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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sola Scriptura is Self-Refuting

There has been a string of posts on some popular Catholic and Protestant apologetics blogs regarding the topic of Sola Scriptura, specifically whether or not it is "self-refuting." While that charge did not originate with me (it has been a Catholic objection to the doctrine for a long time), I have found myself having to not only point it out but explain it as well - to both Catholics and Protestants.

First, by 'self-refuting' I mean it contains a contradiction within itself, meaning it cannot be true. So, if I gave instructions saying, "you may only eat apples, but sometimes oranges," that is a contradiction and thus self-refuting proposition.

The reasoning for Sola Scriptura (SS) being self-refuting is as follows:
(1) SS teaches (in a nutshell) only teachings derived from Scripture are binding on Christians.

(2) SS is a teaching binding on Christians.

(3) Thus, SS must be taught in the Scriptures.

(4) IF SS is NOT taught in the Scriptures, there is a contradiction with item (1) - thus it's self-refuting.
Now, Catholics don't believe SS is taught in the Scriptures, so we would say it's self-refuting. However, many Protestants fall prey to item (4) unintentionally by effectively saying "Sola Scriptura doesn't have have to taught in Scripture to be true." Most don't phrase it in that way, but it often comes in the form of "Scripture is an authority, and I'll take it as my only authority unless someone (e.g. a Catholic) steps up and demonstrates another inspired authority." That, however, is merely a variation of "SS doesn't have to be taught in Scripture." 

Another popular variation of this fallacious argument is when the Protestant objects on the grounds that for them to 'prove' SS they would have the 'unfair' burden of proving a "universal negative" (i.e. the Protestant must prove no other inspired authority exists in the world, leaving Scripture as the 'only' verified authority). But the Protestant isn't ever forced to do this, and no Catholic who understands the issue is asking them to do this, and that's because it's a fallacious argument to begin with. Sadly, this argument is often employed to shift the burden of proof off of the Protestant, but shifting the burden of proof is dishonest and fallacious (even if unintentional).

The line of reasoning where SS is 'assumed true unless proven otherwise' is at most 'negative proof', and clearly falls into the self-refuting category, for one is starting off assuming the teaching rather than getting it from a divine mandate via the Scriptures (i.e. 'positive proof').

Lastly: A Protestant can say Scripture teaches SS, at which point they wouldn't fall prey to item (4), though they (still) shoulder the burden of proof to prove Scripture itself teaches SS.

42 comments:

Eric Gregory said...

More self-refutation:

"Sola scriptura" makes no sense (unless we, like I believe Pope Benedict XVI does, understand it to mean that the Scriptures to be the 'highest', not only, authority in the Church). The New Testament was canonized in the fourth and fifth centuries by Catholic and Orthodox bishops in synod. We only have the canon we do because of the traditions of the church, which must mean that those traditions have some authority. I think it's fair to say that the writings of the apostles (e.g. the New Testament) have more authority than the writings of those who came afterwards, but denying the Holy Spirit is a very easy faux pas when claiming "sola scriptura".

Nick said...

I think the problem comes in precisely on when trying to frame the situation in terms of 'highest' authority when in fact there is no power struggle between Magisterium-Tradition-Scripture anymore than one can say when painting a picture that the artist, brush, or paint is more important or 'higher' than the other two.

Jae said...

The mere fact that if one basketball team dispute a "call" against the opposing team, even if they both have game manual/handbooks it won't matter to settle the dispute..only a living organic "authority" can settle it..a referee..much like the living authority of the Catholic Church.

Eric Gregory said...

Or the Orthodox Church, for those of us who don't subscribe to Petrine supremacy. :)

Anonymous said...

Jae and Nick
So how are you going to resolve this apparent conflict between Rome and the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches?

thanks

Nick said...

I'm not sure *I* can resolve the conflict, though God certainly could, in His time. From a Catholic point of view, we can argue various things in support of Rome and against the Orthodox, but that doesn't "resolve the conflict," only suggests who was "right all along."

Two popular arguments that come to mind are that Rome has Apostolic Roots and has been recognized as uniquely authoriatative from the start. The "major" Sees of Eastern Orthodoxy like Constantinople have no Apostolic roots (i.e. were not founded by an Apostle) and yet (through secular means) forced themselve to the 'head of the line' (and now we see the Russian Orthodox doing this against Constantinople). In reality, there is no "equality among bishops" in Eastern Orthodoxy, the "big guys" like Constantinople have always gotten their way by intimidation and such.
For kicks, also check out the PROPER reading of Canon 6 of Nicea:
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/CouncilNicaeaSixthCanon.htm

The second popular argument I had in mind was the manifest defection from Christian morality by the EO, succumbing to popular opinion, in allowing divorce and contraception.

Anonymous said...

Nick
In the Catholic church aren't the "Magisterium-Tradition-Scriptures" all have the same level of authority.

How do you think the magisterium decides issues about canon, masses, doctrine, and traditions. don't they have to reconcile them against some source?

The example you gave can be answered that the artist is the highest level since the painting is his idea. The artist uses the brush and paint to convey the artists' idea, the brush and paint can not paint their own picture or go against the artist.

In other words, the scriptures is the artist and magisterium and traditions are the brush and paint. The scriptures hold God's message to us and the magisterium and traditions should help get God's message to us. While the magisterium and traditions are important in helping convey God's message they can not go against the artist because the picture they paint on their own can never go against the artist.

thanks

Anonymous said...

Nick,
thanks for the quick response.

I am not well versed in the apostolic succession issues of the Roman and Orthodox churches.

the superficial reading i have done, just makes the case that both groups can claim apostolic succession. The specific case is the Bishop of Antioch, who claims succession back to St Peter the apostle.

thanks

Dan Martin said...

Nick,

Completely outside the Christian tradition, I believe it was Mohandas Gandhi who said "you do not have to be wrong, for me to be right."

In a similar way, though perhaps in mirror image, even if Sola Scriptura is wrong does not therefore make the Roman magisterium right. You have acknowledged before that I'm an atypical Protestant, and in fact I don't claim to speak for Protestantism either (I have many disagreements with them as well).

However, just as you claim Protestant SS to be a circular argument, I would say the same thing for the Roman claim of apostolic succession: upon what foundations, after all, is the AS claim built?

1) Scriptura: Jesus' statement to Peter ("upon this rock") as further interpreted by the church; and

2) The church's own doctrine/claim/tradition that Jesus was inaugurating a succession, and that they in fact hold the legitimate claim to that succession.

So, without the authority of both Scripture and the Church (Roman, that is), there is no standing for the Church to have authority. It is a self-referential structure.

You might argue that at least it is a somewhat more logically-consistent self-referential structure than SS, and from a logical standpoint you may be right. That does not, however, provide any firmer ground for me to accept the authority of the magisterium which, to my view, stands in stark contrast to the teaching and testimony of Jesus to the precise proportion that it assumes authority.

But to the central core, I repeat: Just because SS may be wrong, does not establish the legitimacy of the authority that disputes SS.

Nick said...

Dan,

Thanks for stopping by.

I agree that if SS is wrong it does not automatically make Catholicism right; we've discussed this before. Only in a certain sense am I speaking, specifically in regards to the Protestant Reformation, which claimed the Catholic Church had gone astray. The battle is between those two camps alone, not anyone else (e.g. Jews, Hindus, earlier heretics, etc). If the Protestant side is right, then the Catholic Church was an apostate branch of the true church (which Protestantism recovered/continued). If the Catholic side is right, then the Protestant foundation is incorrect, and thus wrong from the start, and thus has no basis to revolt from the previously existing authorities.

Next, in this post, I did not claim SS was "circular," because that's not how I was applying the self-refuting argument.

The Catholic AS argument is not circular because it originates at one point. For Jesus to say He is the Son of God is not a circular claim, it's a fact. For Jesus to interpret an OT prophecy and apply it to himself is not circular, it is either a correct application or a false one, and if He really is the Son of God then his application is always the right one. With that example in mind, for Jesus to establish His Church (including AS) is not circular. He started a Church that bears His authority, and thus whatever it says is authoritative. Catholicism could be wrong in identifying itself as Christ's Church, but it's not circular - it's a true/false claim.

Perhaps a better example: the Scriptures have authority in virtue of the being Divinely Inspired - and whether one accepts them or not doesn't change the fact they are inspired and even self-attest to be inspired. On that same basis, Christ's Church has authority by virtue of what it is, regardless of what someone else thinks, and it can self-attest as well. Whether one has tracked down the correct (one and only) Church is another issue, and should not be confused with this.

Dan Martin said...

Catholicism could be wrong in identifying itself as Christ's Church, but it's not circular - it's a true/false claim.

Nick, this was a very helpful comment. I think I understand your position a bit more clearly now. I still disagree, because I define the church differently, but at least now I think I know the lynchpin of our disagreement:

You believe that the True Church of Jesus is embodied in the institution of the Catholic Church, which of course by definition renders all non-Catholic churches in some way apostate or divided from the True Church. I, on the other hand, see the True Church as all those followers of Jesus who, despite the failings of the institutions they have encountered/joined/left, are still dedicated both to the Lord Jesus and to fellowship with his people.

So for me, the True Church includes some, but not all Catholics; some, but not all Protestants; some, but not all Evangelicals; some, but not all, who name the name of Jesus but are uncomfortable with all the institutions who claim his favor.

It means, for example, that as I see the True Church, we can both be (and, I believe are) members of it. But under your definition, one of us isn't. That makes me sad, but at least I think I get it.

Nevertheless, grace and peace!

Dan

Nathanael Taylor said...

Nick:

This is a well thought out argument. However, I would tend to think that this verse teaches sola scriptura:

1 Corinthians 4:6 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Thank you for this very interesting Blog post. I hope you are doing well!

God Bless,

NPT

Nick said...

I am glad you agree with the argument, as well as realize it doesn't apply if one is proving SS from Scripture.

As a Catholic, here are various points I'd make on the verse:

(1) The context is speaking on the issue of pride and other sinful attitudes plaguing the Corinthians, and not focused on laying out a rule of faith. The problem Paul is talking about is not one regarding "scripture alone" versus "scripture plus."

(2) 1 Corinthians 11:2 explicitly tells them to hold onto the traditions Paul handed onto them, thus 4:6 could not be teaching SS.

(3) Given that various NT Scriptures (e.g. 2nd Corinthians) weren't written yet means practicing SS was impossible at that point in time.

(4) When one looks at how Protestants have historically read 1 Corinthians 4:6, it was not really appealed to as a SS proof text. For example, here is John Calvin's Corinthians Commentary on this verse:
"The clause above what is written may be explained in two ways — either as referring to Paul’s writings, or to the proofs from Scripture which he has brought forward. As this, however, is a matter of small moment, my readers may be left at liberty to take whichever they may prefer."
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom39.xi.ii.html

Those are hardly the comments we would expect for a SS proof text - Calvin says the meaning of the phrase isn't that big of a deal! Taking the first option, Paul was speaking of heeding his warnings in his own epistles. Taking Calvin's second option, Paul simply was telling them to heed the warnings of the OT citations in the previous 3 chapters. Neither option comes anywhere close to suggesting a SS proof.

(5) The term "written" can mean: (a) the whole Bible, (b) the whole OT, (c) the whole NT, (d) the whole OT plus partially completed NT, (e) Paul's Epistles, (f) Paul's lesson on humility given in 1 Corinthians Chapters 1-3, (g) the OT passages Paul quotes in his lesson on humility, (h) something else.

Evaluating these options, (a) is the only option that satisfies SS, but it is not the only option or even most likely, given options like (b) and (e)-(h) are far more exegetically fitting.

Given this case, I hope you rethink your appeal to 1 Cor 4:6 as a SS proof text, and further, that you realize just how scant the Biblical evidence is for such a critical Protestant doctrine.

I hope you are doing well also. God Bless.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Nick,

Thank you very much for your engaging response. I have enjoyed this discussion and I hope we continue to approach this matter with honest and opened minds. With that being said: I have a few comments to what you have written.

(1) The context is speaking on the issue of pride and other sinful attitudes plaguing the Corinthians, and not focused on laying out a rule of faith. The problem Paul is talking about is not one regarding "scripture alone" versus "scripture plus."

Response: The context in verses 1-5 are about Paul defending the legitimacy of his stewardship. The Corinthians are judging Paul on issues that are in darkness that is things that are not revealed. Paul responds to this in verse 6 by saying that they have to follow the catch phrase not going beyond the things that are written. This is Paul's argument and hence Paul is using Sola Scriptura to defend his Stewardship of the mysteries of God.

(2) 1 Corinthians 11:2 explicitly tells them to hold onto the traditions Paul hand
ed onto them, thus 4:6 could not be teaching SS.

Response: Traditions are compatible with sola scriptura because Paul does not tell us what these traditions are so then they could very well be biblical traditions. Either way it is unclear.

(3) Given that various NT Scriptures (e.g. 2nd Corinthians) weren't written yet means practicing SS was impossible at that point in time.

Response: At that time it would not be going beyond scripture if scripture taught that there were going to be additional books as long as the Apostles existed. Again this is fully compatible with sola scriptura.

Nathanael Taylor said...

(4) When one looks at how Protestants have historically read 1 Corinthians 4:6, it was not really appealed to as a SS proof text. For example, here is John Calvin's Corinthians Commentary on this verse:
"The clause above what is written may be explained in two ways — either as referring to Paul’s writings, or to the proofs from Scripture which he has brought forward. As this, however, is a matter of small moment, my readers may be left at liberty to take whichever they may prefer."
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom39.xi.ii.html

Those are hardly the comments we would expect for a SS proof text - Calvin says the meaning of the phrase isn't that big of a deal! Taking the first option, Paul was speaking of heeding his warnings in his own epistles. Taking Calvin's second option, Paul simply was telling them to heed the warnings of the OT citations in the previous 3 chapters. Neither option comes anywhere close to suggesting a SS proof.

Response: I disagree with John Calvin just like I disagree with him about the Perpetual virginity of Mary. In my understanding: I am only bound to scripture not traditions of one Reformer. Michael Horton and Greg Bahnsen use this as a proof text for Sola Scriptura.

(5) The term "written" can mean: (a) the whole Bible, (b) the whole OT, (c) the whole NT, (d) the whole OT plus partially completed NT, (e) Paul's Epistles, (f) Paul's lesson on humility given in 1 Corinthians Chapters 1-3, (g) the OT passages Paul quotes in his lesson on humility, (h) something else.

Evaluating these options, (a) is the only option that satisfies SS, but it is not the only option or even most likely, given options like (b) and (e)-(h) are far more exegetically fitting.

Response: I think that written means just scripture and the scripture that you have at that time not to go beyond it. So for the Corinthians it would be option d, but for myself with the completed canon it would be option a. The Greek word gegraptai is used 30 times in Paul (not including 1 Cor. 4:6) in every instance he is quoting the OT scripture and never does he use this word for anything else. Paul would not be teaching do not go beyond the OT because Paul would be contradicting himself (because he was going beyond it) rather he is teaching the more general point whatever is written do not go beyond what it teaches. It is interesting that the definite article is used before the phrase which suggests that it was a catch phrase that Paul and the Corinthians used. That Catch phrase is just like the Catch phrase of the Protestant Reformation which was Sola Scriptura.

Given this case, I hope you rethink your appeal to 1 Cor 4:6 as a SS proof text, and further, that you realize just how scant the Biblical evidence is for such a critical Protestant doctrine.

Response: Thank you so much for your time and thoughts I have really enjoyed our discussion thus far. May we both continue to have a open mind and search for the truth. At this time I see no good reason for doubting that 1 Corinthians 4:6 teaches Sola Scriptura...but I will keep an open mind and I pray that you do to. In saying this I obviously disagree with your above assessment. May the Lord Bless you.

NPT

Nick said...

Hi Nathanael,

Here are my thoughts:

Response: The context in verses 1-5 are about Paul defending the legitimacy of his stewardship. The Corinthians are judging Paul on issues that are in darkness that is things that are not revealed. Paul responds to this in verse 6 by saying that they have to follow the catch phrase not going beyond the things that are written. This is Paul's argument and hence Paul is using Sola Scriptura to defend his Stewardship of the mysteries of God.

Nick: I'm not sure I follow your argument. I think the context extends back to ch1, because v6 says "I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit," meaning he inserted his name where any name could be inserted, and he did this so that "none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another," which is the constant theme of pride/factions. I don't see how you're jumping to "Paul is using Sola Scriptura to defend his Stewardship," when he doesn't apply Scripture like that but rather to "He catches the wise in their craftiness". The topic isn't authority, it's humility. Paul was an authority by Divine Appointment, not because Scripture says or gave him authority. 4:17-19 confirms this, and likewise doesn't suggest SS either.

Response: Traditions are compatible with sola scriptura because Paul does not tell us what these traditions are so then they could very well be biblical traditions. Either way it is unclear.

Nick: Paul is talking about a past-tense handing on of traditions, thus they preceded the writing of this Epistle. That these traditions were inscripturated at some point is an unwarranted assumption.

Response: At that time it would not be going beyond scripture if scripture taught that there were going to be additional books as long as the Apostles existed. Again this is fully compatible with sola scriptura.

Nick: Does Scripture teach "there were going to be additional books as long as the Apostles existed"? If not, then that's an unbiblical statement. Further, what that would mean is that nobody would have to obey an Apostle so long as their words weren't written, but that's absurd (cf 1 Cor 4:17-19). Lastly, if one doesn't have all Scripture at their disposal, they cannot be practicing SS by definition (as an 'open canon' and SS are incompatible).

Response: I disagree with John Calvin just like I disagree with him about the Perpetual virginity of Mary. In my understanding: I am only bound to scripture not traditions of one Reformer. Michael Horton and Greg Bahnsen use this as a proof text for Sola Scriptura.

Nick: Then it's a stalemate between you and Calvin. What makes him wrong? Certainly not your mere say-so. This to me is a prime example of how SS fails in practice.

(cont)

Nick said...

(cont 2 of 2)

Response: I think that written means just scripture and the scripture that you have at that time not to go beyond it.

Nick: That's a pretty bold assertion, but not much good evidence for it. At the very least, how do you categorically rule out "what is written" doesn't mean simply Paul's humility lesson of ch1-4 or the OT passages he quoted? There is evidence warranting the latter two options, but I don't see any presented for yours.

Response (cont): ... So for the Corinthians it would be option d, but for myself with the completed canon it would be option a.

Nick: Then you're practicing SS with two different canons - a serious problem. And think about it, the Corinthians would be taught "these X number of books, plus whatever else is written in the future, are sufficient as a whole" - which is a concept not only not found in Scripture, but one that has logical problems as well.

Response (cont): ... The Greek word gegraptai is used 30 times in Paul (not including 1 Cor. 4:6) in every instance he is quoting the OT scripture and never does he use this word for anything else.

Nick: There are apparently various terms used for "written," so just because he doesn't used one of them is only one point to consider. The term used in 1 Cor 4:6 is the same word used to refer to the OT elsewere, including his OT quotes in Ch1-4.

Response (cont): ... Paul would not be teaching do not go beyond the OT because Paul would be contradicting himself (because he was going beyond it) rather he is teaching the more general point whatever is written do not go beyond what it teaches.

Nick: Agreed to an extent, but I think you're not fully applying that principle. Paul could have simply been saying "do not go beyond the lessons these OT passages teach," which fits the whole of 4:6 and context.

Response (cont): ... It is interesting that the definite article is used before the phrase which suggests that it was a catch phrase that Paul and the Corinthians used. That Catch phrase is just like the Catch phrase of the Protestant Reformation which was Sola Scriptura.

Nick: Possible, but it's more of a guess than anything solid. The NAB says the phrase "to go" is not in Greek, so there is uncertainty in what it's saying versus how English has translated it.

Response: Thank you so much for your time and thoughts I have really enjoyed our discussion thus far. May we both continue to have a open mind and search for the truth. At this time I see no good reason for doubting that 1 Corinthians 4:6 teaches Sola Scriptura...but I will keep an open mind and I pray that you do to. In saying this I obviously disagree with your above assessment. May the Lord Bless you.

Nick: I try to keep an open mind, and in this case I don't see any good warrant for "written" to mean "all available Scripture," especially in light of the evidence warranting a meaning for "the OT references" or "my lesson from 1-4." From what I see, you're guessing and reading assumptions into the text, and worse yet ruling out other possibilities without good warrant.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Nick,

I really want to thank you for your very thoughtful and engaging response. This discussion has been very helpful for me understanding my faith and clarifying my position. So for that, I thank you again. I tried my best to interact with your comments below.

Nick: I'm not sure I follow your argument. I think the context extends back to ch1, because v6 says "I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit," meaning he inserted his name where any name could be inserted, and he did this so that "none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another," which is the constant theme of pride/factions. I don't see how you're jumping to "Paul is using Sola Scriptura to defend his Stewardship," when he doesn't apply Scripture like that but rather to "He catches the wise in their craftiness". The topic isn't authority, it's humility. Paul was an authority by Divine Appointment, not because Scripture says or gave him authority. 4:17-19 confirms this, and likewise doesn't suggest SS either.

Response: I agree with your assessment that Paul is dealing with various factions here. Some of the Corinthian’s are trying to disqualify Paul’s ministry and stewardship (v. 1) on the basis of things not revealed (hidden in darkness, v. 5). This would be presumably to disqualify Paul as a leader and a steward (v.2-4). Paul then seals his argument about the hidden speculations against him that they are to judge him on the basis of things that are written and nothing else. This would then show that the Corinthian’s claim that Paul’s bad intentions disqualify him as a leader and a steward are groundless because they are based on mere speculative assertions and Paul’s response to this is that they are to base their judgments about him on things in scripture and nothing beyond that. I am altogether unclear by your argument that him quoting the Old Testament saying “He catches the wise in their craftiness” would be incompatible or count against Paul using Sola Scriptura here. Why could not Paul teach Sola Scriptura here? Do you think it is even possible for the Bible to teach Sola Scriptura?

Nick: Paul is talking about a past-tense handing on of traditions, thus they preceded the writing of this Epistle. That these traditions were inscripturated at some point is an unwarranted assumption.

Response: These traditions were not inscripturated at some point is an unwarranted assumption. It is unclear either way. If an argument is unclear it does not count for or against any position at all. I agree there was prophecy through Jesus Christ and through his divinely inspired Apostles and prophets that was passed on and taught before the New Testament documents were written. This I think is not going beyond the things that are written because the Old Testament teaches about this New Covenant time period which would include the out pouring of the Spirit and the great Prophet and God who is the Christ after Moses.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Nick: Does Scripture teach "there were going to be additional books as long as the Apostles existed"? If not, then that's an unbiblical statement. Further, what that would mean is that nobody would have to obey an Apostle so long as their words weren't written, but that's absurd (cf 1 Cor 4:17-19). Lastly, if one doesn't have all Scripture at their disposal, they cannot be practicing SS by definition (as an 'open canon' and SS are incompatible).

Response: I would say that a necessary condition for there to be scripture written is that there has to be one who communicates infallibly for God, which is either Christ, a Apostle or a Prophet. Ephesians 2:20 teaches us that Apostles, Prophets, and Christ built that foundation and since there is one foundation that is mentioned, once that is laid to say there would be another would be going beyond the things that are written which is something that 1 Corinthians 4:6 forbids of us. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teaches us that there will be a ceasing of prophecy when there is a completion of prophecy. The best candidate for the ceasing of prophecy is when that foundation is laid by those who can speak God’s words and we have the completion which is the Bible. I would say people would have to obey the words of an Apostle so long as they were in accordance with what previous revelation taught (Acts 17:11), if they contradict what is taught in the Old Testament scriptures and if what they are doing in that time period is not fulfilled or entailed by the Old Testament Scriptures then we ought not to believe anything they say. I would reject the definition of Sola Scriptura that would only apply to a close canon. The way I would define scripture alone or Sola Scriptura is that whatever scripture is written (beginning at the time of 1 Cor. 4:6) we are not to go beyond it for infallible propositions for faith and practice. This definition is more reasonable because it allows for my position to be taught in the Bible and it would allow me to practice (but not so much the Corinthians and first century Christian) the historic doctrine of the Reformation which is Sola Scriptura traditionally defined.

Nick: Then it's a stalemate between you and Calvin. What makes him wrong? Certainly not your mere say-so. This to me is a prime example of how SS fails in practice.

Response: My arguments in favor of 1 Corinthians 4:6 would make him wrong. Do you think that someone can have a more reasonable interpretation than another person? Why could that not be the case between Calvin and myself? What resolves disagreements between two persons? Well, what we are doing here: rational discourse. Evidence and arguments are the sorts of things that show one persons position reasonable as opposed to differing positions. It would seem that in some sense we are similar positions, after all: what resolves an authority claim disagreement that you would have with an Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, and Sedevacantist? What does any of this have to do exclusively with Sola Scriptura?

Nathanael Taylor said...

Nick: That's a pretty bold assertion, but not much good evidence for it. At the very least, how do you categorically rule out "what is written" doesn't mean simply Paul's humility lesson of ch1-4 or the OT passages he quoted? There is evidence warranting the latter two options, but I don't see any presented for yours.

Response: Every time Paul uses this Greek word (30 times) it is a quote from the Old Testament Scripture and never does it mean anything but the Old Testament Scripture. Paul is not quoting anything specifically here but rather all written scriptures generally. It cannot be limited to OT quotes or the OT alone because Paul would be contradicting himself because he would be going beyond the things that are written.

Nick: Then you're practicing SS with two different canons - a serious problem. And think about it, the Corinthians would be taught "these X number of books, plus whatever else is written in the future, are sufficient as a whole" - which is a concept not only not found in Scripture, but one that has logical problems as well.

Response: It would be not going beyond the things that are written with an open canon for the Corinthians and a closed canon for us, I do not see any problem here. Do you? And if so what might it be? Well I am not so sure that the Corinthians and I are taught the number of books and I do not see a reason for needing that sort of thing as I have argued previously. I would say that the revelation that Corinthians had was sufficient for salvation at that time and the revelation I have now which is more is sufficient salvation for this time. I do not see any logical problem here at all, but because you mentioned it: what Law of Logic does my solution break? The Bible teaches that the Corinthians did have salvation so obviously what they had at that time was sufficient for salvation (1 Cor. 1:1-9)

Nick: There are apparently various terms used for "written," so just because he doesn't used one of them is only one point to consider. The term used in 1 Cor 4:6 is the same word used to refer to the OT elsewere, including his OT quotes in Ch1-4.

Response: There are various Greek words used to indicate that scripture is being cited but every time gegraptai is used in that precise form it always means the Old Testament Scripture. As you have pointed out Paul does use this Greek word repeatedly in the 1 Corinthians to quote OT scripture, but it cannot be all those quotes together because gegraptai is never used as a summary of all of the particular Old Testament quotes that Paul has used previously in the Letter, rather when Paul uses gegraptai he follows it up with a quote or two from the Old Testament. There remains a larger problem here if Paul is saying do not go beyond a part of the OT or the OT as a whole then Paul would be contradicting himself because he is writing beyond the Old Testament. Therefore, the most reasonable position is that it is referring to written scripture. The principle then would be whatever written scripture you have do not go beyond it. It is this principle that leads me to reject all positions that add to the written scriptures.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Nick: Agreed to an extent, but I think you're not fully applying that principle. Paul could have simply been saying "do not go beyond the lessons these OT passages teach," which fits the whole of 4:6 and context.

Response: My point has been throughout this discussion that if Paul were doing that then he would be contradicting himself because presumably he would think that they could go to other OT passages to teach them lesions and that he teaches them additional lesions in the very letter he is writing.

Nick: Possible, but it's more of a guess than anything solid. The NAB says the phrase "to go" is not in Greek, so there is uncertainty in what it's saying versus how English has translated it.

Response: Well fortunately I can read Greek so it says this for a word for word translation “in order that by us you may learn the not beyond what is written”. When the definite article is used in this way before a phrase it usually indicates that this is a saying so it would be rendered as “the saying”. This is the most reasonable way to translate it.

Nick: I try to keep an open mind, and in this case I don't see any good warrant for "written" to mean "all available Scripture," especially in light of the evidence warranting a meaning for "the OT references" or "my lesson from 1-4." From what I see, you're guessing and reading assumptions into the text, and worse yet ruling out other possibilities without good warrant.

Response: I hope I have provided good enough reason above. I am glad we could have this inter faith discussion. You have taught me a lot about my faith and your reason for disagreeing with it so I am very grateful for this learning experience. I am glad you have an open mind and I hope we will both continue to keep up this attitude of learning and mutual understanding.

God Bless,

NPT

Nick said...

Hi, I thank you as well for taking the time to interact, it's good for both of us. Now if only that 4k word limit could be removed!

Response: Some of the Corinthian’s are trying to disqualify Paul’s ministry and stewardship (v. 1) on the basis of things not revealed (hidden in darkness, v. 5).

N: I don't think that's an accurate analysis. Nowhere does it suggest they were trying to disqualify Paul. Paul was their boss by virtue of him founding their church and they submitting. Rather, in their arrogance, they were not showing proper reverence to his authority and other authority. The intentions of a minister will be examined and exposed on the last day, so it's not up to the here and now to impute motives on their leaders. The issue is not about evaluating doctrines or even evaluating Paul (which he rules out).

Response (cont):... they are to judge him on the basis of things that are written and nothing else.

N: He is nowhere saying "they are to judge him" - quite the contrary! They have no room or basis to judge him (v5). Further, reading 4:6a and 4:6c show clearly this was an example for *their* benefit *so that* they won't be prideful against each other, not against Paul!

Response (cont):... This would then show that the Corinthian’s claim that Paul’s bad intentions disqualify him as a leader and a steward are groundless because they are based on mere speculative assertions and Paul’s response to this is that they are to base their judgments about him on things in scripture and nothing beyond that.

N: This contradicts Paul's express statement "I care little if I'm judged by you" (v3) - they have nothing on Paul, and he doesn't have to prove himself. He uses himself as an example for their benefit, as a object lesson, not because he is genuinely on trial and must prove himself.  

Response (cont):... I am altogether unclear by your argument that him quoting the Old Testament saying “He catches the wise in their craftiness” would be incompatible or count against Paul using Sola Scriptura here.

N: Because he would only be speaking narrowly about "what is written," applying that to a specific lesson given in those OT quotes. If I give a list of quips against pride and say "don't go beyond what I just wrote about pride," that doesn't in any way imply only accept what I have written or that the written record is sufficient for all doctrines.

Response: Why could not Paul teach Sola Scriptura here?

N: Because that's not his intent with the Corinthians, at least in this context. His focus is on pride and other rampant sins. Context is the most important thing to consider. You'd be having Paul inject the doctrine of SS into 4:6b, which is not the context of 4:6a and 4:6c, and the greater context of the chapter and Epistle.

Response: Do you think it is even possible for the Bible to teach Sola Scriptura?

N: No, for the doctrine is logically faulty and requires the denial of other revealed truths; thus it cannot be taught by Scripture, and indeed it is not taught. Appealing to texts like 1 Cor 4:6 is evidence to me of just how flimsy SS is as far as Scriptural proof.

Response: These traditions were not inscripturated at some point is an unwarranted assumption.

N: No it's not, especially given the fact teachings were passed on under two forms, oral and written (indicating both had their uses). Nothing indicates teachings/traditions must be written down. That some were written down is reasonable, and in fact true. Thus, it's not unwarranted. It would be like saying we have two modes of transporting humans, car and bicycle, but that someday only cars would be used; the burden is on the one saying only cars would be used in the future, not the one claiming we should assume cars and bicycles would continue to co-exist unless otherwise shown.

Nick said...

Response: I agree there was prophecy through Jesus Christ and through his divinely inspired Apostles and prophets that was passed on and taught before the New Testament documents were written.

N: That rules out SS by definition, for people were embracing oral teachings and living by them before they were written. Even James White admits this simple fact, as does the Westminster Confession (1:1B).

Response: This I think is not going beyond the things that are written because the Old Testament teaches about this New Covenant time period which would include the out pouring of the Spirit and the great Prophet and God who is the Christ after Moses.

N: Then you're making the NT writings superfluous if the OT is sufficient in the details supplied by the oral teaching of Christ and Apostles. Nobody I know embraces that, and it's a flat out contradiction with WCF 1:1. The OT speaking on a New Covenant to come is not equivalent with the OT alone teaching all that is 'sufficient' for salvation or being a written 'validation' of all that Jesus and the Apostles taught orally.
Response: I would say that a necessary condition for there to be scripture written is that there has to be one who communicates infallibly for God, which is either Christ, a Apostle or a Prophet.

N: Just note that Christ never wrote anything, nor gave instructions to write a NT, and people like Luke were not apostles or prophets.

Response: Ephesians 2:20 teaches us that Apostles, Prophets, and Christ built that foundation and since there is one foundation that is mentioned, once that is laid to say there would be another would be going beyond the things that are written which is something that 1 Corinthians 4:6 forbids of us.

N: Eph 2:20 is not speaking of Scripture, but the Church and it's human authorities.

Response: Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teaches us that there will be a ceasing of prophecy when there is a completion of prophecy.

N: Paul is speaking about the eschaton in that text. And that's devastating because it means prophecies can take place all the way until the end. In fact the gift of prophecy is a gift of the New Covenant, a gift of the Spirit, as Paul clearly says in 1 Cor 12 and elsewhere.  

Response: The best candidate for the ceasing of prophecy is when that foundation is laid by those who can speak God’s words and we have the completion which is the Bible.

N: You're jumping to conclusions, which is unwarranted. Nowhere did it say prophecy has ceased now; just the opposite, in fact. Further, the "foundation" mentioned isn't the Bible. Lastly, nowhere does it say "the completion" is the Bible (which was still being written!), thus SS couldn't have been practiced at the time.

Response: I would say people would have to obey the words of an Apostle so long as they were in accordance with what previous revelation taught

N: That's just it, "previous revelation" was only sensible in light of the new revelation entrusted to the Apostles (just look at how the Apostles all through Acts have to supply key details and key interpretations of OT prophecy). Further, certain things didn't necessarily have an OT reference point, yet the Apostle still had authority. A good example is that the OT speaks of circumcision as 'eternal' and such, and yet the Apostles in Acts 15 infallibly declared circumcision was not required (without even appealing to Scripture for their ruling).

Nick said...

Response: I would reject the definition of Sola Scriptura that would only apply to a close canon.
N: Then it means the words and teachings of Jesus and the Apostles had no authority until they were written, which is absurd. The very term 'canon' means 'standard', yet an 'open standard' is hardly one which can act as the 'final' and most authoritative rule. What it also means is that in the NT dispensation, what information was sufficient for the Apostolic Christians is insufficient for post Apostolic Christians - a radical break which must be explained.

Response: The way I would define scripture alone or Sola Scriptura is that whatever scripture is written (beginning at the time of 1 Cor. 4:6) we are not to go beyond it for infallible propositions for faith and practice.

N: I'm confused on your chronology here: you seem to be saying SS didn't take effect until 1 Cor 4:6, which would concede the prior years the Christians were not practicing SS. Anyway, such a teaching would be problematic for it would mean Christ nor the Apostles oral teaching would be infallible, which is heresy.

Response: This definition is more reasonable because it allows for my position to be taught in the Bible and it would allow me to practice (but not so much the Corinthians and first century Christian) the historic doctrine of the Reformation which is Sola Scriptura traditionally defined.

N: The doctrine of SS "traditionally defined" would be from sources like the Westminster Confession, which don't define it as you do. One of the big problems is you've made the term "sufficient" relative, meaning future NT writings were either: (a) incidental (and thus don't apply to sufficiency), or (b) introducing new doctrines (entailing a new Gospel). In other words: (a) we believe the same teachings as the Corinthians, thus the later NT isn't strictly needed; (b) the Corinthians were required to believe a Gospel containing A,B,C, while we today are required to believe a Gospel containing A,B,C,D.
Just comparing the canons we see the problem:
"These 55 books *collectively* contain all that is *sufficient* for salvation of Christians."
"These 66 books *collectively* contain all that is *sufficient* for salvation of Christians."

Response: My arguments in favor of 1 Corinthians 4:6 would make him wrong. Do you think that someone can have a more reasonable interpretation than another person?

N: Ah, that's just it! Who is giving the more reasonable interpretation between you and Calvin? Both of you would consider your reasoning better than the other. I'd say at least Calvin has context on his side, where as it's more or less your say-so.

Response: What resolves disagreements between two persons? Well, what we are doing here: rational discourse. Evidence and arguments are the sorts of things that show one persons position reasonable as opposed to differing positions.

N: Yes! But this runs directly contrary to your own blog where you were speaking of "basic principles" which were (somehow) independent and immune from this line of approach.

Response: Every time Paul uses this Greek word (30 times) it is a quote from the Old Testament Scripture and never does it mean anything but the Old Testament Scripture.

N: If "written" in 1 Cor 4:6 means the OT 'every time', then your argument would be 4:6 is referring to the OT only, ruling out the very possibility of NT. But even if it referred to the OT, it could still be simply be speaking narrowly in regards to the OT pride texts Paul quoted. I think Gal 4:22 is an example of where it can mean 'summary OT thought', rather than a direct OT verse quote.

Nick said...

Response: Paul is not quoting anything specifically here but rather all written scriptures generally.
N: How can you say this? I see no evidence for this claim. And how could it not be anything specifically, when his point is to teach them a lesson against pride? The context is not speaking on the nature of Scripture.

Response: It cannot be limited to OT quotes or the OT alone because Paul would be contradicting himself because he would be going beyond the things that are written.

N: The phrase "beyond what is written" can be taken broadly or narrowly. If narrowly, then it could refer to the simple lessons against pride, and thus he wouldn't be contradicting himself. You're reading it as a universal dogmatic claim, rather than a proverbial saying. Also, you're assuming Paul himself considered his writings "Scripture," which isn't something we see indicated.

Response: It would be not going beyond the things that are written with an open canon for the Corinthians and a closed canon for us, I do not see any problem here. Do you? And if so what might it be?

N: The Scriptures can be sufficient and the final rule for you but not for them. That's the difference, and that's a problem. Further, the Apostles wouldn't be able to teach unless they wrote down their teaching, which is likewise absurd and contradicts the plain evangelization we see in Acts. The very notion you espouse renders texts like 1 Cor 4:19 empty.

Response: I would say that the revelation that Corinthians had was sufficient for salvation at that time and the revelation I have now which is more is sufficient salvation for this time.

N: Then it was a different Gospel being taught between the first century Christians and the second. What you're saying is that the first century Christians had less access to the Truth (even with the Apostles standing right there) than you do. Something cannot be "more sufficient," either it's sufficient or it's not.

Response: I do not see any logical problem here at all, but because you mentioned it: what Law of Logic does my solution break? The Bible teaches that the Corinthians did have salvation so obviously what they had at that time was sufficient for salvation (1 Cor. 1:1-9)

N: The Corinthians heard the Gospel and knew how to be saved primarily because Paul preached there for a time, years before 1 Corinthians was even written. Paul writing to them presupposes they know the basics of the faith. Your solution makes oral preaching of the Apostles of no weight until 'judged' by what is written. In that sense, your solution doesn't go against logic, but it does go against what is reasonable. With your argument, Christ could have simply had a single Ephesians size Epistle written to each local Christian body and called that Epistle alone "sufficient." That's not what happened though.

Nick said...

Response: There are various Greek words used to indicate that scripture is being cited but every time gegraptai is used in that precise form it always means the Old Testament Scripture. As you have pointed out Paul does use this Greek word repeatedly in the 1 Corinthians to quote OT scripture, but it cannot be all those quotes together because gegraptai is never used as a summary of all of the particular Old Testament quotes that Paul has used previously in the Letter, rather when Paul uses gegraptai he follows it up with a quote or two from the Old Testament. There remains a larger problem here if Paul is saying do not go beyond a part of the OT or the OT as a whole then Paul would be contradicting himself because he is writing beyond the Old Testament. Therefore, the most reasonable position is that it is referring to written scripture. The principle then would be whatever written scripture you have do not go beyond it. It is this principle that leads me to reject all positions that add to the written scriptures.

Nick: Paul could have simply been saying "do not go beyond the lessons these OT passages teach," which fits the whole of 4:6 and context. This is similar to how he uses the term in Gal 4:22, where he is not directly quoting an OT text but merely alluding to a specific OT thought. To say it 'always means OT' leaves *you* no room to say 'but in this case it must mean something else, scripture in general'. You're "scripture in general" definition relies on defying the very data you brought forward: it *always* means a specific OT verse, *never* used as a summary. It's a double standard to say it doesn't have to follow the data with you but it does have to follow it with me.

Response: My point has been throughout this discussion that if Paul were doing that then he would be contradicting himself because presumably he would think that they could go to other OT passages to teach them lesions and that he teaches them additional lesions in the very letter he is writing.

N: This thesis is flawed in that your argument isn't against me but against the very data you present: what you're doing is allowing your interpretation to be an exception to the data while not letting my interpretation be an exception; and that's a double standard.

Response: I hope I have provided good enough reason above. I am glad we could have this inter faith discussion. You have taught me a lot about my faith and your reason for disagreeing with it so I am very grateful for this learning experience. I am glad you have an open mind and I hope we will both continue to keep up this attitude of learning and mutual understanding.

N: Thank you. I now see your argument more fully, but I don't think it's a fair evaluation of the evidence. The only 'solid' point you're building from is that the term *always* refers to a direct OT quote, and since that doesn't fit here (given no immediate OT quote) it must mean something else...but how it *must* mean 'written scripture in general' is something I don't see any proof for. It could mean that simply by virtue of it being a coherent meaning, but at the same time, with the same reasoning, it could mean 'what was just written in ch1-4' or 'the preceding OT quotes'. 

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Nick,

Now that I am out of school for the summer I have plenty of time to discuss this issue with you.

Response: Some of the Corinthian’s are trying to disqualify Paul’s ministry and stewardship (v. 1) on the basis of things not revealed (hidden in darkness, v. 5).

N: I don't think that's an accurate analysis. Nowhere does it suggest they were trying to disqualify Paul. Paul was their boss by virtue of him founding their church and they submitting. Rather, in their arrogance, they were not showing proper reverence to his authority and other authority. The intentions of a minister will be examined and exposed on the last day, so it's not up to the here and now to impute motives on their leaders. The issue is not about evaluating doctrines or even evaluating Paul (which he rules out).

Response: Paul is writing about his qualifications as a steward for a reason and with the problems of being prideful and puffed up in the leadership of the church it seems like a legitimate inference to make that they were attacking Paul's ministry in some sense otherwise Paul would not of felt it necessary to defend it. After all the majority of New Testament scholars believe that the book of 1 Corinthians is primarily focused on addressing the concerns of the Corinthians. But I still do not think this point over against your point is essential for the exegesis at hand, why do you think it is?


N: He is nowhere saying "they are to judge him" - quite the contrary! They have no room or basis to judge him (v5). Further, reading 4:6a and 4:6c show clearly this was an example for *their* benefit *so that* they won't be prideful against each other, not against Paul!

Response: Verse 3 only rules out a type of judgment, a judgment based on human standards (hence the language of a human court vs a divine court which is evident because dikiaoo is used). Paul's exhortation that they not go beyond scripture serves many purposes in the passage and I would agree with you that one was so that people do not become prideful, but it also serves to defend Paul's ministry.

N: This contradicts Paul's express statement "I care little if I'm judged by you" (v3) - they have nothing on Paul, and he doesn't have to prove himself. He uses himself as an example for their benefit, as a object lesson, not because he is genuinely on trial and must prove himself.

Response: I agree, this does not really incompatible with what I was saying previously. He is simply giving a reason in the passage for why he does not feel compelled to be concerned by their human centered judgments about his ministry.  

N: Because he would only be speaking narrowly about "what is written," applying that to a specific lesson given in those OT quotes. If I give a list of quips against pride and say "don't go beyond what I just wrote about pride," that doesn't in any way imply only accept what I have written or that the written record is sufficient for all doctrines.

Response: Well I do not know if that explanation is sufficient because there are other teachings in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament on pride and so it seems that Paul would be prohibiting them from the other scriptures which seems very implausible. Also you are missing the general point that Paul uses this saying and principle generally in the “do not go beyond what is written” he does not say “do not go beyond what is written with respect to pride”.

Nathanael Taylor said...

N: Because that's not his intent with the Corinthians, at least in this context. His focus is on pride and other rampant sins. Context is the most important thing to consider. You'd be having Paul inject the doctrine of SS into 4:6b, which is not the context of 4:6a and 4:6c, and the greater context of the chapter and Epistle.

Response: Sola Scriptura corrects the sins of pride so I would see as working fine with the context because it pushes on divine truth rather than our own human conceptions of truth. So I do not see how sola scriptura would be out of context especially since it would correct the sins and also because he just directly teaches sola scriptura which is the doctrine that we should not go beyond the scriptures which is what he says in verse 6.

N: No, for the doctrine is logically faulty and requires the denial of other revealed truths; thus it cannot be taught by Scripture, and indeed it is not taught. Appealing to texts like 1 Cor 4:6 is evidence to me of just how flimsy SS is as far as Scriptural proof.

Response: Well it seems like the issue here is that you could never accept that Sola Scriptura could be taught any where. Even if I were to provide a plausible exegesis that would suggests sola scriptura you would just rule it out a priori because of your commitment to other revealed truths which you have not proven to me. So in the future maybe you should say no matter what verse you give it could never teach sola scriptura because of my human interpretation of scripture and the church.

Response: These traditions were not inscripturated at some point is an unwarranted assumption.

N: No it's not, especially given the fact teachings were passed on under two forms, oral and written (indicating both had their uses). Nothing indicates teachings/traditions must be written down. That some were written down is reasonable, and in fact true. Thus, it's not unwarranted. It would be like saying we have two modes of transporting humans, car and bicycle, but that someday only cars would be used; the burden is on the one saying only cars would be used in the future, not the one claiming we should assume cars and bicycles would continue to co-exist unless otherwise shown.

Response: Well you did not really provide any evidence for your claim you just claimed that two forms exists and the burden is on me to prove that it does not. Well if my exegesis of the verse is correct then it would show that all the traditions spoken of would be inscripturated at sometime. The burden seems to be on both of us to show that there either was or was not tradition that was not in the Bible that Paul is referring to. As for analogy I would say the burden would be on both persons, that person who thinks there will be bikes in the future has a equal burden with the person who does not think there will be bikes in the future.

N: That rules out SS by definition, for people were embracing oral teachings and living by them before they were written. Even James White admits this simple fact, as does the Westminster Confession (1:1B).

Response: I believe it rules out the way we apply the principle today, but the way the principle of do not go beyond the things that are written would be different because what was written at that time taught that there was going to be prophecy and Apostles which allows there to be inspired oral transmission which would be inscripturated to exist for a time. So the principle of 4:6 would be applied back then different than it would be applied today. If there was a fellow on the a Island with only the Gospel of John then he should not go beyond the Gospel of John so 1 Corinthians 4:6 can be applied differently per situation. And in our present situation in redemptive history it entails the tradition Reformed understanding of the Doctrine of SS.

Nathanael Taylor said...

N: Then you're making the NT writings superfluous if the OT is sufficient in the details supplied by the oral teaching of Christ and Apostles. Nobody I know embraces that, and it's a flat out contradiction with WCF 1:1. The OT speaking on a New Covenant to come is not equivalent with the OT alone teaching all that is 'sufficient' for salvation or being a written 'validation' of all that Jesus and the Apostles taught orally.

Response: I do not think that Old Testament is sufficient for today, but I think that when the New Testament came it was merely taught that it would by the Old Testament. The Old Testament taught of a time when new things would happen but it does not go over all that would happen. So I think you may have misunderstood me.

N: Just note that Christ never wrote anything, nor gave instructions to write a NT, and people like Luke were not apostles or prophets.

Response: I would say Luke is a prophet because he wrote down scripture.

N: Eph 2:20 is not speaking of Scripture, but the Church and it's human authorities.

Response: Yes, but it is relevant to Scripture because those authorities are the only authorities that can write scripture.

N: Paul is speaking about the eschaton in that text. And that's devastating because it means prophecies can take place all the way until the end. In fact the gift of prophecy is a gift of the New Covenant, a gift of the Spirit, as Paul clearly says in 1 Cor 12 and elsewhere.  

Response: I would say that eschatological interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13 is implausible because the context has nothing to do with eschatology, but rather revelation. The text is speaking of the completion of prophecy because it says we prophecy in part, but when the completion occurs the partial will pass away. The partial here is in reference to prophecy so clearly this has everything to do with prophecy and nothing to do with eschatology. I would see not all the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 as not continuing given Eph. 2:20.

N: You're jumping to conclusions, which is unwarranted. Nowhere did it say prophecy has ceased now; just the opposite, in fact. Further, the "foundation" mentioned isn't the Bible. Lastly, nowhere does it say "the completion" is the Bible (which was still being written!), thus SS couldn't have been practiced at the time.

Response: I do not think I am jumping to conclusions rather I am doing systematic theology. The foundation would be in Eph. 2:20. And I would say this has to with scriptures from being complete rather than 1 Cor. 4:6 being practiced at the time which I sufficiently addressed above.

N: That's just it, "previous revelation" was only sensible in light of the new revelation entrusted to the Apostles (just look at how the Apostles all through Acts have to supply key details and key interpretations of OT prophecy). Further, certain things didn't necessarily have an OT reference point, yet the Apostle still had authority. A good example is that the OT speaks of circumcision as 'eternal' and such, and yet the Apostles in Acts 15 infallibly declared circumcision was not required (without even appealing to Scripture for their ruling).

Response: I would say that there need not be a reference point for every doctrine, but that the Old Testament provides a general story and expectation that New Revelation will come in the New covenant and so it is not going beyond the things that are written because what was written says that more things will be written. As for the circumcision argument the Hebrew word need not mean forever or eternal, but a long period of time.

Nathanael Taylor said...

N: I'm confused on your chronology here: you seem to be saying SS didn't take effect until 1 Cor 4:6,which would concede the prior years the Christians were not practicing SS. Anyway, such a teaching would be problematic for it would mean Christ nor the Apostles oral teaching would be infallible, which is heresy.

Response: I am saying that the principle which grounds sola scriptura “do not go beyond the things that are written” was a principle that is always practiced when written revelation began, however, Sola Scriptura is a particular application of this principle for the time after the Old and New Testament is written.

N: The doctrine of SS "traditionally defined" would be from sources like the Westminster Confession, which don't define it as you do. One of the big problems is you've made the term "sufficient" relative, meaning future NT writings were either: (a) incidental (and thus don't apply to sufficiency), or (b) introducing new doctrines (entailing a new Gospel). In other words: (a) we believe the same teachings as the Corinthians, thus the later NT isn't strictly needed; (b) the Corinthians were required to believe a Gospel containing A,B,C, while we today are required to believe a Gospel containing A,B,C,D.
Just comparing the canons we see the problem:
"These 55 books *collectively* contain all that is *sufficient* for salvation of Christians."
"These 66 books *collectively* contain all that is *sufficient* for salvation of Christians."

Response: I would say that God's word is sufficient for the time that it was written, but that as time changes so will the standard for what is sufficient will change so I am not really seeing the issue here. I would say for a given Time T0 canon p is sufficient for s and that this proposition is not logically incompatible with this proposition: at time T1 canon p* is sufficient for s*.

N: Ah, that's just it! Who is giving the more reasonable interpretation between you and Calvin? Both of you would consider your reasoning better than the other. I'd say at least Calvin has context on his side, where as it's more or less your say-so.

Response: I would say mine has the context on my side (my above remarks) and Paul's general use of the Greek word. This post modern agnosticism about interpretation is implausible and worse it is a double edge sword. After all if someone has a different interpretation of the church than you do who is to say who is right there? You might say the church, but you still have to interpret that and who is to say that interpretation is right if someone disagrees?

N: Yes! But this runs directly contrary to your own blog where you were speaking of "basic principles" which were (somehow) independent and immune from this line of approach.

Response: I never said that basic beliefs are immune, they can be fallible. I say they are fallible on my blog post on coherentism and proper functionalism way before any of these discussions occurred. You are of course free to check these out and comment accordingly.

Nathanael Taylor said...

N: If "written" in 1 Cor 4:6 means the OT 'every time', then your argument would be 4:6 is referring to the OT only, ruling out the very possibility of NT. But even if it referred to the OT, it could still be simply be speaking narrowly in regards to the OT pride texts Paul quoted. I think Gal 4:22 is an example of where it can mean 'summary OT thought', rather than a direct OT verse quote.

Response: I have provided a number of responses to this argument: 1) it does refer to the Old Testament each time but two considerations suggests that it would include all scripture: a) if it only meant and nothing that could be added then that would be absurd so it must be speaking of scripture in general, and b) the New Testament is also viewed as scripture so just because Paul only happens to quote the scriptures found in the Old Testament does not mean that he would limit the scriptures to the Old Testament. 2) I also see no problem with saying that the New Testament is technically not going beyond the New Testament because the Old Testament predicts and teaches a time when new revelation and a new covenant occurs. So when the Old Testament does this and it happens it is not going beyond the teaching of the Old Testament.

N: How can you say this? I see no evidence for this claim. And how could it not be anything specifically, when his point is to teach them a lesson against pride? The context is not speaking on the nature of Scripture.

Response: I say this because there is no Old Testament quote afterward and this gegraptai is only used in Paul to refer to the scriptures. I would say appealing to SS would teach them not to be prideful so I do not really see a problem here.

N: The Scriptures can be sufficient and the final rule for you but not for them. That's the difference, and that's a problem. Further, the Apostles wouldn't be able to teach unless they wrote down their teaching, which is likewise absurd and contradicts the plain evangelization we see in Acts. The very notion you espouse renders texts like 1 Cor 4:19 empty.

Response: Why is it a problem? I would say the Apostles would be able to teach so long as there general messages were written down later by themselves or someone else. Why think that I would deny this? Why would it render 1 Cor. 4:19 empty?

N: Then it was a different Gospel being taught between the first century Christians and the second. What you're saying is that the first century Christians had less access to the Truth (even with the Apostles standing right there) than you do. Something cannot be "more sufficient," either it's sufficient or it's not.

Response: I believe the Gospel was taught to the Corinthians, the same Gospel we have today. But I would say that we today have teachings that they did not have, but they could not have. I am not really sure because the Bible does not really tell me. But what I do know it that Apostles and the scriptures at the time were sufficient for faith and practice. As I said before sufficiency can change.

N: The Corinthians heard the Gospel and knew how to be saved primarily because Paul preached there for a time, years before 1 Corinthians was even written. Paul writing to them presupposes they know the basics of the faith. Your solution makes oral preaching of the Apostles of no weight until 'judged' by what is written. In that sense, your solution doesn't go against logic, but it does go against what is reasonable. With your argument, Christ could have simply had a single Ephesians size Epistle written to each local Christian body and called that Epistle alone "sufficient." That's not what happened though.

Response: I am not really sure what you are trying to argue here or how this is a problem for my position. In the future try to make the inference patterns in your arguments a bit more explicit so that the line of reasoning can be seen as valid.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Nick: Paul could have simply been saying "do not go beyond the lessons these OT passages teach," which fits the whole of 4:6 and context. This is similar to how he uses the term in Gal 4:22, where he is not directly quoting an OT text but merely alluding to a specific OT thought. To say it 'always means OT' leaves *you* no room to say 'but in this case it must mean something else, scripture in general'. You're "scripture in general" definition relies on defying the very data you brought forward: it *always* means a specific OT verse, *never* used as a summary. It's a double standard to say it doesn't have to follow the data with you but it does have to follow it with me.

Response: If it is referring to a specific thought or some Old Testament verses then that would suggest that we are only to follow those and not the rest of the Old Testament, but clearly we both accept all the Old Testament so this line of reasoning cannot be right. As for gegraptai, I would take it to mean scripture in general because it is used differently here than all the Old Testament citations he makes, but it seems that with the inclusion of this usage the best definition for this Greek word would be scripture rather than just the Old Testament scriptures. So to include all of Paul's usages of gegraptai (including 1 Cor. 4:6) the best definition of the world to include all of Paul usages would be scripture.

N: This thesis is flawed in that your argument isn't against me but against the very data you present: what you're doing is allowing your interpretation to be an exception to the data while not letting my interpretation be an exception; and that's a double standard.

Response: No, I am saying that the data including 1 Corinthians 4:6 would suggests a broader definition of gegraptai which would be scripture.


Thank you for your time Nick. I have enjoyed this discussion thoroughly.

God Bless,
NPT

John Lollard said...

Hey Nick,

I'm afraid that I simply don't understand. Are you claiming that you have non-scriptural inspired revelation? Or are you just raising a hypothetical that we haven't checked every last scrap of information for inspiration yet, so we can't call the case closed?

I'm afraid I don't see your point. I've got a theopneustos book on my desk and I've got no theopneustos anything anywhere else. What exactly is your recommendation to me?

To deny the inspiration of Scripture?
To use non-inspired sources to inform my faith?
To believe some other inspired revelation that you claim to have?

The task to you is literally as easy as showing me the inspired revelation that is outside of the Bible. If you want me to believe in non-biblical inspiration, just show me some. If It's inspired, then I'd be a bad Christian to not believe in it. But I'd also be a bad Christian to believe in it without establishing its provenance from God, so I'm going to need a pretty good case for this non-biblical revelation.

Love in Christ,
John Lollard

Nick said...

Hi John L,

You said: "I'm afraid that I simply don't understand. Are you claiming that you have non-scriptural inspired revelation? Or are you just raising a hypothetical that we haven't checked every last scrap of information for inspiration yet, so we can't call the case closed?"

I have three points to make here:

(1) In the main article, I am not making any arguments for non-scriptural inspired revelation. Whether such exists or not is outside the scope of this discussion. Note the very last sentence of the main article.

(2) I am *not* raising a hypothetical about "checking every last scrap of information" - I'm doing just the opposite, in fact. I'm saying "checking every last scrap" is *not* what I'm asking or demanding.

(3) I *AM* saying Sola Scriptura cannot stand on merely logical argument or assumption. In other words, the doctrine cannot be "assumed true unless proven otherwise" without making it self-refuting.

You said: "I'm afraid I don't see your point. I've got a theopneustos book on my desk and I've got no theopneustos anything anywhere else. What exactly is your recommendation to me?"

My recommendation is simple: *obey* what that theopneustos book on your desk says: does that theopneustos book teach the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? If not, then what makes this non-Biblical teaching called Sola Scriptura any different from the condemned "traditions of men"?


You said: "The task to you is literally as easy as showing me the inspired revelation that is outside of the Bible. If you want me to believe in non-biblical inspiration, just show me some. If It's inspired, then I'd be a bad Christian to not believe in it. But I'd also be a bad Christian to believe in it without establishing its provenance from God, so I'm going to need a pretty good case for this non-biblical revelation."

The flaw in comments like these is that they proceed from the assumption Sola Scriptura is true. It's as if a Mormon came to me and said "prove a new prophet after Smith has come". The Mormon is presupposing Smith is a prophet, just as you're presupposing SS is true. Then what's happening is a shifting of the burden of proof, such that neither Smith nor Sola Scriptura ever have to stand a fair and honest trial. The problem is, every time Sola Scriptura is put on trial, a mob disrupts the proceedings, takes matters into their own hands, and proceeds to tar and feather the prosecutor. Based on your own demands above, you'd be a "bad Christian" to accept the doctrine of SS if it weren't taught in Scripture.

John Lollard said...

Hey Nick,

I'm not a Bible scholar. Maybe there's someone more knowledgeable than me who will correct me. But I will say that based on my reading of the Bible, the idea that we can only believe what's written in the Bible is not taught in the Bible.

What is taught in the Bible is to only believe the attested revelation from God. Even if the Bible didn't say this, it's a reasonable position. The Bible tells us how to test prophets, how to test angels, how to test oral traditions so that we can discern revelation from lies and false teachings, so yes, the Bible is very open to extrascriptural revelation, and so I am.

Scripture tells us to only believe in true revelation from God, and Scripture tells us that Scripture is true revelation from God. Scripture tells us how to know what else is revelation from God.

You're saying that I can assume SS, but I can I not start off with Scripture as one inspired revelation?

Let's say I can't. I guess this puts me at Nulla Scriptura? (I don't know how to say "no scripture" in Latin.) So now I have no inspired revelation at all, not even Scripture. Show me inspired revelation.

Anyone with knowledge of early Christian history can demonstrate that the New Testament contains the teachings of Christ and the Apostles.

Is there any more inspired revelation? None that I know of.

Do you have any? I'd like to see it.

Love in Christ,
John Lollard

Nick said...

Hi John L,

You said: I will say that based on my reading of the Bible, the idea that we can only believe what's written in the Bible is not taught in the Bible.

I would agree, and consider this primary grounds to reject Sola Scriptura.

You said: "Scripture tells us to only believe in true revelation from God, and Scripture tells us that Scripture is true revelation from God. Scripture tells us how to know what else is revelation from God."

N: I would strongly agree with this as well.


You said: "You're saying that I can assume SS, but I can I not start off with Scripture as one inspired revelation?

N: I'm not sure if you mistyped here or if I don't understand the question. I'm saying you cannot assume Sola Scriptura, but you certainly can start off with claiming Scripture is inspired revelation. Given this, I don't see how you starting off with no inspired revelation is relevant here.


You said: "Anyone with knowledge of early Christian history can demonstrate that the New Testament contains the teachings of Christ and the Apostles."

I would ask you to elaborate here. What historical writings are you talking about where you draw this "early Christian history"? The Early Church Father? If so, then you're putting your faith in them, trusting that they're being honest about this or that teaching of Christ.

John Lollard said...

Hey Nick,

Sadly, I'm a physicist and not a church historian. But I'm pretty sure that we have Ignatius talking about the Pauline epistles and the Gospel of John in his letters. Ignatius I'm pretty sure studied under Polycarp who studied under John. Likewise, writers like Irenaeus and Clement and Justin Martyr can testify to who wrote Scripture.

Not because they say so, but because they knew the people who wrote it. They are a reliable source because of the historicity of their accounts.

Since books like the Pauline epistles, the gospels, etc, can be traced historically through early church writings to the Apostles, then I accept them as inspired.

Show me how you would do this with tradition. Trace a tradition back to the Apostles through the writings of the early church. Show me even a single teaching of Christ or the Apostles that is not contained in Scripture.

I look forward to finally seeing one :P

In absence of these traditions, and in absence of angelic visitations or prophecies or the like, I'm left with just Scripture as my inspired guide.

And it might be easier to isolate the SS dialogue to one blog. Yours or mine, it doesn't matter to me, but wherever you respond next is where I'll keep the conversation.

Have a good day, and God bless,
JL

Nick said...

John L,

Yes, Ignatius and others do speak of Paul's writings and such, the point is if you're going to grant them that honor, in fairness and consistency we must be open to all they have to say. You said on your blog:
"There goes the pope, the cult of saints, the mass, sacramental confession, sacramental justification, purgatory, and the existence of the human office of priest."

But if some of these things were found in St Ignatius, St Irenaeus, St Clement, and St Justin, etc, wouldn't that be grounds to reject their testimony as well? If they're that badly "contaminated" with error, then they're surely not trustworthy elsewhere.

You said: "Show me how you would do this with tradition. Trace a tradition back to the Apostles through the writings of the early church. Show me even a single teaching of Christ or the Apostles that is not contained in Scripture."

I wouldn't view things like that. Tradition doesn't always mean the teaching isn't found in Scripture, but most often compliments Scripture or emphasizes what Scripture is only implicit on. One example is infant baptism, which is strongly attested to in the Fathers, but which the Bible only implicitly touches upon. Other teachings like Apostolic succession are taught in both Scripture and Tradition, with a very visible and strong emphasis in Tradition.

John Lollard said...

"One example is infant baptism, which is strongly attested to in the Fathers, but which the Bible only implicitly touches upon."

Okay, good. Show me where the Apostles taught infant baptism.

Nick said...

Hi John,

This discussion is going off topic from the original intent and reason for why I linked you here.

I noticed you left off answering the issue about which Early Church Fathers you consider "genuine Christians," but I've not yet gotten an answer from that from any Protestants.

As for your question about where the Apostles taught infant baptism. The Catholic response is that it's taught in their Oral Teaching and at least implicity in their Written. I can't prove an Apostle taught anything orally any more than I can prove they wrote any given NT book. There is historical testimony that they did, but it's on par with the historical testimony that they penned certain books of the NT.

John Lollard said...

"There is historical testimony that they did, but it's on par with the historical testimony that they "

Show me this testimony.

Nick said...

Hi,

I don't have time to look up the quotes (nor is this the combox where we should start this tangential talk), but you should be able to google the various fathers who talked about infant baptism.