Sunday, May 02, 2010

Keating on Canon Certainty From Local Church Councils

Here's an interesting tidbit from Karl Keating's book Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1988). Chapter two is dedicated to exposing the errors of Lorraine Boettner's book on Roman Catholicism.

Keating documents Boettner's error of attributing the forbidding of the Bible to laymen by the Council of Valencia in 1229. Keating points out this is historically inaccurate. It would be impossible for a council to have occurred at this location at this period in history. Keating does though go the extra mile: he suggests a council which may actually be the source for Boettner's claim.

Keating notes a council was held in Toulouse France in 1229. Keating specifically notes it was not an ecumenical council (p.45). He then goes on to describe the situation which prompted this council to restrict the use of the Bible. He notes, "Their action was a local one" and it "is hardly the across-the-board prohibition of the Bible" Boettner mentioned (pp. 45-46). Problem solved: Boettner confused a local decree with an ecumenical decree binding on the church for all ages. Case closed.

But not so fast... If one skips a bit further down page 46, one finds Mr. Keating correcting Boettner's position that the Roman church added the apocrypha to the Bible in 1546. Keating states,

The fact is that the Council of Trent did not add to the Bible what Protestants call the apocryphal books. Instead, the Reformers dropped from the Bible books that had been in common use for centuries. The Council of Trent convened to reaffirm Catholic doctrines and to revitalize the Church, proclaimed that these books always had belonged to the Bible and had to remain in it. After all, it was the Catholic Church, in the fourth century, that officially decided which books composed the canon of the Bible and which did not. The Council of Trent came on the scene about twelve centuries later and merely restated the ancient position (pp. 46-47).

Keating states "it was the Catholic Church, in the fourth century, that officially decided which books composed the canon of the Bible and which did not." Now if Keating is referring to the councils of Hippo and Carthage, they were provincial councils which did not have ecumenical authority. Neither is the Council of Rome with Pope Damasus helpful. So why is it these local Councils were binding on decreeing the canon, while just a few paragraphs earlier, Keating explains local councils aren't binding on the church for all time?

To make it even a bit more complicated, Tim Staples (who works for Karl Keating as a staff apologist for Catholic Answers) says the canon was dogmatically closed in 1442. Ah, what a tangled web they weave.


Rhology said...

It'd sure be nice if the Magisterium would just step in and clean up all this chaos and anarchy in the ranks of Roman apologetics.

John Bugay said...

I think they foster the confusion. That gives them the opportunity to appear to be remaining "above it all". Magisterial, you know.