Friday, September 19, 2008

A Triablogue thread worth reading

Jason Engwer, a member of the “Triabloggers” squad, posted what may in fact be the most cogent and substantial contra-Roman Catholic Church thread I have encountered during my forays into the blogsphere world of Catholic and Protestant apologetics. Jason’s POST, (along with Darby’s Analysis of Dr. Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua), presents solid evidence that brings into question the issue of authority—more precisely, whether or not any Christian church can substantiate the claim of infallibility. The actual content of Jason’s thread is concise, accurate, and presented in a charitable, non-controversial, manner. As I reflect upon the material, I am left asking myself the question: “where does all this lead”? Questions concerning interpretation, development of doctrine, eccesiology, schism, church discipline, et al., are racing through my thoughts…

So, once again, “where does all this lead”? In the words of Dr. Gary North, “you can’t beat something with nothing .” If one jettisons the possibility that there exists an infallibility teaching authority instituted by Jesus Christ and His apostles to guide His Church through the perils of heresy and schism, what is left? Should we just hand each individual the Bible (putting aside the issues of the canon for now), step aside, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct each person into the truth? Are we to attempt to identify qualified, authoritative “teachers” to assist our private interpretation/s? If so, how does one come to know that they speak the truth? If one replies, “we test them by the Scriptures”, does this not raise the question: “if I can discern whether or not their teachings conform to God’s Word, why do I need them, is it not better to continue to drink directly from the infallible Scriptures, unfiltered by fallible teachers”?

Once more, “where does all this lead”?


Grace and peace,

David

25 comments:

Kevin Davis said...

The alternative to dogmatic ecclesiology is not an abject, crass individualism. No serious Protestant theologian has ever believed that a tradition and confession was unnecessary to the Church's mission. Indeed, every serious Protestant theologian believes in the necessity of the visible Church as the commissioned herald of the Gospel. The question is whether scripture, as witness to God's covenant with man, is the final authority for the Church's confession. In the early Church, in the early creeds, and in the early councils, doctrine was submitted to the test of scripture and nothing was proposed for the assent of faith which could not be derived from scripture. This scripture principle, however, was gradually abandoned, with its most obvious example in the Marian dogmas of late, Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption.

So, where does all this lead? It leads to what Protestantism has been doing for the last 500 years, with all of its great good and great failures, with all of its evangelical unity and arrogant divisions, as servant to our Risen Lord and servant to a dead world.

David Waltz said...

Hello Kevin,

Thanks for responding; you wrote:

>> The alternative to dogmatic ecclesiology is not an abject, crass individualism. No serious Protestant theologian has ever believed that a tradition and confession was unnecessary to the Church's mission.>>

Me: But why embrace fallible traditions and confessions? Do not fallible traditions and confessions in a very real sense function as a filter? Why not just go directly to the infallible source?


Grace and peace,

David

Rhology said...

“if I can discern whether or not their teachings conform to God’s Word, why do I need them, is it not better to continue to drink directly from the infallible Scriptures, unfiltered by fallible teachers”?

Maybe b/c the Scr itself tells us to submit to the teaching elders?

But why embrace fallible traditions and confessions?

Why not? We embrace infallible ones (from the Scr) *AND* fallible ones that do not conflict therewith, if we like. What's wrong with that?

Kepha said...

If one jettisons the possibility that there exists an infallibility teaching authority instituted by Jesus Christ and His apostles to guide His Church through the perils of heresy and schism, what is left?

David, why don't you address your presupposition that infallibility is a necessary part of the Apostles' reception and handing on of the Faith, as well as the successive handing on of it? It's like your insisting that if it is not infallible, then it must be totally flawed and hopeless. I offer you the following event in Jesus' life for reflection on how Truth has been handed since the Apostles:

"Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'" (Jn 4:39-42; ESV; emphasis mine)

Anonymous said...

Given the dubious positions you take for purpose of this thread are my answers...

Q: But why embrace fallible traditions and confessions?

A: Because there aren't any that are infallible.

Q: Do not fallible traditions and confessions in a very real sense function as a filter?

A: Sure. Think about it. Do you trust the filter-free Bible reader? Yikes.

Q: Why not just go directly to the infallible source?

A: Filters, while fallible, are more reliable than you without one.

Filter Boy

Chris said...

>>where does all this lead?

Religious pluralism. :-)

Ben said...

If, by this logic, the Holy Spirit directly guides all believers to interpret scripture for themselves, then why have a scripture at all?

Chris said...

Ben,

That would be so that the illiterates and their devilish ways are excluded from the Celestial Utopia™. We wouldn't want any intellectually unqualified applicants getting admitted to The Great University in the Sky, now would we.

David Waltz said...

Good morning Rhology,

Thanks for responding; you wrote:

>>Maybe b/c the Scr itself tells us to submit to the teaching elders?>>

Me: This apostolic admonition was given well before the completion of the NT corpus, as were the following:

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28 – NAS)

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 – NAS)

If one argues that the “unity of faith” was reached with the completion of the NT, so we no longer need apostles and prophets, why not conclude that we no longer need the “third”, “teachers”?

In one of the last written texts of the NT, John wrote:

And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:27 – NAS)


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Kepha,

You posted:

>> David, why don't you address your presupposition that infallibility is a necessary part of the Apostles' reception and handing on of the Faith, as well as the successive handing on of it? It's like your insisting that if it is not infallible, then it must be totally flawed and hopeless.>>

Me: What do you mean by “Apostles’ reception and handing on of the Faith”? Chris, my liberal friend and brother in Christ, would argue that the very Apostolic reception of God’s revelation was not infallible, let alone the original communication of it to the first generation of Christians.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Filter Boy,

You posted:

>>Given the dubious positions you take for purpose of this thread are my answers...>>

Me: I suspect they appear dubious only to those steeped in duplicity.

>>Q: But why embrace fallible traditions and confessions?

A: Because there aren't any that are infallible.>>

Me: So, once again, why bother with creating them?

>>Q: Do not fallible traditions and confessions in a very real sense function as a filter?

A: Sure. Think about it. Do you trust the filter-free Bible reader? Yikes.>>

Me: Many have “trusted” Luther (Lutherans); many have “trusted” Calvin (Calvinists); many have “trusted” Socinus (Socinians); many have “trusted” Menno Simons (Mennonites)…history is replete with those who have “trusted” the leader of a new schismatic movement.

>>Q: Why not just go directly to the infallible source?

A: Filters, while fallible, are more reliable than you without one.>>

Me: Which filter?

Grace and peace,

David

Rhology said...

If one argues that the “unity of faith” was reached with the completion of the NT, so we no longer need apostles and prophets, why not conclude that we no longer need the “third”, “teachers”?

It's a little strange to hear you make an argument which you yourself don't believe. You're not even really answering me on my own grounds, but...

1) There's a biblical case to be made for cessationism, which would obviously entail the cessation of apostles and prophets.
2) Apostles and prophets are the cornerstone of the church, Eph 2:20. Teachers aren't.
3) "God has appointed" is descriptive, speaks of what God HAS done. "Obey your leaders and submit to them", 2 Tim 2:2, and all the other 'submit to the elders' passages are PREscriptive and entail continuation.
4) Paul himself told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 to carry on, to shepherd the flock, etc.

There are more reasons. These are off the top of my head.

No reaction to the traditions thing I mentioned?

David Waltz said...

Hi Rhology,

You wrote:

>>It's a little strange to hear you make an argument which you yourself don't believe. You're not even really answering me on my own grounds, but...>>

Me: I am merely projecting ahead—if I were to leave the RCC, what then?

>>1) There's a biblical case to be made for cessationism, which would obviously entail the cessation of apostles and prophets.
2) Apostles and prophets are the cornerstone of the church, Eph 2:20. Teachers aren't.>>

Me: And cessastionism teaches that “workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing…and those speaking in different kinds of tongues” “aren’t” either; they did not continue according to the classic cessastionist position. Seems just a bit arbitrary to piecemeal Paul’s list, especially concerning “teachers”, given what John wrote toward the END of the apostolic period.

>>We embrace infallible ones (from the Scr) *AND* fallible ones that do not conflict therewith, if we like. What's wrong with that?>>

Me: It just does not make much sense to me to ask one to subscribe to some fallible confession when one can go directly to an infallible authority. Don’t know what else to add…


Grace and peace,

David

Chris said...

>>There's a biblical case to be made for cessationism, which would obviously entail the cessation of apostles and prophets.

I agree that "a biblical case" has yet "to be made" in any kind of convincing manner.

Rhology said...

if I were to leave the RCC, what then?

Join a church that actually teaches biblical doctrine.


Seems just a bit arbitrary to piecemeal Paul’s list

I gave you reasons for that.


It just does not make much sense to me to ask one to subscribe to some fallible confession when one can go directly to an infallible authority.

Directly to the Bible? You can.
Directly to an infallible interpreter? What is the difference between going to the Bible and going to the infall interper?
Do you have to know infallibly whether that interpreter exists, or not?

Chris said...

>>Chris, my [...] brother in Christ

I don't know in what sense you meant this, David, but it means a good deal to me to see you say it, nonetheless. Thanks.

-Chris

Anonymous said...

>>Given the dubious positions you take for purpose of this thread are my answers...>>

Me: I suspect they appear dubious only to those steeped in duplicity.

Filter Boy:
Okay...how about I replace [i]dubious[/i] with [/i]debatable[/i]?
If we had an edit function that is how you would have read it the first time. Not be duplicitous, if you haven't figured it out, I disagree with your premise that there is no infallible teaching filter. I am just offering suggestions under the circumstances based on a premise I reject.
-------------------------
>>Q: But why embrace fallible traditions and confessions?

A: Because there aren't any that are infallible.>>

Me: So, once again, why bother with creating them?

Filter Boy: Do you not see the practical necessity? What do you do when non-Christians ask you what you believe? You can't just give them Bibles. Also, you'll have all kinds of doctrinal diversity in the same local filter if you don't have any doctrinal standards at all. Can you have this family believing in pedo-baptism and another family thinking it heretical in the same filter at the same time? No. This is why all Protestants don't go to filter together. It isn't that they hate each other. They disagree with each other on important doctrines that have practical consequences. What about the other ordinances? Can you have the Baptist view of the Lord's Supper and the Lutheran view in the same filter? You are going to have a mess in a hurry without some kind of statement of belief.
----------------
>>Q: Do not fallible traditions and confessions in a very real sense function as a filter?

A: Sure. Think about it. Do you trust the filter-free Bible reader? Yikes.>>

Me: Many have “trusted” Luther (Lutherans); many have “trusted” Calvin (Calvinists); many have “trusted” Socinus (Socinians); many have “trusted” Menno Simons (Mennonites)…history is replete with those who have “trusted” the leader of a new schismatic movement.

Filter Boy: Think about it this way. In a different sense than it is usually considered, every creed and confession is infallible. They infallibly teach what a particular filter teaches at the time of its composition and until it is modified.

All filters believe what they say they believe. Infallibly. You have to find out if you think one of the choices is the filter Christ founded and go to that. Or...if you think Christ founded more than one, go to any of those. Or...if you think Christ founded all of them, take your pick. Hmmm. Maybe you won't like the word [i]founded[/i]. That makes one think a little bit too much about links to the apostolic filter. One also wonders why Christ would "found" thousands of filters, all saying different things. Anyway...I can't think of a good synonym for "founded". I am sure Christians who don't think about the filters in that way can offer an alternative word. But you know what I mean.

You mention that many have trusted Calvin, Luther, and Simons. I think the followers would deny that. I think they would say they followed the man who taught biblical truth the best. When you "take your pick" as I mention above, it will probably be because you think one or another teaches biblical truth the best. Or it might be because it is closer to where you live. What ever, as long as you don't go spouting off about One True Filter, no one from the fallible filters is going to give you a hard time about going to a filter that has the Bible for its sole authority.

>>Q: Why not just go directly to the infallible source?

A: Filters, while fallible, are more reliable than you without one.>>

Me: Which filter?

Filter Boy: I might have edited that one too. I didn't mean you in particular as being unreliable. As you know, the only place in the New Testament where someone is reading the Bible by themselves, they can't make heads or tails out of it. That's what I meant. Sola scriptura does not mean that you can just hand out Bibles and expect any kind of unanimity of beliefs among readers. There has to be some kind of guidance (filter) and we clearly see that pattern in the New Testament where teachers seem to be necessary.

So you ask ME which filter? I believe in one true church so you definitely can't be a Catholic like me. Hmmm. I would say that you could pretty much be anything from a Bible believing Quaker to a high filter Anglican. Pick a filter, any filter. The only filter that is [b]always[/b] wrong, is one that claims to be [b]always[/b] right. Neat paradox, eh?

Filter Boy

Kepha said...

My goodness these things get so long so quick!

David,

In other words, remove the concept of infallibility from your whole Christian epistemology. If you were a Jew listening to the Apostle Thomas preach the Gospel, would you believe him because you thought him to be infallible? If your were a Smyrnean listening to Polycarp preach the Gospel, would you believe him because you thought him to be infallible? Again, I offer you this scene from Jesus' life for contemplation as to how the Faith was received and handed down:

"Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'" (Jn 4:39-42; ESV; emphasis mine)

Grifman said...

Indeed, infallibility needs to be banished. Did the OT Jews have an infallible magisterium to guide them? They seemed to get along fine without such a structure. So why is should the New Covenant be any different?

And the idea that we can only know something if we know it infallibly is false. Look at all things we accept as fact and knowledge today, all without having some magical magisterium having to tell us that it is so. And many of these things are important, matters of health, safety, life an death. Yet we don't insist on infallibility in these areas.

Lastly, even if you were to have an infallible magisterium, it has to get past the filter of your own mind. How can you be sure that you've interpreted the magesterium infallibly since you yourself are no infallible?

Anonymous said...

Filter Boy wonders if there is anyone among those who reject infallibility that are open to revisiting the questions raised by the Arians?

Chris said...

We should always be willing to revisit old questions in the light of new knowledge, methods, and perspectives.

Anonymous said...

Chris says:
We should always be willing to revisit old questions in the light of new knowledge, methods, and perspectives.

Filter Boy says:
Hi Chris. I agree, absent infallibility. My hunch is that there are "Fallibilists" out there, who for practical purposes behave as though they are infallible. In the fallible opinion of Filter Boy, "Fallibilism" leads inevitably to what you have just articulated. Thank you.

Filter Boy

David Waltz said...

Hi Filter Boy,

Thanks for responding; you posted:

>> Okay...how about I replace dubious with debatable?
If we had an edit function that is how you would have read it the first time. Not be duplicitous, if you haven't figured it out, I disagree with your premise that there is no infallible teaching filter. I am just offering suggestions under the circumstances based on a premise I reject.>> (Note: to get italics to work, you must use <> instead of [].)

Me: Thanks much for the clarification. And for the record, I am currently a Catholic Christian, so I do accept that there exists an infallible filter (i.e. interpreter). I am interacting with those who do not.

Filter Boy: >>I might have edited that one too. I didn't mean you in particular as being unreliable. As you know, the only place in the New Testament where someone is reading the Bible by themselves, they can't make heads or tails out of it. That's what I meant. Sola scriptura does not mean that you can just hand out Bibles and expect any kind of unanimity of beliefs among readers. There has to be some kind of guidance (filter) and we clearly see that pattern in the New Testament where teachers seem to be necessary.

So you ask ME which filter? I believe in one true church so you definitely can't be a Catholic like me. Hmmm. I would say that you could pretty much be anything from a Bible believing Quaker to a high filter Anglican. Pick a filter, any filter. The only filter that is always wrong, is one that claims to be always right. Neat paradox, eh?>>

Me: Totally misunderstood your first post. Once again, thanks much for the clarification/s.

Question: Are you a member of the Roman Catholic Church?


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Kepha,

Yes, some of these threads certainly do move along quite quickly. You posted:

>>In other words, remove the concept of infallibility from your whole Christian epistemology. If you were a Jew listening to the Apostle Thomas preach the Gospel, would you believe him because you thought him to be infallible? If your were a Smyrnean listening to Polycarp preach the Gospel, would you believe him because you thought him to be infallible? Again, I offer you this scene from Jesus' life for contemplation as to how the Faith was received and handed down.>>

Me: I think there was a considerable difference between Jesus’ and the apostles’ ‘method’, and the early bishops. Note the following from Acts:

“And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.”

“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.”

“Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”

“Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”

And from Romans:

Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”


I need not relate the “signs and wonders” of Jesus…

I once read (the author escapes my memory) that every major revelatory period was accompanied by “signs and wonders”.

IMHO, such “signs and wonders” assisted in establishing that the speaker/s were doing so with authority from God. So, even if one places the issue of infallibility aside, I still think the issue of authority remains.

Anyway, just a few afternoon musings. Might have something more subtantial to add tomorrow.

Grace and peace,

David

Bob Jones said...

"Me: It just does not make much sense to me to ask one to subscribe to some fallible confession when one can go directly to an infallible authority. Don’t know what else to add…"

Hi David,

I think your statement here indicates a claim for a confession, that when examined closely may place more of an expectation upon it than is warranted.

The primary purpose of a confession is not to define truth. It defines the fellowship of believers who subscribe to it as an indicator of how they approach the truth of scripture and understand it.

So one should hold to the Bible firmly as you are guided by God's spirit to evaluate groups with whom you may choose to covenant with, fellowship with, or sometimes visit from time to time.

I can do some things with all people but I can only do all things with some people. Confessions help make the distinction.