Monday, October 19, 2009

The Sinfulness of Interpretation

Here's a footnote from the new LW 69 that points how how the sinful mind works to justify whatever it wants to:

Judicial torture, a feature of Roman law, had been reintroduced in canon law by the 1252 bull Ad exstirpanda of Innocent IV (d. 1254).

The Catholic Encyclopedia also provides a some information. The CE points out, "Torture was to be applied only once, and not then unless the accused were uncertain in his statements, and seemed already virtually convicted by manifold and weighty proofs."

Like any document, Ad exstirpanda needed to be interpreted. The CE states,

"The general rule ran that torture was to be resorted to only once. But this was sometimes circumvented — first, by assuming that with every new piece of evidence the rack could be utilized afresh, and secondly, by imposing fresh torments on the poor victim (often on different days), not by way of repetition, but as a continuation."

I spent about an hour yesterday going through a section of Roman Catholic apologetics dedicated to Biblically defending the immaculate conception. The arguments put forth reminded me very much of the interpreters of Ad exstirpanda: one will find what one needs to in any document. For instance, the document I read argued if the translation of Luke 1:28 is "highly favored," Mary could have become highly favored at her conception in her mother's womb. Or, if one uses the translation "full of grace," there's nothing in the Bible that contradicts the notion that Mary became "full of grace" at her conception:

"If Mary is “full of grace,” as the Catholic translation says, then the question is: When did she become full of grace? One can make the argument that it was at the moment of her conception that she became full of grace and there is nothing in Scripture to contradict that argument."

"Or, if she was “highly favored,” then at what point did she become highly favored by God? Could it not have been at her conception?" [source]

Let us always be careful not to use argumentation that stretches a document to accommodate what we want it to.

31 comments:

Andrew said...

Again Mr. Swan I want to convey how much I appreciate what you do here. I was taken in, for a time, by the somewhat weak arguments found in much of modern day Roman Catholic pop-apologetics. The Luke 1:28 argument being a common one. (I apologize for that sentence fragment) I thank Dr.'s MacArthur, Sproul, and White for being vessels used to open my spiritual eyes. If what you do can turn even one person from error then your research/blogging/apologetic writing will have been time well spent.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Sproul? His books are full of errors regarding Catholicism. Have you read his book titled Scripture Alone? He doesn't even understand the Catholic teaching on Tradition. If he is one of your heroes, I feel sorry for you.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Bellisario,

That kind of comment clearly conveys that you're not fond of Sproul, but it doesn't help us (either Romanist or Reformed folks) out much. After all, sometimes what you think are "errors regarding Catholicism" might turn out to be things where Sproul is taking the standard Reformed position (namely that the veneration of Mary in Romanism is worship, etc.). It would be more helpful if you would expose Sproul's specific errors regarding Catholicism (or at least a couple of the biggies, if there are many).

After all, Sproul is a well-known scholar and you are not, so demonstration is probably more important than bare assertion.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Turretin, I just named the specific error. He misrepresents Catholic Tradition in his book titled, 'Scripture Alone.' Have you read the material in that book?

James Swan said...

What's the error Matthew?

Matthew Bellisario said...

R C Sproul's understanding of Tradition. Read pages 20-24 of his book.

Andrew said...

What's the specific error Matthew? I don't own that book.

James Swan said...

Matthew,

Thanks so much for the helpful clarification.

On your videos interviewing priests, you seem somewhat reasonable. You come over here, and well, never mind.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I don't have the book. What is the alleged error?

Turretinfan said...

The reason that Mr. Bellisario may have been hesitant to be specific is that Mr. Bellisario himself has been nailed for not properly representing the Roman Catholic view of tradition (here)

Matthew Bellisario said...

Turretin, you never nailed me on anything. As usual you have not a clue as to what you are talking about.

Matthew Bellisario said...

I ma sure everyone read my counterpoint that refuted your absurd claims. No need to rehash that here.

Andrew said...

Matthew, that was a serious question. What is the error being alleged? I have never read,and do not own that book.

bkaycee said...

Did Sproul not distinguish between big T and little t tradition?

Examples from the authorized list of Tradition might have helped him.

Turretinfan said...

Oh, if there is any doubt about how that debate went, folks should (by all means) check out the entirety of the debate (the various posts are organized here). I agree that there is no need to rehash it here, the debate itself adequately demonstrated what I've pointed out.

As I said, you are being wise not to make the same mistake here and point to anything specific in Sproul, since your supporters (if there are any) here can imagine that you may actually have found some mistake that you are just unwilling to spell out for us.

Matthew Bellisario said...

As I stated before Turretin, I refuted your claims. Remember, I have had the entire debate on my website, on the main page since the day it was posted. That proves I have no problem with anyone reading it. You are truly a legend in your own mind. The debate proves that you also don't understand Catholic Tradition, otherwise your wouldn't have made incorrect assertions in your cross examination. Those incorrect assertions were refuted in my reply. Anyone can read it on my website. Next...

Turretinfan said...

Catching your blunders hardly makes me legendary, Bellisario, either in my own mind or elsewhere.

Now, finding imaginary errors in Sproul and then not being able to back them up with demonstration ...

Andrew said...

MATTHEW!!!!!!!
What was the error?

Turretinfan said...

Bellisario,

We do have some common ground, in that we both recognize that our gospels are exclusive of one another. Furthermore, we both claim to be concerned for souls.

Although you may not harbor an abundance of affection for me personally, perhaps you'd care to open Andrew's eyes to these supposed errors of Sproul.

After all, while you have attempted to refute my errors, you haven't provided a similar refutation of Sproul's errors. Perhaps if his errors are similar to mine (I'm flattered that you lumped me in with him in your criticism) you could largely reuse the evidence and arguments with which you responded to the errors you perceived in my arguments.

Just make sure to replace any references to "Turretin" with "Sproul" when you are doing so, lest you offended Sproul, who is actually a somebody.

James Swan said...

OK, I figured out Sproul's error: he disagrees with Matthew's personal understanding of Tradition.

Matthew Bellisario said...

OK, calm down there Andrew and James. Relax, and take a sip of tea, or a Valium or something. I am going to write an article on my blog addressing Sproul's erroneous conclusions in his book on Tradition. This isn't something that can be answered in a paragraph in a combox. We all know Turretin Fan will be taking me out of context for the next 6 months on his blog if I comment here briefly. Benn there, done that. The last thing TF needs is something else to manufacture red herrings out of.

Andrew, I would recommend that you buy the book from Sproul; not because it is worth the theological material written in it, but in order for you to understand the theological position that your hero subscribes to. After all, aren't you a huge fan of his? I am surprised you don't already own the book. I will stop by and let you know when I post it on my blog. Good evening to you all.

James Swan said...

Calm down? how can I with the great Champion of all things Catholic visiting my blog?

Turretinfan said...

LOL - I can't wait to see this.

Matthew Bellisario said...

You guys are hilarious. Chuckles speaks and Chuckles laughs. Maybe you guys should try out for Saturday Night live skit or something. :(

Turretinfan said...

In fairness, Bellisario, I was chuckling about your misuse of the term "red herring," not about what Mr. Swan said.

Alex said...

Turretinfan it is not clear at all that Matthew misused the term red herring. Unless he applies it to an actual circumstance where you have engaged in this line of argumentation, then it isn’t clear that he is misusing the term. He is only stating that he predicts that this is what you will end up doing in any type of argumentation against his position.

Matthew Bellisario said...

On second thought, read the book yourself Andrew. I am going to pull a James White. If you are such a fan of Sproul's, then I expect you to have read his material. I am not going to do it for you. Read pages 21-25 in his book Scripture Alone, and see how he reads and interprets the text of Trent concerning Tradition. Once you understand what he wrote then comment back here and we can discuss it, if you are still interested. After-all if Sproul has been such a vessel for you in opening your eyes, then you might want to actually read one of his books that is at the crux of your beliefs, like Sola Scriptura.

As for the heckling Fan of Turretin, I never used red herring in any relational sense to any argument. I merely wrote that you would either take me out of context, or manufacture red herrings out of what I would write. So keep on chuckling, but remember, people aren't laughing with you.

Turretinfan said...

Alex: Thanks for your thoughts.

Bellisario: Very wise choice (aside from insults).

-TurretinFan

Andrew said...

Matthew, is it not possible to admire someone, or even claim them as an influence without reading everything they have ever written? I know what Sproul's thinking on Trent is because I have heard him speak on it. Is that good enough? Or must I read every single one of Dr. Sproul's books before you will condescend to interact with me? I mean why would you want to pull a James White? Isn't he pretty much the worst person ever?

Alex said...

"Alex: Thanks for your thoughts."

This is the most I am getting out of you these days. :)

Turretinfan said...

"I mean why would you want to pull a James White? Isn't he pretty much the worst person ever?"

I'm sure you mean "worst person except for Sproul (for reasons that will remain a secret)." :)