Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The burden of proof and self-evident things

Michael Liccione (546):

The foundational question at issue between us at CTC and Protestants of your sort is: “How to determine which IP is rationally preferable”? In other words, which way of giving theological significance to the raw data is best suited to distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion?

What’s really “foundational”? Some things are, or ought to be, just simply self-evident. And it’s not at all self evident that “the foundational issue” is “how to determine which IP is rationally preferable”.

Consider these New Testament accounts:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God … This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

We are not telling you to believe things that you do not see as a “formal proximate object of faith”. We are confirming things to you that you already know.

Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense … “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.

What’s necessary to be known isn’t hidden, “implicit” in the Scriptures, waiting for some as-yet-unneeded “development”. True and rational words, things that don’t really “escape notice”.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life,

It’s all clear as a bell to us. We proclaim this eternal life to you, and our testimony is true.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

And you have certainty simply through this orderly account, and there is no hint at all that anything else is required.

* * *

You said:

instead of proceeding as if your IP were the only one, we insist that you stop begging the question and instead approach the issues at the level I’ve been talking about. To object that IPs are “unfalsifiable” is simply irrelevant.

I’m not proceeding as if [my] IP were the only one. I’ve cited probably dozens of scholars on topics where they are the specialists, proceeding on an “IP” which they expect, if not completely perfect, will be seriously challenged, and their livelihoods depend on it.

In the same vein, Bryan said this of the “burden of proof”:

When a party goes out from the Catholic Church, as Protestants did in the sixteenth century on the basis of their own interpretation of Scripture, and that party seeks to justify its actions by making a case against the Catholic Church, that party has the burden of proof, just by the fact that they are the ones who went out from the Church.

Where, precisely, is it “self evident” that the Roman Catholic Church is somehow “The Church” that it says it is? Your own “begging the question” is prior in time to my supposed “begging the question”. You beg the question that “the Roman Catholic Church” is what it says it is.

You’ll no doubt say that Matthew 16:18 is some kind of “self-evident” proof that Christ founded a visible church, Peter was the first pope, etc.

But show me where some of these individual steps are quite so “self-evident”:

a) The promise of Mt 16:18 has reference to "Peter."
b) The promise of Mt 16:18 has "exclusive" reference to Peter.
c) The promise of Mt 16:18 has reference to a Petrine "office."
d) This office is "perpetual"
e) Peter resided in "Rome"
f) Peter was the "bishop" of Rome
g) Peter was the "first" bishop of Rome
h) There was only "one" bishop at a time
i) Peter was not a bishop "anywhere else."
j) Peter "ordained" a successor
k) This ceremony "transferred" his official prerogatives to a successor.
l) The succession has remained "unbroken" up to the present day.

Not one of these little mini-steps is self-evident. In fact, I’ve published a tremendous amount of information that contests (not to being an outright logical proof, but history does not function that way) the Roman Catholic accounting of each of these steps. The cumulative effect of these things is an alternative history which, in the words of Carl Trueman just this month, is “what historians take for granted: the rise, consolidation and definition of papal power is an historically very complex issue; and, indeed, as scholarship advances, the story becomes more, not less, convoluted and subversive of papal claims.”

The phrase is used here, “through the eyes of the fathers”, as if somehow this “language” too, is self-evident, and that it self-evidently accepts the Roman Catholic story about itself. But Archbishop Roland Minnerath has admitted as much: “The East never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West. It never accepted that the protos in the universal church could claim to be the unique successor or vicar of Peter.

So, if “the East” never even felt as if they were “going out” from the Roman Catholic Church, where, precisely, is “the burden of proof”?

You all here just simply “assume” the papacy; you take Newman at his [“incoherent”] word that “it’s not a violent assumption” to hold that this papal authority was somehow in authority from the beginning. I’m saying, (and others are saying), At the very least, "the East" considered it to be a violent assumption.

Consider the words of John Meier, a Roman Catholic biblical scholar whom you all dismiss, but who the Vatican permits to speak for Roman Catholicism in high-level ecumenical meetings, the papacy does not provide “a credible historical account of its own origins…” (“Petrine Ministry in the New Testament and in the Early Patristic Traditions,” in James F. Puglisi, ed., How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Uity of the Universal Church?” Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: William Be. Eerdmans Publishing Co., © 2010). Meier is one of those who believes in “God’s providential guidance of the church, leading by a series of steps to the emergence of the bishop of Rome,” but this is a far, far cry from the “divine institution” of the papacy – directly conferring it on Peter who directly conferred it, in “full power” directly to an unbroken chain of “successors.”

Up above you chided me for only giving Old Testament prophecies. Here I am with some pretty “foundational” New Testament “hermeneutics”.

The apostles are saying, “you can believe these things” first of all, because “you yourselves are eyewitnesses to some of these things”, and secondly, “our testimony is true”.

That, in itself, seems pretty foundational to me. Salvation does not depend on some “formally identified” “proximate object of faith” with very sharply-defined edges, defined by someone who us just “assumed” to be in authority.

The events that the writers of the New Testament were talking about are just as clear and self-evident to them as the noses on their faces.

In what way are these not “foundational issues”?

Where is the burden of proof in an environment where “as scholarship advances, the story becomes more, not less, convoluted and subversive of papal claims.”

Especially given some of the other context that we’ve seen.

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