Friday, June 15, 2012

What About the Canon? What About Bob?


Michael Horton has an excellent summary of the problems with Papal Infallibility. 


Though I don't agree with some of what he writes at his blog, on this issue, C. Michael Patton wrote an excellent article on Sola Scriptura and the Canon here a while back:

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/07/in-defense-of-sola-scriptura-part-seven-what-about-the-canon/

This part of C. Michael Patton's article was especially good in shooting down the typical Roman Catholic method of trying to sow doubt and confusion into the mind of sensitive Protestants who also enjoy church history, who take seriously the Biblical doctrine of the church; and who take historical theology seriously. 
"We have a term that we use for people who require infallible certainty about everything: “mentally ill.” Remember What About Bob? He was mentally ill because he made decisions based on the improbability factor. Because it was a possibility that something bad could happen to him if he stepped outside his house, he assumed it would happen. There are degrees of probability. We act according to degrees of probability. Simply because it is a possibility that the sun will not rise tomorrow does not mean that it is aprobability that it won’t.
The same can be said about the canon and interpretation of Scripture. Just because there is a possibility that we are wrong (being fallible), does not mean that it is a probability. Therefore, we look to the evidence for the degree of probability concerning Scripture.
2. The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility. No one would claim personal infallibility. Therefore it is possible for all of us to be wrong. We all have to start with personal fallible engagement in any issue. Therefore, any belief in an infallible living authority could be wrong. As Geisler and MacKenzie put it, “The supposed need for an infallible magisterium is an epistemically insufficient basis for rising above the level of probable knowledge. Catholic scholars admit, as they must, that they do not have infallible evidence that there is an infallible teaching magisterium. They have merely what even they believe to be only probable arguments. But if this is the case, then epistemically or apologetically there is no more than a probable basis for Catholics to believe that a supposedly infallible pronouncement [either about the canon or interpretation of the canon] of their church is true” (Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, p. 216)."

30 comments:

TheDen said...

Some things have to be taken on faith.

My belief in an infallible magisterium is rooted in the same logic as my belief in an infallible scripture. It's through faith that I believe it.

I don't think my belief in an infallible scripture makes me "mentally ill" Do you?

Ken said...

I am not accusing anyone in particular of being mentally ill, I am agreeing that it seems that using that ploy to get Protestants to doubt the canon or a certain interpretation of Scripture, seems to have caused those former Protestants to go into so much doubt and skepticism that the only way to find comfort is to just blindly trust the RC Pope and Magisterium, and that seems to be an effective tactic to sensitive souls who want more assurance and who have bought the lie that it is arrogant to think you can believe the Bible by faith in evidence and reason and sound exegesis, and by the Holy Spirit's internal testimony.
Romans 8:14-16
Galatians 4:6
I John 2:27-27

steelikat said...

James: Well said. I mention that because this point is often not well said and you end up with both sides descending into extreme and irrational skepticism. You'd think a person would realize he's gone off track when he's fighting what he thinks is bad faith by what amounts to an attack on the very possibility of faith.

Ken: I think you hit the nail on the head.

TheDen said...

Ken,

My apologies for the accusation...it would help if I read the link!

I actually think Patton's post is pretty good and while I don't agree with all of it, I do accept that there isn't much difference between the Protestant and Catholic way of thinking with the exception that we use a dual source approach vs. a single source.

Everything depends on faith as I said before and sometimes our imperfect selves can misinterpret either Scripture or the Magisterium (which can result in Devin Rose's "wonkishness" reference)

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Longtime no chat! I have been a 'fan' of sorts of C. Michael Patton for sometime now, appreciating the more balanced approach that he brings to the field of apologetics. The following you provided from his pen is informative (IMO):

==There are degrees of probability. We act according to degrees of probability. Simply
because it is a possibility that the sun will not rise tomorrow does not mean that it is a probability that it won’t.The same can be said about the canon and interpretation of Scripture. Just because there is a possibility that we are wrong (being fallible), does not mean that it is a probability. Therefore, we look to the evidence for the degree of probability concerning Scripture.

2. The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility. No one would claim personal infallibility. Therefore it is possible for all of us to be wrong. We all have to start with personal fallible engagement in any issue. Therefore, any belief in an infallible living authority could be wrong.==

Two points: first, I think he vastly overstates the case of probability concerning interpretation—history speaks against him here; second, the very notion of probability concerning divinely revealed religion was vehemently attacked by J.N. Darby as a seriously flawed principal in his critique of John Henry Newman (see his Analysis of Dr. Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua). Interestingly enough, Darby traced this particular form of probability back to Bishop Butler's famous book, Analogy of Religion.

What I suspect that neither you nor Patton understand is that it was the concept of probability that ultimately led Newman to join the RCC.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

Hi David,
For a while, you seemed to agree with Darby's critique of Newman. (as I recall)

Newman, with all due respect, eventually "killed his brains" in my opinion, for him to go down that road, as others do who think that the original deposit had Papal doctrines, Marian dogmas, prayers to Mary and dead saints, bowing down and kissing statues and icons, visiting graves and praying to the departed; purgatory, indulgences, ex opere operate, NT priests, etc.

Thanks for your thoughts though. I hope you also check out Micheal Horton's article - it is one of the best and most concise on the main issues -and the spirited discussion I have been having in the com boxes there with a RC named "John".

Patton may have overstated the case on interpretation and historical theology that develops, (if I understand what you are saying); but he does not overstate the case not on the canon issue, which is what he was focused on. There is just no need to require us humans to demand that we have infallible certainty of something historical, when there is no new evidence that changes the situation after centuries of debate between RCs and Protestants. God never demands us to make an infallible decision.

Romans 8:14-16
Galatians 4:6
I John 2:26-27
give all believers reasonable assurance as to faith, salvation, and the truth of the Scriptures.

"My Sheep hear My voice." Jesus

Ken said...

I just noticed that Patton does say both "canon and interpretation".

So, I changed my mind; I don't think he overstated the case for that either; especially as the concept of "overstated" is itself subjective.

For me, one of the clearest things is that baptismal regeneration was a false interpretation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 in Justin Martyr and beyond; and Ignatius was wrong to exalt the bishop/overseer/episcopas over the college of presbyters. So, no, Patton didn't overstate the case.

James Swan said...

My belief in an infallible magisterium is rooted in the same logic as my belief in an infallible scripture. It's through faith that I believe it.

I respect this sort of comment. I've not found many Roman Catholics willing to admit that belief in an infallible papacy is ultimately a faith claim.

Roman Catholics should then cease and desist after stating, "My belief in an infallible magisterium is ultimately a faith claim." Rather, they typically then seek to prove the infallibility of the Magisterium by using the Bible.

There are levels of Roman Catholics here:

There's the level of honest Roman Catholics who will admit that the Bible doesn't overtly teach the magisterium is infallible, but it doesn't deny it either.

Then we start getting to the level of possibly deluded Roman Catholics that think the Bible says things that imply the magisterium is infallible.

Then there's the level of actually deluded Roman Catholics who think the Bible actually teaches that the Magisterium is infallible.

Ken said...

Dozie wrote:
"Belief in an infallible papacy is ultimately a faith claim" but it is not faith in the papacy per ser but faith in Christ and in the promise he makes to Peter and the rest of the apostles. I am hoping that your delusion will give way for even a moment of clarity."

It is your view (The RC doctrine of the Papacy) that is delusional when you jump from the doctrine and confession of faith of Peter in Christ and the promise of local church authority as the gospel is preached and church discipline is applied (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:15-20; John 20:21-23) to the Papacy, which never existed in the texts of Scripture, nor in the first 500 years of church history. Cyprian was clear against bishop of Rome Stephen, around 255-257 AD - "no one has the right to call himself bishop over all bishops" - and 85 other bishops from all over the Christian world agreed with Cyprian on that issue. (and the EO still do to this day on that issue) So, the RC doctrine of the Papacy is delusional to read the arrogance of Boniface in 1302, and Pius IX (I am the tradition) of 1870 back into the texts of Matthew 16, 18, and John 20.

Dozie said...

"the doctrine and confession of faith of Peter in Christ and the promise of local church authority as the gospel is preached and church discipline is applied (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:15-20; John 20:21-23"

It is simply lunatic to attempt to associate Matthew 16:16-19; 18:15-20 and John 20:21-23 to the idiotic formulation given above.

Ken said...

Dozie wrote:
"It is simply lunatic to attempt to associate Matthew 16:16-19; 18:15-20 and John 20:21-23 to the idiotic formulation given above."

Your grammar, amazing logic, lack of ad hominem arguments, and the way you make your point is really compelling!

Dozie said...

"Your grammar, amazing logic, lack of ad hominem arguments, and the way you make your point is really compelling!"

I am sorry you are not impressed(not that I write to impress any Protestant) but if you fail to get the point you should have your learning career to blame.

James Swan said...

Dozie has been banned before for being obnoxious. I guess it's time again to go Dozie free for awhile.

Dozie, the older I get, the less tolerant I am of folks like you.

JJ said...

You write that "Geisler and MacKenzie put it, 'The supposed need for an infallible magisterium is an epistemically insufficient basis for rising above the level of probable knowledge. Catholic scholars admit, as they must, that they do not have infallible evidence that there is an infallible teaching magisterium.'"

That statement is simply wrong. Catholics believe in any idea being infallibly true not based on the trust in infallibility of any person other than the Trinity of Divine Persons. Put another way, it is de fide Catholic doctrine that the infallible magisterium was established and promised to the Church by Christ as witnessed both in Scripture and Tradition and as testified to by the same Church Counsels that defined the Sacred Canon.

This is important to understand. Infallibility is not derived from any claims of human persons, including the popes, but rather by the Holy Spirit acting through the bishops acting in union with the pope when faced with theological issues about which they are led to make infallible pronouncements . . . such as in regard to the Gnostic controversies in the early centuries about the Trinity and the Divinity and/or Humanity of Jesus himself.

For a thorough discussion of the exact pronouncements of infallible teachings affirmed by Church Councils, see Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott. You can find an online version here: http://www.essan.org/SignumMagnum/e%20Books/Fundamentals%20Of%20Catholic%20Dogma.pdf

Catholic theologians clearly distinguish between the grades of between teachings which are "probable" versus those that are held to be infallibly certain. Those which are infallibly certain are based on both Scripture and the earliest teachings of the Apostles and the bishops of the first few centuries. Ott's synthesis does a good job of listing the Scriptures and records from the early church and Church Councils for each teaching. Among these infallible ("de fide") statements, drawn from exact pronouncements of the Church Councils, include the following. For convenience, I list just one or two of many scriptures Ott and others cite to support the infallible basis for each:

* The Church was founded by the God-Man Jesus. (Mt 16:18, Mt 16-20)
* Christ founded the Church in order to continue His work of redemption for all time. (John 17, 18)
* Christ gave His Church an hierarchical constitution. (Mt 16:18, Acts 1:12-26, Acts 06:6)
* The powers bestowed on the Apostles have descended to the bishops. (Cor 42:4, Cor 44:1-2)
* Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first of all the Apostles and to be the visible Head of the whole Church, by appointing him immediately and personally to the primacy of jurisdiction. (Mt 16, 17-19, Is 22:15-22)

To understand the Old Testament significance of Peter being granted the keys, it is helpful to read Scott Hahn's discussions of how the first generation Jewish Christians recognized Our Lord's designation of Peter and the other apostles as establishing a new priestly hierarchy. See http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp and http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2005/Feature1.asp

In short, Catholic confidence in the teaching authority of the bishops in union with the pope (teaching through church councils like the one at which the books of the canon were recognized) is not based on what theologians think is the most "probable" but rather on what we believe has been infallibly taught and promised by Christ, as recorded in Scripture and as heard by the Apostles who then acted on what they heard and taught their successor how to act on what they heard. And despite the flaws of each person, including all of the Apostles, this process of teaching is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit . . . and perhaps the timely deaths of any popes which might otherwise have sought to insert any false doctrines into the Faith which would undermine the core infallibly taught truths, such as the truth that Jesus is both true man and true God.

Ken said...

Thanks J.J. for your comments. There is another J.J. that contributes a lot in the comment boxes at the "Called to Communion" web-site. Are you the same person?

"Infallible evidence for infallibility" is different than the doctrine and dogma of infallibility itself.
the point is that Roman Catholic theologians and laypeople have to use their minds, judgement, understanding in order to trust that the evidence is infallible that there is such a thing as an infallible Pope. (which there is not, there is not even such a thing as a Papacy in the Scriptures nor in the early centuries.

And you have to use your mind and understanding to come to be belief that there is such thing as the Papal office in Scripture and early church history and that it is true, and/or a legitimate develop of doctrine, from the points you make.

Let's look at your points:

* The Church was founded by the God-Man Jesus. (Mt 16:18, Mt 16-20)

True, but there is nothing is about a Papal office, successors, jurisdictional authority, nothing about the city or church in Rome, nor infallibility. The Church founded by Jesus is arguably in Jerusalem (Acts 2:37-46). (NOT Rome) The foundation is Peter's confession of the doctrinal statement, not Peter as a person or apostle (who is also an elder-bishop - 1 Peter 5:1).


* Christ founded the Church in order to continue His work of redemption for all time. (John 17, 18)
True, but what happened to the first visible church that Jesus founded in Jerusalem?
This shows that the continuation is through the preaching of the gospel, truth, and teaching sound doctrine in local churches, not a particular place. Unity of doctrine and spiritual salvation (John 17:17-23; Ephesians 4) can only be demonstrated at the local visible level.

recently, your own Pope has proven that he does not even hold to the sound doctrine that Jesus is the only way to the Father and salvation. In this video, he promotes the "unity of all religions" - massive false doctrine. He and Vatican 2 theology is not even in doctrinal unity with basic Scripture, such as John 14:6, Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13-15; John 3:18.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI0tiN88ldE


* Christ gave His Church an hierarchical constitution. (Mt 16:18, Acts 1:12-26, Acts 06:6)

No; rather churches are to appoint a council/ team/ college of elders-overseers for each church. (Acts 14:23; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy chapter 3) That there is some kind of appointment of elders-overseers for the next generation, no Protestant denies. But there is nothing about a guarantee that they will be faithful or infallible.

* The powers bestowed on the Apostles have descended to the bishops. (Cor 42:4, Cor 44:1-2)
The references seem to be from 1 Clement 42-44 - to the Corinthian church, 96 AD)
This is a proof for our side of the argument since Clement uses "elders" and "bishops" (overseers/episcopas) interchangably.

* Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first of all the Apostles and to be the visible Head of the whole Church, by appointing him immediately and personally to the primacy of jurisdiction. (Mt 16, 17-19, Is 22:15-22)

There is nothing about primacy of jurisdiction there. The quote in Isaiah 22 is about the Davidic Kingdom and the Messiah to come from the line of David, since the quote is quoted about Jesus in Revelation 3:7 - the key of David is given to Jesus Himself. The "keys of the kingdom" in Matthew 16 is given to all elders/pastors/overseers of all proper and Biblical churches in order to teach sound doctrine and do church discipline - Matthew 18:15-20.

JJ said...

Hi Ken.

I'm not the same JJ.

While I appreciate your effort to respond to several points . . . I expect you recognize that I could raise counter arguments to each of those you have raised and that we could then go back and forth on each of them for a very long time. (If interested, to see scripture based responses to the arguments you made, read the additional material following each bulleted point where it is addressed in http://www.essan.org/SignumMagnum/e%20Books/Fundamentals%20Of%20Catholic%20Dogma.pdf

To stick to a manageable topic, my main point is that the claim "Catholic scholars admit, as they must, that they do not have infallible evidence that there is an infallible teaching magisterium," is false.

Catholic scholars make no such admission.

You can certainly argue that Catholic scholars' reasons for believing that infallible Truths can be known and taught are wrong. But that does not change the fact that they believe that internally consistent reasoning necessarily requires the reasonable person to conclude that God has revealed truths which we can and should believe to be true without additional or experimental evidence. It is these truth which we believe are infallible. And among those truth is the idea that it is one of the roles of the Church, including the Bishop of Rome, to defend these infallible truths from being altered.

Whether or not you believe their premises or conclusions, the same sort of reasoning is used by any Christian who appeals to the Bible as evidence of some truth.

Either we can know something certain about God or we can't.

It is the believer's faith in God, and specifically Jesus, which produces a willingness to defer to the Bible as a sure source of instruction. Conversely, we all understand why those who have no faith in God or Jesus, lack any conviction in the authority of the Bible to infallibly teach anything . . . even though at the same time atheists may agree there is "some good stuff" in the Bible.

Specifically, even our belief in the inerrency of of inspired Scripture depends on each individual deciding there is enough evidence of God's action in the world such that He has chosen to reveal Himself through prophets and teachers and that believers who have come before us have in turn been inspired to infallibly identify and publish those works which are inspired Scripture and, conversely, to exclude those publications which are not 100% inerrant from inclusion in the canon.

Here is a good article about how the canon was discussed and developed in the early church: http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/was-the-canon-of-scripture-determined-before-the-church-councils-that-decided-it

Your confidence in Scripture implicitly requires and includes confidence that the Holy Spirit guided the early church in the process of identifying and proclaiming the canon. These same men were all bishops of the church who, plenty of historical documents show, acknowledged the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter who, Jesus prayed, would strengthen his brothers (preserving them in the true faith) Luke 22:32.

By the way, Pope Francis has not and is unlikely to make any infallible pronouncements. Not everything a pope says or teaches is infallible. In fact, all the popes have only claimed to have spoken infallibly twice in nearly 2000 years. All other infallible (de fide) teachings have been pronounced through Church councils, like the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419) at which the canon of Scripture were formally proclaimed to settle disagreements, especially regarding much loved writings which were determined to not be inspired.






Ken said...

I guess we would need to ask Norman Geisler for documentation of his claim, as that was his quote, inside a quote from C. Michael Patton's article.

Nevertheless, the main point I was agreeing with was the statements right up the sentence that you found objectionable.

"The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility. No one would claim personal infallibility. Therefore it is possible for all of us to be wrong. We all have to start with personal fallible engagement in any issue. Therefore, any belief in an infallible living authority could be wrong. As Geisler and MacKenzie put it, “The supposed need for an infallible magisterium is an epistemically insufficient basis for rising above the level of probable knowledge."

Ken said...


In fact, all the popes have only claimed to have spoken infallibly twice in nearly 2000 years.

Roman Catholics debate that, so it is unclear - some say twice ( 1854 and 1950) (but what about 1870 ?) some say 6 times, some say 8 times, some say 16 times.

But that also defeats the idealistic claim that you "have a living voice who can walk into the room and settle all disunity and disagreements over interpretations and unity Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and RCs all together".

If its only twice, what good is it?

Ken said...

unity Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and RCs all together".

should have been:

unify Protestants, Eastern Orthodox and RCs all together".

JJ said...

Any college junior majoring in philosophy can cast doubt on anyone's ability to be certain of anything, including 1+1=2 (Bertrand Russell attempted an elaborate proof of hundreds of pages, but later conceded his proof could not logically stand on its own), much less "I think therefore I am" (perhaps something else is dreaming that it is me).

All logic depends on precepts that cannot themselves be proven in the face of all possible objections, including the principle objection that we are all fallible in our perceptions so even "common sense perceptions" may have misled us.

So, in the face of Gnosticism, Arianism, and countless attempts to resolve the puzzle of the nature of Christ and the Trinity, the Church proclaimed specific truths to be infallible certain . . . meaning these were truths on which logic could build a firm foundation, and moreover, these were truths against which if they were contradicted by any theological proposal were signs that the proposal was false.

So, for example in the "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" you will find the following de fide statement regarding the nature of Christ: "Not only as God, but also as man, Jesus Christ is the natural Son of God." In short, while this proclamation of an "infallible truth" appears contrary to natural reason, the Church proclaimed that the paradox of Christ having two natures in one person cannot be rejected without falling into error.

The pope and bishops are not infallible in their persons or even in their everyday thinking. But when necessary (meaning as guided by the Holy Spirit) they are empowered to defend the faith from heresy by being guided to make infallible proclamations which help us to discern heresy from truth.

The question regarding infallibility of the pope, which is strictly limited to "when he speaks ex cathedra" which involves many conditions, evolved from the question of whether only church councils could proclaim infallible doctrine. That has always been the general practice, but the question arouse whether or not a council could proclaim infallible doctrines so without the consent of the pope. If so, what purpose was there in having a bishop who was "the first in primacy" among the bishops? And if the Chair of Peter held it's own authority to defend infallible doctrine against even a majority of bishops (as happened during the Arian heresy, which asserted Christ was created, not Divine), was there not a right for the Pope to act (at least ex cathedra) without calling the council?

Nothing about the ability to defend the faith by making precise propositions of the faith . . . such as (another de fide example from Ott's text book): "Christ, through His Passion and Death, merited reward From God." . . . means that those who deny that Christ promised to preserve the Church from error and gave the Chair of Peter the keys to truly proclaim clear de fide doctrines to guide theological thought will be convinced. The Arian's weren't convinced by the popes of their time who denounced their propositions regarding the nature of Christ as false.

So, while popes may hope to draw non-Catholics to the truth by explaining the faith in various ways, there is no "power" granted to popes to unify those who do not believe. This shouldn't be surprising. Jesus was not only Truth incarnate, but certainly better in every way than any pope in declaring the truth and He failed to bring unity to the Jews, much less people of all faiths in His own time.

Ken said...

As pertaining to your claim here:

"Your confidence in Scripture implicitly requires and includes confidence that the Holy Spirit guided the early church in the process of identifying and proclaiming the canon. These same men were all bishops of the church who, plenty of historical documents show, acknowledged the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter who, Jesus prayed, would strengthen his brothers (preserving them in the true faith) Luke 22:32."

There is a lot of difference and variation between early church fathers and their interpretation of Matthew 16:18 and Peter and the rock and some believed "the rock" is referring to:
1. Peter
2. Peter's confession of faith
3. Christ Himself

Some early fathers held more than only 1 of these views. Some communicated 2 of these views. (maybe all three at various times)

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2014/11/study-of-matthew-1618-peter-and-rock.html

so, just because the early church rightly and correctly discerned the canon, and some of them were bishops and some of them saw the bishop of Rome as successcor of Peter and his office and special authority -
that does not mean that were correct on the bishop of Rome - none of them taught universal jurisdiction nor infallibility. That comes much later, after Leo and Gregory (604 AD)

NONE of them saw the bishop of Rome as infallible or with universal jurisdiction - that is arguable not around until at least Leo I's (440-451 AD ?) claims and then Gregory the Great made big claims. (601-604 AD)

Origen listed the 27 books of the canon around 250 AD, and he said every Christian is a rock because he believes Jesus is the Son of Living God and Messiah.

Around 200 AD - Tertullian cited as inspired and quoted from most of the NT books, and he was not a bishop, nor did he see the bishop of Rome as bishop over other bishops or infallible - he mocked Callistus, etc.

Around 200 AD - Irenaeus cited as inspired and quoted from most of the NT books, and he did not seem to think the bishop of Rome was infallible, or held universal jurisdiction and rebuked Victor, bishop of Rome. (even though he made a very positive statement about the church in Rome being founded by Peter and Paul and that all Christians from all over the Empire resort to her (because of traveling to Rome), and therefore protect the rule of faith or tradition of the apostles. The famous Irenaeus passage seems to say that Rome reflects the apostolic doctrine, since believers from all over, including other apostolic churches, visit there - and thereby, assure that the apostolic tradition / rule of faith does not get corrupted. (at the time against Gnostic heresies- which Protestants agree that Gnostic and Marcionite heresies were wrong.

Athanasius (famous list of 27 books of NT as canon in 367 AD - Festal Letter 39) was exiled by Liberias, bishop of Rome. Athanasius did not seem to think Liberias was infallible. Liberias promoted the Arian heresy.

Cyprian, Firmillian and 86 other bishops from all over Roman Empire rebuked the bishop of Rome, Stephen, in 257 AD - 7th Council of Carthage - Cyprian quoted many of the NT books.

Ken said...

"Any college junior majoring in philosophy can cast doubt on anyone's ability to be certain of anything, . . . "

Ok, but that philosophical skepticism is what is behind a lot of the Roman Catholic argument for the need for an infallible interpreter.

They say ( one of my friends Rod Bennett, who converted to Rome, would say this) and others say something similar:
"Wouldn't it be great to have a living voice, someone who can walk into the room and solve our disunity problems and give us the infallible right interpretation?" Wouldn't that be great for all the dis-unity in Protestantism?"

Tim Staples made similar statements as to the Pope as "the living voice", etc.

Also, my friend Rod, Tim Staples, and all the web-sites and blogs of other RC s make this basic argument:
how do you know for certain you have the right interpretation?
How do you know for certain about the canon, since there is no verse that says these are the 27 books (or OT either) and it took the church so long to recognize / discern them all, and sometimes they thought some books were canonical that are not. etc. how do you know for certain?

Ken said...

The question regarding infallibility of the pope, which is strictly limited to "when he speaks ex cathedra" which involves many conditions, . . .

And many qualifications that die the death of a thousand qualifications.

JJ said...

I don't have time to address all the issues you raise, especially since you can easily find Catholic responses to them. But I, and any educated Catholic, will admit there have been lots of truly bad popes. But we also maintain that the bad popes have also been so bad, especially those abusing the office for their own power and gluttony, that they didn't care enough about doctrine to try to teach false doctrine.

Your summary of the Liberius story, for example, is completely unfair or ill informed. If you want to give a fair shake to consideration of the facts read a Catholic historian's -- like Warren Carroll -- account of these issues. You may disagree with his conclusions, but your own conclusions will be better informed . . . just like a jurors views are better informed by hearing from both sides.

Rod Bennett's argument is a nice emotional argument, but it is an exaggeration that does not represent the full truth.

While we hope the pope, like any minister, will be a "living voice" that brings Christ to the world in a language and way that restates old Truths in ways that will be heard and transformative for people today . . . that has nothing to do with infallibility as it is doctrinally understood.

The role of the Magisterium, and especially the pope as the Rock, is to protect what Christ has given to us -- both through revelation and the sacraments. I think it is accurate to say that ALL the de fide statements of faith promulgated by the Church to be 100% trustworthy (infallibly proclaimed) have been formulated to respond to teachings being promoted by others (heretics) which the bishops and popes believe contradict what was handed down to them by the Apostles.

For example, even your own understanding of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ, were developed in response to early heresies which -- let's be fair, were promoted not by people who intended evil but rather by people who wanted to present simple, straight forward answers to seemingly paradoxical ideas orthodox Christians had about the Godhead and dual nature of Christ. This led to development of language that Peter and Paul would not have recognized or thought us use themselves, but we believe that if they were presented with the list of dogmatic statements by subsequent Church councils (cited by Ott in my previous comment) they would have thought about it and said: "Yeah. That's sounds right." Whereas, if confronted by the propositions of the heretics to which the councils were responding, they would have said: "No, that's not quite right." and may have even had to make considerable effort to come up with the right formulation that both corrected the claims of the heretics while not introducing any new errors.

In short, infallible teaching is NOT something the pope does on the fly because he has some special grace.

To the contrary, the main theological job of the pope is to avoid avoid teaching anything new, but at the same time to re-teach that which was handed down to us by prior generations all the way, faithfully back to the Apostles, in a way that addresses the needs, and perhaps the special temptations and confusions, of each generation in a language that can be heard by that generation.

So I wouldn't characterize the pope as a "living voice" so much as a "living defender" who, in this example, is there to point out that modern arguments for such things as gay marriage are simply not reconcilable with what was handed down to us by the Apostles.

Instead of "tickling" our ears with watered down teachings, the popes' purpose and authority all rests in standing against the grain of worldly pressures (including that of other bishops, as in the Arian case) to defend "This is what was handed down to us" against those who would reinterpret what was handed down to make it "easier" to believe or live as Christ taught.

JJ said...


I'd like to offer you a fascinating example of what I believe is the Holy Spirit protecting the Church from a corrupt pope.

In the sixth century the Church was threatened by the Monophysite heresy, which like the prior Arian heresy, had the support of the Emperor. Because of his opposition to the heresy, Pope Silverius was deposed, imprisoned, and starved to death -- all with the aid of an ambitious and corrupt man who would replace him as Pope Vigilius.

From reading Warren Carroll's "The Building of Christendom", there is plenty of evidence that Liberius agreed to embrace the Monophysite heresy in exchange for the support of the Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora in being declared the bishop of Rome (under occupation by the same imperial army that had arrested Silverius).

Evidence of corruption, YES! But once Vigilius was raised to the chair of Peter, this irreverent, career cleric got cold feet (or a boost of the Holy Spirit). He began to back peddle from his earlier promises, this led to his arrest in 545 (for his refusal to sign a proclamation by the Emperor, "the Three Chapters" condemning orthodox bishops who had stood against the Monophysites). This led to ten years of imprisonment, away from Rome.

Soon after his transfer to Constantinople, he wrote/said to his captors: "Do with me what you wish. This is the just punishment for what I have done." and "You may keep me in captivity, but the blessed Apostle Peter will never be your captive." (In other words, you can control a pope, but not the Chair of Peter.) Years passed, and there were various maneuvers to accommodate the political factions, but in the end the Monophysites lost, orthodoxy was maintained, an Vigilius died while traveling after being released to return to Rome in 555.

I see in this the wisdom of God in placing in one office, the Chair of Peter, the pivotal role of defending or condemning theological views. Whenever heresies threaten, it's "less intrusive in human affairs" for God to only have to strengthen, or kill off, one bishop rather than the whole flock. In the case of Vigilius, strengthening worked, which is surprising given that we know Vigilius started out with just raw ambition as his goal . . . not the defense and promulgation of the faith.

Ken said...

So I wouldn't characterize the pope as a "living voice" so much as a "living defender" who, in this example, is there to point out that modern arguments for such things as gay marriage are simply not reconcilable with what was handed down to us by the Apostles.

Then why is the current Pope (Francis) so wishy washy on that issue and seems to say things to cater to the spirit of the age and give impression that he is ok with homosexuality, and so called 'gay marriage" ? (his whole, "Who am I to judge?" statement and context and not making any clear statement that it is sin and wrong and evil and destructive to people, children, society, and true marriage.

Ken said...

And why did the current Pope make one of his main emphasis "global warming" rather than giving a clear gospel message?

And why did the current Pope release a video that because of the optics, communicates that Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism are also roads to get to God and are valid expressions of faith and true love? (see link at bottom)

He communicates that everybody is ok and children of God, and does not communicate that we are actually "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:1-3) without Christ.

Of course, he can counter, if someone questions that aspect of the video, that he means that we are all created equal by God as humans. That is true, but he should make that clear, explain that, and also explain that non-Christians are NOT children of God. Only Christians are children of God. (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:5-7; 1 John chapters 3 and 5.)

If his (the Pope) gift and office of leadership and pastor and "shepherd of shepherds" and "servant of servants" and "bishop of bishops", etc. is so great and he as a minister is supposed to do the work of an evangelist ( 2 Timothy 4:5), why does he not do that?

In my life, I have never seen a Pope emphasize the straight gospel, evangelism, and straight preaching the truth of the bible, like for example, like preaching like John McArthur or John Piper.

All I have ever seen is an emphasis on issues like world peace, poverty issues, external optics of gaudy clothes the Pope mobile and pomp, etc. and too much emphasis on Mary and statues and praying to her, which is sin and looks like idolatry - John Paul 2 and Benedict XVI bowing down to giant statues of Mary - shameful !!

see my recent post:
http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2016/01/basic-biblical-doctrine.html

Ken said...

From reading Warren Carroll's "The Building of Christendom", there is plenty of evidence that Liberius agreed to embrace the Monophysite heresy in exchange for the support of the Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora in being declared the bishop of Rome (under occupation by the same imperial army that had arrested Silverius).

Are you sure you meant Liberius here?

Ken said...

The Monophysite / Mia-physite heresy and politics and events around from the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) to the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) and into the 500s and 600s until Islam conquered the eastern churches (Levant (Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon), Egypt, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), etc. is a complicated mix of theology and politics. Cyril of Alexandria was correct technically in his theology, but his character, from what I have read, was nasty and disgusting - the bribes and violence surrounding the Council of Ephesus, etc. to the Council of Chalcedon - shameful.

Nestorius was wrong in not being precise about the two natures of Christ in one person, but he was right in objecting to the "Mother of God" phrase because it seemed to emphasize Mary over Christ. I agree that it was meant to speak of Christ as being God from (and pre-existing as the eternal Son/Word (John 1:1) from the time of conception in the womb of Mary. They should have come up with something different to communicate that. But Nestorius, in exile, actually agreed with Leo's tome on the two natures of Christ, if he is the true author of the Bazaar of Hericlides, which was only discovered by the west in the late 1800s (but which the poor Assyrian churches of the east (called Nestorians and heretics for centuries) suffered for centuries by being called heretics by Rome and Constantinople.)

Anyway, the harshness of the policies and military actions that Byzantine Emperors (Justinian and others in the 500s and Hericlius in the early 600s) took against the Coptic Church in Egypt and the other non-Chalcedonian churches in Syria (Jacobite churches) and Armenia, etc. created a bitterness in those areas that caused them to resent and rebell against the ones who were suppossed to be the good guys when the Arab Muslims invaded. Shame on the Trinitarian and Chalcedonian Creed supporters for taking sound doctrine and then torturing and killing and punishing them as heretics !! This spirt was the same spirit that came out later in the Crusades and the Inquisition.

So, I am not impressed with the Popes in Rome at that time, nor the Byzantine Emperors (the power shifted to Constantinople, because of the Goths and Huns, Vandals, Franks, and other barbarians in the west and Rome) during those times, because of the result of the marriage of the power of the state with the Church and the punishments and harshness and violence etc. against the Egyptian Copts and Syrians - they could have just said - your doctrine is not as accurate and precise, but we love you as brothers in Christ and not persecute them.

Continued -

Ken said...

Part 2 on Monophysite issues:

They should have been more gentle with the Copts and other easterners, for they believed in the Trinity, the Nicean and Constantinopolitan Creeds, etc. and tried to understand them better. Granted, I don't fully understand the Monophysite theology either - but that is and was no reason for the doctrinally sound folks in Constantinople and Rome to go and make war and prison, etc. against them !!

See my other article here and the debate and discussion with a Muslim: (at my own blog)
https://apologeticsandagape.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/dhimmi-%D8%B0%D9%85%D9%91%DB%8C-in-islam/#comment-3012

I am having a hard time defending the Trinity and Deity of Christ, because of crappy and shameful actions of those who had sound doctrine [which I agree with in doctrine (the Chalcedonian Creed)], but am ashamed of because of their military force persecuting the Copts and Syrians and Armenians.

The monophysite / mia-physite view may be wrong and imprecise and hard to understand, but the greater sin (IMO) was the persecution, pride, arrogance, violence, marriage of church and state and punishing and torturing people done by the Chalcedonian Creed followers. (Rome and Constantinople) We Evangelical-Protestants (I hope all would agree) agree with the doctrine of Chalcedon of 451 AD, but are ashamed of the whole spirit of violence and trying to force others to submit through power, politics, and the sword. the fruit of that violence and wars and pride was Islam taking over the whole middle east and N. Africa etc.