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Monday, October 19, 2009

2 Timothy 3:14-17 and Sola Scriptura

It's been a long time since I posted anything new, that needs to change! I'm not the type that is able to post something new every day, or week, (or even month,) but I really shouldn't go this long without posting.
I did have a few articles in the works, but they kept getting put on the shelf until later. Sadly, I'm not posting one of those articles now, but (God Willing) I should soon.

Anyway, some good news! Here is an amazing article on Sola Scriptura which I came across, it is definitely one of those articles you need to bookmark. In this article, Kevin does a masterful job at showing how a Catholic should address 2 Timothy 3:16f when brought up by a Protestant as a Sola Scriptura proof-text.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 and Sola Scriptura


Also, here is an (old) article I wrote on The Westminster Confession on Sola Scriptura

42 comments:

Av Tattenai said...

Sorry, but there's nothing "masterful" about this article; it's as full of non sequiturs and false definitions as anything it critiques.

The issue is not whether Christians should follow apostolic tradition, nor whether that tradition can be found in both oral and written forms. The question is rather, is the teaching of Denomination X a truly apostolic tradition, or rather their own more recent invention?

I can't find any of the distinctive teachings of Rome or Constantinople (e.g. the Marian dogmas, the primacy of the bishop of Rome, celibacy) in any genuinely apostolic source. To be sure, many Protestant dogmas and practices also fall into this category. In any case, it's not just the 2 Timothy quote that rebukes them, but also the cited Thessalonians texts as well, not to mention Isaiah 29:13.

あじ said...

Av, it would be helpful if you would present some specific non-sequiturs and false definitions, rather than asserting them. If both sides are wrong, at least point us in the right direction.

How do you propose to answer your own question? In particular, if there is oral apostolic tradition (which you did not explicitly deny), your claim to not be able to find certain teachings in "any genuinely apostolic source" is incredulous. What exactly are you proposing?

Av Tattenai said...

I already mentioned the most obvious non sequitur and false definition, namely the contention that sola scriptura excludes the oral message of the apostles while they were still alive.

How is it "incredulous" to point out that doctrines and practices which were invented centuries after the death of the apostles are therefore not apostolic?

The right direction is quite simply to go to the Scripture as the only known source of genuinely apostolic and prophetic tradition, instead of supplementing, adjusting, and abandoning it as so many people of various stripes are wont to do.

Nick said...

AV: I already mentioned the most obvious non sequitur and false definition, namely the contention that sola scriptura excludes the oral message of the apostles while they were still alive.

Nick: I'm not quite sure what you're saying here, but just the way it's worded seems self-refuting. IF I am reading your right, you're saying Sola Scriptura existed concurrently with oral Apostolic preaching? That doesn't make sense logically; there cannot be a 'sola' when two sources of revelation/authority are coexisting. Further, if that claim is the 'most obvious' error of the article, then I'm not too convinced the article had much problems at all.
If the Apostles were not practicing Sola Scriptura, which they weren't, then Sola Scriptura is dealt a severe blow.

Av Tattenai said...

While I am alive, you can glean my theology in two ways. You can meet me in person and get it orally, or you can read it in a document I have written. These are not rightly labeled "two sources of revelation/authority." It's only one source -- me.

After I die, you will no longer be able to access my theology orally, but only ("sola") in writing ("scriptura"). So it is with Paul, Peter, et al. The message which they spoke and the message which they wrote were one and the same; there is no "other tradition" from these men which can be employed to amend or circumvent their texts.

Thus sola scriptura has been dealt no blow at all. The Roman/Eastern opinion requires Jekyll and Hyde apostles, who orally transmitted a message which they never committed to writing. Now that's "incredulous"!

Nick said...

Av: While I am alive, you can glean my theology in two ways. You can meet me in person and get it orally, or you can read it in a document I have written. These are not rightly labeled "two sources of revelation/authority." It's only one source -- me.

Nick: This makes sense - assuming everything given by you orally is identical to what is given by you written. But that's just an assumption, not a given (and highly unlikely in fact).


Av: After I die, you will no longer be able to access my theology orally, but only ("sola") in writing ("scriptura").

Nick: How so? People remember and even pass on what is taught orally all the time. Does not someone learn about their great grandparents from the oral testimony of their immediate parents?

But even if what you just said was true, this means neither your students nor yourself were operating on Sola Scriptura at that time (just as I said originally). So, as an example, when Paul was writing to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:16f, both of them were alive at the time, and thus Sola Scriptura was not being practiced. With that in mind, whatever Paul was saying, he was not telling Timothy to practice Sola Scriptura.

Av: So it is with Paul, Peter, et al. The message which they spoke and the message which they wrote were one and the same; there is no "other tradition" from these men which can be employed to amend or circumvent their texts.

Nick: That's a bit of a shift in your original comments. You are assuming everything given orally by the Apostles is identical to everything written by them, but that is unproven (esp from Scripture).

Av: Thus sola scriptura has been dealt no blow at all. The Roman/Eastern opinion requires Jekyll and Hyde apostles, who orally transmitted a message which they never committed to writing. Now that's "incredulous"!

Nick: Well, I think you're getting ahead of yourself: You must deal with the fact the Apostles and apostolic Christians weren't going by SS (which you basically admitted) and you must prove (from Scripture) the oral testimony was identical to the written.

Av Tattenai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Av Tattenai said...

I know of no one who uses the phrase "sola scriptura" in the manner assumed by this discussion, namely that sola scriptura precludes the authoritative use of oral apostolic testimony. Thoughtful sons of the Reformation also speak of solo verbo, "by Word alone," as in Deut. 8:3 = Matt. 4:4. From there, they simply note that after the demise of the apostles, there is no other credible source for their words beside their texts. Thus I see the original paper as a straw man argument.

The burden of proof is not on me to show that the apostolic oral testimony was identical to the written, since it is simply normal human behavior to be consistent in this way. Those deliberately not so consistent are called hypocrites, and certainly not worthy to be called apostles.

I don't recall any second century authors (Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons) ever invoking an apostolic tradition other than their written texts to build their arguments. Are you aware of an exception?

BTW, one does not always learn anything reliable about their ancestors from the oral testimony of their immediate predecessors. My grandmother used to relate of a certain Uncle Byron who left the house one day on the pretext of going to buy cigarettes, and never returned. Years later I learned that such stories are called "urban legends." So it is with ecclesiastical legends like Peter's upside down crucifixion in Rome. It's the basis for entertainment, not serious theology.

あじ said...

If "there is no other credible source for their words beside their texts," you are left with total agnosticism regarding what the apostles actually meant. Surely text- and redaction-criticism should make that quite clear. We don't have the original writings, nor can we prove that our critical methods have restored the originals. Much less can we be sure that the "changes" to the text haven't significantly, if not fatally, undermined the apostolic message. Even less still can we know whether each author adequately expressed their thoughts and beliefs by being perfectly precise in their choice of words. The more I write, the more I recognize how difficult it is to perfectly communicate meaning, and I have access to any number of dictionaries and thesauruses and orders of magnitude more reading material to appropriate to my task. Your view seems to me a form of positivism, making it rather unsustainable.

From an anthropological and sociological standpoint, your denigration of oral tradition comes off as rather shallow. If the various believing communities they themselves founded are agreed on various doctrines, it matters not if those doctrines were codified by the apostles, because the apostles didn't just leave behind books, but lives and communities and forms and expressions of worship. Significant portions of the Old Testament were likely oral tradition for generations, perhaps centuries before being codified. Does that diminish their value?

Dan Martin said...

Nick, I'm excited to see you posting again, I hadn't dropped in for a while.

You know from reading my own writing that I do not accept the conventional Evangelical interpretation of 2 Tim 3:14-17. To claim it as the basis for "Sola Scriptura" is, in my view, a mistake. Nevertheless it's not a mistake that, in and of itself, nullifies the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

Your author points out (quite correctly) the logical fallacy that proving Roman Catholic doctrine wrong leaves the only other choice--Evangelical/Protestant Sola Scriptura--as therefore proven right. But I'm afraid he then falls into the same trap. Nowhere does he establish the link that if (as he says) the first-century Apostles did not rely upon or teach Sola Scriptura, that therefore any of these three contentions must be true:

1) That just because Sola Scriptura was not the complete basis for the first-century apostles' teaching, it therefore was not a legitimate ground for authority once those first-generation witnesses had died (as Av has already pointed out);

2) That the apostles ever intended a succession that would carry over, with oral and traditional weight, beyond their deaths;

3) That the Roman Catholic Church's claim to that apostolic succession is in fact legitimate.

The author also makes a grievieous error in reference to 2 Thessalonians 2:15. When the Apostle Paul says that the Thessalonians heard the Word of God from them, he is not saying, and in fact it borders on blasphemy to suggest, that therefore his oral testimony is identified as "the Word of God." I have blogged extensively about Evangelical notions of Biblical inspiration, and I won't repeat it all here. . .but I must take issue with the erroneous notion that just because something is divinely inspired, it's God's word Suffice it to say the author's characterization of Paul's authority is an error of fairly significant proportion.

Your author goes on to say: We must first note that if this passage teaches Sola Scriptura for us today, and the meaning of God’s word does not change with time, it must have been teaching Sola Scriptura the day it was written. This we know is not true, for St. Paul’s oral revelation was still binding and infallible. . .

Here again he suggests an infallibility Paul never claimed for himself (nor for St. Peter, as Paul states quite bluntly in Galatians 2:11 that Peter was flatly wrong). He further assumes as a postulate for his argument, that "the meaning of God’s word does not change with time," something neither scripture nor plain reason will support. Jesus himself, not to mention the Evangelists as they quote the Prophets, demonstrate repeatedly that the meaning of the written word can be wildly different in various circumstances and by various movements of the Holy Spirit.

So I'm afraid our friend Kevin M. Tierny is hoist by his own petard in this particular piece.

Still, glad to see you back in the fray, brother!

Peace,

Dan

Nick said...

Sorry for this late response.

Av: From there, they simply note that after the demise of the apostles, there is no other credible source for their words beside their texts. Thus I see the original paper as a straw man argument.

Nick: This claim has two problems (as our Chinese friend pointed out): (1) It's more of an opinion, and this logic can be applied (and actually undermine) any claim to having any uncorrupted manuscripts passed down. In otherwords, if one can believe God preserved uncorrupted copies of Epistles, then we can surely believe Oral teachings were faithfully passed down.
(2) The most problematic thing about that claim is it is not based on any Scripture text, making it self refuting.

It cannot be a "strawman argument" when the one affirming Sola Scriptura is making such bold yet unsubstantiated claims.


Av: The burden of proof is not on me to show that the apostolic oral testimony was identical to the written, since it is simply normal human behavior to be consistent in this way.

Nick: Again, this argument fails for the same two reasons mentioned just above. First, it's an appeal to emotion; second, it's making a claim and shifting the burden, all the while having no clear Scriptural evidence (which, again, is self refuting). Further, it is not normal behavior to write the same things you speak orally, both forms have their inherent advantages and disadvantages.


Av: I don't recall any second century authors ever invoking an apostolic tradition

Nick: This is neither here nor there, because it doesn't matter whether or not an Church Father taught XYZ, but rather whether Scripture teaches XYZ. The Church Fathers could have unanimously taught Sola Scriptura...but if Scripture doesn't teach it, then nothing else matters. Plus, there are "Catholic things" the ECFs taught that many Protestants would consider anathema on the very grounds they don't consider the teaching "Biblical".

Nick said...

Dan,

Wow, some poignant comments! I must say though, how you end up affirming Sola Scriptura after what you've said is something that prompts my response more than anything!

I'm not sure where you've talked about 2 Tim 3:16f, but maybe I forgot. Anyway, since you reject that as a foundational text for Sola Scriptura prompts the question: Then whence in Scripture do you turn?
That is such a huge claim that I'm simply in shock, for I would never have imagined such a thing. I cannot even think of where other Protestants go for a 'close second' when it comes to a proof text.

Surely such a foundational doctrine would be delineated somewhere or another in Scripture.


As for your double edged sword claim that disproving Catholicism doesn't automatically make Protestantism true applying in the reverse direction: what you say is true in a sense, but since Protestantism came out of Catholicism, disproving it automatically makes Catholicism the next candidate in line.

Now to look at your 3 points which you claim the article presumed:

1) You said just because Sola Scriptura wasn't in operation in the first generation of Christians doesn't mean it was in operation in the second. Well, that could be true, but (a) that would still require a Scriptural mandate directed at 'second generation' Christians, and (b) it would mean any writing directed at 'first generation' Christians (which all the Epistles were directed at) was not in fact teaching them to engage in SS. At that point the burden is on you to show that though a given passage didn't mean SS to it's original audience, that it somehow means SS today. The primary meaning of a text shouldn't change over time.

2) You said: "That the apostles ever intended a succession that would carry over, with oral and traditional weight, beyond their deaths;"
I think this can be shown from Scripture, first and foremost from the fact people like Timothy (second generation) are told to appoint other bishops (third generation). Second, that argument can actually go against you as well, because many of the Epistles were directed to a specific audience, with no indication the Epistle was to be passed on for generations to come. This is especially problematic for Epistles that are addressed to single individuals (eg Titus). And it's not unfair to request Biblical proof that the oral teaching of the apostles suddenly went null after their deaths.


3) You said: "That the Roman Catholic Church's claim to that apostolic succession is in fact legitimate."
True, but the key is to realize is that without SS, Protestantism doesnt have a leg to stand on; basically "defaulting" to Catholicism. Now, Catholicism could also be false, but that's another debate.


You then went onto say that it is false to claim "Word of God" (via 1 Thes 2:13) suggests Paul's oral testimony is such. But I see no other logical reading (cf. Acts 2:42: 1 Th 2:4). Paul was an Apostle, and thus whatever he taught regarding theology (whether oral or written) carried that divine stamp of approval. The only alternative is to be consistent and conclude parts of his Epistles are uninspired!


You said: Here again he suggests an infallibility Paul never claimed for himself (nor for St. Peter, as Paul states quite bluntly in Galatians 2:11 that Peter was flatly wrong).

Paul was protected by the Holy Spirit when preaching, how could he not be preaching the "Word of God" infallibly? The Gal 2:11 passage is often misunderstood, for it is not speaking on the subject. Infallibility does not mean that one is morally impeccable; it means when preaching the Word, the Holy Spirit will inspire/guide.

Nick said...

(cont. 2 of 2)

You said: "He further assumes as a postulate for his argument, that "the meaning of God’s word does not change with time," something neither scripture nor plain reason will support. Jesus himself, not to mention the Evangelists as they quote the Prophets, demonstrate repeatedly that the meaning of the written word can be wildly different in various circumstances and by various movements of the Holy Spirit."

Careful: a passage having more than one meaning doesn't mean its meaning changed. Some passages (but not all) often have an 'earthly' meaning and an 'heavenly' one, but that doesn't mean the passage no longer means either of those. Further, that's usually the case with OT texts and not NT ones. Plus, to claim a passage of Scripture "changed meaning" to now mean SS puts a huge burden on you, for you already admit an original meaning, now you must demonstrate it changed and when. Lastly, "plain reason" does suggest the meaning of most passages wont change over time, for if most verses did change meaning, then it suggests a doctrinal relativism (where doctrines change/cease/appear over time).

All in all, while you bring up some 'food for thought', I don't think it really goes against Kevin's core arguments...but more importantly, I'm wondering how you can still affirm SS after all that. I can't see where you would begin to find proof texts, especially with 2 Tim 3:16f removed as an option.

Dan Martin said...

Well, Nick, a few specific responses, and then a broader sketch of my stance may be helpful. The specifics first:

1) Until your post, I'd never heard anyone refer to 2 Tim 3:14-17 (actually, most Evangelicals just point to vv. 16-17) in support of a doctrine of Sola Scriptura. They use it, rather, to support the doctrine of Verbal and Plenary Inspiration of Scripture...the notion that the current (Protestant) Biblical canon is word-for-word inspired by, and by extension the word of, God. Contra this notion, I have blogged in some detail (fourteen posts and counting). In particular, I have argued against the conventional Evangelical opinion regarding 2 Tim 3:14-17 in three posts here, here, and here.

2) You made the following statement: As for your double edged sword claim that disproving Catholicism doesn't automatically make Protestantism true applying in the reverse direction: what you say is true in a sense, but since Protestantism came out of Catholicism, disproving it automatically makes Catholicism the next candidate in line.

This is simply not the case, as it's also quite possible (and in fact this is what I argue) that Protestantism and Catholicism both miss some seriously important elements vis-a-vis the real gold standard, which is Jesus first, and the first-century church that comprised, and was led by, those who knew Jesus in person on earth. My contention is that on the subject of ecclesiology and ecclesiastical authority, Catholicism contains a great deal of error that was introduced in the third and fourth centuries (and, that even though Protestants make a claim of Sola Scriptura, in many ways they still perpetuate these same errors). So no, if Protestants are wrong, that does not automatically make Catholics right. (it's no wonder Protestants and Catholics agreed that my ancestors--the Anabaptists--had to go, right?)

3) You suggest that Paul's direction to Timothy on the ordination of bishops, somehow supports the notion of apostolic succession. I don't see how. It is bishops (Greek "overseers," not at all necessarily a title of ecclesiastical authority, but rather a description of servant-leadership among the brethren), NOT apostles, that Paul was helping Timothy to ordain. Quite the contrary to establishing an apostolic succession, Paul was providing for ongoing leadership as the original apostles were leaving the scene.

4) You reacted quite strongly to my contention that Paul's preaching was not, ipso facto, divinely inspired and the word of God. My response is twofold: first, something can be divinely inspired without being God's word. These concepts are not synonymous, and we do significant violence to the scriptural text when we suggest they are. Second, Paul himself clearly delineates places where he believes he has a word from the Lord vs. his own thoughts (see 1Cor. 7:10, 7:12, 7:25). Such delineation would be wholly unnecessary if everything he wrote or said were God's word.

OK, this post has gotten long. In my next post I want to address the more central issue where I differ with you and Kevin's contention.

Peace,

Dan

Dan Martin said...

So Nick, I think where we really land here is back on the same territory we debated when I responded to your post on imputation and then carried on in my post on Catholic authority. That is that we both approach the very question of authority from wholly different universes. Without mischaracterizing yours, let me lay out a few fundamentals of my position.

I begin with the assumption that there is no authority but God himself, and that any other rightful authority comes only by his delegation or permission. Any other claimant to authority, therefore, has the burden of proof to their legitimacy...I have no burden to prove they do NOT have legitimate authority.

As I elaborated in my biblical inspiration series, I accept our biblical texts as faithful witnesses to the interaction of God with his creation through a good chunk of history. I also accept (with some qualification) that those places where the biblical authors clearly stated that they were speaking or writing the words of God, we can believe them as such, trusting their faithful witness.

I do not, however, hammer unbelievers with the Bible. It makes no sense. You and I share a common respect for the authority, at least in some sense, of the biblical texts. Therefore, we can appeal to them as a commonly-accepted authority for argument/proof/correction/etc.

When it comes to ecclesiastical authority, I maintain as I said above that the burden of proof is on the claimants, to show that their authority is legitimate. This, I submit, is one of the lessons of Acts 17:11, where the Bereans are lauded for checking Paul & Silas' teachings against the scriptures (which were their commonly-accepted authority) rather than receiving them without question.

So whither Sola Scriptura? Well, to call it a "doctrine" and then to look for "proof texts" to support or refute it, is something I repudiate from the get-go. The issue is not that I hold to "a doctrine of Sola Scriptura," but rather that I accept the witness of the written scriptures to the will and work of God, and I challenge any other claimant in that regard to produce his or her credentials. IMO neither the papacy of Rome, nor the various other potentates of East and West, nor the Swindolls or Falwells or whomever, have produced credentials that pass the test. So I default to "Sola Scriptura" because it's the "sola" thing left standing.

Nick said...

Hi Dan,

I realize you're not the 'typical' Protestant, so my main arguments would have to be modified to apply to your position.

1) You said you've not heard Protestants used 2 Tim 3:16f as the primary prooftext for Sola Scriptura. Well, that's not my experience at all; virtually every appeal to SS involves 2Tim3 as the 'go to' passage. If using it for the sole purpose of "Plenary Inspiriation of Scripture," then Catholics have no objection whatsoever. As for your multiple posts on 2T3, reading through them they don't seem to really address Sola Scriptura. Further, every new posts appears to be acorrection/retraction of the previous post (which doesn't help when trying to build a case).

2) I agree with your logic, but my point still stands. Since Protestantism came 'out of' Catholicism, if Protestantism is false, then the next step is Catholicism. Now, both P and C could be wrong, in which case a third option (you say Anabaptists) was the original 'true church' and P and C expanded as 'heresies' from that 'original church'. The argument there would then shift to Church History, at which point you would have to present a convincing argument that one of the following options were true: (a) the "Apostolic Fathers" (representing the 'visible church') like St Ignatius were Anabaptists; (b) that Anabaptists remained 'underground' for centuries such that none of the "Early Christian writings" from the first few centuries even mention them; (c) there was an absolute apostasy where no true Christians were around until a future date.

I personally feel very comfortable holding my ground against any one of those three options. Yes, the group now known as the "Anabaptists" could have been the true post-Apostolic Christians, but based on the historical record, I wouldn't risk my soul on it.

3) Regarding Paul telling Timothy to ordain Bishops and thus establishing Apostolic Succession. This never entailed ordaining future "apostles," for those are a unique status, the 'originals.' Apostles carried various charismata, only certain of which were to be passed on (notably the laying on of hands, which is a passing on of authority). When we say "apostolic succession," we never meant a line of apostles proper.
And you say "bishop" is not a title of ecclesiastical authority, yet we see their directives as precisely that of authoritatively rebuking and keeping people on track.

4) Regarding Paul's preaching being the Word of God or not, I agree with what you're saying. When preaching on matters of divine truths, Paul very much was preaching the Word of God; when speaking on Church 'disciplines', such commands carry binding authority but can be modified by the proper authorities when deemed necessary.

Nick said...

With that out of the way, I agree with your 'phase 2' comments regarding us having to go back to our previous debate/discussion on authority - and especially our radically different foundations.

You said: "I begin with the assumption that there is no authority but God himself, and that any other rightful authority comes only by his delegation or permission. Any other claimant to authority, therefore, has the burden of proof to their legitimacy...You and I share a common respect for the authority, at least in some sense, of the biblical texts. Therefore, we can appeal to them as a commonly-accepted authority..."

I basically agree with this foundation.


Dan: When it comes to ecclesiastical authority, I maintain as I said above that the burden of proof is on the claimants, to show that their authority is legitimate.

Nick: Agreed. And granted that there are genuine offices of authority in the Church and that there never was an absolute apostasy, I believe there are men today who hold this passed down authority. My job: track them down. If you agree with that, then I believe the historical record points to Catholicism.

Dan: This, I submit, is one of the lessons of Acts 17:11, where the Bereans are lauded for checking Paul & Silas' teachings against the scriptures (which were their commonly-accepted authority) rather than receiving them without question.

Nick: The point of Acts 17 was not to question the Apostle's authority, for nobody could overturn them. Either they listen to the Apostles or they're in error. There was no option of "checking the Apostle's teaching in Scripture and concluding it doesn't match." In the specific case of Acts 17, it was not so much "sola scriptura" (for the issue was not determining faith and practice) but rather examining fulfilled prophecy. The key text is not 17:11, but rather 17:1-4,
'2Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah'

Note what he was doing, Paul found the specific individual named "Jesus" and connected him to the Prophecies. Nowhere does "Jesus is the Messiah" appear in the OT - they could only rely on Paul's testimony of Jesus' life, death, and teachings and then connect the dots. This was not "sola scriptura" as Protestants understand it. The Bereans were "of more noble character than the Thessalonians" because they were willing to listen rather than riot (17:5-9). And note only some of the Bereans converted - meaning those who were not convinced by their own reading of Scripture were infact very wrong!


Dan: So whither Sola Scriptura? Well, to call it a "doctrine" and then to look for "proof texts" to support or refute it, is something I repudiate from the get-go. The issue is not that I hold to "a doctrine of Sola Scriptura," but rather that I accept the witness of the written scriptures to the will and work of God, and I challenge any other claimant in that regard to produce his or her credentials.

Nick: Ok, but this position is still self refuting without Biblical proof, for you must find precisely what you advocate in the text, else you're not following the example of the text. Do we see evidence of people in the Bible saying they only accept the Scriptures unless other authority is proven? Do we see Christians in the Bible rising up against their leaders based on their own differing reading of the Bible?
And as for other authorities "passing your test," what standard do you use, including one that tells you when you're reading Scripture incorrectly?
For Sola Scriptura to be a "default" position is quite troubling, for it entails a sort of deism where God leaves behind only the Bible and says "from here, you guys figure it out among yourselves," rather than the more Providential "I am with you until the end of time." It also reduces the Church from a visible entity to a purely invisible one.

Dan Martin said...

Nick, I should clarify one point that I did not. I do not claim that the Anabaptist movement per se predates Catholicism or the church fathers. It's in fact a radical, New Testament-inspired movement that broke away from the Reformers in the 16th century (and was roundly persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics for its positions on believer's baptism, nonviolence, and a refusal to accept the state's authority in religious matters.

I do believe, as the Anabaptists did, that their significant points of doctrine were a return to the New Testament, first-century model in ways that neither Catholic nor Protestant churches embodied.

I never intended my posts on 2T3 to address SS, because it wasn't the bogey on the radar screen when I wrote them. I think if you re-read them you'll find more consistency than you give me credit for, in that I contend that (1) the verses in question do not, did not, and were never intended to serve as a declaration on the character of the biblical canon as a whole; and (2) to use them in that manner does violence to the context. My ruminations on Greek grammar (wherein I am no expert) are the only thing I've modified or retracted.

I'm a little nonplussed by your suggestion that (to quote) (c) there was an absolute apostasy where no true Christians were around until a future date. You seem to imply that unless there was apostasy to the point that no true church existed (a thing which I don't believe has ever happened), the church cannot have been in error on it's claims of authority. Wherein lies the logic for that? There's a vast gulf between complete apostasy and unquestioned infallibility.

Finally, I don't fear I'm "risking my soul" any more than you are. The father seeks those who worship him in spirit and in truth, and I don't think he's half as concerned about our institutions, as we are.

Grace & peace,

Dan

Dan Martin said...

And re your second response:

Nick: Agreed. And granted that there are genuine offices of authority in the Church

This I do not grant. The scriptures provide for functional offices; I maintain that it's a human artifice (and in error) to grant those offices authority in a structural, hierarchical sense. Matt. 23:8-12 is relevant here.

And I'm afraid I have to agree to disagree with your interesting take on Acts 17:11. 1-4 was taking place in a completely different town, and the Bereans' nobility is ascribed to two things: they received "the word" (not, notice, "Paul's words") with eagerness, and they checked it out through daily searching of the scriptures.

In conclusion, you seem to be making the determination that "sola scriptura" is circular, in that "scriptura" never tells us it's the "sola" foundation. Perhaps contra the classic Protestant notion that comes close to idolatry of the Bible, that holds some weight. I hold my faith rather more loosely than that...they call it "faith," after all, for a reason...and "proof" whether in the form of a sacred text or a sacred hierarchy simply is not part of my faith base. The same claim could--and I suggest should--be made of your faith in the unbroken authority chain of the Catholic church, which exists as an authority solely because it says so, too. How is this any less circular?

In the final analysis, we believe or disbelieve authority on the basis of our own decision, and we've been doing so ever since the fall. This does not scare me, though, because I still trust God the Father and Creator to pull us through the morass. I do not, however, accept human institutions of whatever stripe when they tell me to just shut up and trust them. And every organized church on earth, Catholic and Protestant alike, is a human institution, no matter how hard they try (and they do try) to faithfully follow our common Lord.

Harrison said...

This argument is very personal to me. I was born and raised in the Anabaptist tradition, yet for the past 5 years have been exploring the Catholic faith and am now quite close to conversion. I ask the following questions, Mr. Martin, only in an attempt to discover the truth.

Mr. Martin, Nick's argument of total apostasy is valid, and I do not believe you've sufficiently answered it. Your argument that the Anabaptist movement was "a radical, New Testament-inspired movement that broke away from the Reformers" and this was "a return to the New Testament, first-century model," appears to be just a euphemism for apostasy. However, the argument is not just that "unless there was apostasy to the point that no true church existed...the church cannot have been in error on it's claims of authority." Rather, how do you account for the lack of recorded belief in Anabaptist doctrine in the early church, other than arguing for apostasy?

If the Anabaptist faithful were willing to suffer for believer's baptism, why were the early Christians unwilling? Please help me understand your position on the development of this doctrine of believer's baptism from a historical perspective. You argued against apostolic succession by saying that "Paul was providing for ongoing leadership as the original apostles were leaving the scene." The honest Anabaptist position must be that he did an abominable job, as your key doctrines so quickly became abandoned.

Lastly, and I do not mean this to be rude, so much of your arguments seem based on typical Protestant sentimentality. All the warning against human institutions doesn't answer the challenge because you do accept the most basic of human institutions, i.e. man's (be it Paul, Peter, Moses, etc) writing of Sacred Scripture, as a guide to Christ's truth. When pressed to give a Scriptural support for sola scriptura, you don't (cant?). Instead you answer that you "default" to this position. That is a weak but valid answer regarding Scripture as a whole. But what of the individual books? Do you just default that Philemon is Sacred Scripture as well? Does your "faith" tell you it is? I'm honestly asking.

When pressed further you say you don't have to "prove" your position because you have faith and this "'proof' whether in the form of a sacred text or a sacred hierarchy simply is not part of (your) faith base." I must be misunderstanding you because at face value this appears to advocate even abandoning the Scriptures (i.e. a sacred text). It would further confirm that the Protestant revolt was such a great wrecking ball of Christianity.

Mr. Martin, church history is one of the strongest arguments for Catholicism. Please help me understand that Anabaptist accounting of it. I WANT to stay this side of the Tiber in the Anabaptist tradition. Trust me, as a single man in the Deep South, your girls are prettier and much more devout : )

Dan Martin said...

Harrison, I honestly don't know if I can answer your questions satisfactorily, but let me try. First of all on baptism. Not only is the New Testament tradition entirely one of believer's baptism--i.e. every recorded account of baptism that we have is following a profession of faith--it is also clearly part of the earliest church rites. Take a look at the criteria just to get ready for baptism in the writings of Tertullian (see this treatise, particularly ch. 18-20) and Hyppolytus (see the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, sections 17-21), for example. These are clearly not traditions of baptizing infants. I believe a careful examination of history makes it clear that infant baptism is a much later invention. Hence my claim that the Anabaptists were returning to the earlier (i.e. closer to the time of Christ) position.

The early Christians were indeed willing to suffer for their faith. The question of the timing of baptism was not an issue in contra the Roman and other authorities; rather the question of to which Lord one pledged allegiance was the cause of their persecution. Persecution only arose in re: baptism when the Church assumed the power of the sword. This was heretical IMO; to claim total apostasy, however, would in my judgment be to claim that there were no faithful believers who came out on the "wrong" side of this question--a claim I refuse to make given my understanding of the grace of God, limited though that understanding may be.

As with baptism, so with Sola Scriptura. You are challenging me (and others) to find in Scripture a direct case (I would say prooftext) against a controversy that did not arise until centuries after the canon was closed. That's a logical impossibility as you well know. It's as silly as asking the Scriptures to weigh in on the ethics of genetic engineering. One can, perhaps, find principles that may apply, but a specific claim is not made to an (at the time) unanticipated question.

I am not so arrogant as to claim that I, alone, need not prove my faith. I suggest rather that faith--all faith--is essentially unprovable, mine no less but no more than yours. There is a substantial body of Protestantism that tries to prove their faith is true by first objectively proving the Bible to be accurate (a fool's errand IMO). I don't know the Catholic position as well, but what I hear from you all seems to be an equally-untenable claim of the infallibility of the ecclesiastical structure and its claims, and then building your doctrines on that "proven" foundation.

Menno Simons, one of the early founders and leaders of the Anabaptist movement, liked to quote 1 Cor. 3:11 . . . "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." We learn of Jesus Christ through the faithful testimony of his followers in the Scriptures, and we trust that their testimony is true.

(continued in next post)

Dan Martin said...

(continuing)

And finally, your claim that "church history is one of the strongest arguments for Catholicism" suggests to me that you need to look a little closer at your church history. The Catholic church between the fourth and sixteenth centuries (while I do not claim total apostasy), shows some pretty horrible stuff done in the name of Christ and the church. The Reformers, and the Anabaptists, and the Second Vatican Council, none of them got it all right. But all were faithful believers trying to rectify real errors in the Catholicism of their day.

In closing, I completely repudiate the claim many of my own Protestant and Evangelical brethren make, that there is not a faithful body of Christ within the Roman Catholic church. There are many devout followers of Jesus in all these movements, and I honor them all as my brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, I believe each group is replete with evidence for NOT accepting any group of humans--however they structure their authority--as beyond challenge from the words of Our Lord as we have been given them.

I hope this is helpful. And I hope you find peace in your search. Whether that search has you throwing your hat in with the Roman See or another church body, I also hope you can always recognize faithful followers of Jesus in the traditions you leave or refuse.

Grace and peace,

Dan

Harrison said...

Mr. Martin, thank you for your response. I do believe we are confusing concepts regarding baptism. As I understand it, believer's baptism is a corollary to the greater Prot doctrine of justification by faith alone. The argument is not simply did baptism occur after a profession of faith among adults converts, but rather what did their faith effect regarding salvation. As I understand it, the Catholic response would be that although faith is the root of justification, it is not sufficient for salvation. Water baptism is regenerative and required. As I understand it, the Anapabaptist tradition is staunchly opposed to baptismal regeneration. Is this correct? If this is so, how can you bring Tertullian as a witness to believer's baptism? It is not enough to just say Tertullian was silent in this treatise on infant baptism and therefore your theological ally, when the whole treatise is opposed to Anabaptist doctrine regarding believer's baptism. Could you preach from the Anabaptist pulpit these words from Tertullian: "the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins." Also, I do find in Hippolytus advocacy for infant baptism: "The children shall be baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them" (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition, 21).

My argument of persecution was regarding the religious community, not the early Roman anti-Christian political authority. Again, what do you think occurred with believer's baptism? Meno Simmons renounced the Catholic priesthood and "apostatized" from the Roman Catholic Church specifically because of its "abandoning" of the true doctrine of baptism. When this doctrine became lost/abandoned in Church history, why was there no Meno Simmons in the 2-10th centuries or even later?

It is interesting to me that you can casually accept Philemon as the inerrant Word of God and yet on the exclusivity of Scripture for Divine Revelation you state it is an "unanticipated question."

Thanks again for your comments. They were helpful to me.

Dan Martin said...

Harrison,

You are right that Tertullian is no witness on the question of baptismal regeneration. I appealed to him only on the question of obvious requirements for baptism that no infant could possibly meet. You're also right that the quote of Hippolytus you pointed out suggests the possibility that incompetent children were baptized; I don't see any real reconciliation between that and the stunningly difficult criteria he's just listed, though.

I would invite you to look at the historical mentions of baptismal regeneration; in particular look for how early it is first mentioned (I'm guessing you may not find it before the third or even fourth century) as so necessary that salvation is not granted without water baptism. I would argue that it's one of those innovations that came as the church hierarchy consolidated more of its power and arrogated to itself the determination of who was and wasn't eligible for salvation.

As to your question of why there was no Menno Simons or similar when this arrogation of authority took place, I suspect there was. Unfortunately the way the third- and fourth-century authorities branded dissenters as heretics and destroyed their works (and often their persons) leaves us with no clear record. There were, as you well know, substantial and heated controversies during that period regarding a whole lot of core issues, and we have, in most cases, only the testimony of the winners as to what the losers said or wrote.

Finally as to your statement that I "can casually accept Philemon as the inerrant Word of God," no, I can't. If you read my series on Biblical inspiration, you will see that I accept NONE of our scriptures as "the Word of God" except when they self-represent as such--that is, the words of Christ himself, and the "Thus saith the LORD" parts of the prophets. That does not mean they're not inspired, profitable, and true. It does mean they're not the Word of God, and not infallible.

Peace,

Dan

あじ said...

Dan, if you want to find an early mention of baptismal regeneration, read Justin Martyr's Apology, ch. 61. The fact that Tertullian didn't argue against infant baptism on the basis of the requirements (both easy and obvious) indicates strongly against your idea that those requirements would have excluded them. Hermeneutically then, it's a weak argument, and that will likely carry across the board in historical discussions.

I would argue that the New Testament actually assumes infant and regenerative baptism (Titus 3:5; 1 Cor. 7:14; 1 Cor. 1:6,16:15; Acts 11:14,10:48; Acts 2:38-39). Likewise, though you cannot prove directly from the NT that baptism must precede communion, it is assumed (and of course explicit in the Didache). There are all sorts of assumptions behind the NT text, and they don't reflect the philosophical climate of the 16th and later centuries.

The big picture the early centuries of Christianity (including the apostolic age) have coherence and continuity if you assume infant regenerative baptism, apostolic succession, a eucharist, etc. If you reject those assumptions, everything fragments, and it becomes impossible to sort out what is gotten "right" by whom (meaning that you could be completely wrong and Baur completely right, but we can't possibly be certain of that).

So ultimately, the issue is hermeneutics, in part because it frames your understanding of an author's assumptions, filling in the unstated meaning. The more I try to understand and learn from history, rather than write it (and the persons in it) off (which ultimately leaves me trusting only myself) the harder it is to hold only to a hermeneutic of suspicion. Or to put it another way, the more I see myself as a part of history, the more I realize I am in the same unenviable boat as all the ancients whose work I criticize and claim to "correct."

Dan Martin said...

OK I don't know how to write the Eastern characters of the last commenter, but I wonder how you find infant baptism assumed in any of the texts you referenced. Only in the Acts ones can I even see a strained possible connection in the "household" language...but given that in many cultures of that time "household" referred only to males of majority, it's a pretty big stretch to take that as a prooftext of infant baptism...in particular since the Acts 2 passage quotes Peter as "repent and be baptized" -- that is, repentance preceding the baptism -- which I would suggest is impossible for an infant. I'm afraid I don't even see a glimmer of your assumption in the other references.

True, the Justin writing you quote can be a decent case for baptismal regeneration. However that case is strongest if you omit the beginning and ending statements of the same chapter. Note first of all:

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ (emphasis mine)

Note that Justin's statement suggests that the renewal through Christ preceded the "regenerative" washing he next describes. Secondly:

And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

Again, this doesn't sound like what we now mean when we use the term "baptismal regeneration." The whole text does not suggest baptism as a condition of final salvation unless you presuppose it.

So ultimately, I suggest your hermaneutics only suggest these things if you start by assuming them.

But again I feel the need to re-emphasize my main point, which has largely gone unacknowledged in the back-and-forth here: I do not say, nor do I believe, that those of you who have come to a different conviction are apostate, or in jeopardy of your salvation, or anything of the sort. I do not dismiss the legitimacy of your churches as gatherings of faithful followers of Jesus. All I dispute--and this I dispute most vehemently--is the authority of your churches and their leaders to dictate the form that the rest of us believers' doctrines, thoughts, and obedience must take. The grace of our Lord is far broader than the grace of most of his followers.

Peace,

Dan

Nick said...

Sorry for not responding earlier.

Dan: Nick, I should clarify one point that I did not. I do not claim that the Anabaptist movement per se predates Catholicism or the church fathers. It's in fact a radical, New Testament-inspired movement that broke away from the Reformers in the 16th century...

Nick: Agreed, they are a break off from the Reformation, thus not a group with historical roots. The Papacy is the longest existing institution in world history, no other government comes close, leaving us with one of two options: either it's been led by the devil, or led by God. If the devil, it would have easily burned itself out a long time ago, and had many opportunities to do so. Now, contrast this to the Anabaptist movement: what is it's historical record? It seems the 16th century is the only record. The historical testimony says something pretty damning against that: The Catholic Church, very visible, preserved and copied the Biblical manuscripts in every generation. Is there historical evidence the Anabaptist did this?

Dan: I do believe, as the Anabaptists did, that their significant points of doctrine were a return to the New Testament, first-century model...

Nick: Agreed, but this just drives home the 'total apostasy' foundation they started from. The key is this: Significant points of doctrine lost = Gospel lost = apostate body.


Dan: I never intended my posts on 2T3 to address SS, because it wasn't the bogey on the radar screen when I wrote them. I think if you re-read them you'll find more consistency than you give me credit for, in that I contend that (1) the verses in question do not, did not, and were never intended to serve as a declaration on the character of the biblical canon as a whole; and (2) to use them in that manner does violence to the context.

Nick: Yes, I have to be careful here because you're in a unique position: This is a result of the fact you're a 'true' anabaptist, sticking firm to truly rejecting the Reformers. My comments target the Reformers first off...but can be modified for the Anabaptist view.

Dan: I'm a little nonplussed by your suggestion that (to quote) (c) there was an absolute apostasy where no true Christians were around until a future date. You seem to imply that unless there was apostasy to the point that no true church existed (a thing which I don't believe has ever happened), the church cannot have been in error on it's claims of authority. Wherein lies the logic for that? There's a vast gulf between complete apostasy and unquestioned infallibility.

Nick: If you reject that view, great! I was simply pointing out various logical options. The point to realize is that it's not an illogical claim, and actually the foundation for the LDS's very logical foundation. They claim total apostasy, thus totally wiping out any claims to authority of Catholicism or Protestants. Some Anabaptists (and other Protestants) have claimed this as well, for the same reasons. The obvious problem is that it makes Jesus a failure (i.e. His Body wiped out), with Satan triumphing. The root of Anabaptism is especially that of infant baptism versus 'believers baptism' - that's a very different gospel being preached from the 'visible' body at large and historically. And such heresy (if true) is the work of Satan, resulting in a lost gospel for the church at large and historically. It's tough stuff to hear, but precisely the implications. If the Body was never wiped out, then there existed some succession of authority in the form of Bishops, a genuine office above that of layman. (An office hold authority above layman by definition, else it's names without significance.) And either this succession was wholly underground (i.e. leaving no credible historical trace), or it was visible, indicating a truly visible Body of Christ, which couldn't be 'revolted against' by the Anabaptists. To my knowledge, the Anabaptists never argued for a continuous succession of bishops, much less that they held the true succession.

(1 of 3)

Nick said...

Dan: Finally, I don't fear I'm "risking my soul" any more than you are. The father seeks those who worship him in spirit and in truth, and I don't think he's half as concerned about our institutions, as we are.

Nick: Well, the problem here is that "institution" is used in a pejorative sense. The Church (institution) is the Body of Christ - that's no trivial matter. For one to not be part of that institution means, by definition, they're not a Christian, and thus cannot worship God in spirit and in truth. To be part of the right church is critical, and the true church has the duty and power to anathematize schismatic and heretical bodies.


Dan: This [i.e. that there are genuine offices of authority in the church] I do not grant. The scriptures provide for functional offices; I maintain that it's a human artifice (and in error) to grant those offices authority in a structural, hierarchical sense.

Nick: Then the office is ultimately irrelevant, for there is no 'authority' without a hierarchy. Such a view cannot be backed by Scripture or Church history. The biggest difficulty arises with this question: When two Christians disagree on what Scripture says, then who's claim wins out? In this case, it's my interpretation of Scripture (and history) regarding the hierarchical nature of Bishops. The Epistles to Titus and Timothy solidly state the Bishop is in charge of rebuking those in error, something impossible if all interpretations are of equal weight.

Dan: Matt. 23:8-12 is relevant here.

Nick: That quote is regarding those who usurp those titles to take attention from God to themeself. It doesn't mean you cannot call your dad/ancestor "father" (Rom 4:16B) or even church authorities (1 Cor 4:15). Same for "teacher/rabbi" (1 Cor 12:28).

Dan: And I'm afraid I have to agree to disagree with your interesting take on Acts 17:11. 1-4 was taking place in a completely different town, and the Bereans' nobility is ascribed to two things: they received "the word" (not, notice, "Paul's words") with eagerness, and they checked it out through daily searching of the scriptures.

Nick: That's ignoring context though. They were "more noble character than the Thessalonians," hearkening back to the preceding account to which you're supposed to now contrast with Bereans. And "the word" here is just what Paul was just teaching, ie Messiah is Jesus, not doctrine in general.

Dan: In conclusion, you seem to be making the determination that "sola scriptura" is circular, in that "scriptura" never tells us it's the "sola" foundation. Perhaps contra the classic Protestant notion that comes close to idolatry of the Bible, that holds some weight. I hold my faith rather more loosely than that...they call it "faith," after all, for a reason...and "proof" whether in the form of a sacred text or a sacred hierarchy simply is not part of my faith base.

Nick: How can proof not be part of your foundation? For Scripture to not advocate SS is, to me, it's death knell. For SS to be "default" is no better, for the Apostolic age was certainly not a "default" age, and thus the Apostles nor Apostolic Christians were engaging in SS, making it truly novel.

(2 of 3)

Nick said...

(3 of 3)

Dan: The same claim could--and I suggest should--be made of your faith in the unbroken authority chain of the Catholic church, which exists as an authority solely because it says so, too. How is this any less circular?

Nick: It's not circular, it's built on some solid reasoning: The Church is the Body of Christ; it's indefectible by nature. Thus, at all times there must exist genuine Christians somewhere on earth professing a 100% pure Gospel. This Body must be sought out and joined. Further, the true Body cannot be 'revolted' against, for that is an attack on Christ Himself, so the Anabaptists couldn't have revolted, they could only claim to be the genuine body that has continued through history. Here is where faith comes in: The Catholic Church claims to be the One True Body, which can't be absolutely proven, but it's claims match history and Scripture better than any other body (esp those who wont make the claim to be the One True Body, automatically disqualifying themselves). And here is where you come to a fork in the road: Dan, does the church you belong to claim to be the One True Church? If yes, then what's their historical record? Further, how is there no hierarchy when you're submitting to the preaching of those who taught you the Gospel? Certainly the student is not above his teacher, especially when his teacher logically must be holding to a 100% pure Gospel?

Dan: In the final analysis, we believe or disbelieve authority on the basis of our own decision, and we've been doing so ever since the fall. This does not scare me, though, because I still trust God the Father and Creator to pull us through the morass. I do not, however, accept human institutions of whatever stripe when they tell me to just shut up and trust them. And every organized church on earth, Catholic and Protestant alike, is a human institution, no matter how hard they try (and they do try) to faithfully follow our common Lord.

Nick: What you're not realizing is that you've unknowingly made yourself the very magisterium that you cringe at for Catholics. You're interpretation of Scripture is the final word, and in this case it trusts no institution but your own self. The only alternative to the Body consisting of a single individual is the Body existing of many, which contradicts the 'every man for himself' view. This isn't me being mean, don't mistake me. It's rigorous logic that is being honestly applied to each side. And for you to claim you could be wrong is simply devastating for your position, for when it comes to Eternal Truths, the Gospel, this isn't time or the option to "learn as you go." The fullness of Truth is passed on, not rediscovered, in each generation.

Dan Martin said...

Nick, I've gotta say I really enjoy our back and forth, and I heartily wish we could do it face to face over a choice of refreshing beverage.

That said I think we're coming from completely different universes regarding the Body of Christ. I see the "church" being described as Christ's body in the NT as being all those believers who faithfully--albeit imperfectly--follow our Lord. You're part of it. So am I. And only Jesus determines that. But when I maintain that the Body of Christ has never been wiped out, I say that despite the deep errors of those who've presumed to lead its various members. What leaders were around when God assured Elijah that he'd reserved 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal? Elijah thought he was the only one? God knew better. As in Elijah's day, so in every generation since. . .church leaders, scandals, and schisms notwithstanding.

I don't see how you can say that any church--including, but definitely not only, the RC church--has a "100% pure gospel." Anyone, anywhere, whether they call themselves Christian or Muslim or Hindu or anything else, who's willing to torture and kill other people just because they don't believe the right stuff, cannot possibly be teaching or living a pure gospel, however holy they may believe their motives to be.

Some of my Anabaptist forbears stated that they believed the pope to be the Antichrist. I disagree with them just as fervently as I disagree with the pope's decision that they deserved to be burned alive. Who preached a "100% pure" gospel in the 16th century when all the churches except for the Anabaptist were burning and beheading and drowning each other's adherents?

And no, I don't honestly believe I'm making myself the new magisterium, though I understand the basis of your charge. I believe that the body of Christians studying the Bible and seeking the Lord together are responsible for and to each other--not in any hierarchical sense mind you, but in an egalitarian one--to keep each other in the truth. Does error creep in that way? Sure, sometimes it does. But it's no more eggregious than the error that has come down from the top in more rigid ecclesiastical systems.

And your point about submitting to the protestant preacher instead of the Catholic bishop is an interesting one, which would certainly apply to many Evangelical churches, but again it's one that doesn't fit me. A pastor who's above my approaching him with a challenge from the scriptures, to what he's preaching, is not a pastor I can submit to in any way, shape, or form. A dear friend and former pastor of mine relished those discussions greatly, and we have both been built up in our faith over the years through those interactions. I have left other churches where the pastor brooked no question.

I think a survey of church history suggests a periodic return to the mean, correlated largely with when people actually get the scriptures in their own hands. The Spirit of Christ has a way of reasserting himself from time to time. But I also sense that this is one of those areas where you and I will never see eye to eye. That's okay. Pax Christi vobiscum!

Dan

Dan Martin said...

I just realized I should clarify something I know you won't accept, but it may put my definitions in a clearer light:

I believe that the Catholic leaders--the pope, the bishops, many of the priests--of the sixteenth century really WERE apostate as evidenced by their willingness to cruelly torture and kill those who did not accept their leadership. I would say the same of Calvin, Zwingli, and those Protestant leaders who likewise were willing to inflict terrible suffering and death upon those who didn't kowtow to their authority. In the same way, in Elijah's time, the priests of Israel were leading their people astray and were, themselves, apostate.

Nevertheless in these and every other time, God reserved for himself a faithful remnant--not always visible even to each other, but always there--to carry on his work. Because of this remnant, the true Church (post-Christ), and the true People of God (in Israel) never vanished from the earth (contra LDS and others); however, there were the times when the intersection between the true Church Invisible, and the visible "church" hierarchy, was nearly nil.

And it was only because there were people who were willing to faithfully seek God despite their leaders, that the Holy Spirit even found fertile soil to till in those ages. 'Twas ever thus, and thus it remains. Thankfully, the salvation and faithfulness of God's people is not entirely, or even mostly, dependent on the faithfulness or correctness of their leaders. God's people then and now, worship him in spirit and in truth, even if/when they can't worship him in the cathedral or the temple.

あじ said...

Dan,

I see Justin's language as being entirely coterminous. Therefore, the case is neither strengthened nor weakened by the verbiage before and after the use of the term "regeneration." This is of course problematic for the credo-baptist position, because it relies on finding an order, a sequence, where none exists. Justin also said, "Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, 'Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'" So you not only have a variation of the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28, you also have regeneration directly connected with washing (as in Titus 3:5) and a direct link between being baptized and being "born again" (John 3:3).

But Justin continues later, saying, "[that] we may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father... And in the name of Jesus Christ... and in the name of the Holy Ghost.. he who is illuminated is washed." So he repeats the Trinitarian formula, but in a different way. Again, if you take his language about dedication, "being made new," remission, regeneration, being "born again", and illumination as being coterminous, it forms a coherent whole. If you assume otherwise, his apology is poorly worded indeed. I also don't think baptism as a condition of final salvation is particularly relevant to the discussion, unless you assume that regeneration necessitates final salvation, contra Mat. 18:34, Rom. 11:20-22, Gal. 5:2-4, etc. (Another tangent.)

Acts 2:39 says that the "promise is for you and your children..." I've yet to be convinced that a society that had no problem circumcising infants wouldn't very easily (more likely immediately) begin baptizing infants (see Col. 2:11-12). If children can be "holy" in any meaningful sense (1 Cor. 7:14) there would seem to be little obstacle to baptizing them. Consider the JFB Commentary's notes on the passage regarding the clean/unclean distinctions of Judaism (though they are explicitly anti-Anabaptist). But I also presuppose that baptism is a communal and ecclesial event, and is not reducible to an individuated expression. Baptism is an act of faith, but not solely of the faith of the one being baptized. Otherwise re-baptism wouldn't be problematic, yet it has quite a history of controversy (yet another tangent).

Being baptized (Acts 10:48) seems fairly synonymous with being saved (Acts 11:14), and a whole household at that. Calling on the name of the Lord saves you. The message saves you. Belief saves you. Baptism saves you. Faith saves you. Grace saves you. Confessing and believing saves you (confessing would likely be a part of the baptismal ritual, as in 1 Pet. 3:21). You can save yourself by being baptized (Acts 2:40-41)! Given that, it would be surprising that infants were not baptized. Trying to prioritize or harmonize these statements, such that some are "more true" than others only demonstrates that our way of thinking is radically divergent from that of the apostolic community, which seems to have viewed them as being different ways of talking about the same thing. That they don't live up to our expectations could just as well be our own defect rather than theirs.

But all of this is way afield of the topic of sola scriptura, which to my mind only demonstrates the futility of the principle. Baptism is something that Hebrews 6 calls the "αρχης word/teaching of Christ", that is, "elementary" or "basic" or "beginning," and also calls it a "foundation," yet we cannot seem to agree concerning it by scripture only. If we can't get baptism right, I'm not sure we can get much of anything right.

Dan Martin said...

あじ, you are certainly right in pointing out that we've traveled a few tangents. . . ;{)

So to return to "Sola Scriptura," what is it, historically, besides an indictment of the established authorities within the ecclesiastical structure of the day, to wit, Rome? All right, then, let's use your logic. You can't (you and Nick say) prove "Sola Scriptura" using "sola" the "scriptura" themselves. Well and good, anyone who's studied logic knows you can't prove ANY negative, and what SS is really saying is "I accept Scripture as authority, but consider those other authorities to be pretenders." Here, again logically, I can't prove they AREN'T authoritative any any more than the atheist can prove God doesn't exist (irony acknowledged).

But you (plural) have yet to present to me a case that the current ecclesial structures, whether of RC (Nick) or (I'm guessing from your profile here) Reformed theolology, merit acknowledgment as authoritative along side of the scriptures. That is, after all, the real question, and Nick's claim that it's been this way unbroken for nearly 2,000 years, while interesting, calls into question some pretty major upheavals within church history (pope and anti-pope, anyone? How about the time preceding and surrounding the ecumenical councils? How about the Great Schism of East & West?).

But the real point is, nobody human gets authority just because they say they have it...and having repeated it unbroken for 2,000 years (even if true) does not make it true. I'm afraid I can't see Nick's logic that to last that long requires either God's power or Satan's. There are plenty of alternate explanations.

Root point...the RC church claims its authority on the basis of a claim that (1) Jesus established that authority, and (2) they are the clear, unbroken successor to that authority. There are, IMO, too many breaks, gaps, and inconsistencies to accept those claims.

Which is why I return to a very modified form of SS--not because it's worthy of elevation to any sort of dogmatic position, but truly because no credible case has been made for any other authority. I'm not unique in failing to accept the claims as credible, and I don't think "the devil made me do it" either.

Nick said...

Dan,

We definitely are approaching this from two different universes. One important distinction is infallibility (free of doctrinal error) versus impeccability (sinless). One can exercise infallibility (such as when the Holy Spirit spoke through Prophets and Apostles) without requiring impeccability (the Apostles and Prophets still sinned).

So in the example of the persecution of Anabaptists, the Catholic Church has always taught doctrinally that murder is wrong, but that doesn't mean individual members of the Catholic Church wouldn't be disobeying that teaching. The doctrine never changed, that's what I mean when a Church's Gospel stayed "100% pure."

The main problem I see in your set up is that there are no definitive parameters of orthodoxy to actually define the Body...and no authoritative means of defining such parameters. So when you define the Church as "all those believers who faithfully--albeit imperfectly--follow our Lord," that's a pretty elastic definition. What does "faithfully" here mean? Try your best but don't worry about agreement on doctrine? And what about the definition of "Lord" here, does that include Arians who deny His divinity yet accept Him as Lord in an inferior sens to God? What about how one views the Holy Spirit or even Trinity? See where this is going? The option is either to make things so elastic and watered down that Truth becomes virtually relative, or to either lay down authoritative parameters which ultimately leads to a claim of magisterial authority.
Whether we agree on the details of what Paul is saying in Gal 1:9, the point is there is such thing as heresy and willingly embracing it leads to spiritual ruin.
Hierarchy is the only solution against doctrinal relativism.

And this plays into the whole 'invisible church' issue, because it makes a visible church impossible without a magisterium. The only option is a gathering of like minded individuals who happen to agree, but then anyone can form their own sect and call it the Church. And there's no way for you to stop any of them from accusing you of apostasy and not being the true Body.

Nick said...

And to add a quick point, to add to the fact there is disagreement on what exactly Baptism is and does is the link it has to how each group sees the forgiveness of sins. If there is disagreement here, then one group is saying that the other group's members don't have their sins forgiven and thus not led by the Holy Spirit by definition.

And the reason why there are so many denominations is precisely because they all said the Scriptures are the only credible authority yet they disagreed on how to interpret it. Sola Scriptura's biggest downfall is that it fails to address the issue of interpretation.

Dan Martin said...

The main problem I see in your set up is that there are no definitive parameters of orthodoxy to actually define the Body...and no authoritative means of defining such parameters. So when you define the Church as "all those believers who faithfully--albeit imperfectly--follow our Lord," that's a pretty elastic definition.

Yes, it is. Because in the FINAL final analysis, I'm saying only Jesus Himself will make that definition...not you, not me, not a pastor, not a bishop, not a pope. The body on earth can (and does) lay out parameters for what it's going to teach and how its members are going to represent themselves to each other and the world around. But membership in the true "Body of Christ" is not ours to determine, except that we can choose to join (and leave) or not.

There is, certainly, an orthodoxy beyond which, no matter how much one may protest, one is flat-out not of the Lord's camp. We can even get a pretty good definition of what's in that orthodoxy from listening to our Lord's words (and I would submit that those magisterial leaders who accepted, promoted, and passed sentences of death to "heretics" exhibited by that act that they were OUTSIDE the pale in all and every respect). But finally, I am thankful that the decision is the Lord's and not yours or mine or the pope's or Pat Robertson's or Jerry Falwell's.

In other words, you are looking for an authoritative institution to draw the lines; in every such institution I see the Pharisees and teachers of the law of whom Jesus spoke in Matt. 23:1-36. These are people who take the simplicity of the Gospel, and upon it build a complex web of rules, beliefs, conditions, and structures that shut the door from many entering.

Our gospel, on the other hand, teaches that we have but "one mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus" 2 Tim 2:5. No one, but no one, sits in the seat of Christ. Not now, and not ever.

I'll take "Christ alone" over any structure or magisterium you can name or imagine. And I'll gladly fellowship with his many followers wherever I find them. . .and so far, that's been in some pretty interesting places.

Dan Martin said...

If there is disagreement here, then one group is saying that the other group's members don't have their sins forgiven and thus not led by the Holy Spirit by definition.

That may be what some are saying, but not I. I believe there is a clear command to follow in baptism post-confession; I do not claim that anyone who fails to get that command "right" as I see it, is therefore unforgiven. Sheesh, while he's about forgiving all the REST of the sins, you think Jesus would overlook that one?

Which brings me back to my last comment. Thankfully, it's Jesus, not Christians, upon whom I depend for the forgiveness of my sins.

あじ said...

Dan, sorry for the late response. In short, I am not RC, and I am not Reformed. Reformed theology is not a return to the past, but in fact new and innovative, and therefore not authoritative.

The ultimate problem of making Scripture the authority is that it is of necessity subject to interpretation. Interpretation is a human act, therefore authority (interpretive authority included) must rest in humans. Now, if everyone is their own authority, nobody can claim authoritative interpretation, because their authority is no higher than anyone else's. But this entails subjectivism, and not a "faith once delivered," although that phrase could just as easily be re-interpreted as, "the faith once delivered and forever stumbled over and misinterpreted." For correct (apostolic) doctrine to be ascertained in any objective sense, it cannot come from within (either the person or the text). Consequently, one cannot derive correct doctrine from the scriptures without first being properly taught the scriptures (tradition).

Christ himself said that "the one who receives you receives me" and gave his apostles the authority to forgive sins. Christ is the foundation, but so are the apostles. For this reason, what you (and virtually all Protestants) mean when they say Christ is the "one mediator" is something very different from what that was historically understood to mean. For one, if you don't understand Greek, a bible translator is your mediator in understanding the scriptures. Also preachers and teachers act as mediators in explaining and interpreting the scriptures, because we necessarily cannot approach them with a "blank slate" or we will fall into error. But most critically, the way you use it really makes you your own mediator, reducing the objective truth of Christ to a personal, subjective understanding.

Ultimately every institution will have hypocrites because every human being is a hypocrite. It's unavoidable, and cannot form an objective criteria for ascertaining truth. If the ecumenical councils don't properly lay out irreformable doctrine, everyone really is left to their own interpretation. And the Nicene Creed is necessarily wrong when it claims there is "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church," for the apostles died, their successors failed, and the foundation which they claimed Christ himself made them to be is crumbled. But if that is not true, then neither is Sola Scriptura.

Nick said...

Dan: Yes, it is. Because in the FINAL final analysis, I'm saying only Jesus Himself will make that definition...not you, not me, not a pastor, not a bishop, not a pope. The body on earth can (and does) lay out parameters for what it's going to teach and how its members are going to represent themselves to each other and the world around. But membership in the true "Body of Christ" is not ours to determine, except that we can choose to join (and leave) or not.

Nick: This is confusing, how can we even know what the body is without authoritative parameters laid out? We cannot "choose to join" something to which we cannot discern it's teachings in the first place. My example of the Arians still stands, because if there is no authoritative definition, "Jesus is Lord" can mean Jesus was a mere man or angel and given authority. Others can affirm that line while believing him a mere prophet, or "Jesus" was actually a group of philosophers.

Dan: There is, certainly, an orthodoxy beyond which, no matter how much one may protest, one is flat-out not of the Lord's camp. We can even get a pretty good definition of what's in that orthodoxy from listening to our Lord's words.

Nick: I'd need some example then, because this is too "slippery" to build from otherwise. Give me a few examples of what you can check to see if someone is definitely outside the parameters of orthodoxy. If it is just a matter of good Christian behavior, groups such as the LDS exhibit that.

Dan: In other words, you are looking for an authoritative institution to draw the lines; in every such institution I see the Pharisees and teachers of the law of whom Jesus spoke in Matt. 23:1-36. These are people who take the simplicity of the Gospel, and upon it build a complex web of rules, beliefs, conditions, and structures that shut the door from many entering.

Nick: What's the "simplicity of the Gospel"? That's what this comes down to, because you must avoid making the "Gospel" so elastic that Truth means nothing. When Paul spoke in Gal 1:9 about the anathema of accepting another Gospel, surely he had some specific markers to look for in determining orthodoxy, else his condemnation couldn't really be applied. When someone says Jesus is God the Son and another says he was a mere prophet, that's a different Gospel to me. I don't believe there is a single tenet you could name that there wouldn't be some disagreement over.


Dan: Our gospel, on the other hand, teaches that we have but "one mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus" 2 Tim 2:5.

Nick: This says nothing about Christ instituting authorities, nor is it about usurping His unique 'chair'. In Acts 15 we clearly see Christ established authorities, especially when they say (v24): "We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said."
That's a funny thing to say if there is no ecclesial authority and especially if the Gospel is as basic as "Jesus is Lord" (which the Judaizers certainly believed).

Dan Martin said...

Well, guys, may I humbly suggest "we've gone about as fer as we can go" on this?

The lynchpin of the conversation, as I see it, is twofold:

1) Is there such a thing as an objective authority for interpreting the traditions and/or scriptures we've been given, vis-a-vis the church and the teachings of Christ? I think we are all in agreement that such authority can only exist if Christ himself established and maintained it, as humans due to their inherent sinfulness and fallibility would screw it up without divine protection.

So then, the second question:

2) Does such an authority actually exist, and if yes, than who/what is it? To this I answer "no, it doesn't, except in the collected body of believers attempting to seek God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." You, on the other hand, answer "yes, it exists in the apostolic succession represented in the leadership of the Roman church."

Neither of us can prove our answer to (2) in a way that will convince the other, because we each bring TO that question presuppositions which essentially dictate the answer. So either way, it's a statement of faith.

For me, the Body of Christ is a bunch of amateurs, united in their desire to discover and serve their Lord as best they can. For you, it's a professionally-led and -driven institution. I'm afraid it's inevitable that the former will frequently be considered heretics by the latter. I'm just glad that the latter does not have the political power today, to inflict the kinds of punishment on the former, that it used to.

Your loving heretic,

Dan

Nick said...

Dan,

Yes, I think we have gone as far as we can. No use in spinning our wheels.

While I agree with the main points of your linchpin summary, since you don't hold to SS in the conventional sense my response is somewhat different than with other Protestants (as they have been during this discussion).

Regarding #1, I believe Jesus can protect His Church from authoritatively preaching error using the same principle he kept sinful apostles from writing error in Scripture.

Regarding #2, it asks if such a authoritative and divinely led body exists today. Classical Sola Scriptura would deny this by definition. Your position is unique in that it's a sort of hybrid, and my biggest objection is there is no objective way to define parameters for the body you describe.

Dan Martin said...

Hey Nick,

Well, at least we're agreeing on where we disagree ;{)

Regarding your #1 I don't dispute that Jesus CAN protect the church as you describe, only that he HAS or ever promised to. Regarding #2, you're absolutely right. I only say in response that I don't think there IS an objective answer to your question this side of eternity. I know that would bother you; strangely enough it gives me comfort.

Yet again, pax Christi!

Dan