Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pope Damasus and the Canon of Scripture (Part One)

I’ve been curiously stopping by the blog, Crossed the Tiber (run by a person named “Tiber Jumper”). I guess in terms of “blog-marketing,” this blog title catches my interest, as I am a regular “blog-consumer” so to speak. I was interested by the entry, St. Damasus and the Canon of Scripture. This entry asserts:

“It was at the Council of Rome in 382 that St. Pope Damasus decreed the final canon of Scripture. Often, it is said that the Council of Trent codified the canon of Scripture after the reformation, but the evidence points to this early council as the when the canon was finalized. The Council of Trent reiterated the canon in a response to the reformer's revision of the historic canon.”

The canon as allegedly defined by Damasus includes the apocryphal books, so it's important for Catholics that the statement from this early Pope be used as historical proof for the Bible they claim their Church has infallibly defined. As usual, my questions and critique focuses on the consistency of Roman Catholic paradigms, and the certainty Roman Catholics claim to have. And as usual, upon closer scrutiny, it will be shown the distinct position held by the Catholic writer above on the canon is not consistent, nor does the historical record provide any certainty for the beliefs espoused above. The historical record is important in Catholicism, because the claim made by the current batch of Catholic apologists is that Rome provides “certainty”.

1. The Council of Rome was not an Ecumenical Council
First of all, Roman Catholics are supposed to believe that Concilliar statements which bind all Christians are those put forth by Ecumenical Councils. The Catholic Encyclopedia points out: “Ecumenical Councils are those to which the bishops, and others entitled to vote, are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) under the presidency of the pope or his legates, and the decrees of which, having received papal confirmation, bind all Christians.” Was the Council of Rome an Ecumenical Council? No it was not. It was a local council. Were the decrees issues by this council then infallible binding pronouncements for the universal church? No. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “….only the decisions of ecumenical councils and the ex cathedra teaching of the pope have been treated as strictly definitive in the canonical sense, and the function of the magisterium ordinarium has been concerned with the effective promulgation and maintenance of what has been formally defined by the magisterium solemne or may be legitimately deduced from its definitions.” So, in terms of the council of Rome being a binding council for all Christians, it was not. Here we find that whatever was said at the Council of Rome cannot bind all Christians. Whatever was said at the Council of Rome can provide no certainty for a Roman Catholic. Hence, it cannot be true, in a consistent Roman Catholic paradigm, that the Council of Rome infallibly decreed the final Canon.

2. Did Pope Damasus Speak Infallibly at the Council of Rome?
But the Pope was at the Council of Rome, was he not? Doesn’t this mean what he said at this local council binds the universal church? In the decree on the Canon, Damasus is reported as saying:

“…the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Here we can infer that the statement on the Canon issued by Damasus is infallible because the Roman Church and Pope speak infallibly. But here is a rarely cited fact by the defenders of Rome. The statement above, and indeed, the entire statement from Damasus listing the Canonical books, probably didn’t come from Damasus. F.F. Bruce notes,

What is commonly called the Gelasian decree on books which are to be received and not received takes its name from Pope Gelasius (492-496). It gives a list of biblical books as they appeared in the Vulgate, with the Apocrypha interspersed among the others. In some manuscripts, indeed, it is attributed to Pope Damasus, as though it had been promulgated by him at the Council of Rome in 382. But actually it appears to have been a private compilation drawn up somewhere in Italy in the early sixth century. (Source: F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988], p. 97)

So this statement from Damasus didn’t actually come from Damasus. In fact, as far as I know, there isn’t a written formal record of the proceedings at the Council of Rome to have certainty exactly what was said or decreed. Much historical speculation then surrounds the decree of the Canon by Damasus. The bottom line though, is that Roman Catholics cannot have any certainty on the accuracy of this statement. Of course, they are free to believe it, but they do so on faith, not on historical verification. Thus to be deep in history, is not to be certain that the Roman Catholic Church infallibly defined the Canon in 382.

-continued-

76 comments:

johnMark said...

Say it ain't so!

Good post, Jim. I look forward to your next in this series.

>>Mark

how2fish said...

I am glad to see someone answer this guy with much more solid thinking and ability than I could ever muster.

God Bless

Howard

Pope_St_Peter said...

Let's not miss the forest for the trees! There is something more fundamental here that can easily get hidden away.

Retrospectively, we know that it was not immediately obvious to the Church which writings were inspired; it instead took a considerable amount of time for the Church to recognize what writings were inspired. At one point 1 Clement and The Shepherd of Hermas were considered and cited as Scripture, while others such as The Epistle to the Hebrews and The Apocalypse were not.

For the average Catholic, whatever the details of the matter, the fundamental perspective is that, in the end, the Church authoritatively decided. Considering that there was no theophany or christophany, or any other supernatural manifestion from God that settled the matter of the extent of the Sacred Canon - although many Protestants probably wish that it had been settled in a lost history like much of the Old Testament had been - how do Protestants understand, considering that they use the same New Testament, the Church's authoritative recognition?

James Swan said...

JM & Howard-

Thank you.

James Swan said...

Pope-

For the average Catholic, whatever the details of the matter, the fundamental perspective is that, in the end, the Church authoritatively decided.

Agreed. However, I've been around the block on this topic a few times now. For some reason, the fact that Trent authoritatively decreed the canon, and previous to that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books (about their belonging to the canon) is rarely admitted by those holding to the Roman Catholic position.

I will be delving into this further in the next blog entry, and the implications this point makes.

how do Protestants understand, considering that they use the same New Testament, the Church's authoritative recognition?

This is an excellent question, and last month I spent the time researching this so I could present it on the blog. What i find most interesting, is that most Catholics have no idea what the Protestant answer is to this question. Obviously, the church plays some role in the Canon. Obviously, history plays some role in the canon, obviously God's sovereignty and purpose play some role in the Canon, and obviously the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God's people plays some role in the collection of the canon. It is the explanation of these points that provide the answer to the question. Of course, this answer will be a lot more complicated than saying, "The Church authoritatively decided". But, the answer will be much more appealing, particulalry to those who see that the RCC paradigm is based on a circular argument:

To argue that the Church must infallibly define the canon is to simply say something is proven because the church "says so". Catholics argue that the canon was settled by an infallible pronouncement from the Roman Catholic Church. When asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, they answer that it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. Hence, the Roman Catholic uses a circular argument: they prove the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures.

Anonymous said...

James,

Merry Christmas to you.
I often visit here but seldom have a chance to comment. I don't know how you have found the time to do all of this wonderful work but I thank you for it.

John Welch aka CommanMan

how2fish said...

"I will be delving into this further in the next blog entry, and the implications this point makes."

This is in reference to which books ought to be in the canon.

I have been asked this by Theo on Tiber's Blog many times. I try to keep challenging his assumptions in order to get him to recognize the inherent problem of his epistemology as you clearly articulated.

Hopefully how you answer the question may be more satisfying than the answer I have attempted to give him. As you stated, the answer is just a little more complex, but I agree it should be more edifying.

Look forward to more of your Blogs.

God Bless

Howard

Pope_St_Peter said...

JW,

I apologize if I'm bringin up an old issue. I came across your blog for the first time last night, and that was the question I had after reading your post.

Part of your argument against Catholics is that "there [was a] doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books" prior to Trent.

Prior to the Early Church's definitive acceptance of what we call the Canon, there "was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books (about their belonging to the canon)." This lack of certainty lasted for hundreds of years. As I mentioned in my last post, 1 Clement and The Shepderd of Hermas were considered Scripture by some, while The Epistle to the Hebrews and The Apocalypse were not. There were, of course, many more such cases.

Was the Bride of Christ without the inscripturated Voice of God during this time? I'm inclined to think that your answer is, "No." If it is, then the same epistemological hermeneutic that you use in order to get by this historical processes of ecclesiastical discernment for Protestants' sake, is the same one you must use to allow for Catholics' sake.

To put it another way, Protestants seem to be in the same boat, so to speak.

There is a clearly perceived recognition of ecclesiastical authority from the time of the Apostles to the time of the definitive acceptance of the Canon. St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch are both witnesses to this recognized authority. Consider St. Clement's words:

"The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus the Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the apostles are from Christ. Both, therefore, came of the will of God in good order. Having therefore received their orders and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and full of faith in the Word of God, they went forth with the firm assurance that the Holy Spirit gives, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was about to come. So, preaching both in the country and in the towns, they appointed their first fruits, when they had tested them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for the future believers. . ."

It is interesting that at this point St. Clement goes on to use Moses and Aaron as lengthy examples of God's will for successors. The Apostles, St. Clement says, had this same prophetic knowledge of God's will for successors. He then contines:

"Our apostles . . appointed the officials mentioned earlier and afterwards gave the offices a permanent character; that is, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." [1 Clement, 42, 44; The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Edited and Revised by (Baptist scholar) Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker 1999), pp. 75, 77.]

It was this ecclesiastical authority that governed the Church and discerned the canonical writings, thereby definitively shaping all of Christendom. As we see with St. Clement, it had been believed that this authority went back to the Apostles, for no other authority could've performed this task. In fact, can you give proof that this authority was thought to be merely human? That these leaders who shaped the "conscience of the Church" (by shaping the Canon) were part of a human development? Or are you going to argue that there was no recognized authority, that during this time it was every Christian community for itself?

After the canon was set the Church now had infallible confirmation of what the early witnessess had already believed. To accuse the Church of "circular reasoning," which you say is proving "the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures," is to charge the Church with forming the canon with an agenda!

FM483 said...

In response to the pope:

The Mormons engage in circular reasoning in a similar manner as the Roman Catholic Church(RCC) does: the Mormons appeal to their living “prophet” and”70 elders” and extrabiblical writings(Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price,Doctrine & Covenants) which are officially “infallibly” interpreted by their leaders. The RCC appeals to the “vicar of Christ”, the pope, and the RCC “magesterium” as the only infallible interpreters of the Word of God. Both the Mormon church and the Roman church engage in circular reasoning in order to substantiate that each one is the true church.Notice that each one appeals to extrabiblical sources and circular reasoning in making their respective claims! Whenever anything is added to the Gospel as revealed in Holy Scripture, the inevitable result is a syncretic agglomeration which distorts the beauty and purity of the message.

Roman apologists are highly critical of the Protestant claims of the importance of private judgment and the Holy Spirit enlightening the minds and hearts of individuals, except when it comes to the choice of a person to join the RCC. Here we have a contradiction: if it required the RCC to decide which books were part of the Canon and this required “infallibility” on the part of the RCC in doing so, how can a fallible sinful human being possibly make the “correct” choice in joining the RCC? Even a superficial study of church history will show how the church was never infallible in it’s selection of the texts to be included in the Canon. The writings of Paul and other books which were commonly read in services by the majority of believers gradually became officially endorsed as Scripture, along with those books handed down through the Jews, known as the Old Testament. There was no miraculous or infallibility on the part of church leaders in making their selection, but rather human reason and commonsense was used. The Council of Trent never made the official determination of the Canon, for these books had always been read and believed to be the voice of God speaking. The COT merely announced what the true Church of Christ had known all along, with the exception of including the apocryphal writings as inspired, which the Jews never did throughout their history, nor did Jesus ever endorse them as Scripture! The criteria for inclusion was straightforward, for example: whether the writing was always believed to be from the hand of an apostle and stated as such; whether the majority of churches had read such letters down through the ages; whether Jesus Christ and His perfect life, death, and resurrection for the reconciliation of God and mankind(the GOSPEL) was the centerpiece and primary message of the writing.

It is easy to demonstrate that the Roman church cannot possibly exercise any kind of “infallibility” with respect to Scripture – it cannot be the rule of faith. The Roman church has shifted dramatically from it’s position of “no salvation outside the church” to what the current catechism of the RCC maintains that there is the real possibility of salvation not only outside the Roman communion, but for any man who lives his life consistent with his conscience(paragraph 847). The pronouncements of the Roman church over the years has resulted in many direct contradictions to Holy Scripture, thus proving it cannot be the rule of faith. The various pronouncements concerning the virgin Mary are but a few of the distortions of these obvious errors and inconsistencies. As I stated in an earlier post, most problems result whenever men fail to hold firmly to the various paradoxes throughout Scripture, attempting to explain the unexplainable to the satisfaction of our fallible and limitedintellects rather than confessing what God says in His Word.

Frank Marron

Pope_St_Peter said...

FM484,

Is it circular reasoning everytime a biblical exegete interprets Scripture?

And if a lot of Christians are interpreting the Bible themselves, then aren't they all engaging in circular reasoning?

And if you have several denominations, isn't it because they all disagree with each other based upon their circular reasoning?

For the Catholic, there are at least two unchallenged premises:

[1.] "Our apostles . . appointed the officials mentioned earlier and afterwards gave the offices a permanent character; that is, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." [1 Clement, 42, 44; The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Edited and Revised by (Baptist scholar) Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker 1999), pp. 75, 77.]

[2.] "The Lord accepted the ointment upon his head [Cf. Matt 26:6-13] for this reason: that he might breathe incorruptibility upon the church"
[Letter to the Ephesians, para. 17; The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Edited and Revised by (Baptist scholar) Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker 1999), p. 147.].

Thus, Catholics do not believe that the "writings of Paul and other books which were commonly read in services by the majority of believers gradually became officially endorsed as Scripture . .[by]. . human reason and commonsense." If "human reason and commonsense" were all that was needed, then we wouldn't need the Holy Spirit! "For it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,' God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:9-10). This is the essence of infallibility: that Noone other than the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church.

Yet you write that a "superficial study" of Spirit's guidance of the Church shows "how the church was never infallible in it’s selection of the texts to be included in the Canon." But where is the proof that this authority was thought to be merely human? That there was a gradual process of "human reason and commonsense"? A superficial study of how the Spirit has guided the Church will show that there was a clear recognition of ecclesiastical authority from the time of the Apostles to the time of the definitive acceptance of the Canon.

Howard Fisher said...

"Is it circular reasoning everytime a biblical exegete interprets Scripture?"

It would be if he claimed infallibility in the manner Rome does.

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Fisher, is your position that because no Protestant exegetes claim infallibility, then there is no infallible understanding of God's truth?

James Swan said...

John (aka "Commonman")-

It's great to hear from you- If you ever wish to contribute an article to this blog, I would be honored.

Blessings to you!
JS

James Swan said...

Howard:

I have been asked this by Theo on Tiber's Blog many times. I try to keep challenging his assumptions in order to get him to recognize the inherent problem of his epistemology as you clearly articulated.

The easiest of all answers accepted is the one put forth by those who have "crossed the tiber": The Church simply infallibly declares the Canon...problem solved.

The irony I find is that many of the same folks will attack sola fide, and present arguments on how complicated understanding Justification is. Our belief in Monergism, i.e., that God declares infallibly that you are forgiven based solely on Christ's work is the height of foolishness.

But then, these same people come to the Canon of sacred scripture, and it's as simple as saying, "The Church infalibly declared the Canon"... or apply this to any other argument...."The Church has declared x or y".

Try asking such a person a question like, "what criteria was used by Trent or Damasus to determine Canonicity?" What? The answer is simply something like, "Well, the Holy Spirit directed these men (or counsels) as to which books were to be in the Canon." The question then asked should be, "how?"

Even in this discussion, Let's assume Damasus did actually put forth a list of canonical books- on what basis did Damasus "declare" the Canon? What process did he use?

Hopefully how you answer the question may be more satisfying than the answer I have attempted to give him. As you stated, the answer is just a little more complex, but I agree it should be more edifying.

People do not primarily arrive where they do based on reason. They arrive where they do based on emotion, then they put forth a logic trying to justify it. This is true for non-Catholics as well. For instance, I don't think i've ever met a person face-to-face who studied all the evidence for Christianity and then decided to become "a Christian." No, people become Christians because something happens to them- God puts them in situation x and they cry out for God as he reveals to them their own sin and creates faith in their heart.

That being said, when the Roman Catholic claims "certainty" we have every right to challenge this and make them prove it. If they do have "certainty", they should be able to provide rational argumentation to substantiate it. Unfortunately, their arguments a bit more P.T. Barnum than W.V. Quine.

James Swan said...

Pope-

To put it another way, Protestants seem to be in the same boat, so to speak.


Your comments have provoked me (in a good way) to keep part 2 of this entry on Damasus on the back burner till I take a close look at your comments. Just briefly though-

Can you explain to me how an RC can have "certainty" if they are in the "same boat" as those they claim cannot have "certainty"?

James Swan said...

To all:

This weekend i'm switching Internet providers- I'm going high speed, and our phone lines will be switched over to cable as well. The installers are coming on Dec. 23-

I'm not sure if everything is going to work, so I may be computer-less this weekend. And, no I haven't forgotten it's Christmas. I probably won't even look at the computer till next week.

So, to everyone- have a blessed Christmas.

James

FM483 said...

The pope stated:

Is it circular reasoning everytime a biblical exegete interprets Scripture?

And if a lot of Christians are interpreting the Bible themselves, then aren't they all engaging in circular reasoning?

And if you have several denominations, isn't it because they all disagree with each other based upon their circular reasoning?

MY RESPONSE:

Both Mormons and RCs engage in circular reasoning by first claiming they are each the one, true church and infallible interpreters in matters of faith and morals. Second, they each point to their official sacred writings and claim they alone are the correct interpreters of these writings because they alone are infallible interpreters on matters of faith and morals. They continually point to their claims to truth and infallibility as the reason why their interpretations of writings are alone correct. This is circular reasoning:I amcorrect because I alone am correct. It is absurd and shallow thinking at best A Lutheran maintains he is correct in his beliefs, as summarized in the Book of Concord, because the Word of God validates his confessions, not his church. A Lutheran continually challenges anyone to show why and where in Scripture any belief he holds is incorrect. Upon it’s publication in 1580,the Book of Concord has never been successfully criticized based upon the bible. The Roman church has always failed in this endeavor, always finding it necessary to utilize extrabiblical sources and claims to criticize the BOC. On the other hand, the famous Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz produced a devastating critique of the Council of Trent in his “Examination of the Council of Trent”, based upon the Word of God and church history. In summary, the RCC engages in “sola ecclesia” – the church is the foundation and basis for all truth and knowledge. The Lutheran and most protestants maintain “sola scriptura” – only God is infallible and the basis for discerning truth from lies. A Lutheran doesn’t claim infallibility but instead maintains he is correct based upon the Word of God and challenges anyone else to prove otherwise based upon the Word of God.. A big difference! Anticipating your next question/comment, a Lutheran believes that although all Scripture is perspicuous and complete in matters of salvation(2Tim 3:16), he also believes that the primary reason for disagreements and misunderstandings between Christians with respect to Holy Writ is due to sin, an inescapable fact of life this side of eternity. It is simply amazing and obviously the work of the Holy Spirit that most Christians hold so much in common as they do with respect to core biblical doctrines on Christ, sin, death, and salvation.

James Swan stated:

People do not primarily arrive where they do based on reason. They arrive where they do based on emotion, then they put forth a logic trying to justify it. This is true for non-Catholics as well. For instance, I don't think i've ever met a person face-to-face who studied all the evidence for Christianity and then decided to become "a Christian." No, people become Christians because something happens to them- God puts them in situation x and they cry out for God as he reveals to them their own sin and creates faith in their heart.”

MY RESPONSE:

Your last sentence is biblically correct based upon Romans 10:17. The Holy Spirit miraculously creates faith in a person’s heart through simply reading or hearing the Gospel message! This makes absolutely no sense to an unbeliever, who insists on human logis and reason for believing anything. Christianity makes little commonsense to unbelievers because it is so paradozical in it’s truth claims.


Frank Marron

Tiber Jumper said...

James,
I want to wish you and yours a blessed Christmas! We may differ much about most aspects of theology, but we can both agree to rejoice in the most blessed event of history. God becoming man for our salvation.
God bless
TJ

James Swan said...

Tiber Jumper-

Please note that I have nothing personal against you. Nor do I have anything personal against any Catholic apologist. In fact, i'm sure you and I could talk music for hours. I play guitar, bass, and for about the last 10 years I have dabbled on the Chapman Stick.

But, when you "crossed the Tiber" I think you made a grave mistake. I don't know your heart, or where you stand on the Gospel, but I do know that your understanding of Damasus declaring the Canon is a faith claim, rather than a historical claim.

I do realize that even historical "certainty" is never devoid of faith. But, in terms of your position on Damasus, you should at least check into what historical information is extant on the Council of Rome. In fact, do a search of the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia. I find it interesting that I couldn't find very much info on the Council of Rome there.

I plan on continuing to look at this in an upcoming blog entry, and I will be addressing your comments from your blog. Well, I hope to do this. I'm switching my entire house (phone & computer) to high speed cable today. I'm doubtful it will be a smooth transition.

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Swan,

I apologize for referring to you as "JW." I really thought those were your initials. I just now realized that they are "JS." My apologies.

I hope you don't mind if I wait until you ponder my posts some more and respond before I attempt to answer your question.

Also, I'm glad I've provoked you in a good way. It is not my intention to come to your blog and start any theological trouble. I consider you and all orthodox Protestants to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, by virtue of their relationship with the Triune God via His definitive revelation of Himself in the Incarnation . . . even if they do not see me the same way.

In Christ and His Bride,
Pope St. Peter

Pope_St_Peter said...

FM484,

I'm not ignoring you. My wife and I have just been very busy finishing up our Christmas shopping, and I'm also preparing for the January term, which starts next Monday.

Something to think about, though. The Book of Concord will never be proven wrong in the eyes of a Lutheran. Such a challenge is like Robert Sungenis's challenge for anyone to prove his geocentrism wrong, and he would give them $1,000. Of course they are not going to prove him wrong in his eyes! Likewise, the Book of Concord will never proven wrong in your eyes. Why? Because you are biased! You have unchallenged Lutheran presuppositons, i.e., you engage in circular reasoning!

I'm confused as to why Protestants don't see that this argument works against them, and according to James White, any argument that can be used against the proponent is not a useful argument.

James Swan said...

Pope-

Part of your argument against Catholics is that "there [was a] doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books" prior to Trent.

In terms of “argument,” the entire argument is as follows: the paradigm that the Roman Catholic Church infallibly decreed the canon of Scripture, and thus only a person who is Roman Catholic can have “certainty” on which books are canonical, is untrue. Further, the notion that Canonicity is determined by infallible decree by the Roman Catholic Church is untrue.

Prior to the Early Church's definitive acceptance of what we call the Canon, there "was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books (about their belonging to the canon)." This lack of certainty lasted for hundreds of years.

This is generally true. In terms of the apocryphal books, debate within the Roman Catholic Church lasted for quite some time. Previous to the statement by Trent, two traditions existed as to whether or not these books were Canonical. Even at Trent, certain Roman Catholic scholars held they were not canonical. And, as Hubert Jedin (the great Catholic Trent expert) points out, these men represented some of the best scholarship at Trent.

Was the Bride of Christ without the inscripturated Voice of God during this time? I'm inclined to think that your answer is, "No." If it is, then the same epistemological hermeneutic that you use in order to get by this historical processes of ecclesiastical discernment for Protestants' sake, is the same one you must use to allow for Catholics' sake.

Indeed, I would argue that the Scriptures are, have been, and will always be the Word of God with, or without an infallible decree from Rome. I’m not sure how the recent batch of Catholic apologists could ever agree. The recent Catholic “epistemological hermeneutic” is a battle cry against Protestants in regard to “certainty”. Canon arguments about certainty are now rampant, and they are put forth meraciously and with vigor. It is said continually that what makes Scripture, “Scripture” is the stamp of approval by the infallible decree of the Roman Catholic Church. If this is indeed so, the Catholic apologist must answer the question: how was it, that previous to Trent’s infallible decree of the Canon, anyone could be certain as to what was, or was not, Scripture? I hold that for a Roman Catholic to be consistent, he must simply answer, “One could not know, with certainty, what was, or was not, Scripture. This simple question points out that Canon certainty cannot be the result of infallible pronouncement- for even the New Testament writers knew the Psalms were God’s word without an infallible decree. In other words, the Catholic paradigm for certainty fails when applied practically. It might seem like a good answer at first, but if it is not consistent when applied, it should be exposed for being a faulty paradigm.

To put it another way, Protestants seem to be in the same boat, so to speak.

I asked this above: Can you explain to me how a Roman Catholic can have "certainty" if they are in the "same boat" as those they claim cannot have "certainty"? Here again, a Catholic claiming certainty, can’t be consistent if they also hold that Protestants can’t have certainty, and also hold Protestants are in the same “boat”. If we’re in the same boat, we’re both “uncertain” (but note: I am not claiming here Protestants are uncertain).

There is a clearly perceived recognition of ecclesiastical authority from the time of the Apostles to the time of the definitive acceptance of the Canon. St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch are both witnesses to this recognized authority. Consider St. Clement's words:"The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus the Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the apostles are from Christ. Both, therefore, came of the will of God in good order. Having therefore received their orders and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and full of faith in the Word of God, they went forth with the firm assurance that the Holy Spirit gives, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was about to come. So, preaching both in the country and in the towns, they appointed their first fruits, when they had tested them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for the future believers. . ."
It is interesting that at this point St. Clement goes on to use Moses and Aaron as lengthy examples of God's will for successors. The Apostles, St. Clement says, had this same prophetic knowledge of God's will for successors. He then contines:
"Our apostles . . appointed the officials mentioned earlier and afterwards gave the offices a permanent character; that is, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." [1 Clement, 42, 44; The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Edited and Revised by (Baptist scholar) Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker 1999), pp. 75, 77.]


I’m trying to play mind-reader, and discern the implication you are making by your quotation from Clement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re arguing for an infallible Church magesterium, or an infallible papacy, or something like that. I would note, that Clement goes on to point out the qualifications for Church leadership:

“Those therefore, who were appointed by them or, later on, by other reputable men with the consent of the whole church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ blamelessly, humbly, peaceably, and ulselfshly, and for a long time have been well spoken of by all- these men we consider to be unjustly removed from their ministry… For we see that you have removed certain people, their good conduct notwithstanding, from the ministry which had been held in honor by them blamelessly”[1 Clement, 44; The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Edited and Revised by (Baptist scholar) Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker 1999), pp. 79.]

In other words, Clement is chastising the Corinthian Church for removing good people from leadership. He isn’t arguing for an infallible papacy or magisterium. He’s noting the qualifications and history of Church leadership as put down by the apostles, then he’s chastising the Corinthians.

It was this ecclesiastical authority that governed the Church and discerned the canonical writings, thereby definitively shaping all of Christendom. As we see with St. Clement, it had been believed that this authority went back to the Apostles, for no other authority could've performed this task.

I have never denied the role of the Church in recognizing the Canon.

In fact, can you give proof that this authority was thought to be merely human?

Thought by who? Clement? Even in the words of Clement you’ve quoted, one has to read in the idea of an infallible authority passed on generation to generation. In regard to “proof”- have a look at this older blog post I did:

Augustine on the Canon- A look at the claim that the Roman Church infallibly determining the canon at early councils, and how Augustine doesn’t appear to have any notion of an “infallible list”, nor an infallible ability of either himself or a church council.

That these leaders who shaped the "conscience of the Church" (by shaping the Canon) were part of a human development? Or are you going to argue that there was no recognized authority, that during this time it was every Christian community for itself?

I guess you’ll have to wait and see how I argue. Recall above I stated: Obviously, the church plays some role in the Canon. Obviously, history plays some role in the canon, obviously God's sovereignty and purpose play some role in the Canon, and obviously the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God's people plays some role in the collection of the canon. It is the explanation of these points that provide the answer to the question. Of course, this answer will be a lot more complicated than saying, "The Church authoritatively decided".

After the canon was set the Church now had infallible confirmation of what the early witnessess had already believed. To accuse the Church of "circular reasoning," which you say is proving "the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures," is to charge the Church with forming the canon with an agenda!

Don’t miss the point, I’m accusing Catholic apologists of circular reasoning, and their argument on Canon certainty as circular. When asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, they answer that it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. Or, do you intend to argue that the authority of the Roman Catholic Church is established in some other way?

FM483 said...

Pope:

Don't be confused on this issue. It is simple. Roman Catholics engage in circular reasoning because they they use the shallow logic that only the Lord is capable ofwithout criticism. RCs maintain they are correct because they are correct. Lutherans maintain their beliefs are correct becausethe Lord says they are in His Word. Big difference between the two. Both Mormons and RCs use the same shallow reasoning- each maintains there is something innately infalliblewithin their respective systems of belief which make them correct and all others wrong. Lutherans maintain that only Holy Scripture is infallible and as long as their beliefs are consistent with the bible they are correct - especially on matters pertaining to salvation. As I mentioned previously, Lutherans maintain that Scripture is the norm for truth, that Scripture interprets Scripture: sola scriptura.The Roman church espouses "sola ecclesia", maintaining that the Roman popeand his minions dictate what is true and what is false. There are similarities in Mormonism. Hence, within bot Mormonism and the RCC you find much in the way of extrabiblical pronouncements and beliefs foisted onto believers. In theMormon sect you have the appearance of the angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith to reveal "new truth" due to the apostasy of all other sects. In the Roman sect you have all the teachings on Mariology, her appearances, prayers and a host of unbiblical emphases which only the Triune Godhead deserves.

As far as your allegation that I always willsee things through Lutheraneyes,I prefer to maintain that I see only through the Scriptural truths which the Lord has revealed through HisWord. I maintain that my faith is both catholic and evangelical. My belief is nothing less tha the ancient faith as summarized in the 3 creeds of the Church catholic for centuries. These are included in the Bookof Concord. My faith is similar to many of the great Church fathers as recordedin history. The difference between myself and a RC is that everything I believe is always tested against Holy Writ,similar to how the Bereans did it in Acts 17and were complimented for by St Paul. For your information I was born and raisedin a loving RC household. I was a RC untilearly adulthood. I am personally acquainted with many branches of Christianity but choose the Lutheran variety due to it's doctrinal faithfulness to God's Word.

Frank Marron

James Swan said...

Pope-
After the canon was set the Church now had infallible confirmation of what the early witnessess had already believed. To accuse the Church of "circular reasoning," which you say is proving "the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures," is to charge the Church with forming the canon with an agenda!

When asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, is your answer that it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures, or, do you intend to argue that the authority of the Roman Catholic Church is established in some other way?

In other words, by what authority is the authority of the RCC established? And where is that authority, and how can you justify that authority? Is there some other testimony other than the Scriptures you can point to?

ah, i'm still waiting for the cable people to show up- so i'm blogging away.....

Pope_St_Peter said...

Great posts guys! I just got in not too long and am getting ready to leave again. I'm going to go have some scotch with a friend of mine. I do need some clarity on some things, however.

1.) You (indirectly) said that Protestants do have certainty regarding the extent of the Canon. How so?

2.) What authority does it come by or through?

3.) I've read second-hand that R.C. Sproul said Christians have "a fallible list of infallible books." Do you believe this? How does this factor into Protestant certainty?

4.) How do you understand "certainty" and "infallible"?

5.) When you say that there was debate within the Early Church regarding the canonicity of the "apocryphal books," what books do you mean?

6.) I've accused FM484, and through him you and all Protestants, of circular reasoning as well. Your circular reasoning doesn't allow for a neat slogan such as "Church alone," nonetheless, you are guilty of your own accusation on an individual basis.

FM484 says that he cannot ever be convinced that the Book of Concord is wrong not because he's biased, but because the Bible teaches it. I hope you're objective enough to see that this is merely semantics. The Bible does not prove the Book of Concord, "the Bible" proves the Book of Concord.

You can never have an objective conversation with a Catholic about the nature of the Eucharist, or any doctrine for that matter, because your biases, presuppositions and theological tradition will not allow you to consider the possibility that Catholics may be right!

Someone once said that one shouldn't throw stones if one lives in a glass house. This is not a new argument I'm bringin into the mix. This is what I meant when I said, "Protestants seem to be in the same boat." I'm not denying certainty for the Catholic. What I'm pointing out is that your arguments place Protestants in the exact same situation. To rephrase, you're accusing yourself as well (from your perspective)!

James Swan said...

I've read second-hand that R.C. Sproul said Christians have "a fallible list of infallible books." Do you believe this? How does this factor into Protestant certainty?

Why ask questions based on a statement you've never read in context? First, explain what Sproul meant, and then ask questions.

FM483 said...

In response to the confusion of the pope:

With respect to your confusion over the Book of Concord – have you ever read these Confessions? Just as I confess the truthfulness of the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds because they are an accurate summarization of key biblical truths, in a similar manner I acknowledge the truth of the Lutheran Confessions. If you were to even skim over the Book of Concord you could not help but notice the exegetical nature of the documents. These Confessions were derived straight from Holy Scripture. Once againy ou miss the point entirely. The Lutheran(catholic) Church maintains that only Holy Scripture is infallible and the rule and norm for determining the correctness and orthodoxy of any belief. On the other hand, both the Mormons and Roman Catholics rely on extrabiblical sources to validate their respective belief systems. In this respect these two sects are identical. Fortunately the Roman church also preaches biblical truths, in particular the Gospel. The problem is that the Roman church has buried the Gospel under a deluge of other doctrines, confusing Law and Gospel. I would refer you to a short treatise of mine on this subject available on this website(http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/05/guest-blog-law-gospel.html).

The point is that RCs maintain that the pope and his magesterium is the repository of truth, while the catholic church maintains that Holy Scripture is the sole repository of infallible truth)sola ecclesia vs sola scriptura). You seem confused as to how fallible men can comprehend infallible truths. This is a very good question. This is another example of the paradoxes which run throughout Holy Scripture, as pointed out by me in an earlier post on this website. Do you understand what I mean by “paradox”?

One of your questions pertained to how protestants have certainty with respect to the canon of Scripture.Icould ask you this same question. You may think the Roman church defined which books were canonical but this is not historically the case. The Roman church maintains that Peter the apostle was the first “pope”, but merely making the claim andproving it based upon the Word of God are two entirely different matters. The question on the canon is really a moot point, since all protestants recognize the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of Godwhich authenticated themselves to the Church of Christ. The development of the canon of Scripture is an interesting historical study,but the Roman Catholic Church never devised the canon,despite what you may have been led to believe. I am a catholic Christian,just not the Roman variety. I recognize that the canonical books recognizedthroughout many centuries were recognized as inspired and read in the churches since apostolic times. The early church believers were the ancestors of all believers in Christ, not merely the Roman denomination. If you were toskim through the Book of Concord you would realize this. Here are a couple of reference points for your curiosity
http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.solascriptura.html http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.catholic.html
http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.kiefersolascriptura.html

As far as the canon is concerned, although it is theoretically possible not all books were included, the history of the church indicates that it is closed for practical purposes. The issue of “antilegomena” and “”homologoumena” iss another separate issue. The Lutheran belief is that the central message of the Word of God is the GOSPEL. I need not know or understand most of the canonical books to sufficiently know what is essential for my salvation.

You ask by what authority the bible comes through? It is certainly not the pope and his minions asmost RCs profess. God Himself spoke through the prophets and apostles to record what men require for their salvation. The Holy Spirit works through the Word in order to create and sustain saving faith in the hearts of men(Romans 10:17). As Paul says, the Gospel itself is the power for salvation(Romans 1:18).

Your question regarding something RC Sproulmay have said about believers having a “fallible list or infallible books” – who cares? Once again I refer you to my post regarding the paradoxical nature of all Scripture. I could ask you questions that to the natural mind are indeed preposterous and absurd, such as how can a virgin give birth to a baby?

I think I’ve responded to any new questions you produced. Enough for now.

Frank Marron

Pope_St_Peter said...

JS,

Obviously my questions are not "based on [Sproul's] statement," which you say I've "never read in context." Only Q #3 was regarding Sproul's comment. Thus, your comments are irrelevent for all my other questions. You don't have to answer my questions. As I said, I just needed a little more clarity before I typed out a response.

FM483,

No, I have not read the entire Book of Concord, nor do I need to in order to see that you and JS are guilty of ya'lls own argument: circular reasoning. That is the point!

You and JS don't want to be honest with your argument. If you want to accuse Holy Mother Church of circular reasoning because she believes the Holy Spirit guides her "into all truth," obviously you can; but please be honest and answer why Protestants are not guilty of "circular reasoning" when they believe the exact same thing about themselves!

To both of you,

Please allow me a couple of days to respond to everything that has been stated. I'm going to bed now to get ready for Midnight Mass, and tomorrow my family is booked all day. So I probably won't respond to anything until Tuesday night at the earliest.

FM483 said...

The pope requested:

"please be honest and answer why Protestants are not guilty of "circular reasoning" when they believe the exact same thing about themselves!"

MY RESPONSE:

I will repeat myself once again. The reason RCs engage in circular reasoning is because they insist they are correct and therefore on allmatters of faith and morals their viewpoints are correct because they are correct! It is so absurd that you seem incapable of grasping the fallicious reasoning involved. Lutherans and other protestants insist they are correct, not because they are the repository of all truth, but because God has revealed Truth in His Word. Can't you comprehend the difference? RCs insist they are correct because they are RC.Protestants insist they are correct on account of the Word of God. It is the difference between sola ecclesia and sola scriptura. By the way, Mormons argue exactly the same way RCs dowith respect to the correctness of their entire belief system.

Frank Marron

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Marron,

Please don't speak to me like I'm stupid. You can take that to someone else, to be sure.

I understand why you don't want to admit that you engage in circular reasoning. If you don't admit this, or if you cannot see this, then this conversation cannot go any further. You're like a hampster running in a wheel insisting that you're not, but that it is everything around you that is moving.

I do not believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus promised because I was spoon-fed it from day one. As a former Protestant who studied theology at a Protestant Bible college, I came to believe the Catholic Church to be the Church Jesus promised because the Holy Spirit revealed it me in His Word (Note: not "human reason" or "commonsense")! To repeat, I did not wake up one day (as a Protestant) and think to myself, "Wow! The Catholic Church claims to be the true Church; I'd better convert." How absurd! And just in case you didn't know, thousands of Protestants have gone, are going, and will be going through this same experience. Dr. Kenneth Howell, for example, who was professor of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and hermeneutics at Reformed Theological Seminary. There was also a professor of philosophy at Wheaton College who was fired this past Fenuary for converting to the Catholic Church. I guess they just finally realized that the Catholic Church claimed to be the true Church too!

Every Christian claims that the Bible teaches their theological tradition. Pentecostals claim that they are Pentecostals because the Bible teaches Pentecostal beliefs. Baptists claim the samething. Lutherans and Reformed also. Surely you get the point. Just in case you don't, though: all Christians are guilty of what you and JS are trying to argue. "It is so absurd that you [are] incapable of grasping the fallicious reasoning involved."

P.S.
No, I couldn't sleep.

James Swan said...

Obviously my questions are not "based on [Sproul's] statement," which you say I've "never read in context." Only Q #3 was regarding Sproul's comment. Thus, your comments are irrelevent for all my other questions. You don't have to answer my questions. As I said, I just needed a little more clarity before I typed out a response.

Clarification, I was not referring to all your questions, I was simply asking why you would ask questions, or more precisely, a "question" based on a statement you've never read in context? In other words, I spoke in the plural, but I was not referring to the list of questions you provided. Pretend we were standing face to face, I would stop you immediately when you brought up Sproul,and ask the same question, phrased the same way.

FM483 said...

The pope stated:

"I understand why you don't want to admit that you engage in circular reasoning. If you don't admit this, or if you cannot see this, then this conversation cannot go any further. You're like a hampster running in a wheel insisting that you're not, but that it is everything around you that is moving. "

MY RESPONSE:

First, I apologize if I insulted your intelligence. That is not my objective at all, but rather to engage in meaningful dislogue to further understanding on theological positions.

Regarding your quote above, I don't mind if you call it "circular" or "rectangular" reasoning, there is a big difference between the Roman and Lutheran positions. The Roman position insists it is correct on all matters of faith and morals because it alone is the true Church endowed as the representative of Christ on earth and no other church is equally valid. Hence, all arguments by a RC are "correct" merely because they are RC. In a personal exchange this is like saying "I amcorrect because I alone am correct - end of conversation". The Lutheran position insists on the correctness of their position solely based upon what God says in His Word. Once again, we have the position of the RCC as "sola ecclesia" and that of the Lutheran as "sola scriptura".


Frank Marron

James Swan said...

Pope-

1.) You (indirectly) said that Protestants do have certainty regarding the extent of the Canon. How so?

My certainty, or the certainty of any Christian, is the same as it was for those First Century Christians who didn’t even have the New Testament. They had the Old Testament, and had “certainty” that it was the very word of almighty God. See for instance, the early apologists and Church Fathers. Clement of Rome, whom you cited, frequently quotes the Old Testament. He does so, with the understanding that the words of the Old Testament are the very words of God. He was certain of it, this despite the alleged infallible ruling of either Pope Damaus or Trent. Their use of primarily Old Testament passages showed they had a certainty that the words were God’s words. Or, think of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy- Paul notes that from infancy Timothy “knew” the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:15): “…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” How was it Timothy could know the Scriptures were the words of God without an infallible Church council declaring which books were canonical?

Obviously, the notion that an infallible council can only provide certainty cannot be accurate. To expand this, think of all the New Testament writers: they freely quote the Old Testament with the certainty that it was the Word of God. Yet, no infallible source defined the Canon for them. A “source” definitely received the Old Testament Canon, but that “source” was not infallible, nor do I recall Rome arguing that the Jewish Old Testament leadership was infallible. Hence, I see no reason why the entirety of the Bible needs an infallible body to declare the Canon. It wasn’t needed previous to Trent, Damasus, or the pre-Christ Jewish authority.

That being said, how was it that Timothy had “certainty” the Old Testament was the word of God? It is God’s sovereign power that reveals the canon to His church, for His purposes. The people of God are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. It is they, who are given spiritual life and continually fed by its words. Jesus did this himself, as recorded in Luke 24:45, “Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” As to your question on how a Protestant can have certainty on the Canon, my certainty is in the providence and work of God. Only faith will read the Bible and hear the voice of God. God used means in giving us His canon, but like the Old Testament believers, those means don’t need to be infallible for one to know they are reading and hearing God’s word.

2) What authority does it come by or through?

I recognize the Christian Church received the Canon. It does not though, create the Canon, or stand above the Canon. In other words, I see no reason to grant the Church infallibility in order for the Church to receive the Canon. The Church, for reasons described above with the Old Testament canon, was used by God to provide a widespread knowledge of the Canon. The Holy Spirit had worked among the early Christian Church in providing them with the books of the New Testament. Even the great St. Augustine recognized this work of God’s Spirit: “Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t…look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit.” [Source: Augustine, Sermon 162c, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, trans., Edmund Hill, ed., John Rotelle (New City Press, 1967), III.11.176]. Augustine notes that the Canon has been established, and he identifies it as the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit worked through the Church in giving the Canon, but like the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit did not require “infallibility” to give the church the Scriptures.

3.) I've read second-hand that R.C. Sproul said Christians have "a fallible list of infallible books." Do you believe this? How does this factor into Protestant certainty?

The answer is yes, because in context, Sproul is only pointing out what I have already said: The Church is not infallible (see the second section from Sproul). As a gift to you, I’ve provided two contexts for the statement, as well as references.

“The issue of Scripture’s inspiration and infallibility boils down to the issue of its authority. A famous bumper-sticker reads as follows: “God says it. I believe it. That settles it.” What is wrong with this statement? It adds an element that is unsound. It suggests that the matter of biblical authority is not settled until the person believes the Bible. The slogan should read: “God says it. That settles it.” If God reveals something, that revelation carries the weight of his authority. There is no higher authority. Once God opens his holy mouth, the matter is settled. This is axiomatic for Reformed theology.

The question of sola Scriptura is fundamentally one of authority. Here the supreme authority rests with the Bible, not the church; with God, not with man. This came home to me in a discussion with a former college roommate. We had lost contact with each other and had not seen each other for twenty years when we met again at a theology conference, where I was speaking on the topic of biblical authority. After the meeting we had dinner together and my friend said to me, “R. C., I don’t believe in the infallibility of Scripture any more.”

I asked him what he did still believe in from our earlier days. He said, “I still believe in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.” I indicated I was pleased to hear this, but proceeded to ask, “How does Jesus exercise his Lordship over your life?” My friend, a bit perplexed by my question, asked, “What do you mean?” “If Jesus is your Lord, then that means he exercises authority over you. How do you know how he wants you to live if not from the Bible?” “From the teaching of the church,” he replied.

Here was a “Protestant” who forgot what he was protesting. He had come full circle, jettisoning sola Scriptura and replacing it with the authority of the church. He placed the church above Scripture. This is not unlike what occurred in Rome. Though Rome did not deny Scripture’s infallible authority as my friend did, she nevertheless in a real and critical sense subordinated Scripture to the church.

The subordination of Scripture was a burning issue among the Reformers. John Calvin said: “A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed—viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men. With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, Who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God[?]. . . .”

Calvin then reminds the reader that the Scriptures themselves (Eph. 2:20) declare that the church is established on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. He continues: “Nothing, therefore, can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends. When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted, but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bound, shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent.”

Calvin has in view here the debate over the canon of Scripture. The sixty-six books of the Bible together comprise the canon of Scripture. The term canon means “measuring rod” or “rule.” The Reformers did not recognize the books of the Apocrypha (written during the intertestamental period) as part of the canon. Rome did include the Apocrypha in the canon. Questions of which books are to be included in the canon were debated in the early church. In the final analysis the church recognized the books that now comprise the New Testament.

Since the church was involved in this process, some have argued that the Bible owes its authority to the church’s authority and is therefore subordinate to the church’s authority. This is the point Calvin so vigorously disputes. He declares that the church “does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted” but acknowledges it as God’s truth. Calvin argues that there is a big difference between the church’s recognizing the Bible’s authority and the church’s creating the Bible’s authority. The church used the Latin term recepimus, which means “we receive,” to acknowledge that books of the Bible are what they already were in themselves, the Word of God.

Luther wrote in a similar vein to Calvin concerning the relationship between the authority of the Bible and the authority of the church: “It is not the Word of God because the church says so; but that the Word of God might be spoken, therefore the church comes into being. The church does not make the Word, but it is made by the Word.” Luther goes on to say: “The church cannot give a book more authority or dependability than it has of itself, just as it also approves and accepts the works of the fathers, but thereby does not establish them as good or make them better.”

Roman Catholics view the canon as an infallible collection of infallible books. Protestants view it as a fallible collection of infallible books. Rome believes the church was infallible when it determined which books belong in the New Testament. Protestants believe the church acted rightly and accurately in this process, but not infallibly.

This does not mean that Reformed theology doubts the canonical status of books included in the New Testament canon. Some Protestant theologians believe a special work of divine providence kept the church from error in this matter without imparting to the church any permanent or inherent infallibility.

[Source: R.C. Sproul, Grace unknown : The heart of reformed theology p.51- 54].

Elsewhere, Sproul also explained:

“Though Luther did not challenge the infallibility of Scripture he most emphatically challenged the infallibility of the church. He allowed for the possibility that the church could err, even when the church ruled on the question of what books properly belonged in the Canon. To see this issue more clearly we can refer to a distinction often made by Dr. John Gerstner. Gerstner distinguishes between the Roman Catholic view of the Canon and the Protestant view of the Canon in this manner:

• ROMAN CATHOLIC VIEW: The Bible is an infallible collection of infallible books.

• PROTESTANT VIEW: The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books.

The distinction in view here refers to the Catholic Church’s conviction that the Canon of Scripture was declared infallibly by the church. On the other hand, the Protestant view is that the church’s decision regarding what books make up the Canon was a fallible decision. Being fallible means that it is possible that the church erred in its compilation of the books found in the present Canon of Scripture.
When Gerstner makes this distinction he is neither asserting nor implying that the church indeed did err in its judgment of what properly belongs to the Canon. His view is not designed to cast doubt on the Canon but simply to guard against the idea of an infallible church. It is one thing to say that the church could have erred; it is another thing to say that the church did err.

Gerstner’s formula has often been met with both consternation and sharp criticism in evangelical circles. It seems to indicate that he and those who agree with his assessment are undermining the authority of the Bible. But nothing could be further from the truth. Like Luther and Calvin before him, Gerstner has been an ardent defender of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. His formula is merely designed to acknowledge that there was a historical selection process by which the church determined what books were really Scripture and what books were not Scripture. The point is that in this sifting or selection process the church sought to identify what books were actually to be regarded as Scripture.

It may be said that Rome has a certain “advantage” with respect to infallibility. Rome believes that the church is infallible as well as the Scripture. This infallibility extends not only to the question of Canon formation but also to the question of Biblical interpretation. To summarize, we can say that according to Rome we have an infallible Bible whose extent is decreed infallibly by the church and whose content is interpreted infallibly by the church. The Christian individual is still left in his own fallibility as he seeks to understand the infallible Bible as interpreted by the infallible church. No one is extending infallibility to the individual believer.

For the classic Protestant, though the individual believer has the right to the private interpretation of Scripture, it is clearly acknowledged that the individual is capable of misinterpreting the Bible. He has the ability to misinterpret Scripture, but never the right to do it. That is, with the right of private interpretation the responsibility of correct interpretation is also given. We never have the right to distort the teaching of Scripture. Both sides agree that the individual is fallible when seeking to understand the Scripture. Historic Protestantism limits the scope of infallibility to the Scriptures themselves. Church tradition and church creeds can err. Individual interpreters of Scripture can err. It is the Scriptures alone that are without error.

Though it is clear that the church went through a selection or sorting process in establishing a formal list of the Canonical books this does not mean that there was no Canon or rule prior to the decisions of church councils. The New Testament writings served as a functional Canon from the beginning. B. B. Warfield remarks:

The church did not grow up by natural law: it was founded. And the authoritative teachers sent forth by Christ to found His church carried with them, as their most precious possession, a body of divine Scriptures, which they imposed on the church that they founded as its code of law. No reader of the New Testament can need proof of this; on every page of that book is spread the evidence that from the very beginning the Old Testament was as cordially recognized as law by the Christian as by the Jew. The Christian church thus was never without a “Bible” or a “canon.”

Warfield’s point that the church was founded calls attention to the fact that the church had a founder and a foundation. The founder was Christ. The foundation was the writings of the prophets and the apostles. In the image of the church as a building the metaphor views Christ as the chief cornerstone. He is not the foundation of the church. He is the founder. The foundation of the church is laid by Christ and in Christ. He is the Chief Cornerstone in which this foundation is laid. Again it is the prophets and the Apostles who are called the foundation in the building metaphor.

The Canon of the New Testament rests upon a “tradition.” The term “tradition” is often viewed by a jaundiced eye among Evangelicals. It suffers from the problem of guilt by association. In order to distance itself from the role played by tradition in Rome, zealous Evangelicals face the danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water. The Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura emphatically rejects the dual-source theory of Rome with respect to special revelation. At the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent, Rome declared that the truth of God is found both in the Scriptures and in the tradition of the church. The Reformers rejected this dual source and refused to elevate church tradition to such a high level.

Christ rebuked the Pharisees for supplanting the word of God with the traditions of men. This negative judgment of human tradition coupled with the aversion to the Roman Catholic view of tradition has inclined some Evangelicals to reject tradition altogether. The danger in this is to miss the important role tradition plays within the scope of Scripture itself. Scripture does not reject all tradition. It repudiates the traditions of men, but affirms another tradition—the divine tradition. Paul, for example, frequently speaks of tradition in a positive sense. He speaks of that body of truth that was given over to the church by Christ and the Apostles. This is the paradosis, the “giving over” of the truth of God.

The positive tradition of which Scripture speaks may be referred to as the Apostolic Tradition, which tradition played heavily on the formation of the Canon. The church did not create a new tradition by the establishing of the Canon. Indeed it is not really proper to speak of the establishing of the Canon by the church. It is not the church that established the Canon; it is the Canon that established the church. The church did not establish the Canon but recognized it and submitted to its rule.”


[Source: R.C. Sproul's chapters from symposium volumes (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Books].

4.) How do you understand "certainty" and "infallible"?

Certainty I would simply say means being sure. “Infallible” I would simply say means incapable of error. In the case of our discussion, I’m “certain” or “sure” that the Canon is the Word of God, not because the Church infallibly said so. My certainty results from my faith in God’s providence- in his outworking of his will for his people. In his giving of His word, he used a fallible church, not an ecclesiastical body incapable of error. If he could do this with the Old Testament believers, He could do it for the New Testament believers as well.

5.) When you say that there was debate within the Early Church regarding the canonicity of the "apocryphal books," what books do you mean?

I mean, that there were two traditions within the early and medieval church. One accepted the apocrypha, one did not. See this link:
The Old Testament Canon and the Apocrypha
Part 3: From Jerome to the Reformation


This controversy can be traced all the way up till Trent, and, as I’ve pointed out, some of the best Catholic scholars at Trent did not accept the apocrypha and were against it. See my blog post here:

Who were Some Of The Best Scholars at Trent, And What Did They Think Of The Apocrypha?

Iohannes said...

Greetings,

I have not read through each post in full, so please pardon me if this comment is divergent from the general stream of the conversation.

I think it might be helpful to define the respective positions, so that misunderstanding is avoided. The Protestant position is probably best summarized in the Westminster Confession (I,5):

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

This doctrine is unfolded at some length in a sermon by John Owen, "The testimony of the church is not the only nor the chief reason of our believing the scripture to be the word of God." The doctrine is, of course, taught elsewhere as well (e.g. Art. 5 of the Belgic Confession), but these materials should suffice for now.

I will leave it to others to state the RC doctrine in detail, but my impression is that it is basically what follows from the combination of these propositions from the CCC:

It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. (120)

The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. (85)

That is, the canon is part of tradition, and as such is given its authentic interpretation and definition by the Magisterium.

Many RC apologists believe their doctrine of the canon naturally leads to a clear-cut argument against Protestantism. This is put succinctly by Karl Keating:

Ultimately, an infallible authority is needed if we are to know what belongs in the Bible and what does not. Without such an authority, we are left to our own prejudices, and we cannot tell if our prejudices lead us in the right direction. (Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 132)

Now, the Protestant position is that the Scriptures are, when all is said and done, self-authenticating. Being the word of God, they, like Christ in his sermons, teach with power, having their own authority (cf. Mat 7:29, Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32). The Scriptures therefore no more require the validation of an external ecclesiastical authority than Christ did in his earthly ministry. External witnesses to their authority are certainly helpful, but ultimately it is the testimony of the Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts that must be decisive.

This thesis could be elaborated much further, but for now I will defer to Owen's discussion of it. Instead, I will just remark briefly on Keating's argument.

Its weakness lies in the fact that it only moves the problem back one step. Keating says that in contrast to the Protestant teaching, on the Catholic approach inspiration is really proved, not just 'felt'. (p. 132) But what authority proves the infallibility of the Magisterium? There is no Super-Magisterium that can authenticate the claim to legitimacy made by Rome's teaching office.

This point might sound superficial at first, but it grows in weightiness when other facts are considered. After all, other churches, similarly claiming to rely on authentic tradition, recognize different canons. The Greek and Armenian churches, whose antiquity is far from suspect, include III Maccabees and other texts absent from the Church of Rome's canon. And the Ethiopian canon is wider still.

What is the objective authority that is to arbitrate among these different claims? If Protestants, lacking such an authority, rely on subjective "prejudice" in accepting the canon, it appears that RCs are no more objective in their acceptance of the judgment of the Magisterium. Franky Schaeffer, too, was no more objective in his decision to convert to the EO Church, than other erstwhile Protestants have been in their decision to turn to Rome.

The Protestant position may initially seem flimsy when compared with the Fourth Session of Trent, but in the end I think that, as was said above, it is also more appealing, despite its greater complexity.

Respectfully,

John

Iohannes said...

PS For any interested, Calvin's excellent account of the testimony of the Spirit to the truth of Scripture is available here.

James Swan said...

iohannes-

Thank you for such a concise informative entry.

But what authority proves the infallibility of the Magisterium? There is no Super-Magisterium that can authenticate the claim to legitimacy made by Rome's teaching office.

This point you made brings out something i've been talking about- that is the notion of "certainty." Even if there were a "Super-Magisterium" there is still "you". While a person may attempt to appeal to an external authority for certainty (be it a Magisterium. or super Magisterium, or super-super-Magisteriem, etc)- it is still the individual person who is the one experiencing "certainty".

That is, a Roman Catholic can claim that the Magisterium provides "certainty" because it validates the Canon, but it is still the subjective person that is the one experiencing the "certainty".

A Roman Catholic cannot overcome the subjective nature of certainty, no matter how many councils, popes, or sightings of Mary they put forth. So the question "How do you know which books are in the Canon?" Cannot be answered without the element of faith of a person being expressed. That is, The Roman Catholic ultimately puts her faith in the Roman magisterium. At its basis, the response, "I know which books are in the canon because the Church infallibly defined the canon" is a faith response.

Now, one could quickly retort that the Protestant who says "..our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts" likewise expresses a faith response.

I would agree, it is a faith response. This does not mean I don't value historical research for the Canon. Research has its place. It means, ultimately, everyone begins with a presupposition, an unproved foundational presupposition. What makes my foundation more appealing, is that the Roman Catholic belief that only an infallible decree provides certainty for the canon is not consistent when applied to the entirety of history and the Canon (as I pointed out when it is applied to the collection of the Old Testament). A Roman Catholic is free to ignore this, and contine believing the Canon needs an infallible authority by which to validate it- but they should at least note their presuppostion is inconsistent when applied to the Old Testament, but they choose to believe it anyway.

James Swan said...

I have just one last comment as I reflect on the entirety of this discussion:

Whatever happened to Pope Damasus and the Canon? Tiber Jumper stopped by over here, and wished me a Merry Christmas. Pope St. Peter, the other Roman Catholic participating here, basically left out any of the controversy about Damasus and the Canon.

For a claim that is made so often, that "Damasus declared the Canon," I thought for sure the mighty defenders of Rome would come to his rescue when I went after this topic.

Well, case closed. There is not proof Damasus defined the Canon.

FM483 said...

Looking back through this discussion thread, I am impressed at the volume of interest in epistemology. It reminds me of my freshman course in philosophy! This thread is very important for effective communication.If we cannot reach agreement on what is the ultimate authority on spiritual matters, we have significant barriers to communication and hearing the voice of the True God. The Postmodern mind adheres to the philosophy of Relativism: you have your truth and I have mine. Relativism advances the premise that there are no absolute truths and all belief systems are relatively equal and must be respected as such. If our ancestors in the faith held such a belief there would have been a significantly reduced amount of evangelism. The concluding words of Christ in the gospel of Matthew are to evangelize all nations by baptizing and teaching everything of the Christ. Such a Great Commission flies in the face of Relativism, insisting that believers in the Christ have the ultimate Truth and as such must communicate this knowledge so that faith and salvation can be maximized throughout the world.

This thread has highlighted the two distinct differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics(RC): the RC maintains his church is the ultimate authority on spiritual matters, or “sola ecclesia”. The Protestant maintains that only Holy Scripture is infallible, God-breathed(Theopneustos) and forms the ultimate source authority on spiritual matters, or “sola scriptura”. As previously pointed out in earlier posts, other sects such as the Mormons engage in the ultimate authority of their church, a form of “sola ecclesia”. Thus, even when contradictions between their belief systems and the bible care pointed out to Mormons or RCs,the “sola ecclesia” authority of these groups is used as a defense against correction and training in righteousness(2Tim 3:16). Ultimate authorities do not admit to external verification and hence communication between RCs and Protestants are significantly hampered. My personal experience has shown that whenever there are many contradictions between any church teachings and Holy Scripture, this is a good indication that something is wrong with that particular church and it’s claim to any authority.


Frank Marron

Pope_St_Peter said...

Merry Christmas! I hope you guys are reaping the fullness from this season tht Holy Mother Church has given us in her wisdom.

I've received some substantial posts. I'll be responding to all of them tonight (I'm in Central time). As you guys wait for my response to the issues that you have brought up, I will be posting a paper I wrote for my Systematic Theology class this past semester on The Reformed Doctrine of Inscripturation. In this paper I address what I feel is the main issue of Sola Scriptura. The Reformed authorities I used for the paper were the Westminster Confession of Faith (only as a statement though), and Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics.

I wish I could say that I'm proud of the paper. It did earn me a A, but I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted to. In fact, I wrote it in just four days! I also had to leave out a whole page of the paper because I didn't have enought time to smooth it out. Despite this, though, I do feel as though I managed to highlight the main issue.

Pope_St_Peter said...

My paper has been posted. Much of what has been brought up here is addressed in my paper, but I'm still going to respond later tonight (I've already spent too much time away from my daughter).

Pope_St_Peter said...

There are some fundamental misunderstandings that must be cleared up. One of them is the contention that the Church “makes” Scripture. In 1870 the First Vatican Council stated:

“These [books] the Church holds to be sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by simple human industry, they were later approved by her own authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author and were delivered as such to the Church.” [First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, chapter II: On Revelation, para. 2; cited in The Scripture Documents: An Anthology of Official Catholic Teaching, Edited and Translated by Dean P. Bechard (The Liturgical Press 2002), p. 17]

Twenty-three years later Pope Leo XIII stated in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus:

“This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained in both unwritten tradition and in written books, which are, therefore, called sacred and canonical, 'being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and as such have been delivered to the Church.' [Con. Vat. Sess. III, cap. ii. de Rev.] This belief has been perpetually held and professed by the Church in regard to the books of both Testaments; and there are well known documents of the gravest kind, coming down to us from the earliest times, which proclaim that God, who spoke first by the Prophets, then by His own mouth, and lastly by the Apostles, composed also the canonical Scripture [S. Aug. de Civ. Dei xi, 3.], and that these are His own oracles and words – a Letter written by our Heavenly Father and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race in its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country. [S. Chrys. in Gen. hom. 2, 2; S. Aug. in Ps. 30, serm., 2, 1; S. Greg. M. ad Theod. ep. Iv, 31.]

In the third chapter of its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), para. 10, the Second Vatican Council stated:

“Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully.”

These statements of the Church inform us that she does not believe herself to have “made” Scripture. Perhaps you know of some other official statement wherein she does make such a claim? If not, then this is a strawman. Furthermore, as someone else has already mentioned, the Catholic contention, which can be found in para. 8 of the same dogmatic statement from Vatican II already quoted, is that “by means of the same Tradition the full canon of the sacred books is known to the Church and the holy Scriptures themselves are more thoroughly understood and constantly actualized in the Church.” Thus, your argument that the Catholic would not have known what the exact number of writings were prior to the Council of Trent, doesn't have any weight because the Scriptures are a part of the Tradition that the Church has always had and handed on. In other words, like the hypothetical Protestant who lived prior to the Early Church's definitive acknowledgment of the extant of the Canon, the Catholic still received the Word of God in its fullness prior to Trent, because both accepted Apostolic Tradition. Your question only has weight if you presuppose Sola Scriptura.

Further, was Arianism an acceptable theological alternative until the Council of Nicea? Was Nestorianism an acceptable theological alternative until the Council of Ephesus?

You asked whether I was going to prove the Church authority by someone other means than Sola Scriptura. Of course I am! Fr. (and Dr.) Mitchell Pacwa, S.J., stated in his debate with James White, that the Catholic Church doesn't get her authority from the Bible, but from Jesus Christ. For Catholics, Jesus and the biblical world are not a literary one like Frodo and Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. So Catholics do not appeal to a literary figure or world for its authority; we appeal to a historical One. Obviously the Church uses Scripture when combating heretics. She has always done this, and will continue to do so. As to the extent of the Canon, Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit guided the leaders (bishops) of the Church “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13; RSV:CE) in her discernment of which writings were inspired by Him and which were not.

You challenge this acceptance as circular reasoning, yet Catholics are not asked to submit to the Church because the Church says so. As Catholic philosopher Dr. Philip Blosser states, "there is no circularity here, first, because she does not claim sola scriptura; and, second, because if she has the authority she claims, the case is no different logically from that of the NT writers appealing to the Old Testament (OT) for support while claiming divine warrant for their NT interpretations."

Here I would refer to Dr. Blosser's fine article, Canonicity and the problem of circular reasoning (http://catholictradition.blog.spot.com/2005_02_01_catholictradition_archive.html

It is interesting that when I asked you how to understood the Church's authoritative decision, you said:

“Obviously, the Church plays some role in the Canon. Obviously, history plays some role in the canon, obviously God's sovereignty plays some role in the Canon, and obviously the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God's people plays some role in the collection of the canon.”

When applied to the Early Church, a superficial reading reveals that things were not as obvious as you indicate. As I mentioned before, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John were all disputed, while works such as 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas and more were considered inspired. Does this piece of history, which according to Jaroslav Pelikan goes into the mid-fourth century, reveal a confusion in the Church on the part of the people as to what the Spirit was revealing in their hearts?

The Catholic contention is that like the Holy Spirit guided St. Luke as he sifted through the traditions to write his Gospel (Lk 1), so He guided the Church as she sifted through the traditions to gather the Canon.

FM483 said...

Pope –

The Mormon church makes the same claims as does the Roman church. Both appeal to their authority from God Himself. The RC “Traditions” are the same as the Mormon “Traditions” – both sects consider themselves as the absolute authority having been established by God. Mormons also have their “unwritten traditions” just like the RCC. I noticed you stated that “Obviously the Church uses Scripture when combating heretics”. I assume this would refer to combating Mormonism? How about when examining the claims of the RCC?

Once again, your writings insist that the ultimate authority of the RCC is a combination of “unwritten traditions” and Scripture, or “sola ecclesia”. The Mormon church makes similar claims. In both cases their “unwritten traditions” is another way of stating each is correct because God says so. Think about it. If I can examine Mormonism on the basis of Scripture, why can I not do the same for any belief system, including Roman Catholicism? Now that I think about it, Mormonism goes one step further than the Roman church by stating that God has directly spoke to Joseph Smith regarding the apostasy that has befallen all other belief systems, including the Roman variety. The only way I know of combating heresy is using what God has revealed in His Word. What restrains me from using this approach with all “truth” claims, including Roman Catholicism? Should the fact that the pope says he is the “vicar of Christ” on earth restrain me from acting as the Bereans did in Acts chapter 17, testing everything against Scripture?

Frank Marron

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Marron,

First of all, thank you for the apology, and forgive me for misunderstanding you for being insulting.

Secondly, I understand your analogous use of the Mormons. But if you think that this refutes everything I written thus far, not to mention my paper, then you are not taking serious my arguments.

Not too long ago sp,e Mormons held a session here at my house. It was quite interesting and informing, for they used the exact same arguments that many Protestants use against Catholics. When they came to my house the second time I told them that even though I didn't know what they believe, I was very familiar with their arguments regarding a Great Apostasy. I also told them, and am now telling you, that it is interesting that many Protestants argue that their was a period of purity in the Early Church, but then after Constantine made Christianity legal there was a Great Apostasy. Likewise, Mormons argue that their was a prestine period in the Early Church, although for them this ended with the death of the last Apostle. Liberals also use this argument; only they push the "Great Apostasy" back even further to the Apostles themselves! I'll chart it out:


1.) Protestants
Period of purity to apostasy: Jesus - Constantine

2.) Mormons
Period of purity to apostasy: Jesus - death of last Apostle

3.) Liberals
Period of purity to apostasy: Jesus - Apostles themselves

All three of these groups vehementely attack the Catholic Church with the same argument: that the emergence of the Catholic Church is the beginning of apostasy. In all honesty, Mr. Marron, this makes me feel quite good about being a Catholic.

I hope you take my arguments more seriously.

James Swan said...

Frank:

Looking back through this discussion thread, I am impressed at the volume of interest in epistemology. It reminds me of my freshman course in philosophy!

I don't know if I mentioned this to you, but one of my two majors in college was Philosophy. I agree with you in regard to "freshman course"- for I always consider the popular Roman Catholic apologetic arguments that attempt to prove only an infallible magisterium can provide Canon certainty- just that- elementary-freshman level- philosophical arguments. My teachers in college would shred their epistomological arguments.

I've chosen to keep this thread up now for a while because i've enjoyed the opportunity to really get into this. Secondly, i'm trying to be more active in the comments given to this blog, time allowing.

James Swan said...

Pope-

I've received some substantial posts. I'll be responding to all of them tonight (I'm in Central time). As you guys wait for my response to the issues that you have brought up, I will be posting a paper I wrote for my Systematic Theology class this past semester on The Reformed Doctrine of Inscripturation. In this paper I address what I feel is the main issue of Sola Scriptura. The Reformed authorities I used for the paper were the Westminster Confession of Faith (only as a statement though), and Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics.

I will take a look at the paper, time allowing. I likewise post some of my papers written for Westminster Seminary on this blog.

Pope_St_Peter said...

If the 1st century Christians simply knew what the Scriptures were, then why did they considered a number of works as inspired that you do not? Further, the Apostles, as you say, pointed the early Christians to a set number of books. Was this was not an infallible witness to the Old Testament canon?

Your certainty, you write, “is in the providence and work of God.” Obviously. However, you were the one who brought up practicality. So, practically speaking, or from a subjective perspective, how does God's Most Holy Will work itself out regarding the Canon? You say, “Only faith will read the Bible and hear the voice of God.” Would you mind giving me an example from the Early Church wherein the laity realize that a writing is inspired based upon faith? In fact, why St. Paul had to “beg” the Thessalonians “not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us” (2 Thess 2:2)? Surely their faith would've known that those letters were not inspired?

“[B]ut like the Old Testament believers, those means don’t need to be infallible for one to know they are reading and hearing God’s word.” “Old Testament believers” didn't think that the prophets were from God, were infallible when they cried, “The word of the LORD came to me” or “Thus saith the LORD”?!

As for the Sproul comments, thank you very much. Much of them, unfortunately, are not relevant to the Catholic position. The Catholic position is not that the Church “made” the Scriptures, or is above the Scriptures, or that the Scriptures only have authority because of the Church. Surely you can see that we both believe the same thing, namely, that the Holy Spirit has given us His writings. What we disagree on is whether or not the means (the Church) He gave them to us is infallible. Catholics argue, yes, Jesus' promise of the Spirit's guidance into all truth is fulfilled in, through, by the leaders of the Church. One of the first examples of this is the Council of Jerusalem.

“Being fallible means that it is possible that the church erred in its compilation of the books found in the present Canon of Scripture. When Gerstner makes this distinction he is neither asserting nor implying that the church indeed did err in its judgment of what properly belongs to the Canon. His view is not designed to cast doubt on the Canon but simply to guard against the idea of an infallible church. It is one thing to say that the church could have erred; it is another thing to say that the church did err.” And how do we know that the Church didn't err? Just because it's been a long time? Because, like the Mormons, the individual reader feels something when he/she reads it?

“In the case of our discussion, I’m “certain” or “sure” that the Canon is the Word of God, not because the Church infallibly said so. My certainty results from my faith in God’s providence- in his outworking of his will for his people.” This is a Mormon understanding of how to understand what Scripture consists of!

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Marron,

You've persisted in your Mormon analogy. I wonder, do you realize that Mormons use the same argument you and JS are using to "know" what the Scriptures are?

James Swan said...

I wonder, do you realize that Mormons use the same argument you and JS are using to "know" what the Scriptures are?

You have not been reading my words carefully. My argument is not the Mormon argument. Recall what I wrote in this very discussion on December 21st:

Obviously, the church plays some role in the Canon. Obviously, history plays some role in the canon, obviously God's sovereignty and purpose play some role in the Canon, and obviously the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God's people plays some role in the collection of the canon. It is the explanation of these points that provide the answer to the question. Of course, this answer will be a lot more complicated than saying, "The Church authoritatively decided".

I doubt this criteria would flow out of the mouth of your standard Mormon.

Iohannes said...

Hello "Pope St. Peter",

Thank you for the time put into your response, as well as for your earnestness and politeness.

It looks like the discussion is branching off in a number of ways simultaneously. Since the format of blog comments is somewhat limiting, I would suggest keeping the focus on what (I think) is the main issue--the alleged problem that Protestants face in receiving the canon, which you raised in your original post. The other issues are interesting, and you have brought up a legitimate criticism of the conception that some contemporary Protestants have of church history. For my part, I have a fairly favorable view of Constantine, and one shared by many Protestants historically (see, for example, the words of Jonathan Edwards: "how glorious was Christ’s victory and triumph over [Satan] in the time of Constantine!"). I also believe that the state of the church at the time of Luther was the result of something rather more gradual than a sudden apostasy in the third or fourth century. But be that as it may, it does not have much bearing on the matter in question. And so I will leave off from it to turn to the principal topic.

You wrote against attributing to Rome the position that that the Church “makes” Scripture. I have not done this, and Owen, whom I cited, listed as something on which Protestants and RCs agree (at least in words), the idea that Scripture is in itself true and of divine authority, and that it doth not depend upon the church, as to that authority and truth which in itself it hath, — or that the testimony of the church doth not make it to be true, or to be the word of God. This is, therefore, not the locus of contention.

Instead, the contention was that the charge against Protestantism is unfounded, since pointing to the definition of the Magisterium only moves the difficulty back one step. As I have written elsewhere, The Magisterium and its teaching on the canon must... be received with the same elemental faith that Protestants exhibit in their reception of Scripture. I have yet to see how it can be otherwise.

Here is a passage from Dei Verbum, which you referred to above, and which was referenced in the footnote to one of the lines from the CCC that I quoted:

Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them. (8.3)

Please notice what is said in the second section that I have bolded. According to the RC doctrine, the Holy Spirit, testifying through the Church, leads believers, in whom he dwells, into the truth. The truth includes acceptance of the Magisterium, and together with it, acceptance of the canon of Scripture.

This doctrine is almost uncannily similar to the statement in the WCF that believers ultimately receive the Scriptures as the word of God because of the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts. The difference is that while for RCs, they come upon "the living voice of the Gospel" in the Church, and are led to recognize it as such by the guidance of the Spirit, in the case of Protestants, they come upon the same in the Scriptures, being likewise brought by the Spirit to recognize it. Protestants of course agree that the voice of the God is also found in the church, which preaches and proclaims the Gospel, but they maintain that the recognition of the voice of God in the Scriptures does not depend for its certainty upon the mediation of the testimony of an infallible church.

In light of these considerations, it seems that the RC believer's acceptance of the Magisterium's claim of authority is quite alike in quality to the Protestant believer's acceptance of the canon and text of Scripture. In both cases the belief is (in the last analysis) certain, not because it is authenticated by an external, objective authority, but because of the testimony of the Spirit through and alongside what is believed. In short, the RC makes the same sort of judgment about the trustworthiness of the Magisterium that the Protestant makes about that of the Scriptures.

This is what Archibald Alexander Hodge highlighted in his Outlines of Theology when he said (Ch. 5, Q. 22):

Is there a God? Has he revealed himself? Has he established a church? Is that church an infallible teacher? Is private judgment a blind leader? Which of all pretended churches is the true one? Every one of these questions evidently must be settled in the private judgment of the inquirer, before he can, rationally or irrationally, give up his private judgment to the direction of the self-asserting church.

The person who, in becoming a RC, decides to accept the authority of the Magisterium--just as the Protestant deciding to accept the Scripture--makes his decision without recourse to some external authority (a Super-Magisterium, if you will), that could infallibly authenticate what he is accepting. There is no infallible, external authority that tells him to submit to the judgment of the RCC, as opposed to the judgment of the Greek, or Armenian, or Ethiopian Church. Keating's argument cuts both ways: Without such an authority, we are left to our own prejudices, and we cannot tell if our prejudices lead us in the right direction. If the Protestant has only prejudice to lead him to accept the canon, what has the RC to lead him to accept the claims to authority made by his church?

I apologize for the length of this comment, and hope you will forgive me for the extent of the recapitulation of the same idea. I thank you for your patience, and pray that this message finds you and yours well.

Respectfully,

John

FM483 said...

The pope stated:

"Mr. Marron,

You've persisted in your Mormon analogy. I wonder, do you realize that Mormons use the same argument you and JS are using to "know" what the Scriptures are?"

MY RESPONSE:

You answered my questions with another question. Why? I simply wanted you to tellme how you as a RC would deal with Mormonism or any other sect like the JW? Each of these sects are similar to the RCC in that they each maintain they are the true repository of God's revelation to mankind. This is similar to the RCC which makes the exact same assertion. As I pointed out earlier, we live in a Postmodern age where the philosophy of Relativism thrives. This philosophy maintains there is no absolute truth: you have your truth and I have mine. Once again, as a RC,how would you confront these various belief systems which claim absolute authority regarding the truth from God? Can you answer this simple question or not? Your thoughtful response should aid the discussion regarding the methodology in dealing with alternative truth claims.

Frank Marron

Iohannes said...

Something which may be relevant to the discussion is the Muratorian Fragment, the origin of which is commonly dated to around 170 AD. The text is available here.

With regard to the question of how Christians in whom the Spirit dwells may mistakenly hold something to be inspired which is not, a verse which it may be helpful to consider is 1 John 4:1 (cf. 1 Cor. 14:29). It is conceivable that in the days before the cessation of the gift of prophesy, Christians may sometimes have erred in thinking something to have been delivered from God which in fact came only from men. In the same way, people in the church may sometimes have erred in their judgment as to which books were canonical. Nevertheless, this does not undermine the overall soundness of the Spirit's testimony; for just as early Christians could receive as certain what they discerned through the Spirit to have been given them by God through the prophets, so they also could receive as certain what they likewise discerned to have been given as inspired Scripture. For more explanation, see Calvin's commentary on what is entailed in the command to "try the spirits" in the verse from First John. One notable remark he makes is the following: But as the Apostle would have commanded this in vain, were there no power of judging supplied, we may with certainty conclude, that the godly shall never be left destitute of the Spirit of wisdom as to what is necessary, provided they ask for him of the Lord.

James Swan said...

iohannes-

In light of these considerations, it seems that the RC believer's acceptance of the Magisterium's claim of authority is quite alike in quality to the Protestant believer's acceptance of the canon and text of Scripture. In both cases the belief is (in the last analysis) certain, not because it is authenticated by an external, objective authority, but because of the testimony of the Spirit through and alongside what is believed. In short, the RC makes the same sort of judgment about the trustworthiness of the Magisterium that the Protestant makes about that of the Scriptures.

The entirety of your comments were indeed a blessing- the above section stood out to me, as I have harped on points along these lines.

The problem sometimes raised against the point you've made,is fideism, and i'm sure you're aware of this charge in regard to presuppositional apologetics.In a sense, Pope St. Peter has gone in this direction when he charges my certainty on the Canon to be the same criteria used by Mormons.

I think a counter response can be phrased as follows. Once a Roman Catholic subjectively places their faith in the RC Magisterium, I simply ask Roman Catholics to apply their chosen authority and see if it works as a template for reality. Like, when I earlier brought up Old Testament believers, Timothy, and the Early Church Fathers. Where was the infallible magisterium defining the Canon and providing certainty?

As I study the Bible and History, the template for reality used by Roman Catholic continually doesn't fit. I think this is why no one has come to rescue Pope Damasus from my blog entry.

Pope_St_Peter said...

Iohannes - you don't mind if I use your Latin name, do? - I must confess, I have not read any of your comments. My family has been so unbelievably busy this past Christmas weekend, and what I've posted has been here and there on my Word Document. As everyone can probably tell, I've focused primarily on James's comments because they have the most substance. I think I've been faithful to the discussion. I did post my paper on The Reformed Doctrine of Inscripturation in order to bring up what I feel is the main issue in this debate; however, I still answered what was given me.

My daughter will be spending the day with her grandmother today, and instead of delving into my Christmas gift (Dr. Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origins of the Atonement), I will be reading your posts in order to give a response.

In Christ and His Bride,
Petrus

FM483 said...

Open Question, especially directed to the pope and all Roman Catholics:

Does the following Scripture verse apply equally to all believers, even Pope Benedict and his magesterium?

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for resetting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God, and fit him fully for all branches of his work.” – 2Tim 3:16 (taken from “The New Testament in Modern English”, J.B.Phillips)

Frank Marron

Pope_St_Peter said...

Do you mean, can all Catholics use Scripture "for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16; RSV:CE)? Of course.

Pope_St_Peter said...

I'm glad you recognize that the Church does not claim to “make” the Scriptures. Mr. Swan, however, stated something quite different: “It does not though, create the Canon, or stand above the Canon” (emphasis mine). He also quoted Sproul as saying, “some have argued that the Bible owes its authority to the church’s authority” (emphasis mine). This is why I had to quote Vatican I, Pope Leo XIII and Vatican II at length, which revealed that these comments from Mr. Swan and Sproul are “straw men.” I do not doubt that Mr. Swan, like you, already know what the Church's teaching is. Thus, his arguing a position that he knows is not the Church's is very revealing of his thinking on this issue.

You bring up a point that I've been trying to get at, but just haven't been able to. As I told Mr. Swan, we both believe that the Holy Spirit gave us the Scriptures. What we disagree on is whether that means was infallible, and, if his quotes of Sproul are accurate, then some “Protestant theologians” disagree on this as well (“Some Protestant theologians believe a special work of divine providence kept the church from error in this matter without imparting to the church any permanent or inherent infallibility.”[emphasis mine]).

You argument that “Keating's argument cuts both ways” is difficult to answer because I don't know what the relationship between, or the difference between “certainty” and “infallible” is for Protestants. This is why I asked Mr. Swan to clarify. When a Protestant says, “I believe the Bible to be true, therefore I can believe what it says,” first of all, is this circular reasoning; secondly, and more relevantly, does he mean that he has infallible certainty that the Bible is true? Or, does the Protestant simply not care? In light of his (gracious) quotations from Sproul, I asked Mr. Swan, and am asking you, how do we know that the Church didn't err in her judgments concerning the Canon? Just because it's been a long time? Or because a person has a conversion experience when reading the Bible, like Tina Turner had when she encountered Buddhism? (Ms. Turner's conversion is quote amazing in this regard, because she lived, as you all probably know, a very immoral life. But when she encountered Buddhism, her whole life changed. She became a completely different person.)

You made the claim that there is an no “external authority” involved in acceptance of either the Magisterium's authority or the authority of Sola Scriptura. I do not accept this. No one can confess Jesus as Lord without the Holy Spirit, Who is an infallible Person. Thus, the Holy Spirit's guidance is an infallible one.

In light of Sproul's comments on a “fallible collection of infallible books,” tell me, was St. Paul a fallible writer writing infallible words? Or was he an infallible writer writing infallible words?

Iohannes said...

James--

Thank you for your kind words. If there is one great fact that this discussion brings out for me, it is the truth in Van Til's assertion that: To admit one's own presuppositions and to point to the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting point, the method and the conclusion are always involved in one another. DotF, p. 101 in the 3rd ed. And further, Reasoning in a vicious circle is the only alternative to reasoning in a circle. SCE, p. 11. When I compare the teaching of Rome at Trent and other places to the teaching of Scripture (as well as of philosophy and history), it is clear to me that, as you have said, "the template for reality used by Roman Catholic continually doesn't fit." Protestants and RCs both reason in a circle, but I firmly believe that one of these circles is consistent with itself, and one is not.

Dr. Blosser, who was cited above, gives an intriguing response to the Protestant position: [T]he argument of self-evidence begs the question by overlooking the distinction between evidence as an objective property (brightness is an evident property of the sun) and as a subjective perception (its brightness is not evident on a cloudy day). The divine inspiration of Scripture is “self-evidencing” in the first sense, but not necessarily in the second.

The distinction he makes helps to clarifies the matter. However, is not something as innocent as a cloud that keeps men from seeing the radiance of divine truth; it is their sin, which has, as it were, put out their eyes, thus blinding them. As Owen wrote, He that needs another to tell him what is light, wants eyes. In man's fallen condition, it is the intervention of the Spirit that gives him eyes that he may see. That is, the Christian perceives the Spirit objectively in the word through the witness of the Spirit subjectively beside the word. To quote Owen again, The testimony of the Spirit in the word is open, public, general, to all, if they have but eyes to see it; whereas the inward application of it by the efficiency of the Spirit is only to believers. God in his providence has given men additional evidence that assists in corroborating the truth of Scripture, but it is ultimately not this evidence, but rather God's own direct testimony by the Spirit that must be decisive.

"Pope St. Peter"--

Thank you for your reply. Please do not feel pressured to respond quickly; I would gladly wait, if other things require your attention.

I appreciate your efforts toward clarification. Since the particular issue of what Rome teaches about the relation of Scripture's authority to that of the Church has been settled, we can move on to the heart of the matter.

You wrote:

When a Protestant says, “I believe the Bible to be true, therefore I can believe what it says,” first of all, is this circular reasoning; secondly, and more relevantly, does he mean that he has infallible certainty that the Bible is true?

Also:

[H]ow do we know that the Church didn't err in her judgments concerning the Canon?

And:

[W]as St. Paul a fallible writer writing infallible words? Or was he an infallible writer writing infallible words?

I will attempt to answer these in order.

First, I believe the Scriptures to be the very word of God because the Spirit has graciously enabled me, by nature a poor, blind, deaf sinner, to hear God speaking in them. This is indeed circular. It is also about as certain as anything can be; for I cannot conceive of any authority higher than that of God himself. I do not here object to circular reasoning; if I did, I would object to all reasoning. What I oppose is circularity that is inconsistent with itself, which is what I think appears in the argument that without an infallible church, Christians could not know what is actually Scripture.

Second, I know the church, meaning the general body of believers throughout the world and across the ages, has not erred in its basic consensus on the canon, not because of an infallible authority inherent in the church, but because the Spirit leads me to receive as Scripture the same writings that he has led other believers to accept as Scripture. This is the same Spirit who leads me to believe in the same Christ in whom he has led other Christians to believe. I certainly do not scorn the testimony of the church, but I ultimately do not trust the Scriptures and my Savior because of her testimony, but because of the direct testimony of the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit who also brings me into the communion of the church).

Third, Peter, whom I greatly esteem, as I do the other apostles, was a fallible man whom God condescended to use so that through him He would give the world two inspired and infallible epistles. Peter himself could certainly err; and Paul recounts in Galatians 2:11ff how he once at Antioch had 'to oppose him to his face.' As to whether he was an "infallible writer" I am not entirely sure how to answer, since the phrase may lend itself to some ambiguity. The infallibility did not reside in Peter but in the Spirit who breathed the words he penned and who kept his pen from error as he wrote his letters.

You also asked whether the Protestant's certainty about the bible and its canon is because a person has a conversion experience when reading the Bible, like Tina Turner had when she encountered Buddhism?

I would say that there is both a subjective and an objective component to the Protestant believer's reception of the bible; please see what I wrote above in response to Dr. Blosser's analogy. As for why I reject the conversion experience to Buddhism, I do so because it is contradicted by what I understand God to have taught me about man, the world, and Himself. If I were to demonstrate why the conversion experience to Buddhism was unsound, I would probably do so through an internal critique of the Buddhist worldview, which would demonstrate that it is inconsistent with itself and with experience. This, however, would take us far beyond the scope of the present discussion.

Finally, you wrote: You made the claim that there is an no “external authority” involved in acceptance of either the Magisterium's authority or the authority of Sola Scriptura. I do not accept this. No one can confess Jesus as Lord without the Holy Spirit, Who is an infallible Person. Thus, the Holy Spirit's guidance is an infallible one.

Here you are immeasurably close to seeing the point. I receive the Scriptures because of the witness of the Spirit. The Spirit, who is very God who cannot lie, who causes me to confess Christ as Lord, and who brings me into the communion of the church, also by his testimony gives me my certainty about Scripture, bearing witness by and with the word in my heart.

I do not need to have recourse to an infallible church, or to any other infallible and external authority, to receive the bible on the testimony of the infallible Spirit, which is internal within the word itself and also inward in my heart.

Having the direct testimony of the Spirit in and with the word, my certainty about Scripture is not mediated through another infallible authority. The same is true in the case of your acceptance of the Magisterium. You did not decide which church's teaching to accept because a Super Magisterium infallibly settled the question of whose claim to receive, whether it be that of the Roman Church, or of the Greek Church, or of the Ethiopian Church, etc. Your decision about accepting the judgments of the Roman Magisterium is rather the same in quality as the Protestant's decision about accepting the canon.

What Keating said was that without an infallible authority (and he apparently is not counting the testimony of the Spirit) to tell us which books belong in Scriptures, we are left to our own prejudices, and we cannot tell if our prejudices lead us in the right direction. My contention is that if Keating is right, then without an infallible authority to tell RCs which church's teaching to receive, they are left with their own prejudices to guide them in submitting to the judgment of the Roman Magisterium, and cannot tell if their prejudices lead them in the right direction.

I wholly agree with your sentiment; may God forbid that the testimony of his Spirit be dismissed as prejudice! But if the RC will dismiss it as such in the case of the one accepting the Scriptures, he must, to be consistent, dismiss it as such in the case of one accepting the Magisterium's judgment. What, then, is he left with? The tension looks irreconcilable to me.

I again apologize for the length and repetitiveness of these comments. I hope I am not proving to be a mere nuisance to you, and hope that you are blessed in your study of this question.

Respectfully,

John

Pope_St_Peter said...

Iohannes,

On the contrary! Thank you very much for your simple and clear words. My finally turning my attention to you this day has an added backing, if you will; for today is the Feast Day of St. John the Apostle, and further, when I did my usual devotion this morning, it was on Psalm 119, which is arguably the strongest passage in support of Sola Scriptura. Anyway, call me superstitious!

You bring up a very interesting point, Iohannes, concerning the Spirit's testimony within one's heart. This especially intrigues me because when I was doing the reading for my paper I had to skip over that section in Muller's presentation of the Reformed scholastics. I simply did not have the time (It's tough going to school and having a family!).

However, as moving as your belief in the Spirit's activity is, I don't see how it is reconciled with what the New Testament actually says. I'm sure others here will probably accuse me of having to write that last sentence, but if you can look past the polemic, then please believe that it is a sincerely objective concern.

I would like to carry this conversation further, but I'm not that this is the "blog topic" to do it under. In light of what you've said about the Spirit's activity, would you please respond to my paper as a response to what you've said. The first half of the paper can be skipped over because I'm not giving the Reformed scholastics' understanding of what you've presented; however, the second part, the Catholic response, is nevertheless applicable here.

In Christ and His Bride,
Petrus

Qwerty said...

"No reader of the New Testament can need proof of this; on every page of that book is spread the evidence that from the very beginning the Old Testament was as cordially recognized as law by the Christian as by the Jew. The Christian church thus was never without a “Bible” or a “canon.”"

That's an interesting point that ought to be easily verified. What were the books of the Christian Cannon in 40 AD? Could you please list them along with the source(s)?

What were the books of the cannon in 40 BC? Did all Jews recognize this same cannon? Could you please list them along with the source(s)?

Iohannes said...

Thank you for your cordial reply. I would be happy to look through and address your paper. It may take a little time to do so, but I will try to respond by Thursday evening or early Friday.

Respectfully,

John

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Swan,

You take issue with the fact that some Catholics are not concerned with the details of an infallible statement, that some Catholics are content with believing that the Holy Spirit guides the Magisterium. This is no different than asking a Christian how Mary conceived the Son of God while still a virgin, to which they would simply respond, “By the power of the Holy Spirit.” The next question, according to you, should be: “How?” You say that, “when the Roman Catholic claims 'certainty' we have every right to challenge this and make them prove it. If they do have 'certainty', they should be able to provide rational argumentation to substantiate it.” So, tell us Mr. Swan, how did the Holy Spirit impregnate Mary, not to mention while keeping her a virgin?

How did someone like St. Clement of Rome know he was quoting inspired wirings from St. Paul? Because he accepted the authority by which he received them. This authoritative sharing, if you will, can already be seen in St. Paul's letter to the Colossians: “And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also among the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea” (Col 4:16;RSV). In other words, the early Christians held fast to the traditions, “either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess 2:15;RSV). Tradition, as the Church would later state, “By means of the same Tradition the full canon of the sacred books is known to the Church” (Dei Verbum, II.8).

This is why some Catholics might not concern themselves with your assertion that “previous to [Trent] there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books (about their belonging to the canon).” The Word of God was handed on in its entirety. Furthermore, your attempt to argue “uncertainty” amongst the laity until Trent is refuted by Jaroslav Pelikan's observation that, “The writings of Eusebius and of his contemporary, Athanasius of Alexandria, make it evident that agreement on the disputed books was approaching by the middle of the fourth century and that the canon of the New Testament which now appears in Christian Bibles was gaining general, if not universal, acceptance. That canon appears for the first time in a letter of Athanasius issued in 367 CE,” and also, “The second canon of the Second Trullan Council of 692, known to canon lawyers as the Quinisext, make be taken to have formally closed the process of the formation of the New Testament canon for East and West” (Who's Bible Is It?, pp. 116-117).

You never denied the “role of the Church,” but you never defined what it was, practically. In fact, how does it play out practically, as well as “history” and “God's sovereignty”? You brought all these up and never defined what they were. For instance, in this same paragraph you mention both “the role of the Church” and “the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God's people”; are the “Church” and the “people” two different things here? All these is obvious to you, but it wasn't obvious to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. It wasn't obvious to the early Christians who thought 1 Clement, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Epistle of Barnabas, and many others were inspired. With such confusion the Protestant must be asked, “How was the Christian to know what books were inspired?” Is this were the Mormon experience comes into play? It just wasn't a universal experience until the mid-fourth century? “[T]he [Protestant] paradigm for certainty fails when applied practically.” This Mormon experience apparently didn't help the Thessalonian Christians, who had accepted a letter as coming from St. Paul which had shaken their faith!

Your biases and presuppositions give you an over-simplistic conception of the formation of the Canon. You “recognize the Christian Church received the Canon,” but completely ignore the fact that the Church had received much more than the Canon (i.e., the post-apostolic writings). As I've said before, like St. Luke, the Church had to sift through many traditions in order to find the right ones. Was not St. Luke infallible, which you stated means, “incapable of error,” when he did this? Or, let me guess, he was a fallible writer writing infallible words? Despite your long paragraph on how you agree that the Christian Church received the canon, in the end you basically said, “The Holy Spirit gave it to us; see, even St. Augustine says so.” Exactly what you accused Catholics of!

The tremendous epistemological weight of the Protestant is overbearing, and is obvious in this discussion. Despite the accusation that when Catholics are asked of the practical process of an infallible decision, they simply respond, “the Holy Spirit”; the Protestant, when asked of the practical workings of “the role of the Church,” “history,” “God's sovereignty,” and “the work of the Holy Spirit,” can only answer: “I’m 'certain' or 'sure' that the Canon is the Word of God, not because the Church infallibly said so. My certainty results from my faith in God’s providence- in his outworking of his will for his people.”

James Swan said...

This discussion has gotten rather long, and sidetracked, yet interesting nonetheless, which is why I’ve not posted any new blog entries. My apologies for not keeping up with everything that has been put forth.

That being said, I do have some further comments to make to “Pope st. Peter” whom I’m now going to refer to with his real name: Frank G. Ramirez (he posted this on his blog, Sancta Mater Ecclesia). I noticed he just posted a lengthy reply to me- I will have to get to this within the next day or two.

First, here's a comment I didn't want to miss from a few days ago:

I do not believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus promised because I was spoon-fed it from day one. As a former Protestant who studied theology at a Protestant Bible college…

What “kind” of former Protestant were you? Were you either Lutheran or Reformed? Or were you simply a garden-variety Protestant? Other than confessional Protestants (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican etc.), I do not hold a high level of respect for non-confessional churches (though there are exceptions). Which Bible College did you attend? What theology did you study?

I came to believe the Catholic Church to be the Church Jesus promised because the Holy Spirit revealed it me in His Word (Note: not "human reason" or "commonsense")! To repeat, I did not wake up one day (as a Protestant) and think to myself, "Wow! The Catholic Church claims to be the true Church; I'd better convert."

If the Holy Spirit did indeed reveal this to you, the Holy Spirit led you to believe in a Church that teaches doctrine not found in the Bible. Thus, the Holy Spirit also had to reveal to you that God speaks outside of Scripture. The Holy Spirit also had to reveal to you that the Roman Magisterium also infallibly declares the meaning and scope of both. Now this is much more like Mormonism. The Mormon prays and asks God if the Mormon Church is true. God responds by His Spirit and reveals that the Bible, Mormon extra-biblical beliefs, and the interpretation as determined by the Mormon Church is true (allegedly, that is).

Now, to some recent comments:


There are some fundamental misunderstandings that must be cleared up. One of them is the contention that the Church “makes” Scripture.

I have not made this claim. However, Some Catholic apologists do claim the Church precedes and predates Scripture, and therefore is the principle causality behind the Scriptures. In other words, the argument is that, without the Church, the Scriptures would not exisit. Do you think the Word of God could exist without the Roman Church?

Thus, your argument that the Catholic would not have known what the exact number of writings were prior to the Council of Trent, doesn't have any weight…

Stop right there. I have been arguing about certainty. I have applied a Roman Catholic paradigm: Certainty for Catholic laymen is given by infallible decree. Since there was not an infallible decree on which books were canonical until Trent, a Catholic could not know, with certainty, which books were canonical and which were not. In other words, I have argued not about a “number of books”- I have argued that a Catholic couldn’t have certainty on any of the books!

…because the Scriptures are a part of the Tradition that the Church has always had and handed on. In other words, like the hypothetical Protestant who lived prior to the Early Church's definitive acknowledgment of the extant of the Canon, the Catholic still received the Word of God in its fullness prior to Trent, because both accepted Apostolic Tradition. Your question only has weight if you presuppose Sola Scriptura.

I have not spoken about “hypothetical Protestants”. I have spoken about Christians. My point, is to apply the Roman Catholic paradigm: certainty is given by infallible decree. There was not an infallible decree previous to Trent, hence, no certainty. The argument is not really about the Canon, or the number of books in the canon. The argument is about popping the bubble of the need for an infallible magistertium to provide certainty. If it is proved that there is no need for an infallible magisterium, the popular argument put forth by contemporary Catholic apologists that Protestants can’t know which books should be in the canon without an infallible magisterium falls. Hence, most of your Roman references aren’t even relevant. You're arguing against a position I don’t even hold. I know (and have stated), that the Church receives the Bible from God. Thus I can agree that “they [books] have God for their author and were delivered as such to the Church.” As J.I. Packer said long ago about the Canon, “Not that the church created the New Testament canon by recognizing and isolating it, any more than Newton created the law of gravity by recognizing it and catching it in a formula; nor did the early church, which over four centuries achieved the recognition, ever suppose itself to be creating anything.”

You asked whether I was going to prove the Church authority by someone other means than Sola Scriptura. Of course I am! Fr. (and Dr.) Mitchell Pacwa, S.J., stated in his debate with James White, that the Catholic Church doesn't get her authority from the Bible, but from Jesus Christ. For Catholics, Jesus and the biblical world are not a literary one like Frodo and Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. So Catholics do not appeal to a literary figure or world for its authority; we appeal to a historical One.

I do have this debate somewhere, but I will trust you accurately have quoted Pacwa. Let me try to rephrase the question: In which historical record can you produce that proves the Roman Catholic Church got her authority from Jesus Christ? I know of no other record than the Biblical record. If you want to admit that the Roman Church got her authority from Jesus because they say so, you will get no argument from me. It will simply stand in this discussion as an example of sola ecclesia. You believe it, because you have made a leap of faith- you are not relying on “proof”. It is a beginning unproven presupposition you hold.

As to the extent of the Canon, Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit guided the leaders (bishops) of the Church “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13; RSV:CE) in her discernment of which writings were inspired by Him and which were not.

And I would not disagree. The argument is about whether or not this Church is an infallible Church.

When applied to the Early Church, a superficial reading reveals that things were not as obvious as you indicate. As I mentioned before, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John were all disputed, while works such as 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas and more were considered inspired. Does this piece of history, which according to Jaroslav Pelikan goes into the mid-fourth century, reveal a confusion in the Church on the part of the people as to what the Spirit was revealing in their hearts?

Actually, there is hardly any meaningful disagreement about the New Testament canon in the early church. There are isolated occurrences in the historical record. James White points out: “…It is precisely the scattered nature of these statements, and the fact that they never reflect a consensus of believers over any period of time or great distance, that substantiates my claim [there is hardly any meaningful disagreement to be noted on the New Testament canon in the early church]. It is good that there were those who questioned canonical works, especially when they first appeared in a particular area; de facto, open arms and untested acceptance of any ‘scripture’ indicates a lack of discernment. The reception of some works in the particular area of their original authorship is likewise understandable, even if such works never gained currency outside of the geographical area of their origination.”

James Swan said...

Frank G-

You take issue with the fact that some Catholics are not concerned with the details of an infallible statement,

From this discussion, please clarify- Quote me.

that some Catholics are content with believing that the Holy Spirit guides the Magisterium.

From this discussion, please clarify- Quote me.

I ask this, because i'm curious which of my statements prompted you to make these two comments. This will help me put forth a response to you.

Iohannes said...

"Pope St. Peter"--

I am sorry, but it may take me a little longer than I anticipated to respond to your paper (in part because I am doing some study, so that the answer might be more worthy of your time, and in part also because of a small problem with my car, which will probably occupy me tomorrow morning). I do assure you, though, that I intend to respond, and I hope to do so by the Lord's Day.

In the mean time, as a gift, I would like to send you a small volume which explores the Reformed teaching about the authority of the bible. It is entitled The Infallible Word, and is a collection of articles by the faculty of Westminster Seminary. In honesty I must admit that I have read in full only the first article, which is an excellent treatment by John Murray of the attestation of Scripture. However, having looked through the chapters on the authority of the Old and New Testaments, I believe these also may address, in a way more scholarly and thorough than I can hope to achieve, some of your questions about the how Protestants understand the reception of the canon. If you would send your address to me by e-mail (to lechaca1 {at} netscape.net), I will have the book dispatched to you.

Sincerely,

John

Pope_St_Peter said...

I see that my summary comments have pushed some buttons. I realize that this is a very difficult conversation for you, because your biases, presuppositions and theological tradition can never allow you to consider the fact that you might be wrong, i.e., you engage in circular reasoning. I'll not be responding to everything you've said, Mr. Swan, because you've not responded to everything I've said. I've addressed every single point you've brought up not only throughout this discussion, but in my most recent comments, which were a kind of summary of everything I have said. I have this entire conversation on Word Perfect, and after reviewing everything you and I have said, I have responded accordingly – and this despite the incredibly busy schedule my family has had. You, on the other hand, have not returned the favor. You quote me here and there and respond to what you like.

You want to know what kind of Christian I was prior to converting to Holy Mother Church: I was a “garden variety Protestant.” I did have some Dutch Reformed friends, one of whom is entering the Church this Easter and the other has converted to Anglo-Catholicism, but I myself was not privileged to be one of these Protestant elite. As for the college: the Criswell College. It was a college that was started by Dr. W.A. Criswell in reaction to Liberal Protestantism.

Having answered these questions, I should point out the relevance of my mentioning my being a former Protestant. First, I was responding to Mr. Marron, as you well know. Secondly, I was pointing out that I have somewhat of an objective perspective (I say “somewhat” because nobody has a completely objective perspective). Thirdly, I realize I have not won your respect – nor was that ever a concern of mine – but Dr. Kenneth Howell, the former professor of Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Hermeneutics at Reformed Theological Seminary, should. Thus, your comments about the Holy Spirit guiding me into “a Church that teaches doctrine not found in the Bible” also apply to Dr. Howell, as well as to former professor Joshua Hochschild, who was fired this past February from Wheaton College for converting to Rome.

Here are some quotes from you, as you requested:

- The Church simply infallibly declares the Canon...problem solved.

- But then, these same people come to the Canon of sacred scripture, and it's as simple as saying, "The Church [sic] infalibly declared the Canon"... or apply this to any other argument...."The Church has declared x or y".

- Try asking such a person a question like, "what criteria was used by Trent or Damasus to determine Canonicity?" What? The answer is simply something like, "Well, the Holy Spirit directed these men (or counsels) as to which books were to be in the Canon." The question then asked should be, "how?"

- Of course, this answer will be a lot more complicated than saying, "The Church authoritatively decided".

Also, I do not accept James White as an authority on Church history, and certainly not early Church history. I referred to Jaroslav Pelikan, a noted Church historian who specialized in the development of Christian doctrine. I realize that bringing this up is irrelevant because you're not free to pursue an objective perspective, but I should mention it anyway.

Pope_St_Peter said...

P.S.

Mr. Swan, please read the last paragraph of my post again. It begins, "The tremendous epistemological weight.." This paragraph should've gotten rid of your need for quotes.

Iohannes said...

Since I earlier referred to chapter 7 of the first book of the Institutes, which concerns the ultimate proof of Scripture, it may be good, for the sake of balance, to suggest an examination of chapter 8 as well, which concerns additional witnesses to the truth of Scripture, including specifically the proper place of the church. Calvin concludes this section by saying:

These, however, cannot of themselves produce a firm faith in Scripture until our heavenly Father manifest his presence in it, and thereby secure implicit reverence for it. Then only, therefore, does Scripture suffice to give a saving knowledge of God when its certainty is founded on the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Still the human testimonies which go to confirm it will not be without effect, if they are used in subordination to that chief and highest proof, as secondary helps to our weakness. But it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. This it cannot be known to be, except by faith. Justly, therefore, does Augustine remind us, that every man who would have any understanding in such high matters must previously possess piety and mental peace.

Calvin's attitude here reminds me somewhat of the place of the theistic proofs in Christian apologetics. As Berkhof said, "They have some value for believers themselves, but should be called testimonia rather than arguments." [NB The word 'some' should not be taken as disparaging; it only expresses the fact that they must, however impressive they seem, in the end be be what Calvin calls 'secondary helps'.]

Iohannes said...

I realize that when one penetrates to the level of presuppositions it is hard to avoid raising the matter of biases, which action has a unique unpleasantness about it--but may we all proceed to this in a charitable fashion? Acerbity will likely end only in mutual frustration, and thereby rob us all of an opportunity for edification.

Pope_St_Peter said...

I'm trying Iohannes. I really am. But to me, Mr. Swan is very inconsistent in his thought. This is what is making me frustrated.

On another note, it seems to me that the issue of ecclesiology must be addressed if substantial progress is to be made. Calvin uses the phrase "human testimonies," but to Catholics the Church is not merely a human witness. I tried to bring this up before with Mr. Swan, but he just doesn't get it. If the "Old Testamant believer," as he called them, heard the Prophet Isaiah saying, "Thus saith the LORD," he/she would have to have a faith in Isaiah in addition to his message, would they not? In other words, in order to accept his message as from God ("God-breathed"), they would have to believe that he was infallible at the time he spoke it (or wrote it).

To some degree, the Protestant position seems to be: "To hell with Timothy, we want 1 and 2 Timothy." Whereas the Catholic position is that just like St. Luke (this is my third time brining this up now) had to sift through the traditions in order to write his Gospel - the words were not dictated to him from the Holy Spirit - so the Church had to sift through the traditions in order to gather the inspired writings. Further, just as Christians don't believe that St. Luke was a fallible writer writing infallible words, but rather that he was infallible at the time of writing them, so Catholics believe that the Church was infallible at the time of her gathering the writings, and according to Sproul, "some Protestant theologians" do as well.

James Swan said...

Frank G:
I see that my summary comments have pushed some buttons.

If by “pushed some buttons” you think in some way I’m angry, heated up, or losing sleep over your comments, you are very mistaken. I’ve appreciated your contributions and attempt to provide reasoning for your faith.

I realize that this is a very difficult conversation for you, because your biases, presuppositions and theological tradition can never allow you to consider the fact that you might be wrong, i.e., you engage in circular reasoning.

Your realizations are a product of your imagination. Also, you may wish to reread John’s comments about Van Til and circular reasoning. In fact, it would be a good idea for you to go out and get Van Til’s books. I am a presuppositionalist- thus rather creating a chimera in your mind, you would have a better idea of who I am, and thus would not make such comments.

I'll not be responding to everything you've said, Mr. Swan, because you've not responded to everything I've said.

I’ve been around the block with this type of thing before. Like the time I responded to everything from a well-known Catholic apologist with a 70 page single spaced paper and 100 or so footnotes, only to get a small response a week later. Rather, I try to at least stay on a topic, and go with that topic.

I've addressed every single point you've brought up not only throughout this discussion, but in my most recent comments, which were a kind of summary of everything I have said. I have this entire conversation on Word Perfect, and after reviewing everything you and I have said, I have responded accordingly – and this despite the incredibly busy schedule my family has had. You, on the other hand, have not returned the favor. You quote me here and there and respond to what you like.

Well, I guess we can assume you did misquote Clement last week. Similarly I have a busy schedule, and am able to spend only about an hour a day on line. This weekend, i'm going to again try to have me entire phone/computer switched over to Cable, so I will probably be computer-less. I respond to what is put forth, time allowing. If you are spending time here at the expense of your family, I think you should rethink the way you utilize your time. I appreciate your contributions, but do not spend time here at the loss of spending time with those of importance in your life.

You want to know what kind of Christian I was…

Thank you for your clarification.

Having answered these questions, I should point out the relevance of my mentioning my being a former Protestant. First, I was responding to Mr. Marron, as you well know. Secondly, I was pointing out that I have somewhat of an objective perspective (I say “somewhat” because nobody has a completely objective perspective). Thirdly, I realize I have not won your respect – nor was that ever a concern of mine – but Dr. Kenneth Howell, the former professor of Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Hermeneutics at Reformed Theological Seminary, should. Thus, your comments about the Holy Spirit guiding me into “a Church that teaches doctrine not found in the Bible” also apply to Dr. Howell, as well as to former professor Joshua Hochschild, who was fired this past February from Wheaton College for converting to Rome.

I’ve never heard of Dr. Howell or Joshua Hochschild. But I have read Surprised By Truth, and I do watch the Journey Home- so I do have an inkling of understanding of the Protestant “conversion story.”

Now, my questions to them would be the same as those I’ve been asking you. Simply because someone is well-educated does not mean they are beyond grave error. Gerry Matatics and Robert Sungenis should be proof of that- don’t you think? Both are very well educated, yet they’ve fallen out of favor with popular Roman Catholic apologetics- to the point where Catholic laymen, who once touted the brilliance of these “Protestant converts”, now speak of how wrong they are on important Catholic issues.

Here are some quotes from you, as you requested:…

Thank you for providing these. They will help formulate another response to you.

Also, I do not accept James White as an authority on Church history, and certainly not early Church history. I referred to Jaroslav Pelikan, a noted Church historian who specialized in the development of Christian doctrine. I realize that bringing this up is irrelevant because you're not free to pursue an objective perspective, but I should mention it anyway.

I deal with this type of false argument all the time. Rather than interact with the point made, the point is rejected because of who the author is. My method of reasoning is usually to point out the error in the point, and then reject the authority of the one who made the assertion. For instance, you can read through my Luther research to see this method. Roman Catholic writers say all sorts of things about Luther. I go and look at their point, research the point, invalidate the point by counter research (if it is flawed), and then raise the issue about reliance on that particular author. You of course, may have another method. In a Roman Catholic worldview, simply rejecting an author’s work without actually knowing why has been often been standard operating procedure.

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Swan,

I too deal with your kind, and it is almost a complete waste of time. I say "almost" because it is useful knowing how different Protestants try and get out from under the tremendous epistemological weight bearing down upon them. This conversation has been very informative, especially in light of your "Mormon hermeneutic" and the historical ambiguities that you've thrown into the conversation. Iohannes's introduction into the conversation has made your inconsistency of thought crystal clear. It is clear from comparing both of your comments that you are not a clear thinker. I'm sure you have a lot of knowledge; you just don't know how to present it.

At any rate, I didn't come here to change anyone's mind. As I told you before, I happened across your blog and thought your post interesting, and as the posts continued it got more interesting. I think now, though, that I must let this conversation go. School begins next week and you're not intellectually mature enough to make time for.

Iohannes said...

If I might interject, I think JS is making basically the same points that I have tried to make. I don't think he is being inconsistent or intellectually immature, certainly not any more than I have been. When I entered, I had the benefit of having a sturdy foundation already laid for my comments (and these were really only an endeavor toward clarification, or a way of approaching the matter from another angle).

As James suggested, I think part of the frustration arises from the fact that he is following the presuppositional method of apologetics, and his manner of doing this has been somewhat more direct and explicit than mine. The presuppositional (or Van Tilian) approach is often hard to understand when it is first encountered, and many Reformed folks themselves have trouble with it. PSP, if you are not familiar with this school of thought on apologetics, you might like to look into it. The best place to begin is probably with two essays by Cornelius Van Til: Why I Believe in God and My Credo. Van Til was very much an academic, and he is often criticized for using language that is difficult to understand. For an introduction to the more concrete and practical side of his method, you can look into the work of Greg Bahnsen, much of which is available for free online (just do a google search). Once you get a feel for how the method works, whether you like it or not, you will see that at the very least it cannot be branded as epistemologically unsophisticated.

In any event, I have enjoyed this discussion, and have very much benefited from it. If it is to continue, I think it may be good for us all to step back from it for a day. At this point, we have reached something of a standstill. I will try to post a response to PSP's paper tomorrow night or Sunday. Until then, I won't have anything more to say.

John

James Swan said...

At this point, we have reached something of a standstill. I will try to post a response to PSP's paper tomorrow night or Sunday. Until then, I won't have anything more to say.

John- if you'd like to post this response as a blog entry here, please e-mail me at Tertiumquid@msn.com.

I will be putting together one final comment, which will either be here, or maybe even an entire blog entry. Frank G's comments went from cordial to acescent. It is a shame this level of discourse was reached. Frank, you are still welcome to post here, but I suggest you do reread this dialog, and re-look at exactly which arguments have been made by myself and John.

I argued against the need for an infallible Magisterium. That's it in a nutshell.None of what you put forth logically forced one to conclude an infallible magisterium was needed. Further I argued that the current Roman Catholic paradigm for reality can't make sense of all the historical facts surrounding certainty for the canon.

James Swan said...

John:

Update-John- if you'd like to post this response to Frank G as a blog entry here, please e-mail me at:

Tertiumquid@optonline.net.

I dropped MSN today, and went high speed with a new internet provider.

Pope_St_Peter said...

Mr. Swan,

I apologize for letting my frustration with you show at the end of this conversation. Although you may know what you believe and why you believe it, as an outisder of your theological tradition, I do not think your presentation is clear at all. As I've responded to what you have written, and vice versa, and I perceived inconsistency in your presentation. As Iohannes has auggested, this may be in part because of your methodological approach to apologetics, which he says many find difficult. However, I think there is more to it.

Iohannes, I am still very interested in your response. Will you be posting it here or sending it to me e-mail? I thank you for your charity, and equally, your clarity. Your admission of circular reasoning on the most fundamental level is something I kept trying to get at with Mr. Swan, but he didn't seem to get it. If he had simply said what you said about having to admit circular reasoning, otherwise we wouldn't be able to reason, much progress would've been made. Likewise, your admission of what the Church actually teaches was essential to progress on this topic. Unfortunately, it was not taken advantage of. I wish you would have posted your comments at the beginning of this conversation! Nevertheless, if you would be so kind, I would very much like to pursue this conversation with you via e-mail.

In Christ and His Bride,
Pope St. Peter

James Swan said...

I would likewise affirm the statement from Van Til on circular reasoning- That being said, there is much more to flesh out on this, in particular with Catholic apologetics.

Van Til's brilliance was leveling non-Christian worldviews like atheism and relativism and exposing them as smoke and mirrors. That being said, I'd like to use his basic concepts and apply them to Roman Catholic paradigms-