Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should Rome's Apologists Interpret?


85 "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. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.  [Catechism of the Catholic Church]

Well...  these statements need to be... interpreted...

14 comments:

Cletus Van Damme said...

Yes they have to interpret. Just as NT believers had to interpret Christ/Apostles authoritative interpretations/teachings. That did not make Christ/Apostles interpretations/teachings meaningless, or their authority unnecessary, or their claims to that authority useless and superfluous.

James Swan said...

That's um... the point: for all the talk Rome's defenders make against private interpretation, they themselves, like all of us, cannot escape interpretation, on... anything.

Where the double standard comes in is when Rome's defenders interpret the Bible while their own Catechism says, "the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome."

This is all as silly as some of Rome's defenders who claim God called them to be apologists while they claim Luther could not claim he was called by God to his role in the church.

Cletus Van Damme said...

James,

Overzealous RCs perhaps act like that, but what they're really saying is the issue of whether private interpretation is normative, binding, and divinely authoritative. No reasonable RC would deny we're human - humans have to interpret - nor are the CCC quotes denying that obvious fact. That's not the point being made though in the "private judgment" argument - so to respond that we all have to interpret misses and distracts from the point of the argument (unless you are just trying to get them to be more careful with their words).

Robin Phillips, an EO convert, criticizes apologists denying private judgment in the same way you expose:

"At least half a dozen people shared with me how they had themselves converted to Orthodoxy only after recognizing that their personal understanding or “private judgment” was utterly unreliable. (It should be pointed out that by “private judgment” they were not referring merely to the normativity of an individual’s judgment of matters ecclesiastical, which we can refer to as PJ1. Private judgment in this sense should rightly be regarded as defective. Rather, they were using “private judgment” to refer more broadly to the notion that each individual has to meet epistemological conditions for their knowledge claims, what we may call PJ2. In theological discussion on a lay level, Protestants and Orthodox alike use “private judgment” to refer both to PJ1 and PJ2. In this article, when I respectively critique the attack against “private judgment” and sympathize for those protestants who defend it, I only have in mind PJ2, as the context of my foregoing remarks should make clear. Some of my critics have been uncomfortable for me even calling PJ2 “private judgment” at all, but I do so on the grounds that this is how the term is often used in theological discussion on a lay level. That it is used as such on lay level is a point I can provide evidence for should that become necessary.)"

PJ1 is where the focus should be, not PJ2 (i.e. that we all interpret).

steve said...

The task of authentically interpreting the Bible has been entrusted to the Magisterium. The task of inauthentically interpreting the Bible has been delegated to Rome's apologists.

Jamie Learn said...

Doesn't their title "Roman-Universal" church challenge their credibility from the git-go! :)

Paul Hoffer said...

Of course, we can interpret. However, we defer our understanding and interpretation to that of the Magisterium. The Magisterium's role is provide us guidance on how to interpret and to set boundaries to make sure our understanding of Scripture does not contradict the teachings of the Church. There is nothing inauthentic about it contrary to what the mockers and gawkers might claim.

God bless!

James Swan said...

Sorry for the delay folks. The bottom line, as I see it- is that the private interpretation argument against Protestants put forward by the defenders of Rome is a double standard.

Yes, everything is interpretation, even the very paragraphs of the Catechism I posted above. Rome's defenders can't consistently say Protestantism is false because of private interpretation, while in the next breath, all of Rome is subject to interpretation.

Saying "we defer our understanding and interpretation to that of the Magisterium" is itself an interpretation as to how to describe the role of the individual in grasping Rome's doctrines.

Here's one of my personal favorite blog posts:

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2011/07/apologetics-for-masses.html

EA said...

"Of course, we can interpret. However, we defer our understanding and interpretation to that of the Magisterium."

This sounds like a solution to "personal interpretation" however how does the lay Catholic actually defer their understanding to the Mageisterial interpretation? It would seem a prerequisite that they must first have a "correct" understanding of the Magisterial interpretation before they can defer to it. And how exactly do they go about doing that in practice? It's not like they can directly pose the question to the Magisterium and receive an answer to a question. No, the lay Catholic, if they are diligent, will approach the Catechism, other lay Catholics (i.e. Catholic Answers), lay apologists, their priest, perhaps their bishop however in each of these cases the parties to whom they are appealing are not authorized with any Magisterial authority to provide a Magesterial understanding of a particular issue. In the end, the laity's understanding is subject to the laity's understanding.

I fail to see an epistemic advantage provided by Rome that solves this problem.

Cletus Van Damme said...

James,

"Rome's defenders can't consistently say Protestantism is false because of private interpretation, while in the next breath, all of Rome is subject to interpretation."

If you want to keep focusing on PJ2 with future articles, that's fine. But it's kind of pointless to the dispute - you're pointing out grass is green. The private interpretation argument relates to PJ1 (i.e. the divine authority question). We all fallibly interpret. That's obvious and irrelevant to the argument.

James Swan said...

If you want to keep focusing on PJ2 with future articles, that's fine. But it's kind of pointless to the dispute - you're pointing out grass is green.

Robin Phillips (whom I've never heard of before) says of PJ2 is

"Again, if by “private judgment” we mean Protestant notions concerning the normativity of an individual’s judgment of matters ecclesiastical, then it is true that this type of private judgment is defective. It is tempting to imagine that this is all people mean when they attack private judgment. Yet on ground level, it has become increasingly clear to me that the attack against private judgment is much broader, functioning to short-circuit the epistemological conditions for knowledge while being symptomatic of the worst type of anti-intellectualism. In this sense, the question we need to ask is whether our private judgment is well-informed by church tradition, or whether it exists in a vacuum of my own subjectivity."

What do see this person saying? If the implication is that "well-informed" is not the result of private judgment, how is that "well-informed" people can come to differing judgments?

Cletus Van Damme said...

James,

Phillips is published, not that it means anything, but just because you haven't heard of him but have heard of other guys who are just lay Reformed bloggers with no specialized degrees is rather immaterial as to whether his or their analysis is worthwhile.

And no, PJ2 is not described as:
"Again, if by “private judgment” we mean Protestant notions concerning the normativity of an individual’s judgment of matters ecclesiastical, then it is true that this type of private judgment is defective"

That's PJ1 - his article is criticizing the attack on PJ2 by overzealous apologists. So I am not sure what's difficult to see what he's saying. If you conflate PJ1 and PJ2 and equivocate, then yes it will be difficult. But considering he delineates both in the opening of the article, it should be clear why constantly foisting criticisms akin to the ones the article lays out or the Doug Wilson citation Robin makes before his closing paragraph misses the mark and remains a red herring.

James Swan said...

I wasn't intending any sort of snarky comment when I said I had not heard of Robin Phillps before, so you can put your gun back in your holster.

Please explain (or interpret) this comment from the article fro me, in regard to PJ2:

"we need to ask is whether our private judgment is well-informed by church tradition, or whether it exists in a vacuum of my own subjectivity."

What does this comment mean in regard to PJ2?

Thanks.

EA said...

Is it possible to have an examples of PJ1 and PJ2 provided by way of Scriptural passages? How did Jesus or Paul, for example, address this issue?

Cletus Van Damme said...

EA,

Anytime Christ and the Apostles claimed and exercised divine authority or gave normative and binding teachings/judgments/interpretations by virtue of that authority, they were rejecting PJ1.

Anytime they asked people to follow them or people chose to submit to their authority, they were affirming PJ2.