Saturday, July 07, 2012

“Seek and you will find; … the one who seeks finds…. If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him”

Michael Liccione (#432)

You're still missing the point. As I've often said before, both on this site and elsewhere, it belongs to the very concept of an interpretive paradigm that no IP can be secured simply on the basis of that which is to be interpreted.

And you are holding this concept above the Scriptures themselves. It is just special pleading. Scripture doesn’t say what you need it to say, so you impose a lens that gives you (and Rome) the answer that’s required. You are looking for (and Rome is illicitly providing) a kind of certainty that God does not offer.

An IP is something one brings to what's interpreted, rather than something one derives from it.

The paradigm that I hold is that God is powerful enough to have created human beings in such a way that he can communicate what he needs and intends to communicate directly through His word.

There is nothing in Scripture which can demonstrate, as a matter of rational necessity, that Scripture alone suffices to interpret Scripture.

There is nothing in Scripture that says that anything else is up to the task of “interpreting Scripture”. Scripture, in fact, portrays itself as “the interpretation” of the “acts”, so to speak, of God in history.

The character of God in the Old Testament (or in the New) gives no hint that He is insufficient in this way. Nor does the Scripture relate anywhere that God’s word is lacking in any property (including the ability to be sufficient in itself). Again, as I said above, God speaks and the world comes into existence. That is how God’s word works. For you to be claiming what you are claiming is to deny God the power that he has – in this case, the power to communicate.

Because such a thing is in fact impossible, nobody does it--not even you. Otherwise there would be no need for historical, linguistic, and other studies as aids to exegesis. You strive to conduct and use such means, and rightly so. It's necessary, albeit not sufficient, for identifying those doctrines which express divine revelation, and for understanding them to the extent that is given to us. The question is not whether we are to use extra-scriptural means for studying Scripture, but which ensemble of means are best suited for carrying out the ultimate purpose of studying Scripture.

The difference is “the due use of ordinary means”, or the pleading of some kind of special supernaturalism that is imposed that “always makes Roman doctrine correct, even when we perceive some kind of inconsistency”. If you are genuinely seeking the Lord, it is better to trust your own mind, -- and like-minded teachers (see WCF 31, and teachers who ministerially settle controversies), than the infallible Roman paradigm which denies God's ability to communicate with His people.

And here’s a challenge for you: when is the first time in history that some kind of need for an “interpretive paradigm” occurred? When did Christians (of any kind) first decide that they could not trust their eyes or their own reason to understand what God was saying? Somewhere between Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises, and Newman. Bossuet (“semper eadem”) was not aware of any such thing.

Nonetheless, I find it noteworthy that all your counter-examples to the Catholic IP are drawn from the Old Testament. That is just a thoroughly question-begging way of applying your own IP, rather than an apposite attempt to engage the Catholic IP.

No, using the OT is a way to establish both the character of God and how He works. There is plenty more from the NT. The “Catholic IP” is rigged after-the-fact. And the way to see this is to work to understand church history from the beginning – “what they knew, and when they knew it”.

Consider Luke 1:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled [acts of God in history] among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses [of the acts of God in history] and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught [i.e., the acts of God in history, and their significance].

Consider Peter in Acts 2:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Consider Paul’s response to “leadership” (and this is one of his earliest letters, c. 50 A.D – if anyone had a first-hand view of “the Church that Christ Founded™, it would be Paul). Consider Paul’s “obedience of faith” in these two instances:

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,just as Peter had been to the circumcised….

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned….

Please don’t bring up the old canard about Peter not being “infallible” in matters not of the faith. Note the attitude toward any supposed “authority”. This is “Peter” the supposed “rock”, with “divine authority”.

I could go on and on with this sort of thing.

Yet, as I indicated a few years ago in my lengthy exchange with Prof. R. F. White, I agree that no OT authorities interpreted Scripture infallibly. The only infallibility exercised in the Old Testament was that secured by virtue of divine inspiration to write the Scriptures themselves. That's because divine revelation was not yet complete; it unfolded gradually, so that it was easy even for the most pious Jews to misinterpret the ultimate meaning of their Scriptures, which was their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

This again is special pleading. Note Paul’s response to Peter. Paul was in possession of “complete” revelation.

And that's why most Jewish scholars in Jesus' day didn't seem him as that fulfillment. Nobody could interpret the deposit of faith infallibly, even in principle, until it was given in its entirety through the "Christ-event."

This again is special pleading. Note Paul’s response to Peter. Paul was in possession of “complete” revelation.

That said, if there is still no living, visible authority on earth that Christ authorized to interpret said deposit infallibly in his name, then the question what belongs in the Bible, and how to interpret it, can only be answered with provisional opinions.

The Jews had only “provisional opinions”, and yet, Jesus as he lived and breathed had no qualms about holding them accountable for something more definite: “not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”.

If you're content with that result, then all I can say is what I said in my article: your brand of conservative Protestantism is just "liberal Protestantism waiting to happen all over again."

This is just your opinion, and it in no way reflects the direction that conservative Protestant biblical scholarship is headed. The Bible has, over the last 200 years, undergone a far more strenuous rectal exam than anything that I’ve been saying about Roman Catholicism here; and yet, the work that conservative scholars is producing is shedding an incredible amount of light on that world and those times. Such things as Hurtado’s “Lord Jesus Christ” and Kruger’s “Canon Revisited” are shedding new light on the earliest church – the real, historical “church that Christ founded” – their beliefs and practices, the courses of their lives, the world they lived in. This is the most incredible time to be alive – seeing the first century world being brought to life.

Some of the folks here have glommed onto the NPP and N.T. Wright. That’s foolish. Here is what Wright says about Roman Catholicism:

In particular, Trent gave the wrong answer, at a deep level, to the nature/grace question, which is what’s at the root of the Marian dogmas and devotions which, despite contrary claims, are in my view neither sacramental, transformational, communal nor eschatological. Nor biblical.

Meanwhile, Carson, O’Brien, and Siefrid, with their “Justification and Variegated Nomism” series, used Sanders’s method to go far beyond what he tried to do, and in doing so, they put him into perspective. Meanwhile, Dunn and Wright have both made key concessions (see Dunn’s comments in the “Justification: Five Views” volume.

Thus, when you say things like "....when we deal with the word of the Lord, we are dealing directly with the Lord," that God's "character" is "immutable," and that "God rolls" as you describe, you are in no position to explain why such assertions represent anything more than one set of opinions among the many others that circulate. I studied many of those others in college, and of course they've proliferated since.

What you are essentially saying here is that God does not, cannot, reveal himself adequately in Scripture. Lots of people have lots of views. But there is a substantially correct view, and those who prayerfully seek the face of the Lord in the Scriptures are promised that they will find Him.


  1. Love it, John.

    ... God speaks and the world comes into existence. That is how God’s word works. For you to be claiming what you are claiming is to deny God the power that he has – in this case, the power to communicate.. .
    What you are essentially saying here is that God does not, cannot, reveal himself adequately in Scripture..

    As for IP, I would say paradigm, schmaradigm. What we are really talking about is the testimony of Scripture, again: "that God is powerful enough to have created human beings in such a way that he can communicate what he needs and intends to communicate directly through His word".
    ( No traces of the old liberal canard that God is so far exalted high above his creation that cannot communicate with it here, eh?)

    IOW again (shades of Green Baggins) it's all about the sufficiency and clarity of Scripture, as well as the question of epistemology - how do we know something - if not on the basis of what authority do we know something. Michael denies that Scripture itself is authoritative because it would supposedly be contradictory. But no proof is forthcoming. Rather let's just talk about Scripture like it’s the third party in the room without addressing it directly - how rude - and then assert the alternative/substitute authority of the Magisterium on the basis of his opinion, tradition, Rome's sez so or all of the above rather than fairly examining the case for each, whether Protestant or Roman, on their respective merits. That is after all, what CtC purports to be a forum for, right?

    All this of course, dressed up to no end in philosophical talk and distinctions, which obscures the debate, much more its basis and presuppositions in order to umm... prevail, rather than pursue truth, much more - Eureka! - actually find it. IOW this is academic sophistry/scholasticism at its worst.

    There are those, Scripture tells us, who are ever learning but never able to come to the truth. Pray God their example does not become our experience.

    Bob S.

    Is your wife doing better?

  2. Hey Bob -- I've been commenting over there, and then just posting my comments here for the folks back home. I can tell some of the folks over there are annoyed with me. But I've been asked a lot of questions by a number of different people, and so I feel the need to try to answer some of them.

    Beth is doing well, although she's been fighting a cough/cold for the last month or so. Her immune system is still being suppressed, and she's also susceptible to a GVH version of pneumonia. They had her in for a CT-scan on the pneumonia, which was negative. They gave her an antibiotic, and she is through that, and still coughing a bit. But otherwise she seems to be doing fine. We have a regularly scheduled appointment on the 16th.