Friday, October 07, 2022

The Largeness, Complexity, And Difficulty Of Extrabiblical Tradition

It's often suggested that sola scriptura is too difficult to live out. How do you know which documents are canonical and which aren't? There are so many disagreements over Biblical interpretation. Many of our questions aren't answered, or aren't answered explicitly, by scripture. A lot of people throughout church history have been illiterate. How are they supposed to follow sola scriptura? And so on.

You can approach issues like those from a lot of angles, and we've responded to such objections many times (e.g., noting that Protestants aren't the only ones who have to make judgments about what's part of their rule of faith and what isn't, that Protestants aren't the only ones who disagree about how to interpret their rule of faith, that non-Protestant rules of faith also contain written sources that illiterate people wouldn't be able to read for themselves, that a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox layman relying on a local priest or bishop to tell him what to believe is relying on a source who's fallible by Catholic and Orthodox standards, that Catholic and Orthodox laymen are depending on translators and other fallible sources in the process of consulting their allegedly infallible authorities, etc.). One of the factors to take into account in these contexts is how large and complicated extrabiblical tradition is and how it's so often failed to bring about the sort of peace, unity, and easiness its advocates often suggest it will bring about. For example:

"The disagreements ran deep, and the disputes were often bitter and sometimes violent. From the beginning of the fourth century to the middle of the sixth century, more than 250 councils dealt with a wide range of topics." (Robert Wilken, The First Thousand Years [New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2012], 90)

And those councils often disagreed with each other.

We've provided many other examples along those lines, like here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

When You're Deep In History And Have Ceased To Be Protestant

Robert Wilken is a historian who converted from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism decades ago. He's sometimes mentioned in lists of converts to Catholicism. He appeared on Marcus Grodi's television program "The Journey Home" on EWTN. You often find Catholic scholars making comments like these ones from Wilken's book on the first millennium of church history:

"As the controversy over the dating of the Pasch revealed, there was no central authority within Christianity in the second century. The Church was composed of a constellation of local communities spanning the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East. They had a strong sense of unity among themselves, but they were only loosely organized." (The First Thousand Years [New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2012], 39)

"In the early Church there was no 'private' confession. According to church law the emperor could not present himself quietly before the bishop, confess his sin, and receive absolution. The penitential discipline of the early Church was unremittingly harsh and carried out in front of the Christian people. The penitents were segregated from the rest of the community, assigned a special section in the church, and forbidden to receive the Eucharist." (135)

"By the middle of the third century the bishop of Rome had begun to acquire an unparalleled authority in the West - in Italy, North Africa, Gaul, and Spain. Not, however, in the East. There the churches looked to the bishops in the major cities, Alexandria in Egypt or Antioch in Syria. This geographical fact, that Rome was the principal city in the West, whereas in the East there were several, would lead to a quite different understanding of how the Church was to be governed at the highest level….It is clear from the minutes of the Council of Chalcedon that the bishops, most of whom were from the East, did not view Rome's authority as Leo [the Roman bishop] did." (165-66, 170)

"Apparently [in The Apostolic Tradition, a document of the third century] infant baptism was permissible - though not conventional - and parents or guardians would speak for the children." (176)

Monday, October 03, 2022

Resources For Reformation Day

Reformation Day will be celebrated in a few weeks. Here's a collection of resources on the historical roots of the Reformation and Evangelicalism. I update that page from time to time, and some changes have been made over the last several months. I've added links to articles about the evidence against a Catholic view of Mary in Luke's writings and whether Jesus taught a physical presence in the eucharist. See here for a recent post on the papacy, specifically how we should expect to see the office referred to in the early sources if such an office existed. And here's one I added on the Assumption of Mary.