Thursday, September 08, 2011

Devin's rose-tinted glasses

I recently got into an impromptu debate on Catholicism over at Justin Taylor’s blog. Rhology also left some trenchant comments. I’m going to post my side of the debate here.

Before proceeding, I’ll make a general observation. Catholic commenters have a modus operandi. Justin will post something related to the conflict with Rome. Catholic commenters perceive an opening. They then drop in, hoping to get off a few free rounds before retreating. But when they encounter return fire, they act as if they’ve been mistreated, then stomp off in a big huff.

steve hays August 30, 2011 at 6:27 pm
Brandon Vogt

“Open up the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is, in it’s essence, the Church’s entire Tradition. Consider it thrown on the table. If there’s something in particular within it you disagree with, let’s start there.”

As Cardinal Ratzinger remarked:

The individual doctrines that the catechism affirms have no other authority than that which they already possess. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Optimism of the Redeemed, 479.

So their presence in the catechism doesn’t validate their authority. Rather, that only pushes the question back a step. You’d still have to run through them one-by-one to assess how authoritative they are apart from the catechism.

steve hays August 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm
Brandon Vogt

“One problem with the T1/T2 categorization is that it fails to explain what happened between Jesus’ Ascension and the settling of the canon (fourth century).”

Actually, the Roman Catholic canon wasn’t settled until the 16C.

“There must be something else–a living, breathing Tradition that existed before Scripture was written down–that guides and illuminates Scripture itself. This is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and it’s precisely what Newman found.”

I see. So the OT scriptures were written after the Roman Magisterium was established.

steve hays August 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm
Brandon Vogt

“First, there was no agreed upon Old Testament canon fifty years before Christ. There were many competing lists which was precisely why both early-century Jewish and Christian communities began to discern the true list.”

Feel free to point us to your documentary sources, dated 50 years before Christ, to corroborate “many competing lists” at that time.

steve hays August 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm
Brandon Vogt

“First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.”

For starters, try capital punishment.

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm
Devin Rose:

“But you also stated that God ‘eventually’ led His people to “virtually” the same canon. This took centuries.”

It took centuries for the papacy to develop. It took centuries for ecumenical councils to develop. It took centuries for tradition to develop. Indeed, the Roman Church is still developing. Catholic theology is still developing.

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm
Devin Rose

“How do you explain that the Christians prior to that time (who were Catholic or some flavor of Orthodox) did not come to ‘virtually the same conclusion’ as Protestants did on the OT canon?”

It’s not as if most Christians prior to that time were given a chance to vote on the issue.

“Again, what is the principled reason for believing God protected the Church from error on the canon (a long, messy process) but allowed her to err on baptismal regeneration (a unanimously held belief from the beginning)?”

We don’t have to believe God protected “the Church” from error on the canon. There are ways of evaluating the end-product of a process after the fact.

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm
Devin Rose

“Luther illustrates this wonderfully with his grave doubts about the book of James’ inspiration, using that notion to dismiss the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, as well as works being involved in one’s justification.”

That cuts both ways. Trent “settled” the canon based on certain assumptions regarding the authorship of the canonical books which modern Catholic Bible scholars reject. Did Paul write the Epistle to the Hebrews? Did the Apostle James write the Epistle of James? Did Peter write 2 Peter?

Even by Catholic standards, Trent got it wrong.

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 2:43 pm
Devin Rose

“The canon of Scripture dogmatically proclaimed by the ecumenical council of Trent was protected from error by God. Any particular supporting evidence or ‘certain assumptions’ do not have to be infallible for the decree itself to be.”

i) Trent makes some specific authorial attributions. Are those infallible? Was Trent protected from error when it ascribed Pauline authorship or Hebrews or said the Apostle James wrote the Epistle of James?

ii) Explain how you can reasonably drive a wedge between a conclusion and the reasoning which underlay the conclusion. Why is that not a purely ad hoc, face-saving distinction?

iii) BTW, does Trent itself endorse your dichotomy?

“So by Catholic standards, Trent did not get it wrong.”

So it got the list of books right even if it got the authorship of books wrong?

“If you mean instead, that some Catholic scholar may think that Paul didn’t write Hebrews, that’s fine. It doesn’t invalidate anything.”

If Trent canonizes Hebrews because Paul wrote it when, in fact, Paul didn’t, then Trent canonized Hebrews on false pretenses.

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm
Devin Rose:

“Like, inter-textual analysis? To expand that: Do you claim that we can know the canon by examining possible books using the method of inter-textual analysis?”

By both internal and external lines of evidence.

“I don’t recall Calvin mentioning that method…What do you think of his method?”

You’re introducing a decoy to deflect my argument rather than refute my argument.

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm
Devin Rose

“Trent canonized Hebrews because God inspired Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit has led the Church into all truth.”

Why does Trent attribute Pauline authorship to Hebrews if that’s irrelevant to the canonicity of Hebrews?

“Again, the particular reasoning given in support of a dogmatic decree may not be the best or strongest.”

Well, that’s euphemistic. What about the wrong reason.

“Sure, take James. Which James wrote it, assuming a ‘James’ did write it? We’re not sure. We have a good guess, but it may be wrong. The historical records from that time are not exhaustive. This poses no problem for the Catholic Church’s claims, since knowing the particular author of a book is not necessary for God to lead the Church to accept that book as inspired. I’m sorry if that doesn’t sit well with you, but you do not get to make up the way God’s Church works.”

The question is not whether that sits well with me, but whether that sits well with the Tridentine Fathers. Did they say the apostolic authorship of James was “just a good guess that might be wrong”?

What poses a problem for the Catholic church’s claims is if it makes a claim which you yourself discount. You’re playing both sides of the fence.

“To you, the way we can know which books are inspired is by putting on our detective hats and compiling all the evidences and then applying subjective filters to give the result we previously accepted on authority.”

Which is exactly what you yourself do when you judge the historical claims of the Roman church.

“So, if for example your notion and application of inter-textuality has a problem in it, it casts the results of the work (your canon) into question, like a wrong step in solving a mathematical equation. But, though there is good evidence for all the books in the Catholic canon, it is not unambiguous enough (as the centuries-long canonization process demonstrates) to provide conscience-binding certainty in ANY canon, whether Protestant or Catholic.”

So you reject the evidentiary standard because the canon of the Roman church doesn’t measure up to the evidentiary standard. I appreciate your damning admission.

“God must protect ‘someone’s’ discernment of that canon from error. If you think that person is “Steve Hays,” great. I don’t.”

And how is an Italian bishop a less arbitrary candidate than Steve Hays?

BTW, who was the “someone” during the Intertestamental period? Or the time of Christ? Did the Jews have a canon before the 16C AD?

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm
David Charkowsky

“Our technological circumstances have changed. Most societies no longer need the death penalty to fulfill their duty to protect the innocent. Under these new circumstances, doesn’t it seem that the death penalty is no longer the highest good?”

i) Which assumes the rationale for the death penalty was to deter future murders rather than to exact justice on actual murderers.

ii) Have our “technical circumstances” eliminated murder?

steve hays August 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm
Notice how Devin Rose has tacitly gutted his own position. He led with the claim that Protestantism can’t offer certainty. Only the Roman magisterium can offer certainty.

But now he’s admitting that Trent (to take one prominent example of the extraordinary magisterium) is only partially inerrant. Only some Tridentine statements are divinely protected from error.

So a Catholic can’t be certain which Tridentine statements are inerrant and which are errant. Not only can’t he attain certainly, but he can’t even attain probability. How could he?

He’s left to his own devices to sort this out. The magisterium isn’t telling him which Tridentine statements are errant and which are inerrant.

steve hays September 1, 2011 at 7:21 am
Devin Rose

“Let’s get more specific since you are trying to catch me out in the details. Which canons of Trent are you speaking that state the inspired books’ authorship of so I can go look them up?…However, I haven’t looked into the Church’s position on the statements you say Trent makes on apostolic authorship–I didn’t even know they were there–so I will check on that when you kindly provide the links or sessions/canons.”

Readers should take note of this. Throughout this thread, Devin has been alleging that Protestants lack certainty regarding the canon of Scripture, whereas only the Roman Magisterium can furnish certainty regarding the canon.

Now he has to admit that he’s never bothered to read the definitive magisterial statement on the specifics of the canon. Indeed, he doesn’t even know where to begin to look.

So he’s been bluffing his way through this entire thread, pretending to know what he’s talking about when, by his own belated admission, he’s ignorant of what his church teaches on the subject, and he doesn’t even know where to find it.

Faith in Catholicism begins, not with any facts, but a nice idea. A nice-sounding, fact-free idea.

In answer to his query, here’s a link:

“However, my point stands about the evidence supporting a dogma is not necessarily dogmatic itself. Take the Assumption, dogmatically defined ex cathedra by the pope 60 years ago. The dogma itself is formulated clearly in the document Munificentissimus Deus, but all the evidence around the dogmatic statement is not necessarily dogma.”

So only one sentence out of the entire encyclical might be protected from error–the sentence that formally states the dogma of the Assumption. Everything else the pope said may be false.

“Even as a Protestant, it was easy to tell what the Catholic Church taught. I looked online and read the documents, read explanations by the pope, bishops, etc. I also just went and bought a catechism. Easy.”

Another bait-n-switch. The question at issue is not what the Roman church teaches, but retrieving the allegedly true teachings from all the dross. Over the centuries, the Roman church has taught many things. A cumulative, multilayered tradition of contradictory teachings.

As Pope Benedict XVI has himself admitted, the fact that some teaching is contained in the catechism doesn’t tell you how authoritative the teaching is. Its degree of authority is independent of, and prior to, the catechetical compilation. So that only pushes the question back a step.

“So your line of argument would not have struck me as persuasive even as a Protestant.”

Maybe because you’re chronically confused on how to identify the actual issue (see above).

“Knowing what a particular Protestant person or church or denomination believes can be quite difficult, and forget about Protestantism defining anything as dogma.”

You could say the very same thing about 1C Judaism. Yet that’s how God arranged things for the covenant community.

“But you have decided based on your own authority as the ultimate interpreter that you are right on this novel idea, to hell with what traditional Christianity has believed about it. That is being your own ultimate interpretive authority.”

Like so many converts to Rome, you don’t know what’s going on under your own roof. If you read the relevant entries in the latest edition of the New Catholic Encyclopedia, you’d see that contemporary Catholic scholarship says “to hell” with the traditional interpretation of the traditional prooftexts.

Next time around, why don’t you take the car for a test drive before you buy it.

steve hays September 1, 2011 at 9:50 am
Devin Rose

“In fact, I have read those canons, the exact ones you linked to, and many more. And I do know where to find them, as they are on many sites. I thought you were speaking of some other part of Trent that went into detail on who, exactly, the ‘James’ was who Tradition ascribes as the author of the book of James. But it doesn’t. So your claim that I haven’t bothered to read the statements is false and uncharitable.”

This is what Trent says:

…fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James…

Notice the authorial attributions. Paul wrote Hebrews. Peter wrote two epistles. The apostle James wrote the Epistle of James. So, yes, it details who exactly wrote what, including the apostolic authorship of James. What does that say about your reading comprehension?

“Sure, as I linked to in the previous thread we corresponded on, different teachings are at different levels of theological certainty.”

“Levels of certainty” is a euphemism for degrees of uncertainty.

“I made other points, and have asked you other questions, in this thread and others, than you have ignored or dodged.”

To the contrary, I’ve been systematically responding to you while you keep moving the goal post.

“It is clear to me you do not want dialogue in search of the fullness of the truth that Christ has revealed, but instead only to score points and cast FUD on the Catholic Church. I’ll let you do that by yourself.”

Your directions lead us away from the truth.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 7:46 am
Devin Rose

“The truth is that the Catholic canon is closed. It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until Trent when the Protestants rejected the deuterocanonicals and Luther challenged the four NT books.”

False. There was no preexisting consensus on the canon prior to Trent. Both the Hieronymian and Augustinian positions were represented by the Tridentine Fathers, and the Augustinian position didn’t even garner a majority vote.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 7:56 am

“The question in Trent was the selection of the Gospels, not the authorship. Therefore the infallible pronouncement is on the selection of the books.”

So individual lay Catholics like yourself are the final arbiter on which Tridentine statements are true and which are false.

BTW, why does infallibility operate in fits and starts? Is God either unable or unwilling to protect Trent in toto from error? Why does God allow some Tridentine errors, but not others?

Do you have a principled explanation? Or is this just a makeshift rationalization to limit exposure to your flank? The less you claim to be infallible, the less you have to defend against potential falsification.

“Further, it is completely consistent to expect truth to gain in clarity over time, without having clarifications refute earlier discernments. This is both biblical, and logical.”

You’re “refuting” both Trent and the church fathers on the authorship of the NT books. So much for tradition.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

“Nope. the pronouncement itself is… it states what is being decided on in the text itself….”

Does the council of Trent say, “You’re supposed to believe what we here, but you can disregard what we say there”? Does Trent itself distinguish between errant and inerrant Tridentine statements? Did Trent invite Catholics to winnow the council’s statements, treating some Tridentine statements as wheat and other Tridentine statements as chaff?

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 10:19 am
The problem with Bradley’s questions is we could raise exactly the same series of questions regarding cradle Catholics who accept the “authority” of the Magisterium before they consider the evidence–assuming they ever get around to sifting through the historical evidence (which most of them do not and cannot). They have a hereditary faith in the Roman church.

He’s also confusing the formation of belief with how to verify or falsify a belief. That’s often an ex post facto exercise.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 10:44 am
Notice the odd strategy of Catholics who tell us we should believe in the Roman magisterium, but then defend the magisterium by telling us that it’s okay to disbelieve the magisterium most of the time. You only have to believe a sentence here, a sentence there. The magisterium isn’t protected from error most of the time, yet the magisterium is absolutely necessary. Trent may be wrong 95% of the time, but it’s still trustworthy.

Even though the magisterium is wrong when it makes unguarded historical claims, wrong, it’s coincidentally right on those occasions when it makes unfalsifiable claims.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 11:13 am

Why do you frame the issue in terms of “authority” rather than evidence? Authority is no alternative to evidence, for as you yourself framed the issue, you still need evidence to verify or falsify the authority. So you’re committing a level confusion.

If you’re discussing how the average Protestant forms his belief in the Protestant canon, there’s a parallel process by which the average Catholic forms his belief in the authority of the Magisterium. So appealing to authority doesn’t solve the problem that you yourself posed.

If, however, you’re asking how we retroactively verify or falsify our hereditary beliefs, then that’s an evidentiary question (although it also involves the rules of evidence, burden of proof), &c. That would apply to both the Catholic canon and the Protestant canon.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 11:31 am

“steve… I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but The Magisterium’s pronouncements are considered infallible.”

You seem to be using “pronouncement” as a technical term for a dogmatic definition. Is that what you’re trying to say?

“Trent’s pronouncement was on the set of books. Therefore that is what they intended and did pronounce infallibly…. period.”

So the Tridentine authorial attributions were unintentional? An involuntary reflex, like blinking your eyes? They didn’t mean to attribute Hebrews to Paul? That’s accidental?

Do the Tridentine Fathers themselves limit infallibility to their “pronouncement,” in contrast to everything else they affirm or deny? Where are you getting the fallible/infallible dichotomy from the actual text of Trent?

And, no, it’s not “period.” You act as if the nature of authorship is irrelevant to the canonicity of a book. If 2 Peter was actually a forgery by Simon Magus rather than Simon Peter, would Trent still canonized 1 Peter?

Why do you think Trent includes information about the authorship of certain books of that’s irrelevant to their canonicity? And why should we think Trent’s “pronouncement” is infallible if it uses erroneous information?

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 3:10 pm

“Steve… I’m off from this thread. In general you seem to have some confusion as to how the Catholic Church defines what is infallible and dogmatic. I’d suggest learning more about this to understand.”

More like you can’t keep up your end of the discussion, so you’re beating a hasty retreat.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The passage doesn’t end there. Why do you quote part of it, but arbitrarily stop part way through? It continues:

“…all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament–seeing that one God is the author of both –as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according [Page 19] to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.”

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 3:17 pm

“Steve, doesn’t one have to trust his or her judgement of the evidence? that being the case, how can I be sure my judgements of the evidence are correct?That i’m not mistaken?”

That’s unavoidable. There’s no alternative.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm
The truth is in the Bible.

As for 1 Tim 3:15, you might wish to poke around the ancient ruins of Ephesus, since that’s the church Paul was referring to. Not much left after 2000 years, but give it your best shot.

steve hays September 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm
I guess you’ve never bothered to ask where Timothy was ministering, huh?

steve hays September 3, 2011 at 6:39 am
The truth got passed on in the very document you must reply on for your information.

steve hays September 3, 2011 at 8:38 am

You continue to cast the issue in authoritative terms. That strikes me as equivocal. On the face of it, we don’t need one type of authority, much less a comparable or superior type of authority, to establish something else that’s authoritative.

Take critical editions of the text of Scripture. These are produced by textual critics, comparing and contrasting various MSS, ancient versions, &c.

To the extent that a reconstructed text approximates the urtext, it carries divine authority. But that doesn’t mean the textual critic must have the same authority as the text he reconstructs.

Indeed, there’s a fundamental equivocation, since a textual critic is not an “authority” in the same sense that the text of Scripture is authoritative. Producing a critical edition of the OT or NT text is not an exercise in authority. Rather, it’s just a scholarly exercise, sifting the available evidence.

Regarding your next point, you could treat an average Protestant’s belief in the Protestant canon as a properly basic belief. His belief is prima facie justified, although–in principle–that could be overturned.

Regarding your next point, this is like Neurath’s boat. We can’t rebuild our entire belief-system from scratch all at once. We have to take certain beliefs for granted while we examine or reexamine other beliefs. We can’t simultaneously place all our beliefs on hold.

If a Protestant is testing his hereditary belief in the Protestant canon, he can still treat the Protestant canon as his default position or operating reference frame during the course of his investigations unless his investigations lead him to reject his hereditary belief in the Protestant canon. It can still function as his provisional standard of comparison. He doesn’t have to suspend his faith in the Protestant canon.

In addition, the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental orthodox canons don’t reject any books in the Protestant canon. So he’s not begging the question from their standpoint by at least accepting the same subset of books they do. The Protestant canon is already the core canon or common ground for all four competing groups. The books in the Protestant canon are not in dispute. It’s the additional books which are disputed.

Keep in mind that we’re discussing public lines of evidence, since that’s our point of common ground in a dialogue with different faith traditions. However, this doesn’t mean a Protestant believer is necessarily limited to public lines of evidence to account for his personal belief in the Protestant canon. For instance, he may simply find John’s gospel inherently believable whereas Tobit doesn’t evoke belief. It’s not that he set out to believe the one or disbelieve the other. That’s just the differential effect that these two books have on him. That’s just the psychological state he finds himself in. When he reads the gospel of John, he has an irrepressible belief in what he reads. He can’t help himself. By contrast, after he reads Tobit, his doxastic state is no different than before he read it. No different than if he never read it. It has no impact on him one way or the other. (I’m just using that as a hypothetical illustration.)

Finally, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant canon is, in fact, the true canon of Scripture. This is the set of books which God inspired and preserved for posterity.

Given the fact that most Christians are in no position to independently examine or evaluate all of the evidence, we’d expect God to cause many Christians to opportunely believe in the true (Protestant) canon by providentially raising them or placing them in churches which uphold the true canon. God would employ the ordinary mechanisms of social conditioning to foster faith in the true (Protestant) canon, by situating Christians (or favored Christians) in an epistemic environment naturally conducive to the spontaneous formation of that belief.

In principle, their prereflective faith could be confirmed by subsequent investigation, could be converted to a reflective faith. But in many or most cases, their prereflective faith is sufficient. Although they didn’t make an “informed” judgment on the canon, their judgment was reliably formed.

steve hays September 4, 2011 at 6:54 am
Bradley Cochran

“But this doesn’t necessarily mean that someone cannot have a significant measure of doubt (and thus suspend their confidence or belief) in the Protestant canon, especially when such a person is trying to objectively examine the evidence. In other words, a Protestant could be more or less open to accepting also the deuterocanonical books (especially given her Protestant belief that the Protestants who ultimately decided to reject the deuterocanonical books as well as those Protestants who give informed reasons for doing so, are in fact fallible). In fact, a Protestant could potentially be located on the far extreme of a spectrum in this regard, being extremely open to the possibility that the deuterocanonical books are also inspired (both before and during their investigation). Wouldn’t you agree?”

There’s a difference between doubting something due to the abstract possibility that, for all we know, we might be wrong–and doubting something because we have positive evidence to think our belief might be mistaken.

By the same token, our hypothetical Protestant might be motivated by different starting points. One hypothetical Protestant might investigate the evidence for his hereditary belief in the Protestant canon because he’s suffering a crisis of faith while another hypothetical Protestant might do so to confirm what he already believes. That’s person-variable.

“I must ask: ‘Sufficient for what?’ What does it sufficiently accomplish?”

There are many things we know for a fact even though we haven’t bothered to prove them, and in some cases what we know isn’t susceptible to proof. It’s sufficient to be right for the right reasons, even if, in some cases, we have no supporting argument in our back-pocket.

“This reason would also seem to legitmate Catholics in their belief that the deuterocanonical books are inspired, granted these books seem authoritative to them when they read them. In other words, it’s incredibly subjective.”

Some subjective impressions are veridical whereas other subjective impressions are inveridical. The existence of inveridical subjective impressions doesn’t negate the existence of veridical subjective impressions. That just goes to the inherent limitations of any type of argument from personal experience.

Either Tobit is inspired or uninspired. Depending on which is the case, that ought to have a different effect on the reader–for it wouldn’t be the same book in each case.

“This reason would also seem to support the Catholics and Orthodox canons so long as we assume such Catholics and Orthodox also believe in God’s providence over the epistemic happenstances of individuals.”

God’s providence has different aims. For instance, God may guide some Christians into a true belief in the true canon to establish a standard of comparison for other Christians. A subset of believers whose beliefs are truer than others. That anchors and centers the Christian faith, even if some other groups are adrift.

Again, I’m not citing a bare appeal to providence to adjudicate rival canonical claims, but simply illustrating how a Protestant could be warranted in accepting the Protestant canon even if he had no robust argument to bolster his belief.

I’ve presented some generic principles. If it came to defending a specific claim, then the debate would shift to the realm of arguments and counterarguments. But your question was predicated on the case of Protestants who don’t operate at that level. (Same thing with their counterparts in Catholicism and Orthodoxy.)

steve hays September 5, 2011 at 8:01 am
Bradley Cochran

“I agree that there can be a difference here, although what that difference will be depends partially on how one would define ‘positive evidence’ It seems to me that all one really needs is confidence and certainty that those who give reasons for accepting the Protestant canon (as authoritative) are very, very prone to fallacy and that the fallible subjective sense that the Protestant has that his canon alone is authoritative (and not the deuterocanonical books) may just as easily be the result of his sinful nature as to anything else. I’m not sure whether you would categorize this as ‘positive evidence’ or not, but they appear to work against (perhaps constituting defeaters for) the assurance that the Protestant canon is right (assuming that 99.9% of Christians never investigate the relevant evidence).”

You seem to be shifting the issue from objective types of evidence to the subjective perception of the evidence. Are you discussing evidence, or psychology?

Your own objection could only hold if you (Bradley) exempt yourself from the vicissitudes you impute to those defending the Protestant canon. Otherwise, your objection recoils on yourself. You may be certain or confident that those who defend the Protestant canon are blind to their own bias or fallacies, but perhaps that’s a reflection of your own blindness.

Your reasons for dismissing their reasons only hold if your reasons escape the fatal subjectivity you impute to them. So you’ve boxed yourself into a dilemma.

“After all, in the Reformed faith we teach people to always assume (as a ‘basic belief’ perhaps) that all people are fallible and sinful, and never to trust the words or judgments of man, but only the words and judgments of God, which alone are infallible. The judgments of man have no authority, only the words of God. Therefore, it would seem most appropriate to the Reformed faith to begin by distrusting the judgments of fallible humans who either assume or argue that the Protestant canon is the only right one (and the Catholic and Orthodox canons are therefore wrong).”

i) That’s an overstatement. The noetic effects of sin are not the same for the regenerate as they are for the unregenerate. Moreover, the Reformed faith also teaches that it is God’s will to bring the elect to a saving knowledge of himself. And God shall accomplish that purpose through the ordinary means of grace as well as regeneration.

ii) In addition, something can be fallible, but still be generally reliable. Memory and sense perception are fallible, yet they are sufficiently trustworthy that we can rely on them most of the time.

Likewise, we rely on ordinary providence to plan for the future. That’s despite the fact that there are exceptions (e.g. miracles) to ordinary providence. Because miracles are possible, the future is, to that degree, unpredictable. But we can still make provisional plans.

“It would also seem that the Protestant (99.9%) has no more reason to believe that he possesses his belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon because God providentially guided him to form this belief than a Catholic has to assume that God has providentially guided her to accept as a basic belief that the Catholic canon is true.”

You’re conflating two different issues. There’s a difference between a basic belief, and the supporting evidence or counterevidence.

You’re also conflating first-order and second-order knowledge. The state of knowing (or believing) something is not the same thing as the process of justifying what I know (or believe).

I can hold true beliefs which I might lack the aptitude to defend. That doesn’t mean my beliefs are inherently indefensible.

We can debate the evidence for the Protestant canon over against the Catholic canon. But you keep alternating between two different issues.

“In fact, perhaps the Protestant has even less reason to believe this, since the Catholic’s believes the Church’s judgments is providentially guided by God to be infallible whereas the Protestant does not.”

If you treat the Catholic belief as a given. But, of course, that’s one of the principle issues in dispute.

“Are you saying that the Protestant assumption (I use “assumption” here since it’s “pre-reflective”) that the Protestant canon is the true canon makes the assumption right?”

You’re isolating my statement from the supporting argument. Did I say or imply that all prereflective beliefs are true? No. Rather, I said some prereflective beliefs are true. In that case, it’s sufficient to be right. It’s nice to be able to prove that you’re right, but you could only prove that you’re right if you were right in the first place. So proof doesn’t make you right. Rather, it presupposes that you were already right.

There’s nothing unusual about what I’m saying. If a friend calls me on the telephone, I recognize his voice. He doesn’t even need to identify himself. Likewise, I can recognize my father’s handwriting.

In both cases it would be difficult to explain how I know it, but I do.

“But a Protestant’s belief that his canon is the right canon (and that the Catholic and Orthodox canons are therefore wrong) is not like our basic belief in the law of non-contradiction, that we exist, or that certain moral actions are evil and others good, or other such basic beliefs. The comparison fails…acceptance of the Protestant canon is not a basic belief in the sense that all people naturally take it for granted, but seem to be the result of certain non-universal contingencies.”

Since basic beliefs don’t have to be universal beliefs or intuitive, self-evident truths, it’s your comparison that’s off the mark. Basic beliefs can include unique, personal memories (to take one example).

“When you distinguish between veridical and inveridical impressions, you never clarify how this relates to my point that the Catholic would seem to have just as good a reason to accept the deuterocanonical books if these books seemed inspired to her when she reads them. Are you considering the Catholics impression that the deuterocanonical books are inspired as ‘inveridical’ or ‘veridical?”

i) You’re changing the subject. I didn’t make any claim about what a reader actually experiences. Rather, I gave a hypothetical case.

ii) You’re also equivocating over veridicality in relation to perceived inspiration. If a book is not inspired, but the reader perceived the book to be inspired, then that wouldn’t be a veridical experience.

“I still can’t tell whether you agreeing with my point or disagreeing with my point that the Catholic would have a legitimate reason for accepting the deuterocanonical books as inspired if these books impressed her as inspired when she reads them.”

Depends on what subsidiary assumptions you build into that question. If Tobit is inspired, then a Catholic could (ex hypothesi) have a veridical perception of Tobit’s inspiration. If Tobit is uninspired, then that perception would be inveridical.

“When I first read certain books in the Protestant canon I read them with the great expectation that they would speak to me as God’s Word. Science (and a bit of common sense) shows us that our expectations can sometimes decisively shape our perception of things. I think this (in addition to the fact that human are sinful and fallible) makes it hard to trust one’s own level of discernment when it comes to reading the deuterocanonical books, for to give them the same sort of opportunity we give to the Protestant books to speak to us as God’s Word, we would have to read them with the same sort of expectation we take with us when we read the Protestant books.”

An argument from religious experience, like any argument from experience, is person-variable. It doesn’t work for everyone. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t work for anyone.

“Then it seems that what your remarks in this regard accomplish is to show that to the Protestant who assumes only his canon is the true canon, we should expect that same Protestant to also assume that God would providentially guide certain people (such as themselves) to actually believe that canon is indeed inspired.”

That’s because you conflate first-order knowledge with second-order knowledge. A Protestant’s “assumption” regarding providence is irrelevant. I’m not discussing a Protestant’s belief in providence. A Protestant may not give providence a second thought. Because ordinary providence is a pervasive experience, that may be something he takes for granted at a subliminal level. He may never ask how he got the Bible he holds in his hand.

I’m not discussing his belief in providence. Rather, I’m discussing a providential model of how a Protestant could be warranted in accepting the Protestant canon even if he’s completely unware of the providential factors which brought him to that state of mind.

That’s a separate issue from arguing for the providential model. And that’s a separate issue from arguing for the Protestant canon.

steve hays September 6, 2011 at 9:39 am
Bradley Cochran

“First I would like to point out that you are the one who brought up psychology…”

In a completely different context. I wasn’t discussing the psychology a Protestant who examines the evidence for the Protestant canon. Rather, I was discussing the doxastic state of a Protestant who hasn’t examined the evidence, but maintains a properly basic belief in the Protestant canon.

“We are discussing the investigation of objective evidence by humans (who have a psyche), not the nature of objective evidence (which does not have a psyche). Therefore, yes, investigations are done by fallible subjects (such as myself) who are sinful and prone to err…My Reformed faith has developed in me a healthy distrust for the reliability of my own limited and prejudiced judgments, and at no point in my argument have I assumed that I am somehow excluded from this group.”

i) That’s essentially circular. You have to trust your own judgment even to (selectively) distrust your own judgment. If you didn’t trust your own judgment, you’d be in no position to judge your own limitations.

ii) Likewise, it’s pointless to say human investigators are fallible. Since that applies to all parties to this debate, that has no directional or differential force. It’s like taking 5 points off both teams. That leaves them in the exact same position as if you didn’t take 5 points off both teams. It’s an otiose caveat.

“But reasons for having a default position of distrust and uncertainty for the judgments of humans, and a default position of certainty and trust only reserved for the judgments and words of God. Do you not hold this same basic stance?”

Your argument is regressive. To reserve certainty and trust for divine words and judgments is, itself, a human judgment which you are rendering. Your judgment about God’s judgment. If distrust or uncertainly regarding human judgments is your default position, then that would be reason to distrust your judgment regarding the words of God. You, the fallible human being, are exercising your own judgment when you reserve exclusive trust and certainty for God’s words. But if your judgment is untrustworthy, then, logically, you’d distrust your reservation.

“My point is that since Protestants (99%) are not in a position to study all the relevant evidence, and since both Protestants and Catholics who do responsibly study the evidence disagree and come to contrary conclusions, it seems the Protestant would have a good reason for doubting whether he has the right canon.”

i) Devout Catholics don’t arrive at their view of the canon by investigating the evidence for the canon. That’s not their starting point. Rather, they begin with a theological commitment to the dogmatic infallibility of their denomination. They then take the Tridentine position on the canon as their benchmark. It’s not the evidence for the canon that commits them to the Catholic canon; rather, it’s the council of Trent that commits them to the Catholic canon. They then reason back from that precommitment to (re-)interpret the evidence accordingly.

ii) Left to their own devices, Catholic scholars don’t think the evidence singles out the Catholic canon. For instance:

“Even on the eve of the council [of Trent] the Catholic view was not absolutely unified, as the mention of Cajetan in the preceding paragraph clearly indicates. Catholic editions of the Bible published in Germany and France in 1527 and 1530 contained only the protocanonical books.”
“After all, the Tridentine fathers did not determine the canon on the basis of purely historical reconstruction but on a theological basis: the consistent church usage of certain books. Even at Trent, however, the council fathers did not specifically attempt to press the detail of church usage back beyond the period of Jerome, for they used the Vg [Vulgate] as the norm for church usage…There are many difficulties here that demand investigation: (1) In the period before the Vg there was no consistent church usage, as we have seen. Ironically, Jerome, the translator of the Vg, was very clear in his preference for the same short canon that Trent rejected in the name of the Vg…From Jerome’s time on, the Vg has not been a perfect witness of church usage, as it was several centuries before the Vg won acceptence in the church. And even then, the Vg was a norm only of Western church usage…If church usage was the norm for selecting the books of the canon, then several books that had been used in the church were omitted. For instance, 1 Esdr was used by the fathers more than was canonical Ezra/Neh, and the requiem liturgy cited 2 Esdr. Copies of the Vg often contained 1-2 Esdr and the Pr. Man [Prayer of Manasseh]–books not accepted at Trent,” The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990), 1042.
Moving along:

“The Protestant, however, does not think the human Tradition that discerned the canon was infallibly guided by God (because Protestants do not believe in the infallibility of the human tradition). Yet the Catholic’s confidence that they have their canon right is more appropriate to Catholic presuppositions, since Catholics believe that God actually does (and did) providentially guide the church Tradition to rightly discern the canon.”

You’re substituting a different argument than the one I actually used. I didn’t make any general claim about God providentially guiding the church in the recognition of the true canon. Rather, I discussed the possibility of God guiding a Protestant into accepting the true canon by providentially placing him in a denomination or local church that uses the true canon. For purposes of my argument, it could be a historical accident that the church he’s attending (or was reared in) happens to use the true canon. I’m not discussing how his denomination or independent church (as the case may be) came to that belief, or how it would go about justifying that belief. Rather, I’m discussing how God could bring an individual Protestant to warranted faith in the true canon absent independent study on his part.

“My comment simply states that a Catholic who is convinced that her canon is the true canon would have just as good a reason to believe this fortune is owing to God’s providence as the Protestant who is also convinced that his canon is the true canon has for believing that his fortune in this regard is also owing to God’s providence.”

Which disregards the qualifications I gave. As I’ve explained to you before, I’m not discussing a reflective belief in the process by which one receives the canon or believes the canon. Rather, I’m assuming the viewpoint of an outsider discussing the resultant viewpoint of an insider who’s at the receiving end of that process, but hasn’t had occasion to consciously reflect on his belief.

Is my hypothetical Protestant appealing to providence? No. You keep confusing my argument on behalf of the hypothetical Protestant with the self-awareness of the Protestant in question. You were the one who framed the issue in terms of Protestants who never studied the evidence. So that’s the type of Protestant I’m discussing. In the nature of the case, I’m not in the same situation as the hypothetical Protestant I discuss. I’m assuming a viewpoint which he doesn’t consciously share.

Likewise, the hypothetical would only be reversible if the background conditions are different. But that’s a different issue.

“Therefore, I conclude based on your continual attempts to clarify your meaning that all you are really saying is that since the Protestant is right about his canon, therefore his pre-reflective faith (read: his assumption) that his canon is right is sufficient in order to make him right. (Notice how you have to assume the Protestant canon is right for your argument to hold, which makes it dreadfully circular).”

i) No, it’s not “dreadfully circular.” To begin with, I cast the issue in hypothetical terms at the outset: “Finally, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant canon is, in fact, the true canon of Scripture. This is the set of books which God inspired and preserved for posterity. Given the fact that most Christians are in no position to independently examine or evaluate all of the evidence, we’d expect God to cause many Christians to opportunely believe in the true (Protestant) canon by providentially raising them or placing them in churches which uphold the true canon.”

ii) That can be valid or sound irrespective of how we proceed to validate the conditional. The “assumption” that the Protestant canon is the right canon is a defensible assumption. But that’s a separate argument.

As I’ve said all along, I’m just giving you a model of how most Protestants could justifiably believe in the Protestant canon even if they haven’t investigated the evidence. Whether the model is correct requires a different argument.

“If someone happens to be right (for reasons such as: they inherited it from their parents without questioning it, they inherited from their church without questioning it, etc.), we would only know that such a person is right about their belief through our own reflection. In this sense, we can always choose to challenge our assumptions and ask whether we personally have good reason for continuing to hold them, or we can assume that our assumptions are right and never bother.”

i) And some Protestants are equipped to take the next step. But others are not.

ii) However, it isn’t necessary to keep proving the same thing time and again. One person can prove something for the benefit of others. If something is true, then it’s true for all concerned parties. Everyone doesn’t have to independently check the results as long as it’s true. True for one, true for all.

“The Bible does not teach that the Protestant canon is the right canon…”

I disagree–for reasons I’ve stated elsewhere.

“If rather than bringing an assumption to the text about Tobit’s inspiration one way or the other, a Protestant such as myself (being open to it’s inspiration) would seem to have a legitimate reason for accepting the book as inspired if it impressed him as inspired as he reads it. Doesn’t this follow from what you said previously about non-public lines of ‘evidence’?”

No, that doesn’t follow, since in my argument, it’s the fact inspiration that generates the corresponding impression. That’s the underlying condition. Absent that condition, you don’t have the same effect.

“In fact, in your view it appears that even a Protestant who does in fact assume that Tobit is not inspired (and takes this assumption with him to the text) and finds that Tobit does not strike him as inspired, this would still give him reason for rejecting it.”

No, my argument wasn’t predicated on the prior assumptions of the reader. Rather, if John’s Gospel is inspired whereas Tobit is uninspired, then that difference might register with the reader apart from public lines of evidence.

“I must ask: Given the cultural, religious, and personal contingencies that attend the assumption that the Protestant canon is the right one (and the Catholic one therefore wrong), what exactly is a ‘basic belief’…”

Are you asking for the generic definition of a basic belief?

“And what then qualifies belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon as a ‘basic belief.’”

You need to distinguish between a basic belief in itself, and the argument for why something is a basic belief. In the nature of the case, an argument for the basicality of a given belief already takes us beyond the confines of the basic belief itself.

“Thus, you were in fact discussing a Protestant’s view of providence, because you were discussing your own view of Providence, and you are a Protestant who continues to take for granted (in actuality and for the sake of argument) that the Protestant canon is true, and your argument about what we should ‘expect’ God to do if the Protestant canon were true reflects your beliefs about the doctrine of Providence.”

No. You’re conflating my argument with the perspective of the hypothetical Protestant under review. I didn’t impute that appeal to the hypothetical Protestant. That’s an argument I made for him, not an argument he made for himself. My argument is external to the party in question.

steve hays September 6, 2011 at 9:47 am
Devin Rose

“If the Protestant canon were true, it means God allowed Christians and the visible Church itself to fall into error on the canon and remain in error for centuries until the Protestant Reformation. The great (so-called) saints who lived prior to that time, both in the East and West, failed to listen to His voice and tell which books were which.”

If the Catholic canon were true, it means God allowed Evangelical Christians and the visible Church itself (to which they belong) to fall into error on the canon and remain in error for centuries after the Protestant Reformation. The great (so-called) Evangelical saints who lived after that time, throughout the world, failed to listen to His voice and tell which books were which.

steve hays September 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm
Devin Rose

“More Reformed Protestant readers of this blog privately contacted me asking follow-up questions based on our dialogue. So for their sake and others here, I’ll respond to this last argument you made and demonstrate how it actually favors the Catholic Church.”

i) Notice that Devin doesn’t respond to my last argument. He dodges my argument.

I simply constructed a parallel argument. If God allows Catholics to fall into error for centuries regarding the canon, then Devin deems that to be an unacceptable consequence. But his own position carries a logical corollary, viz., God allows Protestants to fall into error for centuries regarding the canon–which Devin deems that to be an acceptable consequence.

ii) Moreover, Devin doesn’t begin to *demonstrate* how my argument actually favors the Roman church. All Devin does is to give us an exposition of Catholic ecclesiology. He doesn’t give the reader a single reason to believe it’s true.

He draws a comparison and contrast between the two respective positions, but that doesn’t demonstrate the superiority of one over the other. Rather, it only differentiates them.

“But the Catholic Church teaches that Protestants are Christians.”

Anathematized Christians.

“If the Catholic canon were true… a. It means God kept His promises to the Church, to lead her into all truth.”

i) God didn’t promise to lead “the Church” into all truth. Rather, he made a promise to the disciples. The disciples aren’t “the Church.”

ii) Moreover, the disciples aren’t the church of Rome.

iii) Furthermore, Devin is using “the Church” as code language papacy and the Roman episcopate.

iv) Finally, Devin is alluding to a passage from John’s gospel. So he relies on Scripture even as he demotes Scripture.

“He didn’t let the Church fall into error in her teachings, as Protestants believe.”

According to Devin, God let Protestants fall into error.

“So that Christians in every century could know the truth of Christ and be set free by it.”

Notice that Devin is alluding to a passage from the Gospel of John. That’s something you can only find in writing. In one of the canonical gospels. Not “the Church.”

“So God intended us to know the truth through the Church He founded and protected from error.”

That begs the question, as if God didn’t intend us to know the truth through the Scriptures he inspired and protected from error.

“But He allowed Christians to accept or reject His Church.”

He allowed Christians to reject a pretentious wayward denomination (i.e. the Roman church).

“And some Christians broke away in schisms from the Church.”

Not to mention Roman Catholics who broke away from the NT church.

“And Protestants today are brought up in ecclesial communities that are not in full communion with the Church.”

We’re not in communion with an errant denomination headquartered in Rome.

“Many faithful Protestant Christians are looking for the fullness of Christ’s truth.”

Which you will find in the Bible.

“Including on what books make up the canon.”

Which the Roman Church didn’t even bother to officially list until the 16C. And even that is somewhat open-ended.

“But most don’t realize that there is a Church, the Church, visible and unified, that God has led into all truth”

The Southern Baptist convention?

“This is the way God has deigned for Christians, in every century, to know Christ and His truth.”

A Mormon would say the same thing.

“So, through little to no fault of their own, faithful Protestants have difficulty apprehending the true canon.”

Why did the Tridentine Fathers have so much difficulty apprehending the true canon?

“Because they inherit the Protestant canon from Protestant tradition, and this forms a strong bias for it.”

While Catholics inherit the Catholic canon from Catholic tradition, and this forms a strong bias for it.

“And when they realize (if they ever do) that Catholics have a different canon, they first try to justify their own”

And when Catholics realize (if they ever do) that Protestants have a different canon, they first try to justify their own.

“Because they grew up in a Protestant community, they inherit an incomplete canon from their Protestant forefathers.”

Because cradle Catholics grew up in a Catholic community, they inherit a bloated canon from their Catholic forefathers.

“God is calling Protestants back to full communion with His Church. Schism is never right, never good, and will never be good. Many Protestants have made or are making the long and difficult journey to listen to God’s voice as He leads them to the fullness of the truth and the fullness of the means of salvation, found in the Catholic Church.”

Except that Catholics are schismatics. They broke with the NT church. They listen to the voice of the pope rather than the voice of God in Scripture.

“I entreat you as well to lay down your resentments and mistrust, and ask God if you have been blinded by them from finding the fullness of the truth.”

Notice that Devin hasn’t given a single argument for his long litany of question-begging assertions.

steve hays September 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Devin Rose

“Schism is never right, never good, and will never be good.”

The Pharisees and Sadducees felt the same way about John the Baptist. The Sanhedrin felt the same way about Jesus and the Apostles.

steve hays September 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm
Devin Rose

“Steve, I demonstrated that your parallel argument has much less impact than the corresponding one I made, due to the differences in how each of us views the other, the Church, etc.”

Less impact given Catholic presuppositions or Protestant presuppositions?

“This is false. You are not anathematized. Please google Jimmy Akin anathema to read the article explaining it.”

Why should I google Jimmy Akin? Is he an authorized spokesman for the church of Rome? Does he have any institutional standing in the church of Rome? Is he a church historian at a Catholic seminary or university? Can he read the primary sources in the original Latin? What about his command of the secondary literature in French, German, Spanish, Italian, &c?

Is he a Catholic theologian? Was he trained at, say, the Gregorian?

What in the world makes you think he’s qualified to speak to the issue?

For an example of real scholars on the Tridentine anathemas, try this:

“The promise was made to the rightful leaders of the New People of God, the Church.”

Yes, to Jesus handpicked disciples–whom he personally called.

“The authority Christ gave to them was not lost, but rather through Holy Orders was transmitted to their successors, the bishops.”

Where does Jn 16:13 make that promise?

“says you.”

Remember that Devin was alluding to Jn 16:13. This was a statement made in a private home in old Jerusalem c. 30 AD. to the original disciples.

It wasn’t made in Rome. There were no Roman Christians present on that occasion. The Roman church didn’t even exist at the time this statement was made. There’s no mention of the pope. Or the Roman episcopate.

Yet Devin transmutes this verse into a promise made to the church of Rome. That’s the infinitely protean methodology which Catholic epologists repair to.

“No, I’m using ‘the Church’ to mean, the Church, the visible, unified supernatural society that Christ founded and that He guides to this day.”

Devin doesn’t think the average Catholic is protected from error. So the “promises” are transferred to the Magisterium.

“Of course I rely on Scripture, as the Catholic Church encourages me to do. I do not demote Scripture but refuse to yank it out of it God-ordained place alongside the Apostolic Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church.”

Which assumes what he needs to prove.

“Yes, He did. Though in His goodness, He does not deprive Protestants of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, the theological virtues, etc. Protestants can also, by grace, return to full communion with His Church, which He desires and give them the grace to do.”

Actually, Protestants fall into error if they return to Rome.

“The Scriptures, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Magisterium are all found within Christ’s Church.”

This Scriptures can be found in Protestant churches as well.

“Question for you: When did the Roman Catholics break away from the ‘NT Church’? Can you give me a year, an event, a decade, or even the century in which this occurred?”

Since we’re dealing with a corporate entity, that’s a gradual, geographically diverse process.

“By this same logic, the Church ‘didn’t even bother to officially’ decree the Trinity and Christology until the fourth through seventh centuries. The date that a doctrine is made dogma is not the date it was invented or first taught. I know you know this but explain it for the benefit of those reading who may not, and who may then be confused by your statements.”

But by Devin’s own admission (see below), the Roman church didn’t always teach the Tridentine canon. So, yes, that’s the first time it was exclusively taught.

“No they wouldn’t. They say the Church fell into Apostasy, lost its divinely given authority and the priesthood, and remained that way until the 1800s. During the period from 100 to 1800 AD, the truth of Christ was polluted, corrupted, and in grave error, and people who lived during that time did not have access to the truth of God, only to falsehoods and heresies that disfigured the truth.”

Devin’s forgetting (if he ever knew) about the “House of Joseph” in Mormon theology.

“Because there was debate for a long time about the canon.”

Notice how Devin is backpedaling. He originally said Protestants have difficulty discerning the true canon. Now he concedes the same thing for Catholics.

“…though not without dispute over some books.”

Which proves my point.

“But seriously undermines Protestantism’s sola Scriptura (for one, how could they practice sola Scriptura if the canon was still up for grabs as late as the 1500s?).”

Devin confuses practicing a standard with a standard of practice.

“All the heretics throughout history have said the same thing.”

Didn’t take long for Devin to switch from the ecumenical rhetoric about “separated brethren” to the polemical rhetoric about “heretics.” The leopard never changes its spots.

“Where was this NT Church of yours in the year, say, 1200 AD? Where could I have found it at that time?”

Where were the faithful during the time of Elijah?

“My exposition demonstrated, simply by looking at the issue from the Protestant perspective and then from the Catholic perspective, how the two parallel arguments have very different effects.”

Actually, his entire exposition was slanted towards Catholicism.

“My argument assuming the Protestant canon were true, shows its implausibility.”

Devin assumes the Protestant canon for the sake of argument, but the consequences are only implausible on Catholic assumptions. So he spiked the punch.

“I demonstrated your argument, assuming the Catholic canon is true, shows nothing but evidence that the Catholic Church is true.”

Which disregards the fact that I dismantled his exposition piece-by-piece. Just as I’ve done with his latest reply.


  1. I love this....

    “First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.”

    Not unless you consider contraception, celibacy, Pelagianism, papal primacy, etc. etc. etc.

    If only one example were needed, we could easily point to Pius XII's unilateral upending of Augustine's teaching with this novel new idea of the "rhythm method".

    The claim closer to the truth is that the Catholic Church has EVER taught something that contradicted previous teachings!


  2. This Devin Rose is a real hoot. Thanks for posting his stuff.

    Here's another gem....

    “How do you explain that the Christians prior to that time (who were Catholic or some flavor of Orthodox) did not come to ‘virtually the same conclusion’ as Protestants did on the OT canon?”

    Forget the "Christians" and focus on the Christ. In Luke 11:51 Jesus clearly outlines his understanding of the OT Canon, and it was the Hebrew version. His opinion should be authoritative, no?


  3. Romanists and their convoluted, contradictory, self-refuting doctrines are just a silly and sad spectacle now that they're no longer in a position to mass murder those of us who disagree with them.

    These days Rome is reduced to playing the part of an aged, but nonetheless pretentious 40's era prima donna who continues trying to dine in the exclusive eateries based on her looks, but just doesn't have the face for it anymore.

    In Him,

  4. Hey Steve!

    I tried to post over at The Gospel Coalition, but I never made it through moderation. Here was my response:

    Have a blessed day guys!

    Oh, and all hail the Emperor Constantine! Is that the proper protocol? :)

    With love in Christ,
    Pete Holter

  5. Pete,

    I quoted extensively from an article by Cardinal Dulles. The evidence goes far beyond Augustine. This was never contingent on a singular historical witness. We're dealing with a sustained tradition, which the Vatican recently reversed.

  6. Hello, Pete.

    Your protocol is indeed correct.

    You may now rise! :)

    I hope you are well.