Christian Smith—a prolific sociologist widely read by evangelicals—has been wading into theological waters of late. One of his recent books is an extended argument against evangelical “biblicism” (his thesis is that biblicism—even of a more sophisticated kind represented by Packer, Carson, and the like—is intellectually impossible given the reality of “pervasive interpretative pluralism”). For interaction with this book, you could look at Scot McKnight’s blog, who thinks the book is a “must-read” addressing “the biggest challenge evangelicalism has to face.” Or see Kevin DeYoung’s review, who thinks the book is inconsistent and built upon significant caricatures.

A recent convert to Roman Catholicism, Smith has also just published a book on how to go from being a good evangelical to a committed Catholic. (Be on the look out for Chris Castaldo’s excellent review in a forthcoming issue of Books & Culture.)

Peter Leithart picked up on Smith’s misunderstanding of sola scriptura:

Step #47 [in Smith's 95 steps to move from evangelicalism to Catholicism] is to “realize that the doctrine of sola Scriptura is itself not biblical but, ironically, is received and believed as a sacred (Protestant) church tradition.”  A neat bit of jiu jitsu, but the next sentence makes one suspect that he’s played dirty: sola Scriptura is the belief that Christians have “the Bible alone and no other human tradition as authority.”  Later, he challenges his readers to find biblical passages that teach that “Scripture or the written word of God is the sole and sufficient authority for Christian faith.”

Now, I imagine that there are people who believe sola Scriptura as Smith describes it, and Protestants have always insisted that Scripture is a sufficient revelation of God’s will for us (cf., e.g., WCF 1.6).  But neither the Reformers nor their heirs concluded that Scripture is the “sole” authority, nor did they deny the relative authority of human teachers.  (If Calvin believed the Bible was the “sole” authority, why so much effort and time devoted to reading Augustine and Chrysostom?) As Smith himself points out, the Scriptures themselves point to human teachers and leaders who are to be honored as authorities.  Smith is also correct that the New Testament writers encourage Christians to honor apostolic traditions.  No argument there, but that’s because Smith has missed the point.

The argument is not about “sole” authority but “final” authority.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Comments:


83 thoughts on ““Sola Scriptura” Does Not Mean “Scripture Is the Sole Authority””

  1. Bryan Cross says:

    Justin,

    The problem with Leithart’s claim is that without a Magisterium, Scripture as “final authority” reduces to Scripture as the only authority. And that’s because without a Magisterium, what gets to count as “tradition” is only what agrees with one’s interpretation of Scripture. That’s how Protestants justify rejecting so much of tradition from the first fifteen hundred years of Church history. But tradition in that sense, has no authority, when it is picked only if it agrees with one’s interpretation of Scripture. Similarly, Leithart points to Protestants’ recognition of “the relative authority of human teachers.” But again, the problem is that only those persons who generally agree with one’s own interpretation of Scripture are the ones who get to count as a “human teacher.” And a fundamental principle regarding authority is that submission on the basis of agreement is not actual submission, but only seeming submission; it is the illusion of authority, not actual authority. Since both the tradition recognized by Protestants, and the human teachers recognized by Protestants, are selected on the basis of their agreement with the individual’s interpretation of Scripture, they aren’t actual authorities but only accoutrements to Scripture. So the jiu jitsu lies in Leithart’s position. Neal Judisch and I have written about this in more detail in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  2. Brandon Vogt says:

    I was getting ready to link to that exact article at Called to Communion when I saw it was already listed.

    Bryan’s critique is spot on, but he doesn’t mention a couple other elephants in the Reformed room:

    - In the first four centuries of Christianity, how could Scripture be, in the words of Leithart, the “final authority” since there was no formal cannon and therefore no official agreement on what Scripture even was?

    - How could Scripture be the “final authority” when some greater authority was needed to affirm which books Scripture consisted of?

    - Finally, Leithart rightfully acknowledges the need for extra-Biblical authority, but he doesn’t define the criteria for that authority. Catholics make it easy–the pope and his fellow bishops have the authority that Christ passed down through the apostles. But what do Protestants claim? Why should I listen to Leithart and not Smith?

    I really encourage anyone interested in this topic to read through the article Bryan posted. Interpretative authority, the canon of Scripture, and the unScriptural basis for “sola Scriptura” were hughly instrumental in me converting from Evangelicalism to Catholicism.

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    Thanks for hosting the discussion, Justin!

    Your brother,
    Brandon Vogt

    1. J. Clark says:

      What we need for our interpretations and understanding of the scripture is the Holy Spirit and brotherly fellowship, not popes and magistrates. Glad to solve that dilemma.

      1. Devin Rose says:

        I would assume that most Protestants have the Holy Spirit and brotherly fellowship, so why do they disagree on scores of doctrines?

  3. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “In the first four centuries of Christianity, how could Scripture be, in the words of Leithart, the “final authority” since there was no formal cannon and therefore no official agreement on what Scripture even was?”

    Suppose (arguendo) we say the ancient church didn’t have the Bible. Would that invalidate sola Scriptura? Suppose (arguendo) we say the ancient church had to rely entirely on oral tradition. Would that invalidate sola Scriptura?

    In both cases, the answer is no. For in that (hypothetical) event, the church would still need a trustworthy standard of comparison to measure the accuracy of oral tradition.

    If (arguendo) the teaching of Jesus, or John, or Paul was handed down by word-of-mouth, you’d still need an accurate record of the original words to see if oral tradition corresponded to what Jesus, John, or Paul actually said. Oral tradition would only be true to the extent that it was true to the original source.

    So even if (arguendo) you didn’t have that standard of comparison in your possession, that would still be the ultimate and indispensable standard.

    For instance, our modern global civilization requires synchronized clocks. What’s called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). That, in turn, depends on International Atomic Time (TAI). And that, in turn, depends on 200+ atomic clocks.

    I don’t have access to the atomic clocks. I don’t have the atomic clocks in my possession. Yet atomic clocks still set the standard for my cesium clocks and watches.

    Even if I never laid eyes on one of those atomic clocks, even if I didn’t know how to tell time using atomic clocks, it is still necessary that my own clocks and watches match or at least approximate the atomic clocks.

    If I set my wristwatch by my computer clock, and I set my computer clock by the time readout from a TV news station, and the news station set its clock by some other source, it doesn’t matter how many steps removed my wristwatch is from the atomic clocks. What matters is that, at the end of that transmission process you a benchmark to measure that transmission process.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, the NT wasn’t written until the 5C AD. Suppose, until the 5C, the early church had to rely entirely on oral tradition. Then, in the 5C, God inspired 10 men to write the NT.

    In other words, suppose the process was completely backwards. You only had the church for the first four centuries, then the NT came later.

    Even if that were the case, once the NT was written, that would set the standard for the church. The church would have to calibrate or recalibrate tradition to agree with the NT.

  4. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “How could Scripture be the ‘final authority’ when some greater authority was needed to affirm which books Scripture consisted of?”

    That begs the question. Why do we need some “authority” to affirm the canon for us? Why is it not sufficient to simply be right?

    A general has more authority than a colonel. A general outranks the colonel. Yet that’s irrelevant to who’s right and who’s wrong. Sometimes the colonel is right when the general is wrong.

    You don’t need authority to get things right. Indeed, men in authority often get things wrong. Truth and authority are hardly equivalent. Indeed, they are often at odds.

    Scripture is authoritative because Scripture is true. That’s the bottom line.

    “Finally, Leithart rightfully acknowledges the need for extra-Biblical authority, but he doesn’t define the criteria for that authority. Catholics make it easy–the pope and his fellow bishops have the authority that Christ passed down through the apostles. But what do Protestants claim? Why should I listen to Leithart and not Smith?”

    Why should you listen to a pope rather than Smith? You had to exercise your personal judgment. You decided for yourself that apostolic succession is valid. You didn’t begin with the pope. Rather, you had to be satisfied in your own mind that the claims of the papacy were correct.

    What was your criterion? Your criterion for the papacy can’t be the papacy itself. For the papacy is only a criterion if papal claims are true. So if criteria are necessary, then you need a criterion prior to the papacy to evaluate the papacy itself.

  5. steve hays says:

    Bryan likes to constantly reduce and recast the issue in terms of “interpretive authority.” That’s his shtick.

    Let’s apply that to a real-world scenario. Take Jn 9.

    In that exchange, who has the authority–the blind man or the Pharisees? The Pharisees obviously have more “authority” than the blind man. He has no authority at all. He’s a nobody. He has no institutional position. No formal theological education.

    The blind man and the Pharisees have two opposing interpretations of Jesus. The blind man thinks Jesus is a prophet of God. The Pharisees think Jesus is a godless Sabbath-breaker.

    To use Bryan’s tendentious rubric, both of them exercise their “interpretive authority.” The blind man makes himself the “final authority” when he interprets Jesus to be a prophet of God.

    Well, here’s a case where the religious authorities were dead wrong while the unlettered layman was absolutely right.

  6. Devin Rose says:

    Steve and Justin,

    Let’s say I don’t find the Called to Communion article or Brandon Vogt’s arguments compelling. I am ready to follow some (Protestant) human authorities, go to their church, read their commentaries, etc. Who are those authorities I should follow and how do I identify them?

  7. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Steve and Justin, Let’s say I don’t find the Called to Communion article or Brandon Vogt’s arguments compelling. I am ready to follow some (Protestant) human authorities, go to their church, read their commentaries, etc. Who are those authorities I should follow and how do I identify them?”

    i) I wouldn’t cast the issue in terms of following authority figures. I don’t view Protestant theologians are commentators as authority figures.

    You simply go with whoever has the best argument.

    For instance, one reason Aquinas has such influence in Catholic theology is that he’s so good at arguing for his position. He may be a Catholic “authority” now, but that’s not how he started out. He only became a Catholic authority due to the intellectual quality of his material.

    ii) I also wouldn’t suggest that you only read the commentators of one theological tradition.

    iii) And since you bring it up, there’s no fundamental difference between commentaries by evangelical scholars and commentaries by modern Catholic scholars like Fitzmyer, John Meier, and Luke Timothy Johnson. Modern Catholic commentators often arrive at the same exegetical conclusions as their evangelical counterparts. The main difference is that modern Catholic commentators tend to be more liberal.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      N.T. Wright seems to have really strong arguments regarding justification. Other Protestants who have tried to challenge him (e.g. Piper) don’t seem to make near as good a case. If I choose N.T. Wright’s theological ideas, do you think I would be going astray? If so, how can I avoid it since 1) he is more learned than I by several orders of magnitude and 2) I am supposed to use what intellectual resources God has given me to choose who I think makes the best argument?

  8. Glenn says:

    The formal Canon of scripture was set much, much earlier than the end of the fourth century.

    By the end of the first century (from 25 to almost 60 years after the resurrection), the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all written and confirmed by the work of the Holy Spirit. Those four documents became the only accepted gospels — the only treasured and authoritative documents describing the life and teachings of Jesus.

    The various Councils that took place later did not ‘make up the canon of scripture’, they only put a seal on what was already excepted as canon.

    This is easy to affirm by reading the early Church Fathers.

    As someone else pointed out, Sola Scriptura means that God’s word, holy scripture, is the final authority, the plumb line against which all is to be measured.

    Catholicism clings so desperately to the apocrypha because it is only there that it can find even the remotest support for some of it’s non scriptural practices, like praying for the dead and purgatory for example.

    There is no support for a ‘pope’ in God’s word.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Glenn,

      I think you’re right about the early acceptance of the four gospels, but my research has also shown that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration also had widespread early acceptance. How do I know that the early Church got the gospels right but baptismal regeneration wrong?

      Also, if the canon was already accepted early on, why did so many Church Fathers have different proposed canonical lists? This one rejected 2 & 3 John and 2 Peter. That one rejected Revelation. Another doubted James. Hebrews was similarly questioned. And then as late as the 1500s Martin Luther dissed James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation, pointing out that they did not have widespread acceptance in the early Church. How do you reconcile these facts with your statements about the canon?

      1. Gary says:

        Spot on Devin. How can I trust that the early writers got the gospels right, but be so quick to dismiss their views on the Eucharist and on baptism?

  9. John Thomson says:

    People and traditions are helps, not authorities. The authority for the Christian today is the teaching of Christ mediated through the C1 apostles. Believers, by the Holy Spirit, recognise their message and any message that contradicts it they refuse – whatever his/its claimed authority.

    1John 1:1-4 (ESV)
    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

    1John 2:18-21 (ESV)
    Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

    1John 2:24-27 (ESV)
    Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us-eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie-just as it has taught you, abide in him.

    Christians are not foolish. They know the voice of the Shepherd (Jn 10) and by the indwelling Spirit hold fast to what was revealed ‘from the beginning’ (that is, from the beginning of Christianity, in Christ).

  10. Derek says:

    How can anyone possibly accept that the Bible is the sole or final authority without committing the logical fallacy of circular reasoning?

    Even if the Bible teaches (self-referentially) that it is the sole or final authority (I don’t think it does), we would be begging the question: the Bible is the sole or final authority because it says it is, and we know that what it says is true because it is the sole or final authority.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Derek, the Bible does teach it, and it is only circular in the sense that all claims of final authority are circular.

      1. Brandon Vogt says:

        The interpretative authority of the Catholic Magisterium doesn’t claim to be circular though. They claim they only have authority because it was given to them by Jesus Christ through Peter and the apostles.

        It has a definite beginning and an objective source–Jesus.

        Where do Protestant teachers get their authority? And if from the Bible, where does the Bible get its authority?

        1. Brandon E. says:

          If we assume without argument that authority is transferred through physical apostolic succession, the problem is that such succession has not only produced the papal hierarchy but multiple organizations in schism with one another. So how should I determine which one really has authority? Should I just take someone’s word for it? Whose?

  11. Derek says:

    I wasn’t aware that there were people who consciously endorsed circular reasoning. Never mind my comment, then.

    1. Scott C says:

      Derek,
      I would suggest reading Van Til, John Frame, Greg Bahnsen or Scott Oliphant. They make the strong case for what Justin just affirmed. All argumentation rests upon some ultimate authority that is assumed, thus all argumentation is ultimately circular. We might argue something like this: God is true. The Bible is God’s word. Therefore, the Bible is true.

      1. Derek says:

        I’ve read Van Til and his follower Bahnsen before, though a while back, in 2001 or so, specifically their presupposionalist approach to theology. The problem with presuppositionalism is that it is radically question-begging. Presuppositionalists appeal to some ultimate authority (God, really) to make their argument that all arguments ultimately appeal to some ultimate authority. However, I didn’t think it would have survived. So, come to think of it, yes there are people who openly embrace circular reasoning.

        God can’t be “true.” We admit truth only of propositional statements, for example, “God is omniscient.”

        1. Scott C says:

          Derek,
          What greater authority exists than God?

        2. Scott C says:

          “God can’t be ‘true.’”

          If God can’t be true then from whence comes the source of truth?

  12. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Steve, N.T. Wright seems to have really strong arguments regarding justification. Other Protestants who have tried to challenge him (e.g. Piper) don’t seem to make near as good a case. If I choose N.T. Wright’s theological ideas, do you think I would be going astray? If so, how can I avoid it since 1) he is more learned than I by several orders of magnitude and 2) I am supposed to use what intellectual resources God has given me to choose who I think makes the best argument?”

    Several issues:

    i) You seem to be arguing for the proposition that arguments are inadequate. But if that’s the case, then your argument that arguments are in adequate is, itself, in adequate.

    ii) Likewise, if you think arguments are inadequate, then the arguments of Catholic apologists like Newman, Chesterton, Scott Hahn, Bryan Cross, Karl Keating et al. are also inadequate.

    By the same token, that would also discount the arguments you deploy in your own book (If Protestantism is True).

    Seems like a self-defeating strategy on both counts.

    iii) It’s not just Protestants who’ve challenged Wright. You also have Jews (Neusner) and even Catholics (Fitzmyer).

    iv) On the one hand, Piper wrote a 225pp. monograph. On the other hand, you’ve written a one-sentence opinion. Clearly the onus lies on you, not Piper.

    v) Appealing to Wright’s superior erudition hardly tips the balance in his favor, for his critics are also more learned than you by several orders of magnitude.

    vi) Clearly different people have different perceptions about who won this or that argument. Jesus argued with his fellow Jews. So did Paul. Some Jews disagreed with Jesus and Paul.

    However, I assume you don’t think mere disagreement means neither side had the better of the argument. I presume you think Jesus came out on top. Same with Paul.

    vii) Our responsibilities vary with our opportunities and aptitude.

    viii) I don’t know what intellectual resources you used, or how you used them.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      I love arguments. But arguments are most productive for getting to the truth when focused on the most important issues. I think Piper and Wright need to elevate their discussion to more important issues.

      Similarly, the Called to Communion guys, in the article they linked to, make arguments–I don’t recall you ever responding in that long thread?–and those arguments demonstrate that sola reduces to solo with respect to ultimate interpretive authority. It’s not a “schtick” or a smokescreen; rather, they are arguments that have not been rebutted and thus their conclusion stands. That article is directly relevant to Justin Taylor’s criticism of Christian Smith.

      Good for you checking out my link/name and seeing that I wrote a book.

      I’ve used my intellectual resources to discover the Catholic Church. This discovery was led to, in part, by the proper use of my God-given reason. The truth in its fullness can be found.

      I was hoping you would tell me your opinion about what Protestants to look to so that I could know Jesus in truth. Or what church to go to. So that I could understand how you resolve the dilemma of rightful authority within Protestantism.

      But so far, it seems like you have just given me the run-around.

  13. steve hays says:

    Derek

    “How can anyone possibly accept that the Bible is the sole or final authority without committing the logical fallacy of circular reasoning?”

    i) You fail to distinguish between logical circularity and epistemic circularity. Logical circularity is fallacious, but epistemic circularity is inevitable. If you don’t know the difference, I’d suggest you read Alston on the subject.

    ii) Suppose we substitute “God” for the “Bible” in the sentence: “How can anyone possibly accept that God is final authority without committing the logical fallacy of circular reasoning?”

    Do you think it’s fallacious for God to be the final authority?

    If not, what’s the essential difference between “God is the final authority” and “the Word of God is the final authority”?

    “Even if the Bible teaches (self-referentially) that it is the sole or final authority (I don’t think it does), we would be begging the question: the Bible is the sole or final authority because it says it is, and we know that what it says is true because it is the sole or final authority.”

    That’s a simplistic formulation. It’s actually a two-step argument:

    i) The self-referential claim

    ii) Evidence for the self-referential claim

    In addition, evidence for the self-referential claim can be internal as well as external.

    Suppose Scripture promises Christians a distinctive religious experience. Suppose Christians experience that distinctive.

    That’s linear, not circular.

  14. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “And if from the Bible, where does the Bible get its authority?”

    From God.

    1. Brandon Vogt says:

      But where did God tell us that? Where–or through whom–did he say that the Bible has ultimate authority?

      And where or from whom can I find out exactly what the Bible consists of? Even today there are numerous canons, so how can we know which is the right one? I don’t want an incomplete set of Scriptures nor one with inerrant books.

  15. Scott C says:

    One reason why some might say the Bible is the “sole” authority is to avoid competing claims to authority. The only reason for accepting lesser sources of authority is for purposes of clarifying what the “final” authority (i.e. Scripture) means by what it says. This of course brings in the issue of interpretive authority, but that is beside the point. The authority of the Bible rests in the intention of the inspired authors. To the degree that some have accurately captured the intention of the authors is the degree to which Protestants attach a certain subordinate authority to such individuals (e.g. Augustine, Calvin, Westminster divines, etc.). If there exists competing interpretations of authorial intention among lesser authorities who when all things considered ‘appear’ to be equals so be it. That doesn’t nullify the authority of Scripture. It simply means we better work harder at capturing the intent of the Biblical authors. Nonetheless, the doctrine of regeneration and perspicuity do not allow for despair in arriving at authorial intention in the most important cases. Thus, I don’t worry too much about secondary disagreements among faithful interpreters of Scripture.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Sure, I can agree with most of that, but as Luther and Zwingli demonstrated at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, the problem of who has the authority to interpret the Scriptures is inherent to Protestantism itself.

      They disagreed about what Jesus meant when He said “this is my body,” and I know few Christians who would claim that that is a “secondary” issue. They set the precedent that the rest of Protestantism has followed after for the past 500 years.

      1. Scott C says:

        Derek,
        If what I said is true then Calvin and Luther’s disagreement over the Lord’s Supper is immaterial. One or the other is wrong or possibly both were wrong, but the intended meaning of Scripture is correct. Ad Fontes!

      2. Brandon Vogt says:

        “Thus, I don’t worry too much about secondary disagreements among faithful interpreters of Scripture.”

        But what authority decides which issues are secondary? And what criteria lets you decide which interpretations are faithful? What are they faithful to?

        The problem of Biblical interpretation is parallel to the problem of interpreting what are primary issues and secondary issues. As Devin alluded to, who in Protestantism decides whether the doctrine of the real presence of the Eucharist is central or secondary? Catholics certainly consider it to be of extreme importance, but many Protestant agree to disagree on this topic, deeming it an unnecessary secondary issue.

        But who makes that call? Where are the boundaries of assent and who decides?

        Also, in your comment, you’ve almost laid out the Catholic position perfectly in the debate over Scripture’s formal vs. material sufficiency. Many Catholics–including the church fathers, John Henry Newman, and Joseph Ratzinger (the current Pope Benedict XVI)–have taught that the Bible is materially sufficient. This means that it contains all the information needed for salvation, though it must be properly understood and interpreted. Hence the need for a living, teaching Magisterium, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit.

        Most “sola scriptura” adherents teach, however, that the Bible is formally sufficient, that these same truths are not only implicit but explicit in the Bible and that they all can be easily understood without an objective, outside authority. They claim Scripture is “perspicuous.”

        Beside the fact that the Bible never suggests anything like this, we only need to look at the current religious landscape. Protestantism is filled–and built upon–dueling interpretations. Even among the bloggers here at The Gospel Coalition we see vast opinions on some major theological issues (baptism being a primary one.) This seems to show that by itself, even with a collection of wise, holy, Christ-centered interpreters, the Bible cannot be universally understood without an objective teaching authority like the Magisterium.

        1. Scott C says:

          Your argument here not only gets further away from the ‘final’ authority – it in fact, replaces it as the ‘final’ authority. The Magisterium becomes the infallible guide to truth not the Scriptures and that goes to the heart of why the Protestant Reformation happened in the first place.

          1. Brandon Vogt says:

            No, no. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not proposing that the Magisterium as a replacement for Scripture. (*That* misinterpretation laid the ground for the Reformation, by the way.)

            The Catholic Church teaches instead that Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium are non-competitive streams of the same Word of God.

            They all fit together like interlocking fingers. For example, the Magisterium and Tradition combined to confirm the canon of Scripture. Scripture, though, validates, confirms, and guides the Magisterium, and since the early centuries has acted as a check against false tradition.

            My point in this whole argument is that “sola Scripture”–Scripture alone–is not sufficient because you need other objective sources (like tradition and the Magisterium) to validate even the books that make up Scripture.

            I think Protestants often misunderstand the Catholic teaching of noncompetitive authority, and instead set up a false dichotomy between tradition/Magisterium and Scripture.

            1. Scott C says:

              “The Catholic Church teaches instead that Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium are non-competitive streams of the same Word of God.”

              Sounds to me that when you equate Tradition and the Magisterium in addition to Scripture to the Word of God then you have elevated those to inspired status. That is precisely where the Reformers protested.

      3. Gary says:

        Devin, LOVE your comments in this post. This is the best post in this thread.

  16. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Steve, I love arguments. But arguments are most productive for getting to the truth when focused on the most important issues. I think Piper and Wright need to elevate their discussion to more important issues.”

    I don’t think the Apostle Paul viewed the nature of justification as a second-tier issue.

    “Similarly, the Called to Communion guys, in the article they linked to, make arguments–I don’t recall you ever responding in that long thread?–and those arguments demonstrate that sola reduces to solo with respect to ultimate interpretive authority. It’s not a ‘schtick’ or a smokescreen; rather, they are arguments that have not been rebutted and thus their conclusion stands. That article is directly relevant to Justin Taylor’s criticism of Christian Smith.”

    In this very thread I highlighted a basic flaw in the CTC article. You offer no counterargument. So you’re statement is evasive. Why do you raise objections, only to dodge the replies?.

    I’ve been critiquing the CTC gang for a long time now. The ball is in your court, not mine.

    “I’ve used my intellectual resources to discover the Catholic Church. This discovery was led to, in part, by the proper use of my God-given reason. The truth in its fullness can be found.”

    To say you made the proper use of your God-given reason begs the question. You can’t parachute into an Evangelical blog and simply stipulate that to be the case, as if that’s a given. That’s something you need to argue for.

    “I was hoping you would tell me your opinion about what Protestants to look to so that I could know Jesus in truth.”

    I already told you.

    “Or what church to go to.”

    You’re smuggling your Catholic ecclesiology into the question. But that’s one of the issues in dispute.

    From a Protestant standpoint, there’s no one church we must go to, any more than there was one synagogue to go to in 1C Palestine. God’s truth is more broadly distributed.

    “So that I could understand how you resolve the dilemma of rightful authority within Protestantism.”

    To posit a dilemma of rightful authority in Protestantism assumes what you need to prove. You keep taking for granted the very things you need to establish at the outset.

    You don’t get a head start here. You have to earn every inch.

    Start by restating what you think the dilemma is.

    “But so far, it seems like you have just given me the run-around.”

    To the contrary, I’ve been responding to you point-by-point. My replies are pegged to your objections.

    Apparently you’re frustrated because this hasn’t gone the way you expected. Your first line of defense was one-man deep. Is that the problem?

    1. Brandon Vogt says:

      “From a Protestant standpoint, there’s no one church we must go to, any more than there was one synagogue to go to in 1C Palestine. God’s truth is more broadly distributed.”

      So it doesn’t matter whether I go to a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, a Mennonite church, a Unitarian church, or a Mormon church?

      And if it does, then why? By what criteria are some churches acceptable and others not? Who made that criteria and where specifically is it found?

    2. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      It would be helpful if you used the Reply link to reply directly to the comment you are responding to, so it shows up threaded.

      Earn every inch? I wrote a book explaining why I became Catholic. If you like, I’ll even lend you my Kindle copy and you can read it on your computer–but can I trust you to give it back? :) (See, a joke!) Otherwise, it’s only $2.99 on Kindle/Nook/Apple/whatever.

      Why not respond to Called to Communion’s article…on Called to Communion’s article? They allow comments and that allows the discussion to be followed rather than some blog-to-blog correspondence.

      What was your counter-argument? Did you intend your interpretation of the blind man/Pharisees story to be the counter-argument?

      My defense is a 4-4-3, but that’s futbol (and not American football) notation.

  17. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “But where did God tell us that?”

    Well, Brandon, you’re changing the question. Your original question was: “where does the Bible get its authority?”

    If Scripture is the Word of God, then the answer to that question is that Scripture gets its authority from the God who
    inspired it.

    Are you asking where in Scripture God tell us that Scripture gets its authority from God?

    “Where–or through whom–did he say that the Bible has ultimate authority?”

    If the Bible is the Word of God, what would be more authoritative than the Word of God? Do you believe the deity who inspired the Bible is not the ultimate deity? Do you think there’s another, superior deity to the deity of Scripture? What do you mean, exactly?

    “And where or from whom can I find out exactly what the Bible consists of? Even today there are numerous canons, so how can we know which is the right one?”

    Well, I’ve written a book in which I canvass that issue:

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/godscanon.html

    “I don’t want an incomplete set of Scriptures nor one with inerrant books.”

    Well, if you don’t want a canon with inerrant books, then the Tridentine canon is certainly preferable to the Protestant canon–for the Protestant canon only contains inerrant books, whereas the Tridentine canon contains errant apocryphal additions.

    In that respect you’ve come to the right place (i.e. the church of Rome) if you were looking for errant books.

    1. Brandon Vogt says:

      Steve,

      I didn’t change my question but offered a natural follow-up question to your unsatisfactory answer.

      We both believe the Bible is the Word of God, so that’s not in question. And we both agree that the Bible gets its authority from God, so that’s not in question either.

      My point is that nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the *final* authority nor the exclusive authority. If it does, please show me where.

      Where in the Bible does it say that Scripture is the pillar and ground of truth? And, just as importantly, how can I determine from the Bible exactly what the Bible even is? Where does it tell me which books make up the Scriptures?

      Also, your last point only attempted to address half of my desire. I said I didn’t want a cannon with errant books *or* one that is incomplete. It’s not enough to just say essentially “well just don’t both with the deuterocanocals and then you can be sure your all the books of your Bible are inerrant.” That would leave out my other desire that I want a complete set of Scriptures, for your proposal assumes the doctrines taught in those other seven books are inconsequential.

      Dismissing seven OT books from the canon has huge implications. For example, the doctrine of purgatory is hinted at implicitly and praying for the dead is revealed explicitly. And that’s all besides the fact that removing the books means that we’re redesigning the canon God passed down to his Church.

      Finally, I haven’t read your book on the canon, but it looks intriguing. I obviously can’t respond directly to the points you make in in yet, but I hope to read it soon.

  18. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “So it doesn’t matter whether I go to a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, a Mennonite church, a Unitarian church, or a Mormon church?”

    I assume you’re aware of the fact that that’s a false dichotomy. To say there’s no one place you can go to hear the truth doesn’t imply there’s no place you can go to hear the truth. That’s not the logical alternative.

    So why do you resort to false dichotomies? Is that arguing in good faith–or bad faith?

    Was there one place in 1C Palestine where Jews could go to hear the truth and nothing but the truth? Not that I’m aware of.

    But that doesn’t mean 1C Jews couldn’t find the truth.

    Why do you cast the issue in all-or-nothing terms? Do you think that unless the Mennonite church is wholly true, it must be wholly false?

    “And if it does, then why? By what criteria are some churches acceptable and others not? Who made that criteria and where specifically is it found?”

    i) To begin with, you have unfinished business to attend to. You raised the issue of criteria once before in this thread. I pointed out that your appeal to criteria is regressive. It backfires on your own position.

    Instead of addressing that issue, you’re skipping ahead. Why is that? If your initial objection was sincere, then you need to go back and finish what you began–assuming you can. If not, then you need to withdraw your objection.

    ii) Revealed truth is the criterion. And there are degrees of truth, inasmuch as some denominations or theological traditions are truer than others, just as some 1C Jewish sects were truer than others.

    1. Brandon Vogt says:

      “Why do you cast the issue in all-or-nothing terms? Do you think that unless the Mennonite church is wholly true, it must be wholly false?”

      No, I don’t think either option is true of the Mennonite community nor of any Protestant community. I don’t think they are wholly true, nor wholly false. You can go to many Protestant communities and hear many truths.

      The problem is that they are also mixed with many errors. (And of course Protestants have the added problem of not being able to objectively determine which is which.)

      I am convinced, however, that the Catholic Church, through her Scriptures, her tradition, and her teaching Magisterium *is* wholly true. And that’s why I’m Catholic. In the words of G.K. Chesteron, “The problem with explaining why I’m a Catholic is that there are thousands of reasons that all amount to one–because it’s true.”

      It baffles me that you seem to be OK being part of a church that you affirm teaches some falsities (tell me if I misunderstood you.) That seems to contradict Jesus’ confirmation that he would lead the Church into all truth. And so if he would lead a church into all truth–whichever church that was–why would you settle by being a part of an incomplete distortion?

  19. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “It would be helpful if you used the Reply link to reply directly to the comment you are responding to, so it shows up threaded.”

    I find that feature unhelpful. It generates threads within threads within threads, forcing the reader to go back through all of the accumulating comments to find where they left off, and to remember the last thing said. A veritable maze.

    “Earn every inch? I wrote a book explaining why I became Catholic. If you like, I’ll even lend you my Kindle copy and you can read it on your computer–but can I trust you to give it back? :) (See, a joke!) Otherwise, it’s only $2.99 on Kindle/Nook/Apple/whatever.”

    With all due respect, I’ve been debating high-profile Catholics for years now. Do you really think you have something revolutionary to add to the standard repertoire of arguments?

    “Why not respond to Called to Communion’s article…on Called to Communion’s article? They allow comments and that allows the discussion to be followed rather than some blog-to-blog correspondence.”

    I have my own blog.

    “What was your counter-argument? Did you intend your interpretation of the blind man/Pharisees story to be the counter-argument?”

    That’s a start.

    1. Brandon Vogt says:

      “With all due respect, I’ve been debating high-profile Catholics for years now. Do you really think you have something revolutionary to add to the standard repertoire of arguments?”

      With all due respect, the Catholic Church has been debating high-profile dissenters for thousands of years now. Do you really think you have something revolutionary to add to the standard repertoire of arguments?

    2. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      “With all due respect, I’ve been debating high-profile Catholics for years now. Do you really think you have something revolutionary to add to the standard repertoire of arguments?”

      No, I have the same simple arguments but re-present them in my own voice. Sometimes people respond better to one person’s presentation of an argument over another’s. But they’re the same arguments that led me, and Brandon Vogt, and Bryan Cross, and thousands of other faithful Protestants to become Catholic.

      I’ve followed some of your back-and-forth with Dave Armstrong over the years, and I’ve read your booklet on the canon that you linked to in this comment thread.

      Sure, you can stick to your own blog or others sympathetic to yours, but it makes dialogue harder.

      I’ll consider your interpretation of that story.

  20. Same junk I was taught in seminary from ’72-76. Truth is the wisdom of the Bible is hidden in a clarity which we think we can understand. After all, it is so simply, so clear. Truth be told, it is like the swim that US Navy Ship Captains invite their young sailors to take: “Like to swim in the deepest swimming hole on earth (The Mariannas Trench)? You are welcome to try and reach the bottom, but I don’t think you will make it (7 miles traight down).” The Bible is an Intellectual book, written by men who were moved by Omniscience. Such being the case one would expect to find a depth of wisdom there commensurate with its inspiration, and that is the case. I remember taking that approach back when I was working on a master’s in intellectual history, and it was astounding to me then and still is.

  21. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “And we both agree that the Bible gets its authority from God, so that’s not in question either.”

    If that’s not the question, then why did you phrase the question in precisely those terms?

    “My point is that nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the *final* authority nor the exclusive authority. If it does, please show me where.”

    i) It’s a transitive principle. If God is the final authority, and the Bible is the word of God, then the Bible is the final authority.

    ii) But you’re also burning a straw man. As was stated at the outset, we’re not claiming that the Bible is the “exclusive” authority.

    “Where in the Bible does it say that Scripture is the pillar and ground of truth?”

    i) I notice that you try to directly prooftext your position rather than quoting a magisterial interpretation of your prooftext. So you subscribe to both the perspicuity of Scripture as well as the right of private judgment. Seems like a counterproductive way to argue against Protestant hermeneutics, if you ask me.

    ii) Your allusion to 1 Tim 3:15 is deeply problematic:

    a) In context, that has reference to the church of Ephesus, not the church of Rome.

    That’s the problem with rote prooftexting. You don’t stop and ask the preliminary questions, like to whom or what church was that letter addressed?

    b) You also haven’t bothered to exegete your prooftext. I’d suggest you read the commentary by Catholic NT scholar Luke Timothy Johnson.

    “And, just as importantly, how can I determine from the Bible exactly what the Bible even is? Where does it tell me which books make up the Scriptures?”

    I address that in my ebook.

    “Also, your last point only attempted to address half of my desire. I said I didn’t want a cannon with errant books…”

    No, you said you didn’t want a canon with inerrant books.

    “For your proposal assumes the doctrines taught in those other seven books are inconsequential.”

    Not necessary inconsequential. Error can be quite consequential.

    “Dismissing seven OT books from the canon has huge implications. For example, the doctrine of purgatory is hinted at implicitly and praying for the dead is revealed explicitly.”

    According to the Maccabean text, the dead for whom prayers were offered were guilty of idolatry. If we translate that into Catholic theology, they died in a state of mortal sin. In that case, they are lost.

    So your “explicit” prooftext for Purgatory disproves Catholic Purgatory.

    Once again, that illustrates the peril of rote prooftexting.

    “And that’s all besides the fact that removing the books means that we’re redesigning the canon God passed down to his Church.”

    You’re commenting on a evangelical blog. Hence, that’s not something you can posit as a given.

  22. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “The problem is that they are also mixed with many errors. (And of course Protestants have the added problem of not being able to objectively determine which is which.)”

    The parenthetical begs the question. You don’t seem to grasp the elementary fact that when you post comments on an evangelical blog, you assume a burden of proof.

    “I am convinced, however, that the Catholic Church, through her Scriptures, her tradition, and her teaching Magisterium *is* wholly true.”

    Yes, that’s your testimony. That doesn’t give us any reason to agree with you. It’s just an autobiographical anecdote, like your favorite flavor of ice cream.

    “It baffles me that you seem to be OK being part of a church that you affirm teaches some falsities (tell me if I misunderstood you.)”

    If I were a 1C Jew, I’d be okay with the fact that various Jewish sects taught a mixture of truths and falsehoods.

    That’s how God has chosen to arrange things. In the meantime, Scripture remains the yardstick for measuring conformity to the truth.

    “That seems to contradict Jesus’ confirmation that he would lead the Church into all truth.”

    That’s yet another example of where your rote prooftexting goes awry. You’re not even aware of the fact that you’ve doctored your prooftext. Where does the Johannine text your alluding to say God would lead “the Church” into all truth? That’s not in the text. That’s your interpolation.

  23. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “It baffles me that you seem to be OK being part of a church that you affirm teaches some falsities (tell me if I misunderstood you.)”

    Even if (arguendo) we assume the Roman church is the one true church, it’s not as if, whenever or wherever you go to Mass, and listen to the homily, you will hear the unadulterated truth.

    Your priest is fallible. (Your bishop is fallible.) He may misinterpret Scripture. And he may be heterodox, even by Catholic lights.

    Remember that Hans Küng is still a priest. He can still celebrate Mass.

    Indeed, there are traditionalistic Catholic who despair of finding theologically orthodox priests or bishops.

  24. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “But who makes that call? Where are the boundaries of assent and who decides?”

    Brandon is tacitly superimposing his Catholic paradigm on Protestantism, as if one man has to make the call for everybody else. As if everybody else is under one man.

    However, you didn’t have that in 1C Judaism or the NT church.

    What matters is not who decides, but who is right.

    In addition, you and I are individually responsible to God for what we think and do. That’s not something we’re entitled to contract out to a third-party.

  25. steve hays says:

    Bryan Cross objects to sola Scriptura on the grounds that sola Scriptura makes the individual Christian the “ultimate arbiter.”

    But the problems with this allegation are numerous:

    1. He hasn’t show that this is inconsistent with the Protestant or Reformed understanding of sola Scriptura. So even if his characterization were accurate, so what? How does that disprove what Protestants mean by sola scriptura?

    2. He hasn’t shown that Catholicism supplies a viable alternative. Therefore, he has failed to solve the problem he posed for himself.

    3. ”Ultimate arbiter is vague. It could either mean (a) ultimate source or (b) ultimate standard.

    i) For example, Greenwich Mean Time is the ultimate standard for time zones. Suppose I have a very accurate watch. The watch is set to GMT.

    Still, to tell the time, I have to look at my watch. Does that make me the ultimate arbiter of time? Isn’t that a rather silly way of putting things?

    ii) Moreover, how can Bryan avoid this consequence? Perhaps he’d say (to continue with our metaphor) that someone can tell me the time. An infallible speaker can tell me the time.

    Unfortunately for Bryan, that simply relocates the problem. Instead of looking at my watch for myself, I listen to what someone tells me. But I’m still using my own senses. I’ve simply shifted from the sense of sight to the sense of hearing. But I’m still the ultimate arbiter (if you will) of what I hear–or think I hear.

    Dropping the metaphor, that’s no different whether the text is Scripture, a church father, a papal encyclical, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    4. And from a Reformed standpoint, it’s not even true that I’m the ultimate source. From a Reformed standpoint, God is the ultimate source of what anyone thinks or does.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      Several of your criticisms of Called to Communion’s article are handled in this blog post: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

      You can read that post, but the difference between us here is not in the idea that one of us uses our senses or intellect and the other doesn’t. We both use our senses; we both study; but the object that is discovered is what differentiates us.

      Your interpretation/application of the blind man/Pharisees passage, even if accepted as you presented it, doesn’t seem to rebut the Called to Communion article on sola reducing to solo. If anything,
      your statements inadvertently support their thesis.

      Keith Mathison’s point is that the individual should not be the ultimate interpretive authority of the Bible, but that “the Church” should be. This is why I was asking you what Protestant church or churches I should look to as that “Church” that I can submit my own interpretation to. But you demurred.

      Then you have presented (as an ostensible rebuttal) the story of the blind man, showing how he is the final interpretive authority. That seems to be what Mathison is arguing against–that solo Scriptura position where the individual is the final interpretive authority. So I don’t understand how you mean that story to be the start of a rebuttal to the article.

      Also, you make an analogy between the blind man and Pharisees “interpreting” Jesus and the idea of someone interpreting the Scriptures. This stretches those words and their meanings too far. Again, read the Tu Quoque article: The blind man was right to use his senses and intellect and heart to see the truth of who Jesus is. He used them rightly and discovered Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Pharisees failed to do so. The difference isn’t that the blind man used his senses and intellect and the Pharisees didn’t; it’s that the blind man’s use of them discovered Someone to whom his assent and submission was due.

      Similarly, a person uses his senses and intellect, discovering the Catholic Church, the Church Christ established and which He has protected from error, the Church which he assents to and submits his own interpretation of the Scriptures to. Protestants however, who have not discovered this, retain ultimate interpretive authority as no “church” or denomination is that Church which Christ established and which He has protected from error. Hence they can only give a very qualified assent to them, only so long as their church agrees with their interpretation of the Scriptures.

  26. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Keith Mathison’s point is that the individual should not be the ultimate interpretive authority of the Bible, but that ‘the Church’ should be. This is why I was asking you what Protestant church or churches I should look to as that ‘Church’ that I can submit my own interpretation to. But you demurred.”

    I’m not operating within Mathison’s framework. Indeed, I’ve been critical of that in the past. So the CTC post you reference is irrelevant to my argument.

    “Then you have presented (as an ostensible rebuttal) the story of the blind man, showing how he is the final interpretive authority. That seems to be what Mathison is arguing against–that solo Scriptura position where the individual is the final interpretive authority. So I don’t understand how you mean that story to be the start of a rebuttal to the article.”

    I don’t have to agree with Mathison to disagree with Cross. That’s a false dichotomy.

    “Also, you make an analogy between the blind man and Pharisees ‘interpreting’ Jesus and the idea of someone interpreting the Scriptures. This stretches those words and their meanings too far.”

    To the contrary, the blind man must interpret Jesus’ words as well as his deeds. And his miraculous deeds are emblematic deeds. Signs. Word-media and event-media both require interpretation. You must be able to interpret the significance of the deed as well as the word.

    “Again, read the Tu Quoque article.”

    Which assumes I haven’t.

    “The blind man was right to use his senses and intellect and heart to see the truth of who Jesus is. He used them rightly and discovered Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Pharisees failed to do so.”

    The blind man acted as the “final authority” in that situation. And he did so in defiance of the religious authorities.

    “Similarly, a person uses his senses and intellect, discovering the Catholic Church, the Church Christ established and which He has protected from error, the Church which he assents to and submits his own interpretation of the Scriptures to.”

    i) A convert to Rome exercises private judgment in evaluating the putative evidence for Roman Catholicism. He treats the Bible and the church fathers as perspicuous.

    ii) How can he submit his own interpretation to the church after the fact? How does he know the “church” in the NT is the same institution as the church of Rome? He’d only be in a position to submit his interpretation to the Roman church if he already knew the Roman church was the one true church. If he can’t know that from Scripture before he converts, then he can’t trust the interpretations of Rome.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      You had written: “But I’m still using my own senses. I’ve simply shifted from the sense of sight to the sense of hearing. But I’m still the ultimate arbiter (if you will) of what I hear–or think I hear.”

      The CtC Tu Quoque article (and my response to you) explain why your attempt at a rebuttal fails. So it is relevant, even if your particular “framework” is not the same as Mathison’s.

      The rest of your most recent comment is directly rebutted by the Tu Quoque article. So I’m perplexed as to why you don’t think it is relevant. Maybe you read it a long time ago and forgot what it said? Or just skimmed it recently and dismissed it since you don’t shared all of Mathison’s “framework”? In any case, you should read it again.

      You wrote “If he can’t know that from Scripture before he converts, then he can’t trust the interpretations of Rome.”

      A Christian studies history and theology to discover the Catholic Church. He traces the Church of the first century forward through time, seeing the Church and also what the Church determined were schisms from her.

      So I don’t understand what you mean by your comment, or, the conclusion you are trying to make doesn’t seem to follow.

      Finally, on the blind man thing, I think I see what you are trying to get at. The individual used his intellect to discover Jesus. I have no problem with that. But fast forward to later on in the first century. Diotrephes of 3 John fame: He was using his intellect and rejected the authority of the Apostle. And he was not praised for that. Rather, the Apostle was going to go put him in his place. We see that the individual using his intellect is not the differentating factor in these two cases; rather, what they discovered is. Diotrephes should have used his intellect and submitted to the rightful authority of Christ’s Church (in his local church, that was the Apostle John), believing that the promises Christ made to the Church through the Apostles were true (that He would lead them into all truth, that the Church was the pillar and bulwark of the truth, built on the foundation of the Apostles, etc.).

      But Diotrephes didn’t do that. Instead, he challenged the authority of the rightful leaders of Christ’s Church, and the Bible records that he was wrong to do so.

  27. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “A Christian studies history and theology to discover the Catholic Church. He traces the Church of the first century forward through time, seeing the Church and also what the Church determined were schisms from her. So I don’t understand what you mean by your comment, or, the conclusion you are trying to make doesn’t seem to follow.”

    At that stage of the process the prospective convert to Rome does not cannot rely on the magisterium to interpret church history, or the church fathers, or the Bible. For at that stage of the process is he not yet a Catholic. Rather, he’s examining the Bible, the church fathers, and church history to see if they verify the claims of Rome.

    But in that event, magisterial interpretation is superfluous, since he must independently interpret the sources to verify or falsify the magisterium. If he doesn’t need it to get in, he doesn’t need it.

  28. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Finally, on the blind man thing, I think I see what you are trying to get at. The individual used his intellect to discover Jesus. I have no problem with that. But fast forward to later on in the first century. Diotrephes of 3 John fame: He was using his intellect and rejected the authority of the Apostle. And he was not praised for that. Rather, the Apostle was going to go put him in his place. We see that the individual using his intellect is not the differentating factor in these two cases; rather, what they discovered is. Diotrephes should have used his intellect and submitted to the rightful authority of Christ’s Church (in his local church, that was the Apostle John), believing that the promises Christ made to the Church through the Apostles were true (that He would lead them into all truth, that the Church was the pillar and bulwark of the truth, built on the foundation of the Apostles, etc.). But Diotrephes didn’t do that. Instead, he challenged the authority of the rightful leaders of Christ’s Church, and the Bible records that he was wrong to do so.”

    Which misses the point. Given rightful authority, an individual should submit to rightful authority. (Even then, submission to merely human authority is not unconditional.)

    But how do you establish who or what is the rightful authority? You can’t simply appeal to an authoritative claimant, for that would be viciously circular. He’s only a rightful authority if he’s a rightful claimant. So you can’t invoke rightful authority to justify submission to rightful authority before you establish that the rightfulness of the authoritative claimant.

  29. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “The CtC Tu Quoque article (and my response to you) explain why your attempt at a rebuttal fails. So it is relevant, even if your particular “framework” is not the same as Mathison’s. The rest of your most recent comment is directly rebutted by the Tu Quoque article.”

    Unfortunately for you, that’s not the case. Bryan spends time distinguishing between submission to Protestant creeds and submission to Catholic creeds. He argues that this comparison is equivocal since Protestant creeds lack the authority of Catholic creeds.

    That distinction is wholly irrelevant to the arguments I’ve used here. Try again.

  30. Devin Rose says:

    Steve,

    I read your most recent reply, the three-part response, but I am going to bow out at this point as I think we are getting to diminishing returns. I appreciate the dialogue and pray that Christ will unite us in the fullness of the truth. Feel free to have the last word.

  31. Man, Mr. Rose’s arguments are pathetic, beyond words to describe. Who needs a Pope to interpret the scriptures, when the Lord Jesus Christ said of the words spoken from the burning bush as “That which was spoken to you by God?” He considered the words as addressed to the Sadducees of His day, some 1500 years or so after they were uttered from the bush to Moses. And why would any one believe the Pope and that church, so-called, was kept from sin, when one can easily find sins numerous, frequent, and of the worst kind practiced by the ministers of this outfit. I remember the nightmares I had during the period in the Spring of 1963 while taking notes on the Waldensians from Henry Charles Lea’s Inquisition of the Middle Ages. Interestingly enough, I had a friend whose father was subjected to torture in an Iron Maiden, one of the inventions of the Holy Office. And we behold the terrible examples of Pedophilia on the part of priests who had been denied the normal and natural outlet for sex in marriage that the Protestants and the Orthodox allow as consonant with Holy Scripture.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Dr. Willingham,

      The doctrine of infallibility does not state that the pope or bishops are “kept from sin.” Rather, that they are protected from error in their teachings on faith and morals.

    2. Gary says:

      Dr. W, you do realize that there is a third (really first) branch of Christianity, in which one is not left with being their own interpreter (Protestants), but also doesn’t have to embrace the bad things you mentioned above that have plagued the Catholic church?

      1. Devin Rose says:

        Gary, are you Orthodox?

  32. Wow! What a neat way to evade and avoid responsibility while misleading millions with claims of infallibility without checks and balances. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Too bad, the Pope never read the Bible with a view to determining what it really has to say about politics as well as religion – when it is allowed to speak for itself.

  33. Jason says:

    Dr. Willingham, this is just an observation from the bleachers, but your tone doesn’t seem very charitable, and somewhat inconsistent with what one would expect of a person educated enough to be a ‘doctor,’ certainly inconsistent with someone sincerely seeking the truth in these matters, or who wants a thoughtful, fair dialogue.
    Just a thought.

  34. Brian says:

    Dr. James Willingham,

    It seems that you have supported the Catholic notion that Sola Scriptura reduces to Solo Scriptura. For how could you follow any fallible, sinful, Protestant authority when one can find gross abuses in Protestantism as well. Protestants have to endure similar emotional outbursts from non-believers as it relates to organized Protestant religion.

    Since no tradition in the history of the church has come about through sinless human beings, how can you trust tradition at all? Therefore, it seems like in practice your thought process leads to a version of Solo Scriptura.

  35. Dear sir: The tone was in part deliberate and intended to bring a measure of realization to this discussion. There have been a lot of people suffer due to the depredations of the denomination in question. The case I cited above concerning the friend’s father reminds us of that time, when uncounted multitudes paid with their very lives due to a polarization process on theological ideas. My own denomination has pulled its share of evil in justifying slavery, and the cost in just the number of battlefield casualties alone is rather overwhelming. If we are every going to see change for the better, we must deal with the evils involved. We must, in short, face our own short comings. I had nightmares from reading about the Waldensians and what they suffered. I also had nightmares in viewing photographs of a concentration camp in Germany taken by one of my church members. Additionally, I had nightmares, when I researched the treatment of African Americans in the time of slavery and segregation.

    No one expects us to not respond with some degree of concern over the evils perpetrated by those in power in such situations. And why should we not raise some exasperating questions about the application of one-sided religious ideas (which is what Rome has done)? If you want to know where things lead without adequate checks and balances, then you must look at the results of one sided implementations. I remember after all of my researches in church history, I came to the conclusion that much of what I had discovered suggested an explanation for insanity. I discussed my findings with a chairman of a Pscyhology Dept. at a state University. He said, “I am doing research on the matter of insanit and ideas right now. I want you to come and do your M.A. and Ph.D. under me.” I turned him down at the time as I already had two masters, a sorry mistake as my wife warned me at the time.

    Religious ideas like any other ideas can be make a person balanced, flexible, creative, enduring, and magnetic. In short, truths rightly received and implemented can make a mature, attractive, winsome person and church. Wrong received, wrongly applied, they can make an institution and the people in it destrucive and deadly. My doctorate is merely a doctor of ministry on the subject, “Christian Love & Race Relations.” I also wrote a Prospectus for a Doctoral Dissertation in BHlack History at Columbia Unviersity on the Baptist & Slavery which would have established that Blacks received and implemented the Christian Faith and became sterling examples of the Christian Faith.

    Years later, I discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had learned that Arnold Toynbee, the famous Historian of Great Britain, had declared that Western Civilization might experience renewal through the African Americans. Later, I learned that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was inspired to do what he did by the examples of the Negro Spirituals and the African Americans simple adherence to the Bible. While his commitment was, undoubtedly, of a highly sophisticated order, there can be no doubt that he wasmoved by what he learned and garnered from Black Americans during his time in America. Without knowing that, I delivered a lecture in an Afternoon lecture series in the Summer of ’71 on the subject, “The Stanley Elkins Thesis: A Critique.” Dr. Elkins argued that slavery produced Uncle Toms and Black Sambos. My answer was that the character, for example, of Black Sambos was simply a hoodwinking of white masters. However, the real proof that the Blacks in slavery produced some of the greatest examples of Christianity was found in the creative work that they expressed in their justly famous Negro Spirituals which were received in Europe in the latter part of the 1800s.

    If I have seemed offensive, imagine how my friend felt about what happened to her father in the Iron Maiden. We must remember also the failure on the part of Protestants and Baptists as well as the Pope and the Catholics, because people have paid terrible prices in suffering and deprivation…even to the point of death. The one thing that bothers me about the New Atheists (I was once a professing, practicing Atheist) is the millions who paid and/or still pay so dearly in Russia and China due to atheistic rulers.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Dr. Willingham,

      Catholics fully admit that members of the Catholic Church have done horrible things over the centuries. Of course, many more have done heroic and virtuous and faithful things, but that does not erase the evils done.

      Pope John Paul II in the year 2000 even went so far as to make a broad appeal for forgiveness for the sins of Catholics over the years.

      The fact is, whether it is a Catholic or Baptist or some other Christian who commits evil actions, they are violating the teachings of Christ (and their particular Church or community as well).

      Checks and balances are certainly important, and Pope Benedict and the bishops of the Catholic Church have instituted broad reforms and strict guidelines to prevent future abuse and to find out the abusers. The sad fact is that the guidelines in place over the past decades were not followed, but instead often ignored. That is changing now.

      God bless.

  36. Gary says:

    Justin, regarding Scripture being the Sole authority vs. the Final authority, you may be correct in stating that it is the Final and not the Sole authority. However, my experience of being in the church for decades tells me that most people wouldn’t agree with you. Now, I may be wrong in that assessment but maybe I’m not. It just seems like so many times I’ve expressed a thought about something, only to always hear back “show me the verse for that.” If you are correct though, then it seems to me that the church has a lot of educating of its people that needs to be done.

    But, my next question to you is much more important. If, as you say, we are willing to look to certain authority figures for interpretation, then why stop with Calvin and Luther, and why not go back to those who learned directly from the apostles? Why not follow in the tradition of men like Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Polycarp, etc. ?

    But,

  37. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “It baffles me that you seem to be OK being part of a church that you affirm teaches some falsities (tell me if I misunderstood you.) That seems to contradict Jesus’ confirmation that he would lead the Church into all truth. And so if he would lead a church into all truth–whichever church that was–why would you settle by being a part of an incomplete distortion?”

    Even if (arguendo) we accept the claims of Rome, the Roman church teaches some falsities. The ordinary magisterium is the normal organ of teaching in the Roman church. The ordinary magisterium is generally fallible. Catholicism offers no infallible list of infallible papal statements. Theologians have to sift through ecumenical councils to determine which statements are fallible and which statements are infallible.

    So even if we accept the claims of Rome for the sake of argument, that doesn’t solve the problem you proposed.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      Your statements misportray the Catholic Church. Though I don’t plan to go into many more comments with you, for the benefit of others here I will respond to your claims.

      The impossibility of women’s ordination and the Church’s teachings against contraception are two examples of the ordinary and universal Magisterium’s infallibility. Various tenets of the Apostles’ Creed and also other moral issues fall under the same category.

      God protects the Church from error on faith and morals. Sometimes doctrines in question, taught by the ordinary Magisterium, take a long time to become dogma (or never do). The Trinity was not dogmatically held until the exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium in the ecumenical councils of the fourth century. But that 1) doesn’t mean that the Trinity wasn’t true up to then nor that 2) the Church didn’t teach that the Trinity was true.

      Perhaps Arius would have made the same argument that you do and claimed, prior to 325 AD, that the ordinary Magisterium is fallible and thus can be ignored or be contradicted. Indeed that is basically what he did, causing the Arian crisis that led to the first council of Nicaea.

      Regarding the list of infallible teachings, this is a common cry uttered by (certain) Protestant apologists. In practice this issue is a non-issue. It’s easy to know what the Church teaches. You may not like it: masturbation is sinful, contraception is wrong, women cannot be ordained, homosexual acts are wrong, etc. etc., but the teachings themselves are clear.

      If someone is really interested, they can check out Ott’s book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

      God bless.

  38. Someone remarked about a third branch or group. I suppose they meant the Orthodox who also resorted to persecution. Think of the paulicians who took it on the chin from the orthodox. and even to this day, Baptists labor under some difficulties in orthodox countries. And yet I remember an Orthodox priest in one of my classes at SEBTS (think it was a doctor of ministry class). As to the interpreters and traditions, the first and foremost Interpreter of Scripture is God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, and the rightful nature of His leadership in the matter is that brethren of like mind soon evince a unity that marks their assemblies….After all, they are all equals in the assembly of the saints. And why should I want to submit my neck to any man-made authority such as a pope, a church council, or any other such man-made authorities. While I am neither the world’s worst nor the world’s best interpreter of Holy Scripture, I do have enough sense to submit to what seems clearly to be the Holy Spirit’s leadership in a matter of faith and practice. The guidance He gives to others can serve as a corrective to a total subjectivism. I am also motivated by the sense of God’s Sovereignty in that He will call me to an account for every word and idea…and that moves me to care.

    Besides, it is interesting to observe how well our predecessors and ancestors built in this nation the freedoms we so cherish thought they are now beginning to vanish with the rise of new scularists and atheists and the dumping of the biblical backgrounds for our founding documents.

  39. steve hays says:

    For a counterbalance to Devin’s crude, fideistic understanding of magisterial teaching, see my review of Dulles:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/08/magisterial-cat-and-mouse-game.html

    And, no, the magisterium is not sufficient to disprove Arius. That can only be determined by sound exegesis, not a deus ex machina.

  40. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose August 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm
    Steve,

    Your statements misportray the Catholic Church. Though I don’t plan to go into many more comments with you, for the benefit of others here I will respond to your claims.

    The impossibility of women’s ordination and the Church’s teachings against contraception are two examples of the ordinary and universal Magisterium’s infallibility. Various tenets of the Apostles’ Creed and also other moral issues fall under the same category.

    God protects the Church from error on faith and morals. Sometimes doctrines in question, taught by the ordinary Magisterium, take a long time to become dogma (or never do). The Trinity was not dogmatically held until the exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium in the ecumenical councils of the fourth century. But that 1) doesn’t mean that the Trinity wasn’t true up to then nor that 2) the Church didn’t teach that the Trinity was true.

    Perhaps Arius would have made the same argument that you do and claimed, prior to 325 AD, that the ordinary Magisterium is fallible and thus can be ignored or be contradicted. Indeed that is basically what he did, causing the Arian crisis that led to the first council of Nicaea.

    “Regarding the list of infallible teachings, this is a common cry uttered by (certain) Protestant apologists. In practice this issue is a non-issue. It’s easy to know what the Church teaches. You may not like it: masturbation is sinful, contraception is wrong, women cannot be ordained, homosexual acts are wrong, etc. etc., but the teachings themselves are clear.”

    Notice the bait-n-switch. The question at issue is not whether you can know what the Roman church teaches, but whether you can sift the fallible from the infallible teachings.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      You imply I’m trying to trick people. I am not. By all means, direct people to your blog so they can read your posts. But be aware that your polemical tone and the offensive content of many of your posts have driven away more than one of my Protestant friends, including a pastor. People are repulsed by the vitriol.

      Does it take discernment to know which teachings are infallible? Sometimes. Usually it’s clear. But sometimes with the ordinary and universal Magisterium, it takes some exploration, for the simple fact that the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium requires the following:

      “Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held [Lumen Gentium 25].”

      Indeed, in the early Church, this is the most common way truth was taught. Note for example that the first ecumenical council was not until 325 AD. Yet, the Apostles and then their successors (men like Timothy, and Titus, and Clement, and Ignatius, and Irenaeus) spread the one faith across the known world, teaching the one truth of Christ, as many of these early Christians testify to.

      Had Steve asked his question to Irenaeus, no doubt that great saint would have informed him to look to the teachings of the successors of the Apostles, the preservers of the Apostolic Tradition, in agreement with the church of Rome, founded by Peter and Paul.

      Steve left out my direct reference to Ott’s book on how to know the theological certainties of different doctrines, which you can read more about here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_dogma#Theological_certainties

      As I said before, this is a non-issue, trumped up by those who despise the Catholic Church to try to insinuate fear, uncertainty, and doubt into the minds of those Christians exploring Catholicism’s claims.

  41. Accusations are not advisable, but honesty in and of perceptions is. The gentlemen above can easily refer to the history of both Protestants and Catholics for many instances of blatant short comings. We are all wanting, when it comes to commitment to Christ and His teachings. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that that one can criticize either one group or the other without being necessarily prejudicial. It is remarkable as to how much we do agree upon as well as the amount about which we disagree. I have generally made it a practice to look at others’ presentations in order to understand where they are coming from. And I did look at Steve’s blog and found the particular item I read to be generally acceptable. Let us be blunt: We are not at all persuaded as to the pope’s right let alone his claim to infallibility. We are also aware of infiltrations, manipulations, polarizations, and etc. which creates real problems for those who are truly interested in advancing the cause of Christ.

    As to the sin of homosexuality, for example, that it is wrong, it is obvious, but the problem is exacerbated by a studied commitment to celibacy. While sexual sins know no boundaries today, due in part to pornography as well as fallen human nature, the Roman Catholic priesthood seems more than ordinarily troubled by the problem. The reports in the news, books, and other media tells us that serious problems have arisen.

    What we need is another Great Awakening, one for which I have been praying since 1973. Revivals and Awakenings at their best are noted for the elevation of the communities in which they occur. A decline in crime statistics and other difficulties in society are indicative of the beenfits.

  42. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “By all means, direct people to your blog so they can read your posts. But be aware that your polemical tone and the offensive content of many of your posts have driven away more than one of my Protestant friends, including a pastor. People are repulsed by the vitriol. “

    That’s a lovely exercise in well-poisoning on your part. BTW, do you apply the same reasoning to the text of “Exsurge Domine”?

    “Does it take discernment to know which teachings are infallible? Sometimes. Usually it’s clear.”

    Notice that Devin makes the Catholic layman the “final interpretive authority” regarding what is and isn’t the infallible teaching of the Roman church. For the Roman church hasn’t issued an infallible list of infallible teachings. It’s up to individual laymen to sort that out on their own.

    Why don’t we take a concrete example. Take the Fourth Lateran Council, for instance. Devin, tell us which conciliar statements are fallible and which are infallible. Perhaps you could do a post on your own blog, where you place them in two columns (under “Fallible” and “Infallible” respectively), then link to it here.

    Likewise, why don’t you run through the some papal encyclicals–say, Leo XIII through Benedict XVI–highlighting which statements in which encyclicals by which popes are infallible and which are fallible. Perhaps you could produce a color-coded edition. Red lettering for the infallible statements, and black lettering for the fallible statements.

    “But sometimes with the ordinary and universal Magisterium, it takes some exploration, for the simple fact that the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium requires the following…”

    By the criteria set forth in Lumen Gentium, we’d expect the traditional teaching on capital punishment to be infallible, yet the magisterium has done a 180 on that issue late in the 20C:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/catholicism-amp-capital-punishment-21

    “Had Steve asked his question to Irenaeus, no doubt that great saint would have informed him to look to the teachings of the successors of the Apostles, the preservers of the Apostolic Tradition, in agreement with the church of Rome, founded by Peter and Paul.”

    That begs the question of whether apostolic tradition is, in fact, preserved over the course of the centuries.

    “As I said before, this is a non-issue, trumped up by those who despise the Catholic Church to try to insinuate fear, uncertainty, and doubt into the minds of those Christians exploring Catholicism’s claims.”

    It’s funny that Devin deplores a “polemical tone,” then resorts to a polemical tone in his parting shot.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      I had left you with the last word, but a Protestant reader of this blog emailed me privately and asked that I respond, as he has been benefitting from our conversation. So I’ll chime in at least this one time.

      If I came across as polemical by using words like “trumped up” and “despise,” I apologize. Though I am curious: do you or do you not despise the Catholic Church?

      “Notice that Devin makes the Catholic layman the “final interpretive authority” regarding what is and isn’t the infallible teaching of the Roman church. For the Roman church hasn’t issued an infallible list of infallible teachings. It’s up to individual laymen to sort that out on their own.”

      False. For the sake of Protestant readers here, let me explain where Steve goes wrong. The Catholic Church has a living Magisterium, or teaching authority, that can continually listen to questions and problems and confusions about the Church’s teachings and then respond to them, clarifying the issue at hand. This is an ongoing process. It is like having a living witness up on the stand: you can ask them questions, ask them to explain things, follow-up with more questions, etc.

      You cannot do that with the Bible, and indeed, God did not intend the Bible for that; He intended His Church’s rightful leaders–the Apostles and then their successors–to serve that function, making use of course of the Bible and of the Apostolic Tradition.

      So, for instance, I don’t lay awake at night trying to figure out which statements from the X Lateran council are infallible. I can and do rely on the Church to make her teachings clear, which she does.

      Good examples of this abound throughout the Church’s history: from Christology to women’s ordination to moral issues like contraception.

      This question itself, while seeming to be a strong argument against the Catholic Church, actually misunderstands the Church and the way she works. A Protestant friend of mine one time challenged me similarly and demanded that I show him the Vatican’s secret book containing the infallible interpretation of every verse in the Bible.

      That doesn’t exist of course, anymore than does the Vatican’s super-computer with the name of every Protestant that it plans to “persecute” (ala Protestant tract-maker-extraordinaire Jack Chick).

      But why doesn’t it? For the same reason as I just mentioned: the Church’s Magisterium is a living teaching authority. Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the rightful leaders of the Church “into all truth,” and of course the challenges and heresies the Church would face in the year 400 or 800 or 2011 AD could not be foreseen by the Apostles, and did not need to be, for God has continued to guide His Church in every age.

      Steve also claimed that the pope does not believe God protects the Church from error. “Sure about that? Your own pope doesn’t seem to share your confidence in that regard…”

      I don’t have the book in front of me that the pope was quoted in, so I don’t know the full context, but even just by reading the First Things article that Steve linked to–and not simply cherry-picking a single line from it–you can see that Steve’s claim is false.

      For example:

      “In 1975 Ratzinger wrote an article, on the tenth anniversary of the close of Vatican II, in which he differed from the progressives who wanted to go beyond the council and from the conservatives who wanted to retreat behind the council. The only viable course, he contended, was to interpret Vatican II in strictest continuity with previous councils such as Trent and Vatican I, since all three councils are upheld by the same authority: that of the pope and the college of bishops in communion with him.”

      There are other similar quotes in the article. That being said, it should be understood that:

      “Since only God is infallible by nature, infallibility is a divine gift to the Church that nobody deserves or can attain by their own efforts. Such a gift is also negative rather than positive: it does not entail that the irreformable pronouncements of the Magisterium are divinely inspired, or opportune, or even particularly well-formulated; it entails only that the Magisterium will never bind the Church definitively to a statement that is false.” (–Dr. Michael Liccione)

      The bishops of Christ’s Church often wrangle in councils over the precise language to be used in the documents produced. They try to capture in the clearest way they can the teachings they are spelling out. But sometimes this language isn’t particularly well-formulated. It could even be misinterpreted by some people, which is what Ratzinger/Benedict is complaining of here. Indeed, the entire point of the First Things article is that Ratzinger has changed his views on the merits of the particular documents of Vatican II over the decades and that his main purpose–which he has made clear again and again as Pope–is to help in the proper implementation (or interpretation) of the Council, after many people have (usually deliberately) misapplied it

      But this is all okay. Why? Because the Church is a living authority. She can and has clarified various aspects of her teachings, including those in Vatican II. For example, Benedict recently broadened the ability for priests to celebrate the Latin Mass, something which (unfortunately) fell out of favor after Vatican II due to misapplication.

      Benedict is actually quite careful about making clear when papal infallibility is being employed: he has written two books about Jesus–I’d recommend them to anyone, including Steve–that he expressly wrote as a private theologian and not as a magisterial papal work.

      Steve wrote: “That begs the question of whether apostolic tradition is, in fact, preserved over the course of the centuries.”

      Do you think it is and has been preserved? If not, in which decade or century did the Apostolic Tradition become corrupted and therefore untrustworthy?

      God bless.

  43. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “God protects the Church from error on faith and morals.”

    Sure about that? Your own pope doesn’t seem to share your confidence in that regard:

    “The treatment of free will in article 17 is in his judgment ‘downright Pelagian.’”

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/from-ratzinger-to-benedict—17

  44. Mr. Rose certainly has a polemical and offensive sound to his remarks. So I read one of Mr. Hays postings. It was not distasteful as Mr. Rose suggested. And there are comments by Mr. Rose in this column which are little short of the charge he lays against Mr. Hays. The exegetical basis for much of the Romanist position will not stand up to a close scrutiny. Peter as a stone is understandable or his profession as such, but as a rock? The comparison of the apostles as equals in the foundation of the church certainly supports the position of equality among the Apostles, and Paul’s rebuke of Peter surely reflects that reality. As to the early church fathers, they made their share of goofs just like we do and just like Rome does even to this day. After all, I will not likely forget reading in a newspaper (I think it was in 1984 in New Orleans) that Luther was not wrong in his doctrine of Justification by Faith alone. Amazing change. And then for Romanist priests, so I have read but cannot speak for the accuracy of the same, to fall on their faces before Waldensian Barbes in Italy and beg their forgiveness for the manifold sins of Catholicism in persecuting their forbearers is astounding. Had the Pope done so, it might have had even more meaning, if that is what happened.

  45. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Perhaps Arius would have made the same argument that you do and claimed, prior to 325 AD, that the ordinary Magisterium is fallible and thus can be ignored or be contradicted. Indeed that is basically what he did, causing the Arian crisis that led to the first council of Nicaea.”

    Since I’m the one, not you, who’s been defending the deity of Christ against Dale Tuggy, it would behoove you to avoid the chicken-hawk bravado.

  46. Desperation seems to drive Mr. Rose’s foregoing comment. This hardly comports with the more equitable aim of recognizing and receiving the truth as it is. Seems to me, it would be better to close this blog. Rather than attribute any more than a sense of unease in the face of facts that one’s approach cannot handle with aplomb, it is more desirable to end the discussion until a more opportune time.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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