Thursday, August 13, 2009
During last few days, I have been engaged in some pretty intense research for an upcoming thread that will interact with a substantial post recently penned by Bryan Cross, with the title: ECCLESIAL DEISM. (I highly suggest to all that they read this thread.) After reading through nearly 1,000 pages of material, I decided to take a break and ‘surf the web’ for a bit. A thread posted yesterday by the individual who goes under the name “TurretinFan” (hereafter, TF) with the title, AQUINAS ON SOLA SCRIPTURA caught my eye. TF opened his post with:
Some folks seem to imagine that a rejection of Sola Scriptura was the "established faith" prior to the Reformation. Those folks ought to read their Aquinas…
He then provides some very selective quotes from Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and surmises:
Was Aquinas' view of all things doctrinal the same as that of the Reformed churches? Of course not. As to Scripture, however, his views were quite close (if not identical). Scripture is the supreme authority. While Aquinas did not make councils, or the Roman bishop, or the consent of the fathers a second rule of faith, but rather stuck with Scripture, of which the creeds were "symbols" - extractions of important points.
TF is very confused on this issue; his confusion clearly stems from what Geisler and MacKenzie in their, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, identified as, “a failure to distinguish two aspects of the doctrine: the formal and the material.” The following is the full context:
A good bit of confusion exists between Catholics and Protestants on sola Scriptura due to a failure to distinguish two aspects of the doctrine: the formal and the material. Sola Scriptura in the material sense simply means that all the content of salvific revelation exists in Scripture. Many Catholics hold this in common with Protestants, including well-known theologians from John Henry Newman to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. French Catholic theologian Yves Congar states: “we can admit sola Scriptura in the sense of a material sufficiency of canonical Scripture. This means that Scripture contains, in one way or another, all truths necessary for salvation.” What Protestants affirm and Catholics reject is sola Scriptura in the formal sense that the Bible alone is sufficiently clear that no infallible teaching magisterium of the church is necessary to interpret it. (Norman Geisler and Ralph Mackenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, pp. 179, 180.)
TF misses the above distinctions, even though he wrote the following in his post:
Now, I will certainly concede that Aquinas mistakenly believed that a council of the universal church could not err, and that Aquinas accorded a primacy to the bishop of Rome that was excessive.
He sure did [i.e. that the universal Church could not err], and the following is what Aquinas wrote on this subject, in his Summa Theologica:
On the contrary, The universal Church cannot err, since she is governed by the Holy Ghost, Who is the Spirit of truth: for such was Our Lord's promise to His disciples (Jn. 16:13): "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth." Now the symbol is published by the authority of the universal Church. Therefore it contains nothing defective. (Summa Theologica, II.II, q. 1, a. 9: Christian Classics, 1981 edition, page 1171 – bold emphasis mine.)
Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. Even so, it is evident that a man whose mind holds a conclusion without knowing how it is proved, has not scientific knowledge, but merely an opinion about it. Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will. (Summa Theologica, II.II, q. 5, a. 3: Christian Classics, 1981 edition, page 1193 – bold emphasis mine.)
So, should one conclude with TF that Aquinas’, “views were quite close (if not identical)” to “the Reformed churches”? IMHO, Aquinas himself quite clearly answers the question.
Grace and peace,