Tuesday, July 03, 2012

“Open up an acorn, and you can see a fully-formed tiny baby tree in there”

Garrison (#364):

You seem to suggest that the Roman Church sees herself as being born fully as she appears and exists in the current day like Athena from Zeus’ skull. That is not the truth, and I know of no one who seriously contends such a thing.

The Roman Church did teach that, all the way through the 17th century. At the very least, the Council of Trent, believed and taught such a thing. That’s what the phrase semper eadem was all about. It was only after the Reformation and the enlightenment began to point out certain discrepancies, that someone like Newman was required to address “certain apparent variations in teaching”, among other things. At one time, the Roman Church did see itself as being born fully, and in “essence”, Bryan and others here have argued that absolutely nothing was lacking in “the Church that Christ founded”. That’s what it means to say Christ “founded a visible church”. Open up an acorn, and you can see a fully-formed tiny baby tree in there, with all the things it will have as an adult tree.

You [JB] said:
“The canon of Scripture was the determining factor in ongoing ‘orthodoxy’ (beginning with Irenaeus and Tertullian, in the way that Cullmann explains it), and yes, ‘Scripture alone’ was God’s intended method for seeing to it that the gates of hell do not prevail against the church.”

An assertion so far without evidence.

It’s argued strenuously by Cullmann, whose entire work I have not reproduced here. If I could, I would. That is his conclusion. My first comment here was to recommend the work of Michael Kruger, Canon Revisited. I’ve placed Kruger’s conclusions in juxtaposition with the 1962 Joseph Ratzinger essay “Primacy, Episcopacy, and Successio Apostolica”, where then-theologian Ratzinger says, at some length:

We should not deceive ourselves: the existence of New Testament writings, recognized as being “apostolic”, does not yet imply the existence of a “New Testament” as “Scripture”—there is a long way from the writings to Scripture. It is well known, and should not be overlooked, that the New Testament does not anywhere understand itself as “Scripture”; “Scripture” is, for the New Testament, simply the Old Testament, while the message about Christ is precisely “spirit”, which teaches us how to understand Scripture.” The idea of a “New Testament” as “Scripture” is still quite inconceivable at this point—even when “office”, as the form of the paradosis, is already clearly taking shape” (Ratzinger, 25).

Kruger’s point, however, (which has been examined and confirmed from different viewpoints by such scholars as Oscar Cullmann and Richard Bauckham) is this (as I’ve summarized him):

“My Sheep Hear My Voice”. Thus, Kruger begins his chapter outlining what he calls the “Canon as Self-Authenticating” model. It is noteworthy that he re-affirms what Calvin said of Scripture in his Institutes. “God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word….Scripture is indeed self-authenticated.” (from Institutes 1.7.4-5). He cites also Reformed writers such as Francis Turretin and Herman Bavinck:

Herman Bavinck reminds us that the church fathers [who had no official certification from Rome] understood Scripture this way: “in the Church Fathers and the Scholastics … [Scripture] rested in itself, was trustworthy in and of itself (αὐτοπιστος), and the primary norm for church and theology” (Kruger, pg 90, citing Bavinck, “Reformed Dogmatics”, Vol 1, pg 452).

Kruger provides the definition of the term he is working with:

…for the purpose of this study, we shall be using the phrase self-authenticating in a broader fashion than was typical for the Reformers. We are not using it to refer only to the fact that canonical books bear divine qualities (although they do) but are using it to refer to the way the canon itself provides the necessary direction and guidance about how it is to be authenticated. In essence, to say that the canon is self-authenticating is simply to recognize that one cannot authenticate the canon without appealing to the canon. It sets the terms for its own validation and investigation. A self-authenticating canon is not just a canon that claims to have authority, nor is it simply a canon that bears internal evidence of authority, but one that guides and determines how that authority is to be established (91).

Of course he will look to external criteria as well. But as he says, “The canon, as God’s word, is not just true, but the criterion of truth. It is an ultimate authority … thus, for ultimate authorities to be ultimate authorities, they have to be the standard for their own authentication. You cannot account for them without using them” (91).

So, Sola Scriptura is in the Bible. Among other things, the New Testament canon “speaks for itself” (159).

Now, it takes him several hundred pages to make his case. I’ve gotten half way through the book, if you’re really interested in interacting with Kruger’s supposed “argument from silence”. Just because I haven’t reproduced the whole thing here doesn’t mean that it’s an argument that Roman Catholicism doesn’t have to contend with. And no, I’m not going to say that it’s a slam-dunk, but it definitely changes the terms of what has been a 500-year-old disagreement.

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