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Friday, April 26, 2013

Was Paul speaking of "works in general" or a specific type of works?

Whenever a Catholic points out that Paul was not opposing "works in general" but rather "works of the [Mosiac] Law" (Rom 3:28) Protestants typically point to Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5 as primary examples where Paul can only be speaking of "works in general." But if one examines the context of each of these, they will see that Paul very likely was speaking of "works of the [Mosaic] Law," and I believe responsible exegesis must recognize this.

Consider the context of each of these verses:
Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands - 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.

Titus 3: 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
Now this is not to say that we are saved by our own works, because we are not (Jn 15:4-6). But that is very different from reading these two texts as saying the "works" Paul has in mind here are "works in general." Clearly, the contexts are speaking of Jewish "works of the [Mosaic] Law." The "works" that are causing distress in these contexts are works that kept the Gentiles in an inferior place before God, outside the Mosaic Covenant and outside the 'superior' Jewish genealogies. For more, see [This Post] where Protestant scholars (finally) admit the term "law" in Paul means "Mosaic Law," not something generic.

43 comments:

Steve Martin said...

The law...is anything that 'we do'. Paul is referring to doing ANYTHING whereby we would believe we are doing something to justify ourselves.

"To one who works, their reward will not be seen as a gift, but their due. To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith will be reckoned as righteousness."

Romans 4:4

De Maria said...

The Catholic Church teaches that:
none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.
(Trent VI, Chapter VIII).

Therefore, St. Paul meant all works with no exception.

St. Paul and the Catholic Church teach that justification is God's work. Not ours:
1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit…..

When we present ourselves for Baptism, we are justified by our faith apart from any works.

The Catholic Church also teaches that we are justified by faith and works. It is called an increase in justification (Trent VI, Chapter X).

In either case, justification is not granted to anyone who has not merited the justification by their faith and works. As it is written:
Romans 2:13
King James Version (KJV)
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

We do not justify ourselves.
Romans 3:20
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

God justifies those who obey His Will and keep the Commandments.

Revelation 22:14
King James Version (KJV)
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

Steve Martin said...
The law...is anything that 'we do'. Paul is referring to doing ANYTHING whereby we would believe we are doing something to justify ourselves.

"To one who works, their reward will not be seen as a gift, but their due. To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith will be reckoned as righteousness."


St. Paul is there comparing the Old Dispensation to the New. We are they who are justified apart from works in the Sacraments. But that doesn't mean we don't work. As St. Paul also said:
Romans 2:13
King James Version (KJV)
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

God only justifies those who obey His word.

Hebrews 5:9
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Sincerely,

De Maria

credulo said...

Hello, Nick!

I am a type of a-denominational Christian, and I am searching about the 'prot/cath' controversy (among other studies and translations about Philosophy of Religion).

Two things:
1 - can I translate your posts for my personal blog?
2 - Do you have something about the errors of protestant doctrines like Covenant of Works, and also about the role of Mosaic/natural law on soteriology?

Nick said...

Steve,

No. The "law" is not "anything we 'do'," that's a tradition of men, not from the Bible. That's a 'root error' of Protestantism, misunderstanding the Greek term 'Nomos' (Law) as used by Paul.

Nick said...

Hello Credulo,

(1) Yes, you can translate any of my posts.

(2) I have written a lot about the Mosaic Law and the errors of the Covenant of Works. The best place to start looking is what Paul means by the term "Law". See THIS post where Protestant scholars are now starting to see that "Law" does not refer to Covenant of Works, but ONLY the Mosaic Law.

The "Covenant of Works" is NEVER taught in the Bible. It's a tradition of men.

Anonymous said...

Nick,
What do you mean "The "law" is not "anything we 'do'?

Does not God command us to keep i.e. do the law?
Are we not to "love the Lord thy God" with everything we have?

cwdlaw223 said...

Nick -

How about a post on the top 5 horrible translation of Greek by Ps? That might be useful. Not a big post, but a paragraph explaining their error for each error.

De Maria said...

Nick, ditto anonymous' question. Please explain this comment:

You said:Nick said...
Steve,

No. The "law" is not "anything we 'do'," that's a tradition of men, not from the Bible. That's a 'root error' of Protestantism, misunderstanding the Greek term 'Nomos' (Law) as used by Paul.


Scripture says:
Romans 2:13
King James Version (KJV)
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

That's the KJV, the NRSV and the Douay say the same. The NAB says:
13
For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified.

So, I'm not sure what you mean.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Nick said...

Protestants define "Law" in the Bible as roughly "Anything we do." So when Paul says "man is not Justified by the Law," the Protestant typically interprets this as "man is not justified by anything we do."

That's wrong. To define "Law" as "anything we do" is a tradition of men.

When Paul says man is not justified by the Law, he means that the Mosaic Law cannot justify, he means that circumcision does not justify. That's nowhere near saying ANYTHING we do. This error would lead one to conclude that "ANYTHING" includes Baptism and even faith, but that's obviously absurd.

That's why some Protestants took it so far as to say faith itself has no value in God's sight, for if it did, then it would be something "we do" and thus it would "make faith into a work". See how ridiculous Protestants can take things by not properly defining "Law"?

Nick said...

cwdlaw,

I have a post in the works about the top 10 outrageously unbiblical man-made traditions that Calvinism parades around as if they were Biblical. For example, they say faith has no intrinsic value before God, and rather that faith acts like an "empty hand" that reaches out and receives Christ's Righteousness. NOWHERE does the Bible ever even hint that faith is of no value before God, and this is explicitly contradicted in Romans 4:18-22 (and why Protestants almost never look to it when interpreting Rom 4:3).

De Maria said...

Nick said...
Protestants define "Law" in the Bible as roughly "Anything we do." ….


Ok. Got it.

When Paul says man is not justified by the Law, he means that the Mosaic Law cannot justify, he means that circumcision does not justify. That's nowhere near saying ANYTHING we do. This error would lead one to conclude that "ANYTHING" includes Baptism and even faith, but that's obviously absurd.

That's why some Protestants took it so far as to say faith itself has no value in God's sight, for if it did, then it would be something "we do" and thus it would "make faith into a work". See how ridiculous Protestants can take things by not properly defining "Law"?


Yes. Now I see what you mean.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Anonymous said...

Nick,
What documentation do you have for your assertion that "Protestants define "Law" in the Bible as roughly "Anything we do." ???

What body of Protestants say this kind of thing?

cwdlaw223 said...

I think a post about bad interpretations might help. The more I delve into the Greek the more I realize bad interpretations are often at the root of bad exegesis by Ps. Funny how none of the Sola Scriptura crowd require scripture to be read in Greek. That makes way more sense with that goofy condition.

Anonymous said...

Its from the Greek that many RC doctrines are shown to be incorrect. Kecharitōménē i.e. "highly favored" is a case in point. A whole doctrine has been created upon this word that has nothing to do with sin. Go figure.

De Maria said...

Fullness of grace is the absence of sin. Get a clue.

Steve Martin said...

Here's our definition of law:

Any demand that our existence places upon us to fulfill our humanity.

It's not just the 10 Commandments or Mosaic Law.

It is anything that 'we do' or 'don't do' in order to justify ourselves.

cwdlaw223 said...

Anonymous is at the point where if you tell him the sky is blue he'll tell you it's green.

De Maria said...

Steve Martin said...
Here's our definition of law:

Any demand that our existence places upon us to fulfill our humanity.

It's not just the 10 Commandments or Mosaic Law.

It is anything that 'we do' or 'don't do' in order to justify ourselves.


Where'd you get that from? If its in Scripture, please provide the chapter and verse.

JoeyHenry said...

Let me comment on these:

1. The main contention of this blog is that Protestants wrongly used Eph 2:8-10 and Titus 3:5 as texts conveying that Paul opposed to "works in general". This is basically an erroneous contention for every protestant know that "works", in fact "good works", are part of every sotereological framework of the Protestant. It seems very obvious that no protestant would convey that Paul is opposed to "works in general".

2. Perhaps the opposition that is being referred to is about "works" having a meritorious cause towards God's justification(in broader sense: salvation). The conviction of protestants is that no works as means of merit can justify.

3. This theological conclusion is derived from famous text such as mentioned: Eph 2:8-10 and Titus 3:5. It is not to say that the "works" in these passages is divorced from it's historical context. But that the application of the exegesis demands that the "works" expands to any "work" done by man to merit justification.

4. We know that for a Jew, (or for Paul), the revealed moral demand required of man is the Law. There is no other source. One can only read Romans and Galatians (even James and 1 John), where the moral precepts upon which humanity is judged is conformance to the Law. Whether or not the demand extends to the ceremonial aspects for those who lived prior to the cross or to the moral aspect after the cross has been revealed, the unity of the Law required of man is the only rule upon which Paul says we are to be judged (James and 1 John expresses the same theology in this matter).

5. Eph 2:8-10 explicitly says that we are saved "not of works". The only "works" for the Jew is the Law. Ceremonial washings (such as baptisms) are included in the corpus of the Jewish understanding of the Law. Paul said, "not of works" so that "no may boast". He further clarifies that it is "not of works... for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works". It is not far fetch to connect "ergon" of verse 9 with the "ergos hagathois" of verse 10. Meaning, we are not saved by "works" and we can not boast of these "works" for it was God who prepared them before hand that we should walk in them.

6. The same could be said in Titus 3:5. We know that Paul commanded them in verse one to be "ready for every good work (ergon agathon)" but he also reminds them that they are not savid by these works. He notes in verse 5 "he saved us, not because of works (ergon) we've done in righteousness" nevertheless commands us to walk in these works in verse 8 "becareful to devote... in good works (ergon kalon)".

JoeyHenry said...

7. Clearly, the application can be already seen for modern day man. Good works (however we conceived of them) is not what saved us although we are commanded that as the redeemed people of God, we are commanded to walk in them.

8. Lastly, I've read both Gordon and Moo. You must have confused or failed to understand the source you are reading. While Gordon explains that the term "nomos" in Paul focuses on the Mosaic Law, it is not an essay about the merits of works in justification. It is rather an essay distinguishing between two covenants. Citing Moo, he notes that "nomos" refer to the Mosaic Law. This correct, Moo in this article explains in the same article that Gordon cited,

"To equate Paul's use of the term "law" (at least, in most instances)with the theological concept "law" may involve a jump in categories, according to which the difference between Paul's salvation-historical conceptual framework and the essentially a-historical dogmatic framework is ignored."

This is true. Theological concepts of Law is not to be equated with the Pauline usage of Law simply because theological concepts are deductions of systematic themes not a Pauline study of a particular word Paul used.

On the other hand, reading Moo, he also explicitly says regarding the term "works of the Law" in the same article that Gordon cited:

"In arguing for this meaning of the phrase, we basically support the use made of this phrase among the Reformers. They were most anxious to refute the current Roman Catholic notions of meritorious works by means of appeal to many of the texts we have cited above. While it was an error to apply "works of the law" directly to this coneption, since Paul's sense of law is enextricably tied to the Mosaic Law, the expansion and generalizing of this phrase in the simple "works" suggests the propriety of the application made by the Reformers. That Paul criticizes the Jews for taking the wrong attitude towards the law is clear (Rom 10:1-3); but this transgression must not be so stressed that no room is left for the very important point that, whatever attitude one takes, simply doing what the law demands as the basis for salvation utterly fails."

I hope this helps your readers have a fair reading of your blog.

Regards,
Joey

De Maria said...

JoeyHenry said...
Let me comment on these:

1.
Ok.

2.

Yes. Whereas Scripture says that one is saved according to one's works (Rev 22:12-15).

3.

That is a good point of contrast. The Catholic conclusion is that God does the justifying. But God only justifies those who do His Will.

Heb 10:
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive [j]what was promised.

Romans 2:13
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 for it is not the hearers [a]of the Law who are [b]just before God, but the doers [c]of the Law will be justified.

Very clearly, we do not justify ourselves by our works. But unless we do the works which are the will of God, He will not justify us.


4. We know that for a Jew, (or for Paul), the revealed moral demand required of man is the Law. There is no other source. One can only read Romans and Galatians (even James and 1 John), where the moral precepts upon which humanity is judged is conformance to the Law.

Agreed. A lawless person is an enemy of God.
1 John 3:4
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Rom 8:7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Whether or not the demand extends to the ceremonial aspects for those who lived prior to the cross or to the moral aspect after the cross has been revealed, the unity of the Law required of man is the only rule upon which Paul says we are to be judged (James and 1 John expresses the same theology in this matter).

This statement seems in agreement with Catholic Doctrine. By judged you mean justified or condemned, correct?

5. Eph 2:8-10 explicitly says that we are saved "not of works". ….

He is talking there of the Law of Love, which has been in existence since the beginning because God is love. This Law is expressly stated in the Ten Commandments. No one who rejects this law or denies this law will be saved. Because God only saves the righteous. Claims of faith alone are not enough.

6. The same could be said in Titus 3:5. …..

Correct. Because God saves the righteous. God saves those who do His Will. God condemns those who do not do His Will. God condemns the wicked, disobedient and lawless person.

Do you deny this fact from Scripture.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

JoeyHenry said...
7. Clearly, the application can be already seen for modern day man. Good works (however we conceived of them) is not what saved us although we are commanded that as the redeemed people of God, we are commanded to walk in them.


And what happens if we don't walk in them?

8. Lastly, I've read both Gordon and Moo…..


I haven't read those authors, so I will let Nick answer from this point.

Good talking to you,

Sincerely,

De Maria

Nick said...

Joey,

You said:
"the application of the exegesis [of Eph 2:8-10 & Titus 3:5] demands that the "works" expands to any "work" done by man to merit justification"

This is a root-error of the Protestant Reformation, for it shows they've completely misunderstood Paul's point. This "expanding to" include any work is no longer exegesis, but rather (unintentionally) projecting a very erroneous man-made 'grid' by which Paul is then being completely misinterpreted.

This error is especially realized in how it makes nonsense of the Jew-Gentile distinction. If Paul was speaking of works in General, then the Gentiles would be just as guilty of their own form of "Judaizing" rather than having to follow after Jewish customs. Paul should never have been fixated on circumcision, but rather something more generic that applies to all men, such as "saved by faith apart from respecting one's parents".


You said:
"We know that for a Jew, (or for Paul), the revealed moral demand required of man is the Law."

That's a truncated definition of the Law. The Law is all 613 individual commands listed in Genesis to Deuteronomy. It's not a mere moral demand but a civil and ceremonial, affecting every aspect of the covenant member's life.


You said:
"The only "works" for the Jew is the Law."

Correct, which is why it's so wrong to generalize these works.

The "good works" mentioned later are not the same as the "works" mentioned earlier that are opposed to faith.


You said:
"Theological concepts of Law is not to be equated with the Pauline usage of Law simply because theological concepts are deductions of systematic themes not a Pauline study of a particular word Paul used."

I'm glad you're saying all that, but it seems to me that it's entirely self-condemning. What's now being plainly admitted is that Reformed scholarship has not approach Scripture correctly as far as Nomos is concerned. The Reformers erroneously generalized what was actually a very concrete/specific term.

If someone were to read Romans and Galatians with the understanding that nomos/Law simply meant "Mosaic Law," they would come to a completely logical and coherent understanding of what Paul was trying to convey. For whatever reason, the Reformers actually complicated the matter by imposing a man-made definition of "Law" onto the text and essentially dragging all unsuspecting Protestants into this same error.

Anonymous said...

Nick,
What is Rome's exegesis of Eph 2:8-10 & Titus 3:5?

After all, the Protestant would need to see the official interpretation of these passages to determine if your interpretation is correct.

Nick said...

There is no official interpretation in so far as there are multiple acceptable readings. The best thing to read is the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent, which is the Decree on Justification:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/councils/trent6.htm

This document ties a whole host of Biblical passages together on the issue of justification, and from there you can get an idea of how the Church would or would not interpret any given specific passage.

Nick said...

As an example, Trent says this:

"Canon 1. If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."

This means that a text speaking of works not being able to save or justify refers to either works of our own natural powers (e.g. John 15:5b) or works of the Law (e.g. Rom 3:28).

Anonymous said...

Nick,
If there is no official interpretations of those passages then all you are giving us is your private interpretations.
How do I even know you are interpreting Trent correctly?

Nick said...

I have the PRINCIPLES by which to properly interpret Scripture. From Catholic dogmas, I'm given 'guidelines' to what's a right and what's a wrong way to interpret any given passage.

De Maria said...

Anonymous said...
Nick,
If there is no official interpretations of those passages then all you are giving us is your private interpretations.
How do I even know you are interpreting Trent correctly?


Nick gave you an excellent response. Now, how do we know if you are interpreting your Protestant faith correctly? Or is there even a correct way to understand your faith?

Anonymous said...

Nick,
You are still stuck. Without an infallible-official interpreattion of the Scriprue from your church you are no better off than a Protestant. All you do is express your opinion what you think a given passage of Scripture means. That is the best you and other RC's can do.

De Maria said...

Anonymous said...
Nick,
You are still stuck. Without an infallible-official interpreattion of the Scriprue from your church you are no better off than a Protestant. All you do is express your opinion what you think a given passage of Scripture means. That is the best you and other RC's can do.


Not really.

1. We have the same rules and guides which we follow, therefore, Nick and I and all Catholics should come up with the same interpretation.

But Protestants have no rule for how to read and understand the Bible. Therefore, they come up with things that are totally divergent.

2. Even if Nick and I come up with different interpretations, the Catholic Church does not micro-manage our exegesis. The most important rule is that our interpretations must not go against Catholic Teaching.

So, for example, in reading Matt 16:18, I could say, "Peter is the Rock". Nick might say, "Jesus is the Rock." And still another Catholic might say, "Peter's confession is the Rock." And guess what, the Catholic Church accepts all of them.

But Protestants are in turmoil about that little detail.

3. And finally, both Nick and I know that the Church is infallible and fold our cards if anyone can prove that our interpretation is against Catholic Teaching. Here is what I say about the teachings on my own blog, and I quote:

My intent on this blog is to explain Scripture according to Catholic Teaching. If my explanations are ever proven not to be in conformity with Catholic Teaching, I will immediately repent of my error and change my explanation to be in conformity with Catholic Teaching.

Name one Protestant that will do that. Will you? Of course not. Your rule is your understanding. You rely upon your own understanding and deny the God given right of the Catholic Church to teach you the Wisdom of God.

Eph 3:10
Ephesians 3:10
King James Version (KJV)
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

We have the Church and we have the Word of God in Tradition and Scripture on our side. All you have is your opinion.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Steve Dalton said...

The works of the law referred to in the New Testament had to be the works of the Mosaic Law, because most of the early Christians were from a Jewish background. Many of Paul's epistles were written to Jewish Christians who were confused about the Covenants. Hebrews was the epistle that finally explained that the Mosaic Covenant was old and ready to die.

Nick said...

Anonymous,

I'm with De Maria's answer on this.
If that's the best you can say, then you're basically saying you lost out on your interpretation to a better interpretation of another person, except you won't admit the better interpretation came from a Catholic.

JoeyHenry said...

Dear Nick and De Maria,

The epistomological bind that you are into is stagerring. Consider this:

1. You just expanded the corpus of "divine truths" outside the Bible. Bible plus any other Official Teachings of Roman Catholic Church.

2. Your contention basically is to explain the Bible based on your interpretation of these Official Teachings (perhaps as written in the Fathers, Councils, Papal Encyclicals, Dogmas and others). I even wondering if your knowledge of these Official Teachings can be accounted? Do we have a canon or list of these Official Teachings to moderate our understanding of the divine? Or is this on going and every day some added revelation would come? If so, how do you know if one is official or not? Who has the complete lists of these Official Teachings and where can we find them?

3. If, for the sake of argument, you do have this list of Official Teachings. You then still will piece together these teachings and exegete them (perhaps in a gramatico-historical method? allegorical method?). But we know your interpretation of these official teachings are fallible. We know that once you read these official teachings and say this is how we should interpret them and apply them in the Biblical text, how do we know you are not engaging in "private interpretations"?

4. You said, unless anyone can show that your interpretation is against the official teachings then you will repent... But that's just interpretation against interpreation which are both fallible and which can be both true. As you said earlier, in your best understanding of the official teachings, the interpretation of the rock in Matt in Catholic exegesis can be "Christ", "Peter" or "Confession of Peter" or maybe a combination of all these. But who are you to say?

5. Therefore, the question of Anonymous is legitimate. If there is no official interpretation of the verses cited, all we have in this blog are "private interpretations" based upon ones fallible understanding of a larger corpus of divine truths called "Official Teachings" which in itself doesn't have "Official Interpretation".

If then the Bible can't be understood without the Official Teachings then one has to wonder how the Official Teachings can be understood. Perhaps we need the Official Teachings of the Official Teachings to understand the Official Teachings of the Official Teachings... (that's an intended pun, but you get the idea).

Regards,
Joey

Nick said...

Joey,

You are confusing intelligibility with infallibility. When Jesus said, "This is my body," that was an intelligible statement, but it could be taken as figurative or literal. Infallibility settles the matter by saying the latter.

The point against Private Interpretation has never been that Catholics cannot read the Bible and garner information or truths from it. As long as I'm not (willfully) drawing a heretical doctrine out of my reading of Scripture, I'm doing nothing wrong. Many Protestants think that Private Interpretation renders Catholic hands tied when it comes to Scripture, as if we cannot open it ourselves and must be spoon fed whatever bits of information the Church deems necessary.

Plus, ultimately, you shouldn't be so much concerned about whether an argument I make is Private Interpretaion or not, but rather whether that argument is, on it's own, sound. If you're seeking the Truth, then at least treat my exegesis an arguments as if they came from another Protestant relying on his own fallible interpretation of Scripture alone. The case I presented has nothing directly to do with Catholicism, as any Protestant (e.g. NT Wright) could make it and you'd be forced to take on his exegesis without any bias.

JoeyHenry said...

Nick,

I assure you I am not confused with intelligibility with infallibility. I am dealing with epistomology and worldview.

Since this is a blog written in defense of a "Catholic" interpretation, I will hold you to the epistemic commitments/presuppositions that you have.

You said, "As long as I'm not (willfully) drawing a heretical doctrine out of my reading of Scripture, I'm doing nothing wrong." But that's just my concern. It is ones own understanding of "heresy" based on fallible/unofficial interpretation of supposed Infallible Official Teachings that is the issue. Since there is no Offcial Interpretation of the Official Teachings (be it contained in Dogmas, Papal Encyclicals of past and present Popes, Legitimate and recognized councils, etc etc)! Is the Official Teachings (whatever the extent) more perspicuous than the Scripture? I doubt!


You said, "Many Protestants think that Private Interpretation renders Catholic hands tied when it comes to Scripture, as if we cannot open it ourselves and must be spoon fed whatever bits of information the Church deems necessary." That's not my argument at all. My argument is the epistemic grounds upon which you can determine on your own the meaning of the Official Teachings (whatever the extent) wihtout appeal to the Official Interpretations of these Official Teachings. If the biblical data is subject to many intepretations and therefore an Official Teaching (extra biblical in nature) is needed, why is it that the Official Teachings subject to an Official Interpretation? Why can a layman like you determine with "certainty" that the Official Teachings should be understood this way and not that way? What is the extent of this Official Teachings in the first place? Is there a list; Is this growing everyday or every era; How do you know which is Official or not?

You said, "If you're seeking the Truth, then at least treat my exegesis an arguments as if they came from another Protestant relying on his own fallible interpretation of Scripture alone." I am seeking the Truth and so you should. The problem is, ones worldview affect our arguments. If you are a Roman Catholic, how can you expect us to treat your arguments as from another Protestants? Isn't it inconsistent to borrow the epistemic system of the Reformers to prove the validity of the Catholic case?

Regards,
joey

Nick said...

You said:
"If the biblical data is subject to many intepretations and therefore an Official Teaching (extra biblical in nature) is needed, why is it that the Official Teachings subject to an Official Interpretation? Why can a layman like you determine with "certainty" that the Official Teachings should be understood this way and not that way?"

This seems to be the heart of your objection. If I'm reading you right, the following example should model what you're saying

(1) There is uncertainty whether "This is My Body" is literal or figurative.

(2) The Church infallibly decrees that "Jesus is speaking literally when he said 'This is My Body'"

(3) We are not entirely sure what the Church means when it said #2, so we need the Church to step up a second time and infallibly interpret #2.

(4) But even after #3, we're still not sure if the second infallible interpretation of the first infallible interpretation can be understood, so we're going to need a third infallible interpretation to tell us what the second one meant.

If that's what you're getting at, I'd say it's fallacious and not at all the issue. Any language or gesture can be misunderstood, but that doesn't mean we cannot trust them. I take the Church's decrees at face value, as if I were reading any other document.

And even if someone asked the Church to *further* clarify, I don't see any harm or problem with that, just as I have to ask you and others to further clarify at times.

If we cannot trust our senses to a reasonably high degree, then really what can we trust? We'd be enslaved in a radical skepticism that wouldn't even allow you to interpret this post.

Nick said...

You also said:
"Isn't it inconsistent to borrow the epistemic system of the Reformers to prove the validity of the Catholic case?"

Not when it takes on a variation of the reductio ad absurdom approach. There is a sense in which one can make a valid argument by putting oneself in the opponent's shoes and 'testing' to see whether a given proposition is consistent with the world-view under examination. If the proposition is inconsistent with that world view, then either the proposition is bad or the world view under consideration is wrong. This is similar to presuppositional apologetics.

A good example is when someone thinks a given Biblical term means X, and all we have to do is substitute X into a test case and see if that makes sense. If it doesn't make sense, then X should be abandoned as a plausible definition (at least in that specific case).

JoeyHenry said...

Nick,

I'll leave the matter to your readers whether you have escaped the epestemic bind that you are into. It is very telling, that you have determined a body of official teachings and believed it to be infallible. Then you claim to have the ability to correctly interpret this official teaching even without the aid of official interpretation of this official teaching. Then you said, you are able to do this by treating these official teachings just like any other documents. And finally, you trust your OWN senses otherwise it will lead you to radical skepticism.

In this particular case, though unaware, you have borrowed the Reformers' epestemic system. The difference is that you have determined to accept a larger canon of Official Teachings which you say you can interpret correctly using your own senses.

I find your answer necessary because the demand of Roman Catholics for the perspecuity of Scripture when applied to their own canons of Official Teachings makes them realize the absurdity of such demand. And so, the Roman Catholic worldview has to borrow the Reformers' worldview in order to avoid the logical incoherence of their system. In the end, in the final analysis, as this answer admits, the individual Roman Catholic is left with his own senses to determine his own version of what a biblical text means based on his own interpretation of the Official Teachings he accepts without even knowing the extent and corpus of these Official Teachings.

Regards,
Joey

Nick said...

Joey,

It seems that your last post succumbs to the very logical fallacy of my original post. You're trying to spin the issue as one of coherence rather than authority.

The use of Reason allows a person to read and interpret data, including words on a page. Without that ability, there would be no use in God leaving us a written Word. If you think that's exclusively part of the "Reformed worldview," then you're wrong.

But a person can make an error in their use of Reason, for various reasons ranging from ignorance to ill will. If you think the ability to err in one's use of Reason is exclusively part of the "Reformed worldview," then you're wrong again.

The Scriptures are authoritative not based on whether I interpret them properly, but because they're the Word of God. And they are generally intelligible for the average reader simply in virtue of the fact the audience they were written for was for those of average intelligence. None of this is exclusive to the Reformed worldview.

Now God's appointed teachers can further clarify or elaborate on past teaching, and this would hold the same authority as Scripture since the source (God) is the same. These teachers are authoritative not based on whether I interpret them properly, but because they're authorized by God. And they are generally intelligible for the average reader simply in virtue of the fact the audience they were written for was for those of average intelligence. But the Reformed deny God has appointed teachers today, so this is not part of the Reformed worldview.

I don't see any "epistemic bind" here.








De Maria said...

JoeyHenry said...
Dear Nick and De Maria,

The epistemological bind


What do you think "epistemological" means?

that you are into is stagerring.

If anyone is in a bind on "understanding and knowledge" it is you.


Consider this:


Ok.

1. You just expanded the corpus of "divine truths" outside the Bible. Bible plus any other Official Teachings of Roman Catholic Church.

Did Jesus write a word of Scripture? No. Scripture is the expansion of the Divine Truths which have been passed down by word from the beginning. Jesus Christ established a Church and instructed that Church to TEACH His Traditions.

Therefore, Scripture is the expansion of the Word of God passed down in Tradition.


2. Your contention basically is to explain the Bible based on your interpretation of these Official Teachings (perhaps as written in the Fathers, Councils, Papal Encyclicals, Dogmas and others). I even wondering if your knowledge of these Official Teachings can be accounted? Do we have a canon or list of these Official Teachings to moderate our understanding of the divine? Or is this on going and every day some added revelation would come? If so, how do you know if one is official or not? Who has the complete lists of these Official Teachings and where can we find them?

You still don't get it. Jesus did not write any Scripture. Jesus taught His Traditions. The New Testament is the Catholic Church's first, written, instruction of these Traditions. Unless you understand these Traditions, you will never understand Scripture. Because the Traditions of Jesus Christ which are passed down in the Catholic Church are the basis of the New Testament.


3. If, for the sake of argument, you do have this list of Official Teachings.

You have it in your hand. It is the New Testament.

You then still will piece together these teachings and exegete them (perhaps in a gramatico-historical method? allegorical method?). But we know your interpretation of these official teachings are fallible.

But the Catholic Church is infallible. And the Catholic Church does not interpret the Scripture. She teaches the Word of God which is contained in Scripture.

We know that once you read these official teachings and say this is how we should interpret them and apply them in the Biblical text, how do we know you are not engaging in "private interpretations"?

Because we have a Church which is infallible and taught these things first.


cont'd

De Maria said...

cont'd

JoeyHenry said:
4. You said, unless anyone can show that your interpretation is against the official teachings then you will repent... But that's just interpretation against interpreation which are both fallible and which can be both true. As you said earlier, in your best understanding of the official teachings, the interpretation of the rock in Matt in Catholic exegesis can be "Christ", "Peter" or "Confession of Peter" or maybe a combination of all these. But who are you to say?

It is the Catholic Church, the Pillar of Truth, which says:
881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. ….

552….Christ, the "living Stone", thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. ….

424 …. On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.

We are faithful to the Teachings of Christ through the Catholic Church.

5. Therefore, the question of Anonymous is legitimate. If there is no official interpretation of the verses cited,

The New Testament is the official Teaching of the Catholic Church.

all we have in this blog are "private interpretations" based upon ones fallible understanding of a larger corpus of divine truths called "Official Teachings" which in itself doesn't have "Official Interpretation".

The New Testament is the Official Interpretation of the Traditions which Jesus Christ passed down and commanded the Church to teach.

You have put the cart before the horse. Jesus didn't write any Scripture.

If then the Bible can't be understood without the Official Teachings then one has to wonder how the Official Teachings can be understood.

By the Charism of the Holy Spirit which deposited the Wisdom of God in the Catholic Church (Eph 3:10).


Perhaps we need the Official Teachings of the Official Teachings to understand the Official Teachings of the Official Teachings... (that's an intended pun, but you get the idea).

The pun fits the Protestants. You need all kinds of help. You have set aside the Traditions of Jesus Christ and have no grounds upon which to base your understanding of the Word of God in Scripture. You are lost without a compass.

Regards,
Joey


Sincerely,

De Maria