Tuesday, April 22, 2008

You can take the Catholic out of the Church...

11Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
12Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Listening to Gerry Matatics on Iron Sharpens Iron today made me laugh at one point in particular, when host Chris Arnzen asked him this question (around minute 38):

(Your mainstream Catholic friends may say): You are acting as a Prot, certainly your Gospel is not Protestant and your sacraments and so on are not Protestant, but in you standing in defiance of bishops and a Pope, you are merely relying on private interpretation and so on, if you could comment on that.

Here is Matatics' response (as I have transcribed it):

Absolutely, no, the... the argument is totally fallacious, the claim is totally false and falls to the ground. I don't depend upon my private interpretation of Scripture, tradition, or anything the Mag has taught. I rely upon what the Catholic Church herself, the pillar and foundation of the truth, as St Paul calls the church in 1 Tim 3:15, has faithfully taught down thru the years. That teaching is clear, it is capable of being understood, or there's no point in having a teaching church. And it's very clear when we look at that church's teaching, for example, that what Luther was teaching at, uh, during his "Reformation", what John Calvin was teaching, what other Protestant "Reformers" were teaching about the fact that we can be justified by faith alone, is a heresy. No one could read the documents of the Council of Trent which met, you know, in the 1500s to address the errors of Luther, and come away thinking, "Gee, I'm a little confused. Is Luther a good guy or a bad guy? Is Calvin correct or incorrect?" It's very unambiguous that what these men are teaching is a heresy that is contrary to Scripture... so that's very clear, that the Catholic Church has always condemned Protestantism... so the Protestant here, Chris, is not Gerry Matatics, it's the guy who would follow Ratzinger. Ratzinger says in his book Principles of Catholic Theology that Protestantism is not heresy. So if somebody wants to look around for who are the Catholicss who are really Protestants masquerading as Catholics, it is the followers of Vatican 2. Vatican 2 teaches a Protestantised version....I say, Vat 2 teaches that Protestants do not need to convert to Catholicism in order to enter the one true church and in order to save their eternal souls.
(emphasis and quotations his)


I love it. Here Arnzen does us the favor of reflecting back on a Romanist the same question that so many Roman apologists (and indeed, Matatics himself in the past) LOVE to pose to Protestants - "Isn't _____ just your private interpretation, though? Don't we need an infallible interpreter to inform us of the true interpretation so that we will not fall into the disunity of multiple 10s of 1000s of denominations as we've seen in Protestantism?"

Listen to Matatics' response! All he does is answer in the same way as Protestants sometimes do - no, the teaching of the church is totally sufficiently clear, it is wholly adequate to communicate the truth of God. The teachings of the Council of Trent are easily understood.

Herein lies the blasphemy implicit in this kind of question. Church Fathers, papal encyclicals, conciliar decrees, etc are clearer than Scripture. God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture, but He gets it right or chooses to make it happen later on, in the teachings of the Church throughout history.

Such pitiful arguments have been answered over and over again, notably here and less notably here among countless other places. What I love most about this is to see the infighting among the "unified" Romanists, and a Roman apologist getting a taste of his own medicine.

28 comments:

Algo said...

Rhology,
Thanks for the heads up. I will listen to the interview tomorrow. How did you ever transcribe Gerry?

Rhology said...

Ah yes, the human semicolon.
Well, Windows Media Plyr has this slow play feature - hit Ctrl+Shift+S...

And for added entertainment, amp Gerry up by hitting Ctrl+Shift+G for play at 1.4X speed. :-D

The Dude said...

"God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture."
It is your view that His revelation is clear not to all, but only the regenerate correct? And also, that not all things are necessarily clear, but only those things essential, necessary for salvation right? If so, and all of Scripture is communicated by God, why is it acceptable/not a problem for SS proponents for God to be unclear on the unnecessary things?

Rhology said...

Hi there,

It is your view that His revelation is clear not to all, but only the regenerate correct?

Incorrect.
Besides, we're talking about the hypocritical questions asked by RC apologists, and that's not their view either, on their presuppositions; only when it's convenient when criticising Protestants.

that not all things are necessarily clear, but only those things essential, necessary for salvation right?

Some are clearer than others, but that's not the same thing as some are clear some are unclear.
They are sufficiently clear.

all of Scripture is communicated by God, why is it acceptable/not a problem for SS proponents for God to be unclear on the unnecessary things?

I might ask for clarification since I"m not sure I understand the question, but that's not at issue here anyway, so... some other time.

Peace,
Rhology

The Dude said...

"Incorrect.
Besides, we're talking about the hypocritical questions asked by RC apologists, and that's not their view either, on their presuppositions; only when it's convenient when criticising Protestants."

Fair enough about the RC apologist argument, and do you mind elaborating on your "incorrect" response. The unbeliever is able to grasp the truths of Scripture, yet still rejects them, just as the believer does, the only difference being the believer accepts them? Isn't a general idea you would agree with about SS demonstrated here - "All things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary BELIEVER to find it there and understand." (emph mine) from http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/McMahonSolaScriptura.htm
I thought the view was that Scripture was a covenant document for God's people, the believers/elect/regenerate; it was written for them.

"Some are clearer than others, but that's not the same thing as some are clear some are unclear.
They are sufficiently clear."

So all teachings of Scripture (everything, exhaustive) are sufficiently clear, but not as clear as "those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation" per WCF? Do you mind elaborating on what you mean for something being sufficiently clear in relation to the clarity of things necessary for salvation? Instead of saying "some are unclear", would you agree with "some are unclear relative to the things necessary for salvation"?

"'all of Scripture is communicated by God, why is it acceptable/not a problem for SS proponents for God to be unclear on the unnecessary things?'
I might ask for clarification since I"m not sure I understand the question, but that's not at issue here anyway, so... some other time."

Fair enough. But just to clarify, I wasn't trying to get off-tangent with this remark. It seemed the main thrust of your point with "God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture." loses some of its force if it's the case that He was only willing to make certain things in His revelation clear enough in Scripture to the believer, but other things unclear (or less clear, or however you might want to put it). All of Scripture is His revelation, right? So why couldn't that same point simply be turned on you? I fully admit I may be misunderstanding your position, so no harm in calling foul on me.

GeneMBridges said...

Fair enough. But just to clarify, I wasn't trying to get off-tangent with this remark. It seemed the main thrust of your point with "God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture." loses some of its force if it's the case that He was only willing to make certain things in His revelation clear enough in Scripture to the believer, but other things unclear (or less clear, or however you might want to put it). All of Scripture is His revelation, right? So why couldn't that same point simply be turned on you? I fully admit I may be misunderstanding your position, so no harm in calling foul on me.

We would say that the lack of clarity in these "unnecessary things" is there to drive us further into Scripture - not to "the Church" (however defined). Jesus Himself pointed men not to a Magisterium but to the Scriptures.

Therein lies our difference with Rome. Rome would have us always turn to her Magisterium. Orthodoxy tells us to look to "Holy Tradition." We say, "Study the Scriptures that God has given us." We can certainly reflect on what others have said, but the measure of them is Scripture, not "the Church."

Howard Fisher said...

"Herein lies the blasphemy implicit in this kind of question. Church Fathers, papal encyclicals, conciliar decrees, etc are clearer than Scripture."

I don't know how many times I have pointed this out to RCs over the years. It just doesn't sink in.

Thanks for the post.

BJ Buracker said...

Rho and Howard,

Perhaps it's just my ignorance, but I fail to see why calling calling something else clearer than Scripture is blasphemy. You all have admitted that some things in the Bible are very complex. A good sermon on those passages will make those complexities clearer. Is that blasphemy? If not, what's the difference?

Wouldn't you say that Nicaea is far clearer about the Trinity than the Bible? It's certainly unambiguous on the topic. No one to my knowledge has used Nicaea to disprove the Trinity, but Arius certainly used the Bible to "disprove" it.

I just fail to understand why saying that the Bible is difficult to comprehend and later writings are easier to understand is heresy. Please explain.

In Christ,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

Part of it, BJ, is that RCs often say that the Bible is NOT clear on, say, the question of justification, while writings of a non-Christian church are plenty clear.

BJ Buracker said...

So where's the heresy?

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

To be fair, Stupid (:-D), I never said heresy. Matatix did, you did. I said blasphemy.
The blasphemy is repeating the serpent's words in Eden - Indeed hath God said?

BJ Buracker said...

Rho,

Herein lies the blasphemy implicit in this kind of question. Church Fathers, papal encyclicals, conciliar decrees, etc are clearer than Scripture.

Sorry, didn't mean to switch to "heresy." My fault.

Your last comment says that the blasphemy is distorting God's Word. However, in your post (quoted above), you say that claiming councils are clearer than the Bible is the blasphemy. I have yet to see you substantiate the latter.

Redefining justification? Sure, that's blasphemy.

Denying the divinity of Christ? Yes again.

Saying that Nicaea is clearer about the Trinity than the Bible? Not so sure. Please provide evidence.

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

I think I might not have made my point clear enough, and in the sentence preceding this one:

God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture, but He gets it right or chooses to make it happen later on, in the teachings of the Church throughout history.

is where I should have been more careful, true.

This is the implication of the statements that RC apologists make very, very often - the Scr is not clear. Then they turn to church teachings and attempt to make their case...and somehow that's OK.

See what I mean?

GeneMBridges said...

Perhaps it's just my ignorance, but I fail to see why calling calling something else clearer than Scripture is blasphemy.

Because it locates the authority behind what is said in Holy Mother Church, not God, the author of Scripture Himself. That's what the Serpent did. He didn't simply question what God said but (a) His authority to say it and (b) the clarity of it.

Wouldn't you say that Nicaea is far clearer about the Trinity than the Bible? It's certainly unambiguous on the topic. No one to my knowledge has used Nicaea to disprove the Trinity, but Arius certainly used the Bible to "disprove" it.

Well, as a matter of fact, they have done that very thing in the past, during the Reformation period. There were heretics who used the language in that creed with respect to the procession of the Son and therefore the subordinationist cast the creed has within it. Calvin's answer was to state that the three Divine Persons are all "autotheos."

There is also a long history regarding the meaning of the term "Person" in the Creed of Chalcedon, some of the definitions, like that of, if I recall correctly Boethius, leading, if consistently followed, to Tritheism.

So, if we were to take your standard for what constitutes the clarity of the Bible (Arius), we would have to say that, using your own measure, the creeds aren't clear either.

GeneMBridges said...

I'd point out that the Protestant position is not that Scripture is more clear, but that it is as clear as any creed. Creeds are only "more clear" in a derivative, summarizing sense, and they don't necessarily address certain issues.
The Nicene Creed did not address Christology in the way Chalcedon did, to take just one example. So, they only gain "clariity" in a culmulative sense, yet they can never rise above their derivative nature.

It's Catholicism that tries to say creeds offer greater clarity. What they offer isn't clarity as much as insight. It's a mistake to set the clarity of a derivative summary of what Scripture teaches against the source material itself, Scripture.

BJ Buracker said...

Gene,

Because it locates the authority behind what is said in Holy Mother Church, not God, the author of Scripture Himself.

Ok, fair enough. That was actually what it looked Rho was getting at in his last comment here.

The thing is, though, is that the original post was about perspicuity, not authority. If it is blasphemy to say that 'x' is more perspicuous than Scripture, then what do with Systematics books and clear sermons? I do not think it is blasphemy to say the Bible is confusing or unclear or something, while such and such document is clearer. That's not an authority issue; it's a clarity one.

It's a mistake to set the clarity of a derivative summary of what Scripture teaches against the source material itself, Scripture.

This begs the question, "Why?" Isn't the whole point of Systematic Theology to systematize and make clear what is both clear and unclear in Scripture?

The Bible being 66 books with ~40 authors, written in a variety of genres over a LONG period of time, can be difficult to understand. Sermons, commentaries, theology books, etc. help us to understand these complexities.

Plus, we would never make your above claim about any other body of literature. Kierkegaard is far more difficult to understand that derivative summaries of his books. Van Til is the same way. Is it a mistake to call the derivatives, "clearer?" Surely not.

The original works are certainly more important and meaningful than the derivatives, but that does not make them clearer.

If the Bible is perfectly clear, then why do we need sermons, creeds, Confessions, commentaries or even the Holy Spirit to help us understand?

I don't think it's a slight against God to say that His Word is difficult. I think it's more an attestation that God, even in prattling to us, is far greater than we can understand by ourselves. His goo-goo's and gah-gah's to us carry far more depth, meaning, and application than our scholarly encyclopedias, textbooks, or treatises.

To me, it sounds like you have more of a problem with where Catholics go to get clarity, not with the fact that they search for it.

So again, I fail to see blasphemy here.

In Christ,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Carrie said...

I don't think it's a slight against God to say that His Word is difficult.

But that is not what is said. And I doubt you would place your Systematic Theology book on the same level as scripture in any way.

What is said by Catholics is that God's Word is a "dead letter" without an interpreter.

"It is the Church, the holder of Tradition, that gives life to the dead letter of Scripture. Experience shows that it is only in the life of the Church, the Bride of Christ, that Scripture, divinely inspired as it is, becomes 'living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword' (Heb 4:12)"

"In regard to these truth [faith and morals] the authority of Tradition and of the Bible is equal...Nevertheless, as we shall see later, the Church is superior to the Bible in the sense that she is the Living Voice of Christ, and therefore the sole infallible interpreter of the inspired Word, whenever an authoritative interpretation is required."
-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 2)
with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII


"A competent religious guide must be clear and intelligible to all, so that everyone may fully understand the true meaning of the instructions it contains. Is the Bible a book intelligible to all? Far from it; it is full of obscurities and difficulties not only for the illiterate, but even for the learned...The Fathers of the Church, though many of them spent their whole lives in the study of the Scriptures, are unanimous in pronouncing the Bible a book full of knotty difficulties." -The Faith of Our Fathers

"We must, therefore, conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be a sufficient guide and rule of faith because they cannot, at any time, be within the reach of every inquirer; because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance, and because they do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation." -The Faith of Our Fathers


Those remarks are insulting God and his method of revelation.

BJ Buracker said...

Carrie,

I don't disagree with your assessment of those quotes.

However, those quotes don't address the topic at hand. They don't reflect what Rhology was calling blasphemy. Here is his original post (emphasis HIS).

Herein lies the blasphemy implicit in this kind of question. Church Fathers, papal encyclicals, conciliar decrees, etc are clearer than Scripture. God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture, but He gets it right or chooses to make it happen later on, in the teachings of the Church throughout history.

Rhology's claim was that calling Councils, etc. clearer than Scripture is blasphemy. He was not dealing with authority, which is what your comment was about.

Thus, whether I do or do not put systematics books on the same level as the Bible is irrelevant. It's the clarity/perspicuity issue that is important for this discussion, because he called it blasphemy to say that 'x' is more understandable than Scripture. Your comment did not address the issue.

I'd still like to see why Rhology and others think it is blasphemy to say that something is clearer than Scripture. I haven't seen anyone address that.

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

GeneBridges has addressed it.
I have too; let me try again.
It's not just the fact that they're calling it clearer than Scripture.
It's that they:
-Deny that Scr is clear (and already we're in blasphemous territory!)
-then appeal to a human writing as clear
-using the same hermeneutics (in general) that one must use to properly interp Scripture, and somehow it works now that it's dealing with tradition rather than with Scr
-and responding like Matatix did above when the same challenge is thrown back at them.

It's all of that.
And since we're hearing alot about not addressing issues, you've not commented on the "hath God indeed said?" brought up by both GeneBridges and me.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

BJ Buracker said...

Rho,

Thanks for the response. Since you say I haven't address the, "Hath God said..." issue, I'll try to do so. Here is what Gene wrote about the Serpent:

Because it locates the authority behind what is said in Holy Mother Church, not God, the author of Scripture Himself. That's what the Serpent did. He didn't simply question what God said but (a) His authority to say it and (b) the clarity of it.

That's mostly an authority issue. I'm fine with that, but again, I'm curious about the clarity issue. I think I can question the latter (b). The Serpent was clearly trying to deceive not prove God was unclear. Although, I'm sure you'd make claims that the Catholic Church is deceiving, that's not the issue. The issue again is clarity.

You said: The blasphemy is repeating the serpent's words in Eden - Indeed hath God said?

I don't know how this relates to the situation at hand. Can you clarify? Are you saying that the problem is that they distort Scripture? If so, that's different than what you said in the original post. Thus, I'm assuming I don't understand something here.

Ok, so now on to you explanation:

-Deny that Scr is clear (and already we're in blasphemous territory!)
-then appeal to a human writing as clear


These two are what I don't understand is blasphemous. Can you explain why these are?

Would it be blasphemy to say that Revelation isn't clear? Would it be blasphemy to say that so and so's commentary is clearer?

-using the same hermeneutics (in general) that one must use to properly interp Scripture, and somehow it works now that it's dealing with tradition rather than with Scr

I don't necessarily see why this is blasphemy so long as you put "tradition" within its proper bounds. We use similar exegesis on Westminster, and it has made explicit some aspects of Scripture which are implicit.

-and responding like Matatix did above when the same challenge is thrown back at them.

By this do you mean his necessitating the infallible Church?

What I'm trying to get at and understand is why it is inherently blasphemous to say something is clearer than Scripture. If we take away the appeal to Tradition and to an infallible Church, would you take the same stance on perspicuity?

For instance, would it be blasphemous to say that the Bible is less clear about the Trinity than the Westminster Confession of Faith? If so, please provide some Scriptural support. I really just don't see it.

Again, thanks for the continuous responses. I do appreciate them.

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

Hey BJ,

It's very much an issue of authority for the RC apologist too. But the question of authority begs the issue of clarity too - can I be expected to obey that which I can't even understand? Is God speaking to me in Chinese?
Interact with enough RC apologists and this might become clearer to you. Cite a Scripture that disagrees with RCC dogma, many times they come back with a "that's just your (private, fallible, personal) interpretation!" That's what I'm getting at.
Even if you just read the passage, you get that response sometimes. I can read 'em Romans 4:6-8 and they're automatically in question-the-interpretation mode. B/c the Co of Trent is WAAAYYYY clearer than that anyway, plus infallible to boot.

I've explained what I meant by "clearer" in the original post several times now, and I think you're still operating as if I hadn't made any clarification. That's probably part of the kink in our understanding here.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

BJ Buracker said...

Rho,

I've explained what I meant by "clearer" in the original post several times now, and I think you're still operating as if I hadn't made any clarification. That's probably part of the kink in our understanding here.

You've basically said the same thing over and over again, but you haven't said why it's blasphemy, which has been my question from the beginning. I've see no Scripture, no theology, no philosophy, or anything else to substantiate your claim.

Let me see if I'm understanding you, and then you can point out my kinks.

Catholics say the Bible is unclear on justification. They point to their own human-written material, which they say is clearer. They use the same hermeneutics, more or less, for interpreting both. Thus, it's blasphemous.

If I'm misunderstanding you, show me where, but if I am summarizing you accurately, show me why your statement is true.

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

OK, I think we're getting closer.

Here's the crux:
Catholics say the Bible is unclear on justification.

And authority. And what is tradition. And what is Scripture. And predestination ('course, I'm still confused on that!). And various other topics. In my experience, it's virtually any time one produces Scriptural evidence against RCC Dogma X.
Again, this isn't everyone in RCC, but it's an awful lot of Roman epologists with whom I've interacted, and Matatix himself is on record doing this numerous times as well, as are other professional RC apologists.
You got it right - it's not just that RC Statement X is clearER. It's that the Scr is UNCLEAR, and here, check out this thing someone in our church wrote which IS clear. And somehow the problem of fallible, private, individual interpretation doesn't appear. It's like magic! It's only a problem when you try to deal with the Scriptures, but when you come to a church document, zippeee! Problem eradicated.

Both parties agree that Scripture is God-breathed, right (given that most Roman apologists are not part of the huge liberal faction within the RCC)? It's just that this God-breathed stuff is no good. It conflicts with what we're saying, yes, but ONLY b/c you are applying your fallible interp to it. Apply your fallible interp to a church document and you're in good shape.


I can only hope I'm making myself clear, b/c I think I could've done a better job in the original post, to be sure.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

BJ Buracker said...

Rho,

Ok, I agree, I think we're making some headway.

Let me try to summarize again. So the issue is that Catholics are inconsistent. They apply the same tactics to Scripture and their writings, but it only "works" on their writings.

Then in moves into the realm of "blasphemy" because they support unbiblical doctrines. Thus, the process is blasphemous.

Am I understanding you now? If so the issue never was perspicuity per se but inconsistency and heretical dogmas. Correct?

Thanks,

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Rhology said...

Well, it's definitely inconsistent, you're right there!
The key is not just that they take 2 documents and use one standard on one and another on th'other.
No matter what you cite from the Bible, if it conflicts with their dogma, it's unclear. Not just less clear, but unclear.

The blasphemy is that God may have said, but he garbled. He is a terrible communicator. Everywhere He could propose to have educated people on whether Church X is the One True Church, He screwed up.

BJ Buracker said...

Great, thanks, Rho! I understand you a lot better now. Thanks for your patience and help in taking me through that.

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Carrie said...

However, those quotes don't address the topic at hand. They don't reflect what Rhology was calling blasphemy.

My intent wasn't so much to support Rhology's assertion but directly answer your own statement "I don't think it's a slight against God to say that His Word is difficult." My point was simply that RCs don't say God's Word is "difficult", but ineffectual without a mediator.

But I do think the quotes support Rholohy's assertion and I have broke them down in a post.

Tim Enloe said...

The issue in all of this is not so much whether God speaks clearly, but rather who can clearly hear him, and how. There's not a qualitative difference between (1) a statement of the RC Magisterium that the Church is the proper interpreter of the Scriptures and without her mediation one easily misunderstands the Scriptures, and (2) a statement of an individual Protestant "magisterium of one" that he is the proper interpreter of the Scriptures and if anything else intervenes it will quite likely only distort the Scriptures.

These claims are flipsides of each other, and both are equally and oppositely false. The false claim of Rome is being immoderately magnified by unstable Catholic apologists, and in turn, is being immoderately responded to by unstable Protestant apologists who construct an equal and opposite false claim. The Scriptures are not so unclear that we need an infallible Church to interpret them, but neither are they so clear that anyone who doesn't make use of the ordinary means (WCF (I.7) can competently give their "plain" meaning.

Magisterial Protestantism, with its balanced doctrine of magisterial authority (the infallible Scripture) and ministerial authority (the fallible Church speaking authoritatively in Christ's Name), as taught by WCF 1 connected with WCF 31, cuts through both of these extremisms. It makes one much more effective in one's witness, and on top of that, brings much more personal peace in religion than any of these ultimately useless flamewars over exaggerated polemical positions ever will.