Monday, September 12, 2011

Some discussions about Roman tradition

Had a conversation with a guy who frequents the Called to Communion comboxes, Devin Rose, over at Justin Taylor's blog, and also a few others snuck into the convo.
Due to some comment moderation snafus, the conversation was sort of disemboweled right when it was getting good and Devin pulled out but the comments are worth repeating.

Devin Rose said:
If God did not protect the “historical selection process” of the Church from error in discerning which books are inspired
But He did, so your “then” is groundless.
What is your argument that since God protected the Canon-finding in the Church, therefore the modern Roman Catholic Church is infallible?
A few gaps to fill there.
Protestants don’t (or if they do, their basis for that decision is ad hoc).
I need to see an argument.
(And yes we do.)
If God’s people “have always identified His Word,” why then did the Church accept the deuterocanonical books in the early centuries, settling on them in the 4th century
1) “The Church” didn’t accept them. Some accepted some of the DC books, but not all accepted all books.
2) That said, I don’t think I’d agree with the statement “God’s people have always identified His Word”. More like God brought His people to an understanding of it over time, but not all at the same pace. But quite a lot. There’s a reason why people from far-spread, remote locations all eventually came to the virtually same conclusions over the Canon despite access to email or Twitter.
And why do all the Orthodox Churches also accept the seven deuterocanonical books in Catholic Bibles?
1) I’d go ahead and ask them, not Sola Scripturists. I am not responsible for others’ bad decisions.
2) They accept more than the 7, and they’re not sure about a couple of them.
3) For that matter, RCC’s Canon of the OT isn’t definitively closed either. You’re not really in a good position to chuck rocks.
Are all the Orthodox Churches not part of “God’s people?”
Correct. By and large, by their rejection of the Gospel, modern EOdox are not part of God’s people, just like most of RCC.
Unless you’re referring to earlier ones, like from the first few centuries, who wouldn’t be like modern EOdox. And then in that case, you wouldn’t find solid and all-agreed acceptance of a given list of books, specific to the letter.
2. The Church is the agent who discerned the canon.
But God is the one Who reveals it. We don’t need certainty in the Church. We need it in God.
3. You cannot have more trust in the canon than you have in the Church.
1) “The Canon” does not communicate a whole lot. The Scripture does. Saying “trust in the Canon” is really weird, unwieldy, unhelpful.
2) You’re equivocating between the early church and modern Rome, but you need an argument in between.
4. Protestants do not trust the Church with even moderate certainty.
Again, which church?
And I should think our trust in Jesus can make up for a lack of trust in sinful people.


What is principled reason for believing God protected the Church’s discernment of the canon from error but not other doctrinal discernments of the Church?
1) Again, what church?
2) The reason would be that God gave the Scripture for the explicit purpose of teaching and identifying doctrine and belief for the church. Having done that with the Scripture, He didn’t need to do it some other way, and indeed…
3) the Scripture does not lead us to accept such.
I’m not trying to show that the “modern Roman Catholic” Church is the same Church as in the early centuries that discerned the canon.
Oh, OK. Well, you need to.
If the Church didn’t accept the deuterocanonical books, what books did “the Church” accept
Already asked and answered.
the Christians prior to that time (who were Catholic or some flavor of Orthodox) didnot come to “virtually the same conclusion” as Protestants did on the OT canon?
1) Yes, we and they actually did. All the books of the Protestant OT Canon are accepted by everyone else, and there are only a relatively few in the margins.
2) There’s more than just the OT to the Canon of Scripture and we came to the same conclusion on the NT.
But why should we think that this bumbling, human process of the Church over centuries came up with the right canon?
1) B/c we trust God.
2) Contrast that with the 1500 years that passed before RCC came up with its official Canon.
3) And the fact that neither RCC nor EOC have a definitively closed Canon.
4) And the fact that the RCC is demonstrably NOT infallible. Only by glossing over tons and tons of actual facts is this plausible.
After all, baptismal regeneration was a doctrine accepted universally from the beginning of the Church.
1) You’re just assuming such w/o justification from having read a few sources. You have no idea whether this is true.
2) In fact, it’s clearly not true since the Scripture doesn’t teach it. Later Christians can be mistaken, but let every man be a liar, and God be truthful.
The Catholic canon of the OT is closed. You are in error in your statement that it is not.
He instead used the Church to discern it in a long, slow process. So in fact we actually do rely on the Church as the agent.
No, not THE AGENT. The recipient.
You’re a master at equivocation.

Oh man! I just checked and it’s still “awaiting moderation” from 31 August!!!! Grrrrrrrrrrr…
I repost it here in the hopes that it will actually get approved. Sheesh, not cool.
you also stated that God “eventually” led His people to “virtually” the same canon. This took centuries.
And it took a lot more centuries (15 total, in fact) for Rome to carve out an official, almost-closed Canon.
So, again, Sola Scriptura comes out smelling rosier than Rome.
some of that messy, centuries-long process, during which the canon was not settled
I don’t remember denying that it was messy. I just don’t see how inserting an infallible interpreter into the mix helps matters at all. It seems to me it makes matters worse, since the infallible interpreter didn’t keep things from “descending” into “messiness”.
If God gave the Scripture as the sole way for the Church to know true doctrine, it seems implausible that He let His people not know the correct books of the canon for centuries.
1) He did let them know the correct books of the Canon. People’s reticence or incomprehension does not reflect upon God.
2) There wasn’t really a whole lot of competition. Nobody was proposing Homer or Julius Caesar as inspired. There was some indecision and confusion and disagreement about some books, but certainly not all. Don’t overstate the case.
3) Again, this reflects poorly on the infall interper for not stepping in to clear it all up.
4) Also, I don’t accept the presumption of “it seems implausible”. Why precisely does it “seem implausible”, and what are your prior probability judgments you used to come to that idea?
If you don’t know the right canon, even getting off by one book, your doctrines will not be guaranteed to be correct
So how did ANYone function for the 1st 15 centuries of the church? (Obviously, they did function. This assertion is groundless and poorly aimed, since nobody said anything about “guaranteeing” that doctrine be correct.)
And how do you function since Trent couldn’t decide about 3 Esdras? I suppose your doctrines will not be guaranteed to be correct, no?
I realized that White puts forth his opinion as truth on what is really an ambiguous matte
If you listen to White’s debate with Michuta, Michuta asserts the same as he does in his book.
Reply to Michuta, not White, please. Michuta is the one who found it out and is honest enough to state it openly.
The truth is that the Catholic canon is closed.
Naked assertion.
I reply: Nuh uh. The truth is that the Catholic canon is NOT closed.
It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until Trent when the Protestants rejected the deuterocanonicals and Luther challenged the four NT books
Oh, OK. So by that same token, I can just say the same about the Protestant Canon.
It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until, say, the Westminster Confession when the Roman Catholics persisted in their ahistorical acceptance of the deuterocanonicals and the Protestants got tired of it.
You can either take the Catholic Church’s word for what she says is dogma, or you can take Rhology’s word for what the Church says is dogma.
Or you could look at the historical facts and realise that Devin is setting a smokescreen and I’m taking history for what it is – messy – and realising that it causes us to have no idea what infallibility even means if Rome is infallible.
Here is one article that includes the landslide of historical evidence that baptismal regeneration was believed by the early Church:
So Scripture does teach it, according to the early Christians. You obviously interpret it differently. Whose interpetation is right?
That is an outstanding reason to think there’s more to this issue than just “go with what’s earlier”. You only do that when it suits you, so far be it from me to disagree.
Even Protestant apologist William Webster concedes without qualification that the Church “went off the rails” from the beginning by believing baptismal regeneration.
I don’t know what he meant. Even if (ad arguendoall extant writingsputatively from the early church explicitly held to bap reg, which they don’t, you still have the massive unanswered (and probably unanswerable) questions I’ve asked in my article linked above. So that doesn’t impress me any, and shouldn’t impress anyone who stops to think about the issue in the way I’ve framed it.
If I am making mistakes, I am open to correction
That’s rich, coming from someone who is under book contract with Catholic Answers. You’ll hopefully pardon me for rejecting that claim at face value.


One quick clean-up point.
I’d said, disagreeing with James Swan:
That said, I don’t think I’d agree with the statement “God’s people have always identified His Word”
Let me clarify and put a finer point on it, after a little more reflection.
Jesus specifically promised in more than one place but most explicitly in John 10 that God’s people DO in fact listen to His Word and reject the words of others that conflict.
1“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2“But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4“When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5“A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
26“But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Devin may object with what amounts to: “But you don’t know how He does that.”
And that’s OK; it doesn’t affect the point in the slightest. Just b/c I don’t know how, and even if (ad arguendo) I couldn’t identify even one single person throughout history whose writings are extant who believed the Gospel as described in the NT, that also would not affect the point in the slightest. God’s promise is sufficient. I dare any RC or EOx to give us a reason to think it’s insufficient.
Not that I expect any to. They usually try to be much more subtle in their deceptions.


so where do we go from there?
We are trying to figure out how we can accurately know the content of divine revelation.
Yes, I was forestalling the argument I hear all the time from RCs/EOx, that of “but you don’t know how”. Looks like it worked too – you didn’t use that argument. Glad to see it.

Jason said:

Rhology, we all believe that God is the one Who protected the Church in discerning the canon. The problem Devin raises is definitely worth considering. Why the distrust in these great men who were, by God’s grace, selected to lead the Church, a Church which was then unified, if not by a fully canonized-Scripture, certainly by the Holy Spirit in guarding both the teachings and traditions handed on to the Apostles’ successors, as mentioned by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 : “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter…”?Conscience-binding certainty in the canon is inextricable with God’s historical selection process. Otherwise, regular joes like me, in our day, would have to either rely on some subjective feeling (like Calvin’s methods, which Devin refers to below) or else trust in and submit to the judgments of Luther, Calvin, et al, assuming they were the ones to whom the true canon was revealed.

You went awry when you took the COMMAND of 2 Thess 2:15 and assumed that modern Rome holds apostolic succession in the way modern Rome claims it. You need to argue for that, please.
Conscience-binding certainty in the canon is inextricable with God’s historical selection process
That’s never presented to us in the teaching of the NT. I can only conclude that you’re speaking for yourself here.
However, modern Rome can’t fill this certainty either, since they’re not sure they have the right Canon.
submit to the judgments of Luther, Calvin, et al, assuming they were the ones to whom the true canon was revealed.
A foolish stramwan like this demonstrates that you really haven’t done a whole lot of profound reflection on this issue.


Jason then said:

Thank you for your response. One problem I’d point out is in your assumption that I “went awry” in “assum[ing] that modern Rome holds apostolic succession…” For starters, I’m not a Roman Catholic; I’m a protestant who’s just looking into these issues. In any case, trusting that God kept the church unified and intact in the absence of a clearly defined canon, by protecting and guiding the teachings and traditions of the Apostles in the meantime, is not assuming the position of “Modern Rome.” Do you believe that God kept the Church unified in the absence of a clearly defined canon by guarding and protecting the Church at this period in history?
You wrote: “[Conscience-binding certainty] is never presented to us in the teaching of the NT” Are you saying that no one can be certain of the canon?

I’m not a Roman Catholic; I’m a protestant who’s just looking into these issues.
OK, well, I’m glad to hear that. :-)
Just make sure to look sufficiently deeply. Romanists like to obscure the issue and never ask the same questions of their own positions that they ask of Sola Scriptura.
Do you believe that God kept the Church unified in the absence of a clearly defined canon by guarding and protecting the Church at this period in history?
Are you saying that no one can be certain of the canon?
No, that’s not what I’m saying. I was responding to the way you framed the issue with your challenge.
The way that you’d said:
Conscience-binding certainty in the canon is inextricable with God’s historical selection process
The Gospel is inextricable with it.
The Canon is not a necessary article of faith that delineates saved from not-saved. It CAN be known, and it is an important doctrine, but it’s not inextricably linked with God’s selection process. In the NT, God selects people for His kingdom, His church.
However, He didn’t “select” what books He revealed. He simply revealed what He wanted to reveal, and that’s what we identify.

1 comment:

Devin Rose said...

Hey just saw this post with the big redux of our discussion last fall. Oh well it's all old by now I guess, but good luck with your missionary endeavor.