly in libertarian terms. When he finishes listing them, he confidentially asserts:
I could go on, but you get the point.
Well, no, Dan, we don't "get the point." And not least of all because at least two of his definitions are compatible with "choosing" in a divinely-determined world. For example, Dan cited these two:

1. Merriam-Webster's defines choose as: to select freely and after consideration

2. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary: to decide what you want from a range of things or possibilities:

The first obviously does allow for compatibilism, unless Dan begs the question. The second does because it is in the form of a disjunction and not a conjunction, thus the "possibilities" is not required (again, this is to grant Dan his "possibilities" point).

But for some reason I think that Dan will not even be convinced by the fact that some of his own cherry-picked dictionaries allow for a "choosing" in a determined world. So let me quote a lot more. Because I like Dan and want to save him from the embarrassment that has become his argument, I went to the bookstore and rounded up a whole bunch of dictionaries. Before I give these definitions it is crucial to recall that when I defined "choice" in similar ways as we will see below, Dan granted their consistency with determinism, he must therefore grant that "choose" is likewise compatible. Before you read these, remember that absolutely crucial to Dan's argument is that all dictionaries, or all reputable ones (I guess), include the ability to actually instantiate an alternative possibility as essential (contrary to libertarian William Lane Craig, as well as most others, but let's noth let that bother us) to the (dictionary?) definition of choose. Keep that in mind.

Below I cite the entire definition (and any second or third or so on, definitions). I have left nothing out, and all sources are docummented.

choose v. (vt) 1. Pick out, select; take by preference. (vt) decide, think fit. (Collins Pocket Dictionary, New York: Harper Collins, 2007, 91)

choose v. 1. Select out of a greater number 2. select one or another 3. decide 4. select as. (The American Century Dictionary, New York: Warner Books, Oxford University Press, 1997, 102)

choose v. 1. Select out of a greater number of things, 2. decide, to prefer, to desire. (Oxford American Dictionary, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, 147)

choose v. 1. to pick. (that was all, cited in, Spell it Right Dictionary, New York: Berlitz Publishing, 2007, 63)

choose v. 1. To pick out one or more from a greater number or group, 2. to make up one's mind; decide or prefer. (Webster's New World Basic Dictionary of American English, Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, 1988, 146)

choose v. 1. To pick out by preference; select 2. to decide or desire 3. to make a choice (The Princeton Review Essential High School Dictionary, New York: Random House, 2002, 91).

choose v. 1. To select freely after consideration 2. to make a choice 3. to see fit (Merriam-Webster's Intermediate Dictionary, Springfield Mass.: Merriam-Webster's Inc., 2004, 133)

choose v. 1. Decide which you are going to take from among a number of people or things. (Barron's Dictionary and Thesaurus, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, 111).

choose v. 1. To select according to preference especially after consideration 2.a. to decide b. to prefer 3. to see fit 4. to make a choice (Merriam-Webster's School Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster's Inc., 2004, 165)

I could keep going, but I trust you get the point. ;-)

And with that, Dan must retract his argument. Not only have I shown that it is far from obvious that all "common men" whoever are libertarian (and bear in mind that Dan has done nothing to substantiate his crucial assumption about all "common men" whoever), I have just refuted the other major crucial assumption of Dan's argument, viz. that "the dictionary" has (actually) "possible" as an essential component to the definition of "choose," which is what makes it (according to him) affirm a libertarian metaphysic. I cited numerous well-respected dictionaries, gathered from the shelves of a "common man" bookstore, Barnes & Noble, that all define choice in a way fully compatible with determinism, as well as two definitions chosen by Dan (for a total of eleven respected dictionaries all coming down on my side of the argument). None of them included te word "possible," a curious fact considering that if Dan is right, these well-respected dictionaries all leave out the "essential" component of "choose"! What hubris.

Not only that, a few of these definitions are so similar to Robert Kane's definitions that this has the effect of refuting another one of Dan's many unargued assumptions: Kane is offering a "technical, philosophical definition" of choice/choose. To see that, let's recall Kane's definition:

Robert Kane: “A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something. It resolves uncertainty and indecision in the mind about what to do” (Robert Kane, “Libertarian Perspectives on Free Agency and Free Will.” Oxford Handbook of Free Will, p.423).

So, not only has Dan's argument been previously refuted by both Hays and I, I have now refuted Dan's argument solely from premises Dan accepts, and has admitted show that dictionary definitions of "choice" are consistent with determinism. On pain of irrationality, and general avoidance of pig-headedness, Dan the Arminian has been compelled to admit that I have defeated his argument.


The human virus

Radical environmentalism is becoming mainstream. For example, I notice that the Animal Planet channel is busy glamorizing an ecoterrorist organization (“Whale Wars”).

Radical environmentalism has found powerful allies in the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress. Radical environmentalism also uses front organizations like the EU and UN to get its policies enacted through force of international law. Global warming is the current Trojan horse in the successful effort to domestic radical environmentalism.

In view of the inroads which this movement is making, we should be on the alert for what the worldview of radical environmentalism amounts to when carried to its logical extreme. Here is one lucid statement of its means and ends:

But the reality is that what is happening now is the result of the collective actions of us hominids. We are the ruthlessly territorial primates whose numbers have soared far beyond the level of global carrying capacity for the deadly behavioural characteristics that we display.

Today, escalating human populations have vastly exceeded global carrying capacity and now produce massive quantities of solid, liquid, and gaseous waste. Biological diversity is being threatened by over-exploitation, toxic pollution, agricultural mono-culture, invasive species, competition, habitat destruction, urban sprawl, oceanic acidification, ozone depletion, global warming, and climate change. It's a runaway train of ecological calamities.

It's a train that carries all the earth's species as unwilling passengers with humans as the manically insane engineers unwilling to use the brake pedal.

The trends are all around us and in the process of rapid escalation. Of course, it is easy to dismiss this and go about our business which is the ignorance-is-bliss-school of thought.

But, would we do this if we were diagnosed with a terminal disease? No, as depressing as that revelation would be, we would address possible remedies. We would look for a cure. We would try to survive.

The planet's ecosystem is a collective living organism and operates very much like the human body. Water is the blood of the earth. It provides the same function in the body as it does for the earth. Water transports nutrients to the land and transports waste to the sea or more specifically the estuaries and salt marshes that function as the liver for the earth, cleansing the water of the toxins. Water circulates through the ecosystem from the sea into the clouds falling back onto the land and returning to the sea again. It is pumped by the energy of the sun, the heart of the earth. It's a continuous cyclic movement of nutrient bearing, waste removing action that keeps the land fertile.

A river is an artery and a vein, and streams and brooks are capillaries. Put a dam on a river and you cut off an artery preventing nutrients from moving downstream and you cut off the vein preventing the waste from the land from being removed and cleansed.

Plankton, plants, and especially forests are the lungs of the earth, removing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Overfishing, plankton harvesting, and deforestation is literally diminishing global lung capacity.

Species work interdependently to develop mutually beneficial strategies that maintain and strengthen ecosystems. Every species removed diminishes the system and weakens the collective body of the biosphere.

Humans are presently acting upon this body in the same manner as an invasive virus with the result that we are eroding the ecological immune system. A virus kills its host and that is exactly what we are doing with our planet's life support system. We are killing our host the planet Earth.

I was once severely criticized for describing human beings as being the "AIDS of the Earth." I make no apologies for that statement. Our viral like behaviour can be terminal both to the present biosphere and ourselves. We are both the pathogen and the vector. But we also have the capability of being the anti-virus if only we can recognize the symptoms and address the disease with effective measures of control.

I remember walking along the beaches in Vancouver harbour a few decades ago. Every single stone overturned sent a flurry of disturbed baby crabs scurrying to find new cover. I was fascinated by the sheer number of tiny crustaceans that I observed on those walks. Today, I have not found a single young crab under a single rock on those beaches. They were picked clean by Vietnamese immigrants that descended like locusts onto those beaches and stripped them clean. And criticism of that exploitation immediately elicited accusations of racism.

Today racism, cultural rights, and the right to exploit nature for commercial gain are the weapons used to defend gross over-exploitation of species and the destruction of natural habitats.

There is only one cure, only one way of stopping this rising epidemic of extinctions. The solution requires an extraordinarily immense effort by all of human society but it is achievable.

We need to re-wild the planet. We need to "get ourselves back to the garden" as Joni Mitchell once so poetically framed it.

This is a process that will require a complete overhaul of all of humanities economic, cultural, and life style systems. Within the context of our present anthropocentric mind-set the solution is impossible. It will require a complete transformation of all human realities.

We should not be living in human communities that enclose tiny preserved ecosystems within them. Human communities should be maintained in small population enclaves within linked wilderness ecosystems. No human community should be larger than 20,000 people and separated from other communities by wilderness areas. Communication systems can link the communities.

In other words, people should be placed in parks within ecosystems instead of parks placed in human communities. We need vast areas of the planet where humans do not live at all and where other species are free to evolve without human interference.

We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion. We need to eliminate nationalism and tribalism and become Earthlings. And as Earthlings, we need to recognize that all the other species that live on this planet are also fellow citizens and also Earthlings. This is a planet of incredible diversity of life-forms; it is not a planet of one species as many of us believe.

We need to stop burning fossil fuels and utilize only wind, water, and solar power with all generation of power coming from individual or small community units like windmills, waterwheels, and solar panels.

Sea transportation should be by sail. The big clippers were the finest ships ever built and sufficient to our needs. Air transportation should be by solar powered blimps when air transportation is necessary.

All consumption should be local. No food products need to be transported over hundreds of miles to market. All commercial fishing should be abolished. If local communities need to fish the fish should be caught individually by hand.

Preferably vegan and vegetarian diets can be adopted. We need to eliminate herds of ungulates like cows and sheep and replace them with wild ungulates like bison and caribou and allow those species to fulfill the proper roles in nature. We need to restore the prey predator relationship and bring back the wolf and the bear. We need the large predators and ungulates, not as food, but as custodians of the land that absorbs the carbon dioxide and produces the oxygen. We need to live with them in mutual respect.

We need to remove and destroy all fences and barriers that bar wildlife from moving freely across the land. We need to lower populations of domestic housecats and dogs. Already the world's housecats consume more fish than all the world's seals and we have made the cow into the largest aquatic predator on the planet because more than one half of all fish taken from the sea is converted into meal for animal feed.

We need to stop flying, stop driving cars, and jetting around on marine recreational vehicles. The Mennonites survive without cars and so can the rest of us.

We need an economic system that provides all people with educational, medical, security, and support systems without mass production and vast utilization of resources. This will only work within the context of a much smaller global population.

Who should have children? Those who are responsible and completely dedicated to the responsibility which is actually a very small percentage of humans. Being a parent should be a career. Whereas some people are engineers, musicians, or lawyers, others with the desire and the skills can be fathers and mothers. Schools can be eliminated if the professional parent is also the educator of the child.

This approach to parenting is radical but it is preferable to a system where everyone is expected to have children in order to keep the population of consumers up to keep the wheels of production moving. An economic and political system dependent on continuous growth cannot survive the ecological law of finite resources.

Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.

Meat is murder

The liberal media blamed prolife organizations for the assassination of George Tiller. This accusation takes various forms. Even though mainstream prolife organizations preach nonviolence, their “incendiary” rhetoric is said to incite acts of violence against abortion “providers.”

Likewise, we’re told the prolife position, if taken to its logical extreme, leads to violence against abortion “providers.”

I’ve already addressed the “logical” argument. Now I’d like to approach the argument from a different angle.

There’s a parallel phenomenon on the left. That involves ecoterrorism, viz. Earth First, Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Army, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, &c. These groups use incendiary rhetoric. Moreover, they resort to forms of ecotage like arson, car bombing, and tree spiking. They consider this to be a logical extension of the conservation ethic.

However, their guerilla tactics are denounced by mainstream environmental organizations like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Audubon Society.

If the liberal media were consistent, it would draw the same linkage between ecoterrorism and the environmental movement which it hypes in relation to “Christian terrorism” and the prolife movement.

We could also draw a parallel with the anti-globalization movement.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The noseeum assumption

Because I’ve frequently presented a supralapsarian theodicy, I haven’t bothered with some other responses to the problem of evil. I’ve neglected other arguments because I find them unnecessary–which is not to say other arguments can’t be good arguments in their own right.

I’d add that a supralapsarian theodicy furnishes a general rationale for the existence of evil. It doesn’t presume to explain why God decrees any specific evil. And, in that respect, the argument I’m going to examine may have some supplementary value.

(BTW, I believe that Paul Manata has blogged on this issue as well.)

There are Christian philosophers who, in response to the evidential problem of evil, question a key premise. They take the position that if God exists, there’s no presumption that we would know his reasons for permitting evil. Therefore, they don’t think it’s incumbent upon a Christian to even give a reason for the occurrence of evil.

Of course, from the standpoint of an atheist, this smacks of special pleading. What are we to say to that reaction?

1.If you begin with the ground level assumption that there’s no evidence for God’s existence, then it’s more natural to view the response of these philosophers as special pleading. It’s like Flew’s famous parable of the invisible gardener. You have no initial evidence for God’s existence. Then, in the face of prima facie evidence against his existence, you add insult to injury by saying you also don’t need to give a reason for the occurrence of evil. You don’t need to give a reason for God’s existence and, what is more, you don’t need to give a reason for the existence of evil. So nothing could possibly count against your belief in God. Not the absence of evidence or the evidence to the contrary. One could justify any belief, however arbitrary or outlandish, on this basis.

2.This objection might have some force against a Christian fideist. Of course, as a fideist, he’d also be immune to that objection. But from an outsider’s perspective, it would carry some force.

However, except for fideists, most Christian philosophers, theologians, and apologists don’t begin with the ground level assumption that there’s no evidence for God. To the contrary, they think there are various lines of evidence for God’s existence.

Hence, there’s an obvious difference between saying:

i) We don’t have to give a reason for the existence of God, and–what is more–we don’t have to give a reason for the existence of evil!

And saying:

ii) We don’t have a reason for the existence of evil, but we have many reasons for the existence of God–some of which we can give you, and some of which we can’t (since they involve personal experience, which is intransitive).

(i) invites the charge of special pleading in a way that (ii) does not.

And this, in turn, goes to the incommensurable perspective of the believer and the unbeliever. From the unbeliever’s viewpoint, belief in God is like belief in the invisible gardener. The problem of evil is just a special case of that larger deficiency. An aggravating factor. One more thing the theist can’t account for.

Since, however, the average Christian philosopher, theologian, or apologist doesn’t share that perspective, the two sides don’t place the burden of proof in the same position. For they don’t share the same starting point.

3.Beyond the question of special pleading, is it possible or plausible that God could have reasons for allowing (or decreeing) evil which are inscrutable to the human observer? Seems to me that that’s eminently plausible.

Take those science fiction scenarios in which a time-traveler wants to improve the future. He wants to change the past to avert some future tragedy. But every time he tries, he discovers that by averting one tragedy, he precipitates another tragedy in its stead. Although, when he begins tinkering with the future, he’s sure that our world is not the best possible world, that he can create a better world, he finds out that it’s exceedingly difficult to create an alternate timeline in which the overall balance of good and evil is superior. On the one hand, a past evil might give rise to a future good. On the other hand, a past good might give rise to a future evil. He can eliminate one particular evil, but in so doing he either eliminates a resultant good or precipitates another evil which is just as bad or even worse.

Clearly no human being knows enough to juggle all of the alternate outcomes and say which aggregate outcome represents a better balance overall. Actual historical causation is fiendishly complex, and when you add hypothetical variables to the mix, the various permutations are hopelessly complicated. Who’s to say which combination is better or worse? Certainly no finite mind can perform that operation.

4.On a related note, it is plausible that God has a reason not to tell us his reason? Once again, that strikes me as eminently plausible.

Let’s go back to our science fiction scenario regarding the time-traveler. In order for God to tell us why he allows (or decrees) every specific evil occurrence, he’d have to reveal the future in minute detail. Reveal the future to show how past evils give rise to future goods. How the good outweighs the evil.

But, of course, science fiction scenarios involving time travel also explore the logical difficulties of knowing the future. A future you can know is a future you can change. For the future you know is a future which, by foreknowing it, you’re in a position to change. And that, in turn, introduces a counter-suggestive dynamic which undermines foreknowledge.

The reason we can’t change the future is because we don’t know the future. So we don’t know what to do in the present (or the past, under time travel scenarios) which would change the future.

If, however, you know the future, then you know what to change in the past to change in the future. But if, in fact, you act on that knowledge, you undermine the basis of that foreknowledge. That leads us to the intractable paradoxes of time travel.

Hence, there’s a plausible reason why God would refrain from revealing his detailed reasons for allowing (or decreeing) any particular evil. That action would require God to give us a blueprint of the future. But that generates two problems:

i) It would tempt us to tinker with the future. You and I as individuals don’t care about the overall good. We care about our loved ones. Our emotional priorities lie with the welfare of our loved ones. Left to our own devices, we’d lower the wellbeing of the many to raise the wellbeing of the few. To improve the situation of my loved ones at the expense of your loved ones.

ii) And, of course, you can’t change the future unless you know the future. But if you change the future you can’t know the future.

Therefore, God not only has a plausible reason, but a necessary reason, to keep his reasons to himself.

(God can know the future because God has no intention of changing the future. Indeed, he knows the future because he intends the future.)

5.I’d add that (3) & (4) aren’t special pleading. Most science fiction writers are unbelievers. Most science fictions writers who write about time travel are unbelievers. Therefore, when I use this scenario to illustrate a Christian theodicy, I’m drawing on assumptions which even unbelievers acknowledge. Therefore, it’s not special pleading for a Christian to make assumptions which he shares in common with the unbeliever.

The bread of life

I'm reproducing some comments I posted over at Beggars All:

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“Thus, the argument between Messrs. Bellisario and Fan about whether the proof texts at John 6 or 1 Cor. 11 are to be understood as reality vs. metaphor is wrong-headed from the start. Catholic doctrine requires that the words in these passages about the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, are to be understood as both.”

In other words, Catholic dogma predetermines how the Scriptures are to be understood. Scripture doesn’t determine Catholic dogma.

“It should be noted that those scriptural passages comparing Jesus to a door or to a vine do not help the Protestant case here because in those scripture passages, Our Lord is not talking about the institution of a sacrament.”

Of course, the Lord’s Supper hadn’t been instituted at the time Jesus was addressing his Jewish audience in Jn 6. therefore, Hoffer’s observation undercuts his Eucharistic interpretation.

“First, Mr. Fan fails to take into account the disciplina arcani that the early Church practiced in connection with mysteries of the Eucharist.”

i) I’m sure that TF is aware of that.

ii) More to the point, appeal to a disciplina arcani was a standard tactic of heretical esoteric cults. That’s a foundation of the hermetic tradition.

6:44 PM, June 28, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“I respond: Nope. You put the horse before the cart.”

Nope. I simply responded to you in terms of how you chose to word your original statement. If anyone is putting the horse before the cart, that would be you.

“The teachings of the apostles passed down through their successors, the bishops and early Church fathers as to how the Scriptures were in fact understood predetermined Catholic dogma.”

i) That’s a nice illustration of assuming what you need to prove.

ii) Moreover, if word-of-mouth was the mode of transmission intended by God, then the NT is superfluous. Who needs Scripture if oral tradition will suffice?

“Regardless, the establishment of Catholic dogmas is not the arbitrary exercise as your statement seems to imply.”

What you’ve offered is an arbitrary assertion in lieu of an argument.

“Did someone come before you and predetermine what the doctrines or dogmatic expressions members were to hold or did someone hand you a bible and said ‘go figure everything out for yourself?’ I do not see why the notion of a Church having defined dogma presents a problem for anyone.”

That comparison suffers from a fatal fallacy of equivocation. In Reformed theological method, doctrine is supposed to be the result of exegesis, not tradition.

“As far as disciplina arcani goes, Origen, St. Basil, St Augustine and others documented this practice of the early Church.”

i) To my knowledge, appeal to a disciplina arcani to explain away the silence of the church fathers on later Catholic dogmas goes back to the 17C Catholic apologist Emmanuel Schelstrate.

ii) His argument was rendered obsolete by Newman’s theory of development. So your appeal is badly out of date.

iii) And you’re also ducking the issue of how such an appeal can equally be used by heretical esoteric cults (e.g. Gospel of Thomas 92).

“I was merely reporting on a historical fact in regards to the Eucharist, not commenting on whether the practice is laudatory in all instances.”

No, what you’re doing is to dodge the implications of an argument that you yourself introduced. You said:

“It should be noted that those scriptural passages comparing Jesus to a door or to a vine do not help the Protestant case here because in those scripture passages, Our Lord is not talking about the institution of a sacrament.”

To which I responded:

“Of course, the Lord’s Supper hadn’t been instituted at the time Jesus was addressing his Jewish audience in Jn 6. therefore, Hoffer’s observation undercuts his Eucharistic interpretation.”

I’m still waiting for your counterargument. Evidently, you have none to offer.

“But then again, Mt. 7:6 does state that we are not give what is holy to the dogs or throw pearls to swine. So it would seem that Our Lord did not necessarily have a problem with the practice.”

You need to demonstrate, through actual exegesis, that this has any reference to withholding information about the Mass from outsiders.

10:11 AM, June 29, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“I do not see how. As a TA, do you give instructions before you ask your students to do something or afterwards? What Jesus said was no different.”

That illustration ignores the actual context of Jn 6. Jesus his faulting his listeners for their refusal to credit his claims. This assumes that at the time he spoke, they were in a position to grasp what he said. If, however, this is a cryptic allusion to the future institution of the Mass, then they’d be in no position to know what he’s talking about since, on that interpretation, the Mass had yet to be instituted–and there’s no precursor to that institution.

So a correct interpretation of Jn 6 depends on background knowledge which was already available to the audience Jesus was addressing.

“Another way of looking at it~Jesus's words here indicate that was a promise of what was to come, hence Jesus uses words like ‘if,’ ‘he that’, and ‘shall’, all of which indicate something that will occur after satisfaction of a precondition.”

You’re now assuming, without benefit of argument, that the future referent is the Mass. In context, however, Jn 6 foreshadows Jn 19. And based on the Jesus’ evident fulfillment of OT motifs which they already had at their disposal (i.e. his miracles, OT scriptures) when he spoke, they were in a position to discern the prefigurement of his redemptive death.

The Fourth Gospel deliberately omits any account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper–in comparison to Luke. Rather, we have a steady build up to the climactic events of chap. 19.

“My reply: Of course your argument suffers because you commit the genetic fallacy of assuming that the ‘Reformed theological method,’ whatever that purports to be and assuming that you can get every Reformed Protestant to agree on the definition, is the correct method to be used in exegesis without offering any proof that it IS the correct method to be used in exegesis. The novelty of your methodology over the older Catholic use of Tradition to aid in understanding Scriptures is not proof that your methodology is somehow better. Perhaps you can point me to the bible passage that states that we are all bound to use the ‘reformed theological method’ to understand the Scriptures. I didn't find that phrase in My Strong's concordance.”

I see that you have problems following your own argument. You attempted to mount an argument from analogy–from the fact that both your church and Reformed churches have creeds. If, however, your parallel breaks down at a critical point of comparison, then the argument from analogy is invalidated by a fatal equivocation of terms.

It’s irrelevant whether or not you agree with Reformed theological method. That’s not the point. The point is whether your argument from analogy is valid as an argument from analogy. If it’s disanalogous where it needs to be analogous, then it fails as an argument from analogy.

3:41 PM, June 29, 2009

steve said...
“[Hoffer] If that is what the Holy Spirit is saying to you in this passage, so be it, but it seems to be a rather restrictive reading of this passage particularly in light of Jn. 6:51. But what do I know?”

i) I didn’t invoke the Holy Spirit to justify my interpretation.

ii) My interpretation is perfectly consistent with Jn 6:51–where the heavenly bread is a metaphor for Jesus’ Incarnation and immolation.

iii) BTW, do you think every communicant is heavenbound? Is every Catholic who ever took communion either in heaven or heavenbound? That’s what Jn 6:51 entails-if you construe it eucharistically.

“I am sure you know better too than those fellers Jesus met on the road to Emmaus after He rose from the dead. Obviously, they were mistaken that there was anything special about Jesus taking bread and blessing it, then breaking it and giving it to them. [Lk. 24:28-35].”

i) Are you using Lk 24 to interpret Jn 6? Why think that’s relevant?

ii) You’re also equivocating. What makes the incident in Lk 24 special? The bread? Or Jesus?

In Lk 24, there would be nothing special about the breaking of bread apart from the Jesus standing before them, breaking the break, and distributing the bread.

That’s quite different from transubstantiation, with Jesus invisibly concealed under the species of bread and wine. If the Mass were actually like Lk 24, it would be a very different event!

“Oh, when you write ‘the Mass had yet to be instituted–and there’s no precursor to that institution’ does this mean that I have to disregard all that bread and wine offering nonsense by Melchezidek, and all that sacrifice stuff at Lev. 23 and 24?”

You’re committing a basic level confusion:

i) OT types don’t prefigure NT sacraments like communion. Rather, they prefigure events in the life of Christ, like his redemptive death.

ii) Put another way, they symbolize the same thing the sacraments symbolize. They don’t symbolize sacraments; rather, they symbolize what sacraments like communion stand for: the underlying historic event. It’s not a symbol of another symbol. Rather, both are symbols of a common event.

“And have you ever attended a synagogue service, like the first Christians did? I have and they sure seem to be a lot of similarities with the Catholic Mass. Those Jewish folks even have a lot of the same prayers.”

i) Does that include the 18th Benediction?

ii) I also notice that you’re not attempting to exegete Jn 6. Instead, you’re resorting to anachronistic comparisons with modern synagogues.

“And read from the some of the same books of the Bible that we do.”

Of course, the canon of the Hebrew Bible is not the same as the Catholic OT canon. Thanks for reminding us of the discontinuities between Judaism and Catholicism–which nicely undercuts your argument.

“Did they copy all that stuff from us or do you think that Jewish forms of worship may have had an influence on the formulation of Christian liturgies?”

i) Given the amount of anti-Semitism in traditional Roman Catholicism, that’s a good question.

ii) Moreover, you can’t prove very much from religious rites since there can be a lot of similarity in practice even though the underlying theology is quite different. There’s a lot of similarity in the way Baptists and Lutherans celebrate communion. But they don’t have the same theological understanding of the rite.

12:46 PM, June 30, 2009

steve said...
“[Hoffer] Does the correct interpretation of Jn. 6 depend on background knowledge which was already available to the audience Jesus was addressing? This Chapter suggests that Jesus addressed more than one audience, but for argument’s sake I will bite…”

i) For the speech to be comprehensible to the listeners, it can’t very well assume knowledge which is inaccessible to the listener.

ii) There may be a shift from the scene of the miracle to the adjacent synagogue where the subsequent debate took place, but we’re still dealing with a Jewish audience before the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

“What background knowledge did the audience Jesus address have?”

I already said: knowledge of the OT, as well as Jesus’ fulfillment, up to that point, of OT types and prophecies.

“The way I read the passage is that Jesus’ audiences understood Jesus only too well what He was talking about and despite the signs He showed them only the previous day, most of the audiences, Jesus’ disciples and followers included, still could not accept His teaching. ”

And if, according to you, Jn 6 was actually referring to the future institution of the Mass, then they’d be in no position to know what he’s talking about. To the extent that they understood him well enough to resist what he was saying, that undercuts your argument.

“And what do you think goes on at the Mass? We play bingo? The Mass is one the primary methods used by Jesus’ followers to pass along what they discerned to subsequent generations in the Church.”

As usual, you have a knack for missing the point. There’s an obvious difference between general knowledge of a certain kind of event, and specific knowledge of a particular event.

On the basis of Jesus’ fulfillment of OT types and prophecies, they were in a position to know that he would die a sacrificial death. That involves general knowledge of a certain kind of event.

They would be in no position to know about the institution of the Lord’s Supper–which involves specific knowledge of a particular event.

“Considering that St. John the Evangelist wrote his Gospel decades after St. Paul wrote 1 Cor. that so clearly describes Christians celebrating the Lord’s Supper, do you think he had a need to do so as well? Or is it possible that John wrote his Gospel to illustrate some other points that God wanted him to write about?”

Once again, that undercuts your own argument. You have self-defeating habit–which simplifies my task.

If John wrote his Gospel to illustrate some “other” points–points other than the Lord’s Supper-then by your own logic you can’t very well assume that Jn 6 is illustrating the Lord’s Supper.

“Now you have claimed (without proving so) that your denomination uses a different methodology of formulating dogma and as a result my argument is somehow invalidated by that .”

Of course it uses a different methodology. You yourself, as a Catholic, think that Catholic theological method different from Protestant theological method. Hence the debates over sola Scriptura, &c.

“I am trying to understand the basis for your conclusory assertions that somehow the Reformed theological method, whatever that purports to be, is substantively different or better than the typological, allegorical and other methods used by the Early Church Fathers and the Catholic Church.”

i) No, your argument was an argument from analogy. That’s a different issue than which theological method is better.

ii) As to which exegetical methods are used by the Catholic church, your information here–as elsewhere–is badly out of date. Catholic Bible scholars have adopted Protestant hermeneutical methods. And they do so with the sanction of the modern Magisterium. Try reading Joseph Fitzmyer’s The Interpretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical-Critical Method.

You need to wake up and take a look under the hood of your own denomination.

12:47 PM, June 30, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“The first rule of reading the Scriptures is to do so prayerfully.”

No, the first rule of reading the Scriptures is to respect original intent.

Professing believers from different theological traditions can all read the Scriptures prayerfully, and arrive at mutually exclusive interpretations. So that’s hardly the first rule of reading the Scriptures.

“My interpretation of Jn 6:51 is consistent too if one understands that Christ is talking sacramentally here. My understanding necessarily incorporates your interpretation and adds to it.”

No, it doesn’t add to it, any more than you can add a square to a circle. You can’t add a literal interpretation to a figurative interpretation.

“My reply: Scripture has to be understood in the context of all of Scripture. In light of the admonition at 1 Cor. 11:27, the answer to both questions here is no.”

On the one hand you interpret Jn 6:51 Eucharistically. On the other hand, when a Eucharistic interpretation of the wording would entail the salvation of every single communicant, you disregard the actual wording of Jn 6:51 and arbitrarily restrict its scope by an extraneous appeal to 1 Cor 11:27.

That’s a classic example of bad exegesis. If your interpretation generates an unacceptable consequence, the solution is to question your original interpretation–not to salvage your original interpretation by introducing another text which wasn’t written with a view to the first text, or vice versa.

1 Cor 11:27 is not the context of Jn 6:51.

“It is relevant because these disciples did not recognize Jesus through His preaching; they recognized Him through the eucharistizing.”

That’s flawed on several grounds:

i) You’re using one question-begging appeal to prop up another question-begging appeal. You’re using your Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24 to justify your Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24. But before you can even begin to do that, you need to establish the Eucharist interpretation of Lk 24. For example, the same words (“took…blest…broke…gave”) are also used in Luke’s account of the feeding of the 5000 (9:6). Do you think the feeding of the 5000 was a celebration of the Mass?

ii) Even if, for the sake of argument, we grant the Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24, that, of itself, does nothing to prove the Eucharistic interpretation of Jn 6.

iii) Finally, as I said before, Jesus is visibly present in Lk 24. But, according to transubstantiation, he’s invisibly present in the Host. That’s hardly the same thing.

What is more, Catholics don’t recognize the real presence in the Host. There’s no act of perception. Rather, they simply believe Jesus to be present in deference to Catholic dogma. That’s not at all comparable to the experience of the two disciples in Lk 24.

“The preaching of the Scriptures did not bring these men to Christ, it was the sacrament of the Eucharist that did.”

i) You’re assuming, without argument, the Eucharistic interpretation of Lk 24.

ii) You’re committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

iii) There’s nothing inherently Eucharistic about a recognition scene. Take the recognition scene in Lk 1:22. Is that Eucharistic too?

“I write: I disagree with your assessment. The Mass is exactly the type of event as recorded in Lk. 24.”

You’re merely asserting that they’re exactly the same while ignoring the reason I gave for the disanalogy. Is Jesus visibly present at the Mass? Is Jesus up there at the altar, breaking the bread?

“You assume that your categorization is the correct one but for me to agree with that, you have to first show me that the Church as established by the Apostles used your categories to explain the Scriptures and their teachings.”

There’s very funny considering the way in which Thomism uses Aristotelian categories to explain the Eucharist. Was Aristotle one of the apostles?

4:42 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“I respond: Since when? Using typology was perfectly acceptable to the ECF’s and in fact preached that the events that I referenced prefigured the Eucharist. I already gave you what St. Augustine wrote-argue with him.”

St. Augustine didn’t write the Fourth Gospel. St. John wrote the Fourth Gospel. To arrive at the correct interpretation of Jn 6, what matters is what the narrator (John) understood, and not what a church father understood.

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs. My Church recognizes them as authorities. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

I didn’t mount an argument from authority. People generally resort to authority when they run out of reasons.

So, when you find your back to the wall, you retreat into your turtle shell of vicious circularity. But an obvious problem with that move is that other folks can make the same move:

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The Church of Rome recognizes the fathers as authorities. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as authorities. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The General Church of the New Jerusalem recognizes Swedenborg as our authority. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? Lakewood Church recognizes Joel Osteen as our authority. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

“Further, Why should I accept your authority over theirs? The Church of Satan recognizes the Anton LaVey as our authority. My Church does not recognize you as one.”

Moving along:

“You are imposing your modern view on the word ‘symbol’ in a way the Early Church would not have recognized or agreed with.”

And you’re imposing your Catholic view on the word “symbol” in a way the Bible writers would not have recognized or agreed with.

“I respond: Obviously the benediction against the 'minim' was added to keep Christians out of the synagogues. Or have your researches indicate otherwise? I would be happy to consider your evidence.”

You have problems following your own argument. You indicated that the Catholic liturgy copied stuff from the Jewish liturgy. So I asked you if that included the 18th Benediction.

“As you have rightly and duly noted, this is an analogy just like ‘I am the door’ or ‘I am the vine.’ It could have been understood merely as metaphor (in the first sense of the word), but Jesus goes on to explain His analogy. He says: ‘This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world’.”

That explanation doesn’t shift it from being “merely” metaphorical to something else. To the contrary, the explanation reproduces the same figurative imagery.

“He goes on tell them next that it is the same flesh that will be given up on the Cross-a true physical presence.”

In which case it doesn’t denote the institution of the Eucharist.

4:44 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“He then says that this flesh must be eaten by those who would follow Him. Jesus leaves no room for doubt here. If the flesh that Jesus says we are to eat for eternal life is meant only as a 'metaphor’ as in a figurative way or merely in the rational enlightened understanding of word ‘symbol’ then the flesh that bore our iniquities, the flesh of the crucifixion is only a metaphor or symbolic. John 6:51 clearly and plainly shows that Jesus equates the two.”

i) You lack a basic grasp of what a symbol or metaphor means. The fact that a symbol or metaphor may take a literal referent does nothing to make the symbol or metaphor literal in itself. The symbol is one thing, and the thing it stands for is another.

Try to master the meaning of basic terms and concepts.

ii) If Jesus is really alluding to the crucifixion, then the figurative imagery of eating bread and drinking blood shares the same historic referent. It’s a metaphorical description of the same event, as well as the appropriate response (i.e. faith) to that event. The same event can either be described in literal or figurative terms.

The real question at issue is the identity of the referent.

“If Jesus is going to be physically on the Cross, then He is physically present in the Bread.”

That is both a logical and exegetical non sequitur.

“Moreover John 6:51 states, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I WILL GIVE is my flesh for the life of the world’ suggesting that Jesus will give us this bread in the future.”

Coming down from heaven refers to the Incarnation, not the Eucharist. It’s in his preexistent identity as the “bread of life” that he comes down from heaven (i.e. becomes incarnate). This antedates the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

The “bread” he gives is his sacrificial death, not the Eucharist.

“The literalness of the passage is evident in the fact that many walked away from Jesus, including many of His own disciples.”

Literal in reference to what? The death of the Messiah–or the Lord’s Supper?

“However, when it came to the Apostles, their faith allowed them to understand and more importantly to accept Jesus was saying.”

You’re trying to ride two different horses here. If you say they were offended by Jesus because they took him literally, then you presumably think they understood what he meant–since you yourself champion the literal interpretation.

If, on the other hand, you reserve that understanding for the apostles, then you can’t use the reaction of the crowd to establish the meaning of the passage.

“I write: ??? ... Considering the fact that the different sects of Judaism that existed at the time of Jesus each had different canons, I do not see how this defeats my argument.”

I see that you’re changing your argument in mid-stream. You originally asked me if I’d ever attended a service at a synagogue, and you used that as a reference point. But that, of course, has reference to modern Judaism, not 1C Judaism. Now, however, you’re backtracking to 1C Judaism, which is hardly the same thing.

I answered you on your own grounds. It would save time if you made more of an effort to keep track of your own arguments. If you’re using modern Judaism as your reference point, then that includes the Hebrew canon.

“My response: As to (i ), appending my comments to Jerry, you can not seriously be asking me to equate what a local council did in response to a situation that arose in 589 AD with what the first Christians believed and did, are you?”

i) You classify the 12th ecumenical council (Lateran IV) as a local council?

ii) And, no, I don’t equate what an ecumenical council did with what the first Christians did and believed. That’s the problem. Lateran discriminates against the Jews in a way unthinkable by NT standards.

4:46 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“Or are you contending that the Mass did not exist until after 589 AD?”

Where do you come up with these things? You turned this into an issue of Jewish influence. I therefore countered by drawing attention to anti-Semitism in traditional Catholicism. That would obviously limit Jewish influence.

For some reason you have a persistent problem following your own argument. You say something, I respond to you on your own terms. It shouldn’t be that hard for you to keep track. Just remember what you said. Is that asking too much?

“As far as (ii), well we do know where the Apostles and the early Christians hung out according to Acts.”

One place they hung out was the Temple. Do you think the Mass was celebrated in the Temple?

“Moreover, given what is found in the Epistles of SS. Paul, James, Peter and John as well as Revelation together with the Didache, the writings of SS. Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr and Hippolytus, we can certainly can do more than merely speculate as to the Mass.”

i) You need to specify your prooftexts for the Mass in Peter, Paul, James, and John.

ii) What the church fathers thought about the Mass, even assuming they held a uniform view, is secondary to what NT writers thought about the Eucharist.

iii) Moreover, this is irrelevant to the viewpoint of the Jewish audience to whom Jesus was speaking in Jn 6. Jesus wasn’t speaking to Hippolytus.

“To be honest, in the 20-30 or so Baptist services I have been to in my life, I have only seen one service that had any sort of communion there.”

Since they don’t celebrate communion every Sunday, you’d need to attend a communion service to know how it’s celebrated.

“That does not remotely remind me of a Mass.”

Once again, you miss the point. Did I compare a Baptist communion service to the Mass? No. Try to pay attention. I compared Baptist and Lutheran communion services.

And I pointed out that you couldn’t infer the Baptist or Lutheran theology of communion from their external rites.

Likewise, comparing the surface phenomena of Catholic and Jewish liturgies is of limited value in determining what their rites signify to the respective worshipers.

“My response: You are speculating here. The real answer is that we don’t know because St. John didn’t think it was important for us to know.”

Like many Catholics, you suffer from self-reinforcing ignorance. You don’t know because you don’t’ think it’s important to know, and so you don’t’ inform yourself.

John is quite clear on what Jesus’ listeners were in a position to know. That crops up throughout the Fourth Gospel. They were obligated to believe his claims because his claims were attested by OT Scriptures as well as his miraculous works.

“The NT was written to supplement what the Apostles, bishops and priests had taught the members of the early Church.”

i) Even on Catholic grounds, I hardly think that Vatican II would demote the NT to a merely supplementary role in relation to Sacred Tradition.

ii) You’re also committing an elementary blunder by failing to distinguish between the audience for a book, and the audience for a speech recorded in a book.

A modern historian may write a biography about Lincoln. In his biography, he may quote the Gettysburg Address. But the audience for that 1863 speech is hardly interchangeable with the audience for a biography published in 2009.

And the historian himself, even though he’s writing for the benefit of a modern audience, would interpret the Gettysburg Address in light of background information available to Lincoln and his audience.

You fail to draw that distinction because you really don’t care about the Bible. You only care about your sectarian traditions. As such, you make no serious effort to understand the Bible on its own terms. For you, the Bible is just a cipher for Catholic theology. In principle, any cipher would do.

It’s evil to be so indifferent to the word of God.

4:46 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“What background knowledge the Jews had was irrelevant.”

When Jesus is addressing a Jewish audience at a particular place and time, the background knowledge of the target audience is quite relevant to the correct interpretation of what he said–unless you think Jesus went out of his way to be misunderstood, and then blamed his audience for their failure to understand something when he deliberately created that misconception in the first place.

“I write: I do not see how my argument is undercut. The Jews were in no position to know Christ’s future crucifixion and Ascension either but it did not stop Our Lord from referring to these things in this pericope.”

Which would undercut your argument on both counts.

I, by contrast, distinguished between general knowledge of a certain type of event (e.g. a violent death) and specific knowledge of a particular event (e.g. crucifixion).

Jesus’ audience had sufficient background information to grasp an allusion to the death of the Messiah.

“My response: Jesus imparted general instructions to His audience that they were to eat His flesh which He was going to give for the life of the world.”

You’re assuming, without benefit of argument, that these are instructions for what to do at Mass–rather than figurative allusions to the Messiah’s redemptive death.

“Later Jesus did provide His followers with more specific information in the form of His institution of the Last Supper (which they obviously understood by virtue of Lk. 24, various passages in Acts, and 1 Cor. 10 and 11) and His Crucifixion and Resurrection and Ascension.”

And since the audience for the Break of Life discourse was uninformed in that respect, a reference to the institution of the Mass would be unintelligible. Yet the narrator treats them as culpable for their refusal to believe Jesus. How can they be blameworthy for disbelieving Jesus’ words when, on your interpretation, they’d be in no position to know what he was talking about?

“Why not? As I stated, John was filling in the blanks of the other inspired writers. John 6explains why the Eucharist is ultimately the center of Christian life.”

You’re like the Red Queen: you keep running without actually moving. You need to demonstrate that John was filling in the blanks.

“To be honest with you, my view is that Protestant attempts to distinguish themselves from Catholics is all falderal and they interpret the Scriptures in light of their Tradition exactly the same way Catholics do.”

I’m a Calvinist. But I didn’t grow up in a Reformed denomination. Therefore, the Reformed tradition was not my hermeneutical grid. Try that argument on someone else for size.

“You claim you are different so you have an excuse not to submit to the authority of the Catholic Church.”

You haven’t given me any good reason why I should submit to the authority of the Catholic church. Indeed, to judge by your performance thus far, you’ve given me good reasons not to.

“But the bottom line is that you submit to the authority of someone besides yourself even though you claim that there are such things such as ‘private judgment’ ‘sola scriptura’ and other notions.”

Because you’re Catholic, you’re conditioned to think in authoritarian categories. You’re incapable of framing the issue any other way. Therefore, you project that framework onto everyone else.

It doesn’t occur to you that I might agree with a theologian or commentator, not because I treat him as an authority figure or take what he says on the authority of the speaker, but simply because he presents a logical argument for his position, based on relevant evidence.

4:47 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
“Protestants are not tabulae rasa which is what would be necessary for you actually practice what you claim.”

No, we don’t have to be tabulae rasa. Rather, we should be aware of our operating assumptions, and also be prepared to adjust our operating assumptions in light of God’s word.

“For example, someone before you claimed that they found in the Bible the notion of ‘sola scriptura’ or explained it to you in a certain way. By choosing to believe in their explanation , whether it be Luther, Calvin, your minister, or your teachers, you are acknowledging their authority to define or elucidate that doctrine. You didn’t read the Bible and come up with the notion of sola scriptura all by yourself. Someone told you that it was there and you chose to believe them.”

With all due respect, this isn’t very bright. There’s an obvious difference between accepting what someone says because he can make a good argument for his position, and accepting what he says on his authority.

There are times when we accept the word of an expert witness because he seems to know more about the issue than we do.

But it’s quite inept, as well as self-incriminating, for you to suggest that the only reason we believe something is because we treat the speaker as an authority figure.

If you’re going to use that argument, such as it is, then you’ve preemptively destroyed any possibility of doing Catholic apologetics. In that event, I have no more reason to submit to the pope than I have to submit to the grand ayatollah. I have no reason beyond a random appeal to some putative authority figure.

You’ve turned all religious allegiance into a raffle. It’s just a matter of chance that you pulled the Catholic ticket out of the revolving wheel. Had you reached in at a different time, you’d just as well be a Shiite.

“I must have missed that memo at the last secret meeting of the local chapter of The Heinous Evil Catholic League of Apologists (THECLA). Seriously, I am aware that some liberal Catholic Bible scholars have adopted Protestant hermeneutical methods but unfortunately I haven’t seen Fr. Fitzmyer’s name on Dei Verbum, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Providentissimus Deus, or mentioned even in any of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings about exegesis and hermeneutics (I do admit that I haven't read them all). Can you please show me in any of those documents where it says that I have to adopt Fr. Fitzmyer's ideas as my own or itemize all of those Protestant hermeneutical techniques I am supposed to use.”

This is another example of your self-reinforcing ignorance–even in reference to your own religious tradition. Fitzmyer walks you through the history of how the Magisterium came to embrace such methods.

4:48 PM, July 02, 2009

steve said...
Paul Hoffer said...

“In regards, to Fr. Fitzmyer, I do not disagree that the Catholic Church does recognize the value of historical criticism in exegesis, I merely do not agree with Fr. Fitzmyer’s views on it. The man does not recognize many of the events of the OT as historically accurate and contends that there are errors in the Bible. Perhaps such notions is in accord with your exegetical outlook, but I do not accept Fr. Fitzmyer’s views particularly since they devalue the role of Tradition, the concept that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures to be written, and that the Scriptures are inerrant.”

Fitzmyer is not a Catholic dissent, like Küng. He represents mainstream Catholic views of Scripture which have never been censured by the Vatican. The Vatican is in a position to crack down if it wanted to. His views would have been out of bounds in the days of Pius IX or Leo XIII, but not today.

12:17 PM, July 03, 2009

Evidence For New Testament Authorship

I've recently participated in two discussions that might interest some of you. Both are related to New Testament authorship.

The first is a discussion with somebody who questions Paul's authorship of the letters traditionally attributed to him. The discussion is primarily about the evidence from First Clement, but other subjects came up as well.

The second discussion is a response to a conversation that occurred on the June 28 edition of Greg Koukl's Stand To Reason radio program. A caller asked about Papias' testimony concerning the origin of Mark's gospel. That caller posted some further comments on the subject in the thread here. I posted a response to him, which initially didn't appear in the thread, then did appear, then disappeared. I don't know what's going on. The site might be having technical problems. Regardless, here's what I wrote:


Papias probably was a disciple of the apostle John. Multiple sources who had access to his writings say so, and the one source who argues otherwise, Eusebius, is inconsistent on the issue. I've discussed this subject in depth in threads here and here.

When Papias discusses the gospel of Mark (Eusebius, Church History, 3:39), he refers to his source as "the elder", a term that the early Christians associated with the apostle John (2 John 1, 3 John 1). As I've argued elsewhere, it's unlikely that there was some other prominent early church leader named John with whom the apostle was confused. The John known by Papias probably was the apostle, the son of Zebedee.

Regardless, Papias' source seems to be somebody older than he was, since he refers to the individual as "the elder" and considers him a source of information on events of earlier times. Papias lived in the late first century and into the second century. He was a contemporary of the apostles. The timing of his life is more significant than the timing of his writing.

But there's no good reason to date what he wrote a few decades into the second century. Greg Koukl referred you to Richard Bauckham's Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006), and Bauckham discusses the dating of Papias' work there (pp. 13-14). Even if we accept the suggestion of Philip of Side, to the effect that Papias wrote sometime during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, that emperor was in power from 117 to 138. The assumption that Papias wrote around 130 or 135 is a rough estimate based on the assumption that Philip of Side is reliable on this matter. Bauckham doubts his reliability. And Hadrian came to power in 117, so a date under Hadrian could be as early as that year. But even if Papias did write as late as, say, the year 135, the fact remains that he lived earlier and was drawing information from his earlier experiences.

People pass on information from generation to generation. If the gospel of Mark had initially circulated anonymously, or had initially been attributed to some other author, we wouldn't expect to see universal agreement, from Papias and his source onward, concerning Mark's authorship of the document. But that's what we do see. You can speculate that all of the sources were mistaken, but that isn't the most likely scenario.

The traditional gospel authorship attributions are widely attested early on. We have testimony from sources representing a wide diversity of locations, personalities, theologies, etc. Multiple heretical, Jewish, and pagan sources corroborate the traditional attributions in some manner. See here. We know that both the early Christians and their early enemies were willing to question document attributions and discuss such controversies publicly, as we see with 2 Peter and Revelation, for example. The authorship of Mark wasn't disputed.

And there's significant internal evidence for authorship by Mark. See, for example, here.

Here's some of the other relevant evidence:

"All four Gospels are anonymous in the formal sense that the author's name does not appear in the text of the work itself, only in the title (which we will discuss below). But this does not mean that they were intentionally anonymous. Many ancient works were anonymous in the same formal sense, and the name may not even appear in the surviving title of the work. For example, this is true of Lucian's Life of Demonax (Demonactos bios), which as a bios (ancient biography) is generically comparable with the Gospels. Yet Lucian speaks throughout in the first person and obviously expects his readers to know who he is. Such works would often have been circulated in the first instance among friends or acquaintances of the author who would know who the author was from the oral context in which the work was first read. Knowledge of authorship would be passed on when copies were made for other readers, and the name would be noted, with a brief title, on the outside of the scroll or on a label affixed to the scroll. In denying that the Gospels were originally anonymous, our intention is to deny that they were first presented as works without authors. The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous. The author's name may have featured in an original title, but in any case would have been known to the dedicatee and other first readers because the author would have presented the book to the dedicatee....In the first century CE, most authors gave their books titles, but the practice was not universal....Whether or not any of these titles originate from the authors themselves, the need for titles that distinguished one Gospel from another would arise as soon as any Christian community had copies of more than one in its library and was reading more than one in its worship meetings....In the case of codices, 'labels appeared on all possible surfaces: edges, covers, and spines.' In this sense also, therefore, Gospels would not have been anonymous when they first circulated around the churches. A church receiving its first copy of one such would have received with it information, at least in oral form, about its authorship and then used its author's name when labeling the book and when reading from it in evidence exists that these Gospels were ever known by other names." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 300-301, 303)

"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits....Another comment on the name Matthew: apart from the first Gospel, to which he gives his name, Matthew plays no role in primitive Christianity. He appears only in the lists of apostles. He is only mentioned rather more frequently at a substantially later date in apocryphal writings on the basis of the unique success of the Gospel named after him. That makes it utterly improbable that the name of the apostle was attached to the Gospel only at a secondary stage, in the first decades of the second century, somewhere in the Roman empire, and that this essentially later nomenclature then established itself everywhere without opposition. How could people have arrived at this name for an anonymous Gospel in the second century, and how then would it have gained general recognition?...the First Gospel [Matthew] already established itself quickly and tenaciously in the church at the beginning of the second century...this writing [the gospel of Mark], quite novel in earliest Christianity, managed to establish itself in the communities and to be used extensively by such self-confident authors as Luke and the author of the First Gospel - in the case of Matthew around eighty percent and of Luke more than sixty percent - only because a recognized authority and not an anonymous Gentile Christian, i.e. a Mr. Nobody in the church, stood behind it....Therefore nothing has led research into the Gospels so astray as the romantic superstition involving anonymous theologically creative community collectives, which are supposed to have drafted whole writings." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 55, 71-72, 80-81)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Arminian Justice and Righteousness

Lest I accused of misquotation:

Trust in Jesus for your salvation! He took the punishment you deserve on the cross of Calvary so you can be with Him for eternity. That is how God remains righteous and just.
So, according to Bossmanham:

1. God is just and righteous for sending people to hell if they do not trust in Jesus for their salvation.


2. But isn't not trusting Jesus for your salvation a sin for which Christ died? Remember, Bossmanham has just said that Christ took the punishment you (whoever "you" may be) on the cross of Calvary.

3. Questions: If Jesus took the punishment that "you" deserve at Calvary, then wasn't God's justice satisfied? If not, then what did Jesus' death actually accomplish?

If Jesus took the punishment and yet God still sends a person into everlasting damnation, then how is that "just" and "righteous." That looks like a classic case of double jeopardy. Christ takes the punishment, yet the person still goes into everlasting damnation.

Arminian justice: Christ dies for the sins of all mankind, and yet part of mankind gets to endure everlasting torment. That's not justice, that's injustice. That's not righteousness; that's unrighteousness.

Authority, infallibility, & inspiration

I’ve been commenting over at Green Baggins. Since my side of the debate seems to be dying down, I’ll reproduce my comments here:

steve hays said,
June 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“The Catholic Church does not believe or teach that tradition and the pope ‘have equal authority’ to Scripture.”

That’s ambiguous. An institution may deny the implications of what it teaches, but the implications remain.

“Don’t assume that for the Catholic Church, every ‘infallible’ thing has equal authority.”

On the face of it, that’s an arbitrary disjunction.

“Catholics also believe this. Mary’s intercession is not because we need her intercession (or that of anyone else besides Christ), but because Christ has graciously given departed saints the opportunity to participate through their intercession in the salvific work He is doing now in the world.”

This is doubletalk. On the one hand, we don’t need it. On the other hand, we have the cult of the saints. But if the cult of the saints is unnecessary, then why not dispense with it?

“Just because two statements are true, it does not mean that they are equally authoritative. Authority is not reducible to truth; that would be Kantian. Since infallibility means (at least in Catholic theology) “protected from error”, therefore it only means that the result is true. It does not, in itself, determine the degree of authority the statement has.”

If the pope claims to be speaking the truth, and his claim is true, then its incumbent on the listener to believe what he says, and act accordingly. That’s authority.

Is he alluding to 2 Macc. 12:43–45? Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the canonicity of that document, it’s talking about prayers which the living make on behalf of the dead, not prayers which the dead make on behalf of the living.

“From a sola scriptura point of view I can see why you think it says that, but that’s not what it is saying. Catholic theology makes a distinction between the authority of the divine revelation, and interpretive authority. Lumen Gentium, like Tertullian, is saying that our interpretation of the Bible does not have equal or greater authority than the interpretation of the Magisterium when it speaks with its full authority. To pit interpretive authority against (or in competition with) the authority of revelation is to beg the question by assuming that there is no genuine distinction between the two types of authority.”

Of course, if the only access to the revelatory authority of the Bible is via the interpretive authority of the Magisterium, then the authority of the Magisterium is functionally equivalent to the authority of the Bible. You can never appeal directly to Scripture to keep the Magisterium in check since the Magisterium is, itself, the checkpoint. Scripture must pass through the Magisterium, not vice versa.

“Regarding purgatory, you think that the perfection of sanctification takes places instantly at death, whereas we think it usually takes time. In itself, that’s not a huge difference.”

There’s a huge difference. For one thing, purgatory is as much or more about justification than it is about sanctification. Temporal punishment for the temporal debt of venial sin. The treasury of merit.

“But you are assuming that this distinction is exhaustive, because you are assuming that that there is no such thing as interpretive authority. Give that there is such a thing as interpretive authority, then we come to the ‘word of God’ through the interpretive authority which Christ has established, which is itself neither mere opinion nor the divine Word.”

i) Of course, the Bible itself it the embodiment of interpretive authority. The NT interprets the OT. NT writers interpret the significance of Jesus’ mission.

ii) Beyond that, what we need is not so much an authoritative interpretation, but a true interpretation.

Finally, who appointed Bryan to be a spokesman for Catholic dogma? He’s not even a priest, much less a bishop. He has no license to teach Catholic theology?

Remember when Hans Kung lost his license to teach Catholic theology? Not everyone is authorized to speak for Catholicism. Did Bryan receive the imprimatur or nihil obstat?

Taylor Marshall said,

“Here Lane fuses the terms ‘infallible’ and ‘inspired’. The Catholic Church does not teach the Pope or Councils are ‘inspired’ but we do believe that the Popes and Councils are “infallible” when declaring matters touching faith and morals. If Lane is going to challenge the Church, he needs to present things a bit more clearly.”

While we’re on the subject of clarity, I think some logical clarity is also in order. As a simple point of logic, how does Taylor think popes and councils can sometimes be infallible unless they are inspired? Wouldn’t inspiration be a necessary precondition to secure infallibility?

“Mary in particular is the holiest of all the saints…”

That’s an intriguing claim. Even on Catholic grounds, what makes Mary the holiest of the saints? If you grant the Immaculate Conception, then she was holier than any other mortal. But in heaven, aren’t all the saints sinless and impeccable?

“The first is found in John 3:5 which connects regeneration to the waters of baptism. The other is Titus 3:5 where Saint Paul speaks of ‘the washing of regeneration’ – yet another baptismal passage. Thus, if we were to go by ‘Scripture alone’ the balance falls toward a baptismal interpretation of the term ‘regeneration’.”

That takes for granted that Jn 3:5 and Tit 3:5 denote baptism. He assumes what he needs to prove.

“If Christ says, ‘my body is true food and blood is true drink’ (Jn 6:55), then you better believe Him.”

You’d better believe what he meant. But what does it mean? He’s assuming it denotes the Eucharist–which begs the question.

“If on the night before He died for you, He institute a sacrament and said that it is His body and blood, then you better believe Him.”

But, of course, Catholics don’t regard it as a simple identity statement. If it were a simple identity statement, then the communion elements would transform into Jesus. Right before your eyes! A bearded man about 5-6 feet tall, with bones, guts, fingernails, &c. If the communion wine is the blood of Christ, then what is the blood type of the communion wine? Can a phlebotomist test it?

“If all of the Church Fathers devotedly beheld the mystery and took care not only of the Eucharist, but also the vessels that touched the Eucharist, then think again. We are walking on sacred ground.”

Why? Did Jesus appoint the church fathers?

steve hays said,
June 30, 2009 at 6:44 am

Jeremy said,

“I find the magisterium to be helpful – otherwise you are almost stuck interpreting the bible with the lens of our contemporary age.”

i) Uh, no, the point of grammatico-historical exegesis is to interpret the text with a view to original intent.

ii) Conversely, contemporary Catholic theology is heavily influenced by modernity.

“You do realize that the time the NT was first written down, there was no Bible?”

You do realize the Jews would be very surprised to hear that. So would Jesus and the Apostles, who frequently quoted the OT.

“People had to write it down and put it the Bible together.”

Orality and textuality coexisted. For example, Paul the preacher was also Paul the letter writer.

“They did that 2000 years ago – in a different age and time, in a culture with different customs and ways of looking at the world.”

Or course, you could say the same thing about the church fathers or medieval popes.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2009 at 9:40 am

Taylor Marshall said,

“Infallibility is not ‘on par’ with divinely inspired Scripture. From a Protestant point-of-view, I can see Lane’s point, but generally speaking infallibility does not entail inspiration. To use an example, God could have granted the gift of infallibility to the Apostle Paul as he preached one Sunday morning in the city of Corinth. This does not require that the words of Paul’s sermon that day were therefore the inspired Word of God.”

Three problems, of which I’ll mention two for now and return to the third:

i) To use a circumlocution like “the gift of infallibility” merely camouflages the issue. Infallibility is the effect of a cause. What causes that result (infallibility) if not inspiration?

ii) Why should we accept his claim that if Paul preached an infallible sermon, that doesn’t count as the inspired word of God? Marshall merely asserts that disjunction. But his disjunction is far from self-evident. Where’s the supporting argument?

“The gift of infallibility does not entail that the message spoken is divine revelation (the Word of God). God could technically give a mathematician the gift of infallibility with regard to his doctoral dissertation about a geometric proof. There would be no error in the dissertation, yet the dissertation would not be the ‘Word of God’ simply because the brilliant treatise was infallible and contained no error. According to Lane’s logic, the infallible geometric proof would be ‘on par’ with Scripture since it is infallible. This conclusion is incorrect. Hence, infallibility does not entail inspiration.”

i) This brings us to a third problem: an equivocation of terms. From what I can tell, Marshall is using “inspiration” as synonymous with “inscripturation.” Thus, a speech or writing is not inspired unless it’s Scripture. But if that’s what he means, why should we accept it?

It suffers from a level confusion. The fact that Scripture is inspired writing doesn’t mean that every inspired writing is ipso facto Scripture. Inspiration is a necessary rather than sufficient condition of inscripturation.

The fact that we have 13 inspired letters by St. Paul doesn’t mean St. Paul only wrote 13 inspired letters. Rather, these represent the subset of inspired letters which God chose to preserve for posterity. If more Pauline letters survived, they, too, would be Scripture. They, too, would be canonical. But God, in his providence, chose not to preserve them.

ii) If, on the other hand, Marshall doesn’t use “inspiration” as a synonym for “inscripturation,” then why drive a wedge between an infallible sermon and an inspired sermon?

steve hays said,
June 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Put another way, if Marshall Taylor limits inspiration to inscripturation, then the spoken word can never be inspired–only the written word. In that case, OT prophets never spoke the word of God. Apostles never spoke the word of God.

How does Marshall justify such an arbitrary disjunction? Certainly the Bible explicitly describes many OT prophets as speaking the word of the Lord. And surely Apostles don’t operate at a lesser level. That’s what makes both groups divine spokesmen.

steve hays said,
July 1, 2009 at 5:10 am

Here are two statements which I believe the church of Rome would classify as infallible, ex cathedra pronouncements. How does the functional authority of these papal pronouncements differ from the inspired claims of Scripture?

Ineffabilis Deus

Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, 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.

Munificentissimus Deus

For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; 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.

In order that this, our definition of the bodily Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven may be brought to the attention of the universal Church, we desire that this, our Apostolic Letter, should stand for perpetual remembrance, commanding that written copies of it, or even printed copies, signed by the hand of any public notary and bearing the seal of a person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, should be accorded by all men the same reception they would give to this present letter, were it tendered or shown.

It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

steve hays said,
July 1, 2009 at 5:31 am

Taylor Marshall said,

“Let me remind you that I am a Catholic Christian submitted to the magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church. It is a matter of our divinely revealed faith that inspiration is limited to Scripture. We believe that Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are inspired. I point this out because you have made a straw-man argument based on my supposed ‘arbitrary disjunction’ (sic) whereby I supposedly ‘limit inspiration to inscripturation’. Fight that concept all you want, but you are not landing blows against the chest of the Holy Catholic Church.”

I said you created an arbitrary disjunction. You respond by stating that your Catholic faith requires you to affirm that disjunction. But even if this were an article of faith, that in no way refutes the charge. It would simply elevate the arbitrary disjunction to the level of dogma. You’ve given us a personal faith-statement. What’s the argumentative force of that autobiographical statement?

“The Calvinist rejection of papal infallibility rests on the logical error that infallibility requires inspiration.”

i) Although I’m a Calvinist, I didn’t critique your position on Calvinist grounds. Rather, I critiqued your position on internal grounds. I answered you on your own terms.

ii) Moreover, telling us that you affirm this disjunction because your church requires you to affirm it is not a logical argument, but an argument from authority.

“Clearly God can prevent a Pope from teaching error (i.e. grant the gift of infallibility) without also causing the Pope to speak the very Word of God as would the prophet Isaiah. To say otherwise is simply to limit God by what He can or cannot do.”

i) And why should we classify divine prevention of error as something other than inspiration? Perhaps you’re trying to distinguish negative inspiration (prevention from error) from positive inspiration (causing the speaker to utter the words of God), but it’s still divine inspiration.

ii) Moreover, you’re also concealing the authoritative force of infallible, ex cathedra statements.

steve hays said,
July 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“Catholics do not believe that authority is identical to truth. Authority is moral power to which submission and obedience is due from those entrusted to it.…An authoritative interpretation [of Scripture] is authoritative not because it is true (though it is true), but because of the authority given by Christ to the Magisterium to which is due submission of mind and will regarding what is the true and authentic interpretation of Scripture.”

Bryan apparently takes the position that truth creates no obligation to believe the truth. We have no duty to believe something is true because it is true.

Rather, any duty to believe the truth, and act accordingly, is extrinsic to the truth. Over and above the truth itself there must be some “authority” which creates the obligation.

Thus, believing the same truth could be obligatory or non-obligatory depending on the presence or absence an external authority which obliges me (or not) to believe the truth.

If, on Tuesday, an authority obliges me to believe Jn 3:16, then I’m duty-bound to believe Jn 3:16.

If, on Wednesday, no authority obliges me to believe Jn 3:16, then I’m at liberty to disbelieve Jn 3:16.

The mere veracity of Jn 3:16 creates no inherent obligation to believe it or act accordingly.

That’s a fascinating form of moral relativism.

steve hays said,
July 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“That’s not what I said, nor what my statements entailed. If you want to be taken seriously, try to avoid such obvious strawmen.”

Calling something a strawman is not the same thing as showing it's a strawman. If you want to be taken seriously, try to avoid resorting to empty accusations in lieu of arguments.

“Of course we have an obligation to believe the truth insofar as we are aware of its truth. This is why it is part of Catholic belief that we must always follow our conscience. But we also have a duty to inform our conscience, because our conscience can be wrong. Everything I said about authority is fully compatible with our natural obligation to affirm what we know to be true (and not to deny what we know to be true) and to do what we know to be right (and not to do what we know to be wrong).”

Given your concession regarding a natural obligation to believe the truth, go back and explain why a true interpretation is inadequate. Why the further need for an authoritative interpretation, over and above a true interpretation?

steve hays said,
July 1, 2009 at 6:45 pm

“[Taylor Marshall] For the Catholic Church ‘there is no court of appeal beyond the magisterium.’ That is 100% correct. I would also add that for magisterial Protestantism there simply is not a true ‘court of appeal’ at all, since everyone has their own interpretation of Scripture – even the pastors who take exceptions to their magisterial confessional documents.”

i) That’s a concession to Lane’s original argument.

ii) Since he can’t deny the force of Lane’s argument in reference to Catholicism, the only thing Marshall can do is try to turn tables on Lane.

iii) However, Marshall is blurring a fundamental distinction between standards and the application of standards. In Catholicism, the Magisterium sets the standard. While Scripture is technically the de jure standard, the Magisterium is the de facto standard.

As such, Scripture is in no position to correct the Magisterium. The result is ecclesiastical totalitarianism.

In classic Protestantism, by contrast, Scripture remains the standard. Even though individuals or entire denominations may misapply Scripture, Scripture remains the criterion–which is why it also remains possible to demonstrate their misapplication of Scripture.

Hence, Marshall’s argument from analogy is invalidated by a basic equivocation.

iv) Finally, it’s not as if errant individuals or errant denominations are getting away with anything in the long run. If they willfully misapply Scripture, they are ultimately answerable to God.

But, in Catholicism, where the Magisterium is the voice of God, that avenue is also cut off.