What’s Good for Interpreting the Constitution . . .

is good for interpreting the Bible:

Justice Scalia’s determination to take the law as it is earned him many enemies among our progressive elites. The criticism was and remains that Scalia’s textualism prevents the Constitution (and law more generally) from “growing” to meet the changing needs of the people and their government. Scalia was uncaring and a servant of injustice, we have been told, because he was not willing to use the law to do things its often privileged and corrupt authors did not intend it to do. The reprehensible hit piece sent out to faculty and students at Georgetown Law School by Professors Gary Peller and Louis Michael Seidman well illustrates the level of hatred aimed at Justice Scalia on account of his principled approach to law. It was wrong, according to these two professors, both of whom deny the legitimacy of our Constitution, for their law school to mark Justice Scalia’s passing with sympathy and respect because he was, on account of his judicial decisions, a bad man. The virtue progressive lawyers like Mr. Peller and Mr. Seidman demand of judges is quite clear. A good, virtuous judge is one who cares about the oppressed (defined by race, class, and gender), knows that law often is a tool of oppression, and sets himself the task of rewriting the law to make it a tool of justice by serving the interests of oppressed groups, as determined by progressive elites. In rejecting this hubristic model of the judge as savior, Justice Scalia earned endless calumnies, most especially the constant jibe that he was merely a tool of powerful bad actors.

The irony in these charges is thick, for it was precisely Justice Scalia’s refusal to go beyond the text of the Constitution or law that made his jurisprudence by far the most democratic and egalitarian, in the historical American sense, on the Supreme Court of his and perhaps any other time. The Supreme Court Justice who divines “emanations” from “penumbras” of various phrases and ideas in the Constitution and stitches them together into doctrines like the “right to privacy” is serving neither the law nor the people, but his own ideology.

Development of doctrine may allow interpreters of papal instruction to find coherence. But the similarities between development of dogma and a “living, breathing” Constitution are striking.

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139 thoughts on “What’s Good for Interpreting the Constitution . . .

  1. It’s long been obvious to me that the RC development of doctrine has more in common with Harry Blackmun, Anthony Kennedy, and other liberal or liberal-leaning justices that the most ardent defender of the papacy and infallibility would oppose than it does with a justice like Scalia, who most conservative RCs would greatly admire. Its telling when your religion allows you to deny vehemently the perspicuity of God’s Word but to stand with those who affirm the perspicuity of a merely human document.

    Not that the Callers will notice or anything, just very interesting.

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  2. Robert,

    I find it interesting that you don’t see the problem for Christianity IF,
    1) Protestants believe in a doctrine of the perspecuity of scripture, which it is neither demonstratable out there in the world( many denominations and non denominations), nor is that doctrine perspecuously revealed in scripture, provable by the fact that only protestants uphold the teaching while the other Christianties do not.
    So if the charge is that Rome developed the non- perspecuity of scripture in order to have domination, that would not hold true since Eastern Orthodoxy also doesn’t need that doctrine in order to have and maintain its liturgy and doctrines related to the Eucharist and Sacrifice. As well, its Apostolic Succession( something which Rome agrees).

    2) Rome changed doctrines through time either by dealing with competing interpretations of scripture and made a decision hoping for the Holy Spirit’s guidance( in the same way as do Protestants). Or the magisterium changed an existing true doctrine unbeknownst to themselves or purposely and without care for its truth and its implications for the spiritual well being of the church without that truth;
    Or, it changed an earlier incorrect decision that it, at the time, believed was correct, which means it’s taking a stab in the dark at all times and so hitting upon a correct doctrine through either interpretation or earlier consensus (through the sensus fidelium) is and could only ever be a guess about when God has definitively spoken.

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  3. Susan,

    My contention isn’t that Rome “invented” the non-perspicuity of Scripture, just that it is inconsistent to view the Constitution as perspicuous (as someone like Scalia did) when it was made only by human authors but then to say it is impossible for a divine product such as Scripture to be perspicuous (as any conservative RC would say).

    As far as your other points, the fact is that if the number of people agreeing to a doctrine indicates its perspicuity, Rome is in loads of trouble, since most of your communion practices birth control and since only Rome upholds the papacy. You also act as if the potential for change means we can’t know anything, which if true means God didn’t care anything for the ancient Jews who had no infallible Magisterium. What, did God just start caring about His people when Peter walked the earth?

    “We stick to the infallible Magisterium,” the Apostles never said.

    “We stick to the infallible Magisterium,” the RCs, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and crazy Bob the prophet all say.

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  4. Robert,

    I will have to respond to you later. In the meanwhile, I’m watching your interaction with “Matthew” and Dr. Anders, and I hope that you will see that without the Church’s( and its “somehow-someway” infallibility) we wouldn’t even have a canon.
    My last comment wasn’t meant to be a jab, only a depiction of what is true about the early church ….that same church( it is supposed to be) entrusted to later leaders, against the communities of ” we have the bible and we don’t need to know how we got it nor do we acknowledge any authority( especially not the Papacy) HOWEVER,we will trust “our” divines( either from the early reformation or all those different ones who came later( Assembly of different kinds of protestants supported by Parliament to come together to debate what was discovered by each from scripture so as to set forth Bible faith, polity, and worship. They we already in agreement that they all were right and Rome was wrong. But, there is no reason to trust a people opposed to the church that preceded Westminster. I have no reason to trust Westminster more than Rome or Constantinople.
    Westminster is not the magisterium over the bible and not the boss of anyone if that person doesn’t agree with the consensus of those who gathered in 1647(?) or with the amendments to the confessions and catechisms( 1861 – 1973) of the newly formed “church” in the U.S.
    This standards don’t have to be adhered to as long as the person believes the bible, so Keller’s Christianity is as biblical as Machens and McArther is as on the Mark as Ursinus and they all are equally authorititve depending on which teacher one happens to like and agree with.

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  5. @classicaled

    “We stick only to the bible.” says every denomination out there.

    Anglicans, Methodists, and others that descend from that tradition reject Sola Scriptura. They hold to a sort of Prima Scriptura – think Wesley’s quad as one example. Also the mainline now more or less uniformly reject infallibility of scripture (as one local minister here likes to aver… “The Bible is NOT the Word of God, it bears witness to the Word of God”). If one narrows one’s focus to those who would hold to Sola Scriptua (not the majority position among non-RCs or EOs to be sure), the degree of theological diversity shrinks dramatically as well. If one measures that by the actual beliefs of those in the pews (I’m not suggesting that’s the end-all, be-all measure, but it is one), then the degree of theological diversity is much smaller among SS adherents than among RCs. I suspect that is also true when comparing clergy. What might be the best comparison is what one must believe to be formally welcomed to communion (probably the fairest comparison among very different ecclesiastical traditions). Not entirely sure what the answer is there.

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  6. Robert,
    “Its telling when your religion allows you to deny vehemently the perspicuity of God’s Word but to stand with those who affirm the perspicuity of a merely human document.”

    “Vehemently” is just a useless qualifier for polemics – RCism does not affirm God’s Word is hopelessly obscure, nor – and not unrelatedly – does it affirm anything goes under the cover of development of doctrine.
    Protestants only affirm perspicuity on the “essentials”. So apparently Clifford the Big Red Dog and the front page of the newspaper is more perspicuous than God’s Word when dealing with “non-essentials”.
    Further it is also telling when you advocate treating God’s Word as no different than a merely human document in your approach to exegesis and interpretation.

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  7. sdb,

    I didn’t know that about Methodists.
    Anglicans I knew consider themselves of apostolic succession( a thing which should be paid attention to since laying on of hands is a practice which is supposed to “mean” how authority and priesthood is passed on) ,over and against SS, which doesn’t serve the idea of “authority” at all.
    That’s why when I was forced to reject sola scripture as tenable, I was scarce on locations to go.
    When protestanism would no longer have me( because I couldn’t submit to their authority as inumerated in the confessions) Eastern Orthodox and Rome was the default.
    ( I knew Anglicanism was a state church and protestant by development rather than biblical proof and conviction( other than sinfully and selfishly….to gain a divorce)

    Since I always understood and welcomed rightful authority, the papacy wasn’t an issue. But more importantly I knew it was the only way I could have certainty about what constituted Christianity.

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  8. @susan

    Anglicans I knew consider themselves of apostolic succession, over and against SS, which doesn’t serve the idea of “authority” at all. That’s why when I was forced to reject sola scripture as tenable, I was scarce on locations to go.

    I don’t follow?

    When protestanism would no longer have me( because I couldn’t submit to their authority as inumerated in the confessions) Eastern Orthodox and Rome was the default.

    Again, the overwhelming majority of “protestants” – basically all of the charismatic movement, holiness movement, mainline, etc… reject SS.

    (I knew Anglicanism was a state church and protestant by development rather than biblical proof and conviction( other than sinfully and selfishly….to gain a divorce)

    I’m not sure that is the most charitable way to describe the origin of the Anglican church or that it tells the whole story, but I’m not all that interested in defending those rotten monarchialists!

    Since I always understood and welcomed rightful authority, the papacy wasn’t an issue. But more importantly I knew it was the only way I could have certainty about what constituted Christianity.

    You’ve made statements along these lines many times and they have always set off warning bells for me. This isn’t necessarily a criticism for you and I don’t intend to get into yet another debate over the epistemic merits of the papacy (though I still find those arguments unconvincing). I guess it just reminds me of a number of colleagues I’ve had that swam the Tiber enthralled with the intellectual superiority of their new team only to have that “faith” utterly disintegrate. I’ve mentioned Dreher a few times, not because I think he is emblematic of all converts (or necessarily a parallel to you), but because he is a public person who has spoken about his conversion and loss of RC faith quite openly as a warning to those who are prone to intellectualize their faith (he is EO now and certainly not anti-RC). He had a series of posts recently on the Spotlight movie that are worth reading. One that is think is very relevant is his post on what it takes for faith to survive. There is a follow-on post about George Foster that I won’t link in order to avoid approval purgatory. It is easy to find if you follow the link above. I don’t think these posts “prove” anything, but perhaps you will find them worthwhile.

    As an aside, just to be clear, I don’t think this scandal disproves the claims of the church. I do think it undermines an important part of the MOC, but that’s not why I bring these links up here.

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  9. I want to add, that I put myself into subjection of a particular reformed church because I believed that they had God’s permission to be my authority. I took myself out, not because I chose to based on a changed position( though I had questions including their right to be my authority) per say, but because they never were given authority so as to be my authority. I don’t give authority to a teaching community, only God can do that.
    Dr. Riddlebarger was my pastor and he is a very good teacher and was correct about many Christian doctrines( and he was often very wrong) and a good man, but he was never my authority.

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  10. “Anglicans I knew consider themselves of apostolic succession, over and against SS, which doesn’t serve the idea of “authority” at all. That’s why when I was forced to reject sola scripture as tenable, I was scarce on locations to go.

    I don’t follow?”

    Apostolic succession is a thing to which Anglicans appeal, that’s all.
    S S on the other hand doesn’t involve apostolic succession, and so one wonders why two department’s for determining rightful authority.
    Is it by Scripture and trying to interpret the scriptures that makes someone a lawful ecclesial authority( church…one, holy, catholic, “apostolic”);
    or is it by laying on of hands( which denotes succession)by apostolic succession with the laying on of hands by hands that received laying on of hands before?

    What I see is that reformers usurped authority and used SS as justification and that thereafter( Westminster…) continued to justify there anarachy and on the same pretenses.
    I mean, If Rome was an unlawful authority, so was Luther and Calvin N everyone else who claims they know better than everyone else what constitutes Christianity.
    That makes no visible authority on earth.

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  11. Clete,

    “Vehemently” is just a useless qualifier for polemics – RCism does not affirm God’s Word is hopelessly obscure, nor – and not unrelatedly – does it affirm anything goes under the cover of development of doctrine.

    Protestants only affirm perspicuity on the “essentials”. So apparently Clifford the Big Red Dog and the front page of the newspaper is more perspicuous than God’s Word when dealing with “non-essentials”.

    Rome doesn’t affirm perspicuity even on essentials, so “vehemently” fits quite well. Unless of course you want to tell me that I can know how to be saved apart from the Magisterium and the mythical oral tradition that nobody can identify.

    Further it is also telling when you advocate treating God’s Word as no different than a merely
    human document in your approach to exegesis and interpretation.

    I have not once advocated that. All I’ve said is that in order to prevent, well, locked temple gates from being the “exegetical” defense for Rome’s uneasiness about the Virgin Mary possibly enjoying, gasp, lawful sexual relations with her husband, you need grammatical-historical exegesis.

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  12. “Protestants only affirm perspicuity on the “essentials”. So apparently Clifford the Big Red Dog and the front page of the newspaper is more perspicuous than God’s Word when dealing with “non-essentials”.”

    James. dude. you and your wit are baaaaack!

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  13. Susan: …not because I chose to based on a changed position( though I had questions including their right to be my authority) per say, but because they never were given authority so as to be my authority.

    …according to your own authority to determine who the correct authority is.

    I think the problem you are trying to solve is one of self-reference. You (correctly) observe that if the knowing subject is the one deciding what is true, then knowledge is only as good as the methods of the knowing subject. So in some sense, when Alice says “I know that Jesus is my savior”, she is in fact saying “To the best of my ability to determine, Jesus is my savior.”

    You hoped that jumping to the RCC would fix the self-reference problem. It offers supposed infallible truth, a North Star by which you can align yourself.

    Unfortunately, this only pushed the problem back one level. Now, instead of saying “To the best of my ability to determine, Jesus is my savior”, you must say, “To the best of my ability to determine, the Roman Catholic church is the true church, and to the best of my ability to determine, it teaches me that Jesus is my savior.”

    The self-reference problem, in which you are ultimately responsible for the propositions you believe, has not gone away. It has simply hidden itself in a single, momentous proposition: “Whatsoever the church teaches, is true.”

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  14. sdb,

    Glad you are following what I’m getting at( sort of), but I’m not being self- refrential because I am referencing a thing( church) which I never presupposed( it was told to me)and it fits into both a Reformed and Catholic system but with different I’d ideas about what it is. If I compare those ideas, I am comparing what different people say concerning it, but when I finally make a decision it isn’t because I couldn’t tell which made better sense, but because I could.

    This is not the same as the example you gave:
    “So in some sense, when Alice says “I know that Jesus is my savior”, she is in fact saying “To the best of my ability to determine, Jesus is my savior.”k two modes of knowing about something”

    First she has to have knowledge independent of her that Jesus can be a person’s savior and she is not being self referential to have this knowledge. Next she has to have some idea about how she can be saved and that is adding in an additional component.
    So if she knows the way for her to have salvation the second part is knowing what the conditionals are. If she has satslisfied the conditionals she should be able to know with certainty what is in her power to know, otherwise she can’t even say she knows to the best of her ability.

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  15. Hi Jeff, how are you?

    Glad you are following what I’m getting at( sort of), but I’m not being self- referential because I am referencing a thing( church) which I never presupposed( it was told to me)and it fits into both a Reformed and Catholic system but with different ideas about what it is. If I compare those ideas, I am comparing what different people say concerning it, but when I finally make a decision it isn’t because I couldn’t tell which made better sense, but because I could.
    If I am being self referential to conclude that the Catholic Church’s idea about “church” is correct and the Reformed idea is wrong, then the knowledge of what is true about the “church” is only bound up in my knowledge, but that would make your idea about what is ” the church” bound up to what you believe( self referentially).
    I know that both ideas cannot both be right in the same way, so I conclude one of us is right and one of us is wrong.

    This is not the same as the example you gave:
    “So in some sense, when Alice says “I know that Jesus is my savior”, she is in fact saying “To the best of my ability to determine, Jesus is my savior.”k two modes of knowing about something”

    First she has to have knowledge independent of her that Jesus can be a person’s savior and she is not being self referential to have this knowledge. Next she has to have some idea about how she can be saved and that is adding in an additional component.
    So if she knows that Jesus saves people the second part is knowing what the conditionals are. She can know that there are conditionals because not everyone will enter heaven( known from the fact that hell is believed in all Christian circles) and because she is basing her arriving in heaven on the fullfilment of something else, otherwise she would say with certainty because she could speak on other way.If she has satslisfied the conditionals she should be able to know with certainty what is in her power to know, otherwise she can’t even say she knows to the best of her ability.
    I’m sure there was an easier and faster path, to get to the point, but I have to open every door in the corridor:)

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  16. Jeff,
    If there is a church with God given authority whatever she teaches will be true.
    The thing is to find that church without presupposing it fits the protestant notion.

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  17. Susan,

    If there is a church with God given authority whatever she teaches will be true.

    Both the government and parents are God-given authorities. Does that mean everything they teach will be true?

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  18. Robert,

    Of course not, because governments are run by men who don’t have the Holy Spirit nor do they need the Holy Spirit to lead them( the law that is written on their hearts is good enough if they obey it),and governments come in different forms, none of which are prescribed by God.

    Parents are legitimate authorities but make mistakes, however if they want to know what is true about God, Christianity and the church they can find out from the true church what to teach their children and then they could instruct their children rightly.

    You don’t believe that I can say anything about Christianity and say it positively and with certainty do you?
    Do you believe that churches all churches or admixture of doctrinal errors to be corrected by the bible according to.somebody’s interpretation.
    If you believe that all bodies have some error and some truth, why don’t you believe that all truth and no error( I didn’t say no sin) can be in one body?

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  19. My reply again. This time with corrections.

    Robert,

    Of course not, because governments are run by men who don’t have the Holy Spirit nor do they need the Holy Spirit to lead them( the law that is written on their hearts is good enough if they obey it),and governments come in different forms, none of which are prescribed by God.

    Parents are legitimate authorities but make mistakes, however if they want to know what is true about God, Christianity and the church they can find out from the true church what they are to teach their children and then they could instruct their children rightly.

    You don’t believe that I can say anything about Christianity and say it positively and with certainty do you?
    Do you believe that all churches are an admixture of doctrinal errors to be corrected by the bible according to “somebody’s” interpretation? If yes, whose?
    If you believe that all bodies have some error and some truth, why don’t you believe that all truth and no error( I didn’t say no sin) can be in one ecclesial body?

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  20. If there is a church with God given authority whatever she teaches will be true.

    Why do you believe that? It is a rather curious assertion. We know from scripture that the church (those called out) is the body of believers and that we are warned that there are false teachers among the body – hopefully they repent! But that would imply that not everything the church teaches is true. You wouldn’t want to play the game my daughter plays (I didn’t kick my brother…my foot did) would you?

    Further, not all of the magisterium is infallible. Your side claims that certain pieces of it are, but the ordinary magisterium (sufficient to compel your “religious submission of intellect and will”) is authoritative but not infallible. Where we part ways is on whether anything outside of the scripture is infallible – since the writers wrote “not of their own will, but as they were moved by the holy spirit”, these writings are in a different class of say Augustine’s – whose writings are a mixture of error (e.g., women on their own do not bear the image of God) and truth (e.g., the wisdom of what a person says is in direct proportion to his progress in learning the holy Scriptures). The inscripturated word is literally God-breathed in a way that non-canonical texts are not. Thus the Scriptures stand in judgment of all other writings, traditions, and thoughts. Nothing stands in judgment of scripture – it is infallible because it is God’s word. Other texts may be true, but it is not impossible for them to err. That impossibility is reserved for God’s words alone.

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  21. Susan, Peter was a God-given authority, the first pope even and he taught falsehood and Paul corrected him.

    Now imagine that with pastors who aren’t apostles and don’t have the H.S.

    THINK!

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  22. Sdb,

    “Why do you believe that? It is a rather curious assertion. We know from scripture that the church (those called out) is the body of believers and that we are warned that there are false teachers among the body – hopefully they repent!”

    You are already presupposing a protestant view of the church. Those called our of the world right and expected to uphold God’s moral law—– but that is off topic for our purposes.
    “They” went our from among us, being not of us, implies that there existed a visible group who had the sacraments( or do you believe every body that copies the sacraments, are true visible churches?) and authority to require obedience.
    If some body requires obedience I assume they have authority to teach and administer the sacraments. So false teachers necessarily means those not given authority.

    “But that would imply that not everything the church teaches is true.”

    How would false teachers( people in the future claiming to teach scripture rightly or claiming that the true church isn’t the true church, but claiming that they are instead) imply that there isn’t a true church where every teaching is true? The false teachers are outside( not among us).

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  23. ““They” went out from among us, being not of us, implies that there existed a visible group who had the sacraments… and authority to require obedience.”
    I don’t see why that is implied.

    “If some body requires obedience I assume they have authority to teach and administer the sacraments. So false teachers necessarily means those not given authority.”
    No it doesn’t. It means someone given authority squandered their authority…teachers are judged more harshly…

    ““But that would imply that not everything the church teaches is true.” How would false teachers imply that there isn’t a true church where every teaching is true?” Well if a member of the church taught something false, then not every teaching of the church is true.

    “The false teachers are outside( not among us).” Augustine is outside of the church? Weren’t many of his teachings false?

    Again you haven’t dealt with the fact your own church teaches that the ordinary magisterium, which demands your submission, is fallible. A true church can be a true church and still get some things wrong. The Earth orbits the Sun in contrast to what the rc church once taught.

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  24. Susan,

    Good questions! Let’s take them one at a time:

    You don’t believe that I can say anything about Christianity and say it positively and with certainty do you?

    I’m not sure what you are asking here. Can you say things about Christianity positively? Sure. With certainty? Do you mean infallibly or just that you have a psychological conviction that what you are saying is true?

    Do you believe that all churches are an admixture of doctrinal errors to be corrected by the bible according to “somebody’s” interpretation? If yes, whose?

    There is a bit of equivocation here that comes up in most Protestant-RC discussions eventually. There is an implicit assumption that all interpretations are equal without an infallible Magisterium. It comes up again and again with you and others. Typically it is framed as “Look at all the Protestants with their different interpretations of the Bible; therefore, SS can’t be true.” That presupposes that rational people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells are hopeless to sort things out without somebody holding their hand.

    The problem is that your side is unwilling to deal with interpretative diversity on your side. Magisterial statements can be read in any number of ways. No less an authority than Pope Benedict has said that V2 documents were intentionally written so that people holding contradictory beliefs could both affirm them. Does this mean that all interpretations of the Magisterium are equal? Not any more so than the interpretations of the Scriptures if we believe that the intent of the Magisterium is determinative. But I’ve had RCs tell me that it doesn’t matter what the Magisterium of long ago intended; it only matters what the current Magisterium says.

    As for the question, yes I believe that all churches have a mixture of truth and error in them and that they are to be corrected by the Word of God. By who? Ultimately by church councils in which men who actually know Greek and Hebrew and church history and logic, etc. preside. These councils are to be made up of elders, including teaching elders (pastors) and ruling elders (laity), and both groups must do their jobs to know and be conformed to Scripture. When this doesn’t happen, you eventually get liberalism. It has happened in the PCUSA. It has happened to the ELCA. It has happened to Rome.

    If you believe that all bodies have some error and some truth, why don’t you believe that all truth and no error( I didn’t say no sin) can be in one ecclesial body?

    Rome can say that all truth and no error is in one ecclesial body only by limiting infallibility to a select set of teachings that no one can identify exhaustively. Somehow this is not a problem for Rome.

    But in any case, sure it is logically or theoretically possible for there to be all truth and no error in one ecclesial body; however, Scripture gives us no indication that this will happen on this side of glory. The church always has false teachers. It’s wishful thinking to pretend that Nestorius was not teaching what the church was teaching, or Arius, or whoever. Until the church kicks them out, their views are acceptable. But if they are acceptable, you have a church that is teaching both truth (Athanasius) and error (the Arians).

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  25. Susan,

    Recently I was digging through some old books from seminary and came across a book I had read in my undergraduate and seminary work. It’s called “Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for ordinary People.” In this book, Esther Lightcap Meek appropriates Michael Poylani’s epistemology. I’ll provide a quote at length from Meek, but I think many of your questions would be deftly addressed by reading the book.

    Classicists, modernists, and skeptics have agreed: For knowledge to be knowledge it has to be characterized by certainty and infallibility, necessity, and universality. They have struggled to formulate foolproof criteria for the certainty and knowledge, and many, nut just skeptics, have admitted that their results were less than satisfactory…even people without philosophical training feel with the philosophers that the classical and modernist approaches have been effectively dismantled. Nobody can relate to essences, and the idea of ideas in the mid is beginning to fall by the wayside, too. That leaves us with skepticism (pg. 32).

    She goes on to state,

    Driven to attain an ideal of certainty, thinkers have over the centuries tightened the paramters of ‘proper’ knowledge so restrictively that what was left was at best truisms, or so minimalistic and private that all the mess of reality has been squeezed out of them…If we limit ‘knowledge’ to statements that meet this standard of certainty, we end up having to say that we know precious little.

    And finally,

    What of the ideal of certainty itself? If I must accept as true only those claims of which I am certain, what about the claim that I must accept as true only those claims of which I am certain? Am I certain of it? What reasons would I use to prove it? The ideal does not even meet its own standard. It is a claim of which I cannot be certain. We might say it is an expression of faith.

    This last bit is particularly insightful because your operating assumptions about what is necessary for divine revelation are ultimately faith claims in themselves. That’s why I continue to levy the charge that you are letting the tail wag the dog. You think you are grounding your faith upon a certain and infallible framework, but in fact you are grounding your certain framework on an uncertain faith commitment.

    The middle quote also points out a tendency we’ve seen in the CtC apologetic. Can we know whether “swinging” is right or wrong? According to CtC, we can’t be certain so we cannot know with certainty. The traditional position and the perversion of Scripture are both not certain and are therefore at least epistemologically equal.

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  26. Brandon,
    I know you are trying to be helpful, but this is plain silly.

    Look we are both Christians and is such we both should believe correct doctrine about everything pertaining to faith and morals. I hope that you will agree with that.
    Reformed Christians and Catholic( and EO) believe much of the same things, but we are still divided over much.
    Would you say you know with certainty that Rome doesn’t understand the doctrine of justification and is in error to have a priesthood that re-presents the one sacrifice of Jesus ?
    I think you believe that you are right about that.
    I hope you believe with certainty that Jesus is God and that God loves is and died and that he is now resurrected and reigns in glory.

    So, I am trying to figure out a way to show you that Catholicism is stating the truth of Christianity because it has authority to speak of the Holy Spirit and for that reason cannot err or deceive, in order that we can be unified under one faith of the same four marks.

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  27. Hi Susan, It seems like you want to be told every answer, but isn’t the Lord purposefully training us (each) up to THINK with the mind of Christ. (not negating that He gives us shepherds, teachers, etc)

    -do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God John 4:1
    -examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess 5:21-22
    -solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Heb 5:14
    -And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness sin deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love,we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Eph 4:11+
    -the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, Eph 4:1
    -hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so as to be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict Titus 1:9-10
    -if anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing 1 Tim 6:3 -4
    etc.

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  28. Susan,

    Would you say you know with certainty that Rome doesn’t understand the doctrine of justification and is in error to have a priesthood that re-presents the one sacrifice of Jesus ?

    No, I wouldn’t say I know with certainty, though I do believe that Rome’s doctrine of justification is in error.

    I hope you believe with certainty that Jesus is God and that God loves is and died and that he is now resurrected and reigns in glory.

    Certainty is a strong term here. Am I convinced of it to the point I would die for this claim? Yes. If I don’t believe I can have absolute certainty does that mean I don’t really believe it or that it’s shifting sand? I don’t think so.

    So, I am trying to figure out a way to show you that Catholicism is stating the truth of Christianity because it has authority to speak of the Holy Spirit and for that reason cannot err or deceive, in order that we can be unified under one faith of the same four marks.

    The way that you are doing this is starting with a faith commitment–Certainty is a prerequisite for knowledge–and then accepting a system that allows you to fulfill your criteria.

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  29. Brandon,

    Maybe be it would help if you told me what it is that I am wrong to seek certainty about. That way we can determine if what I desire to know is legitimately within my grasp.
    I agree that there are things in life that I could never know with certainty, like future events. The world is the way it is, but when we learn something about it( in all different fields and sciences) what we ascertain is real and true.
    We can even know with certainty that God is real by our own natural reason.

    So maybe you want to articulate to me the limitations of what we can know in regards to doctrines regarding faith.
    This might help advance our discussion.

    God bless,
    Susan

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  30. Brandon,

    You said,
    “You think you are grounding your faith upon a certain and infallible framework, but in fact you are grounding your certain framework on an uncertain faith commitment.”

    And how do you say this? How do you know the parameters of what you called “an uncertain faith commitment”?

    What it looks like to me is that you speak with certaity about what you think I am doing by being Catholic and thinking by expressing a desire( satisfied so far yet still learning….faith seeking understanding) and you doubt the church to know things pertaining to faith. Intellectually, I am absolutely certain about my faith but I struggle with scrupulocity ( religious OCD)and have doubt, but you see, I have no reason to doubt because our faith is certain.
    Now, when I was protestant I almost despaired because the one faith taught different and contrary things, but when I learned that there was the true church it solved my doubts by grounding me in knowledge that is true. That is, she spoke with authority and the motives of credibilty( proofs by which to derive certainty) pointed to the church.

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  31. Brandon,
    I know you are busy, but I hope that you will respond when you can.
    My question for you is, how do you determine what things are a species of Christian faith? And whatever they are, If you don’t know them with certainty, how are you apprehending those (enumerated things) that you say are proper to the faith?

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  32. Hey Susan,

    And how do you say this? How do you know the parameters of what you called “an uncertain faith commitment”?

    I was alluding to the Meeks quote above that certainty is a prerequisite for “true” knowledge. This assumption is a faith commitment that needs to be substantiated, but it is impossible to infallibly ground it, ergo it is uncertain. And if it is uncertain then based upon its criteria it is not “true” knowledge.

    My question for you is, how do you determine what things are a species of Christian faith? And whatever they are, If you don’t know them with certainty, how are you apprehending those ) that you say are proper to the faith?

    I have to confess I don’t understand your question. If you mean, how do I know the things that I can affirm as a Christian, they are those things that are Divinely revealed. God’s special revelation to humanity is contained in the Scriptures. Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith.

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  33. Brandon,

    I didn’t start my search and end up a Catholic by accepting as true only the claims of which I am certain.
    That would have landed me in a place of believing only those things that comported with my five senses, or what I believed my five senses usually inform me.

    Why are you carping on this? Why would you tell me that I can’t know the dogmas of the Christian religion with certainty?
    They are dogmas after all.

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  34. Scalia was more political than consistent regarding the text of The Constitution. His decision regarding D.C. vs Heller showed that. The text of The Constitution couches the right to bear arms within the context of the need for a militia. And The Constitution clearly states that it is the Congress that is to provide the necessary means for the training and arming of the Militia while it is the President who is its commander and chief. But Scalia’s opinion represented the opinion of the anti-Federalists of way back then over the text of The Constitution. If someone wants to defend Scaila here on his “originalist” approach to the law, we should only note that the “originalist” view point is not in the text of The Constitution as well as the fact that if the 2nd amendment was a compromise, then voicing an opinion that only represents the anti-federalist point of view is a selective approach to originalism.

    Yes, justice is about helping the oppressed; that is what the OT says. And often, the oppressed are defined by race, class, and gender since oppression often, though not always, follows along those lines. That does not deny justice to the privileged, it simply says that the oppressed live in a constant state of injustice while the privileged do not. And if one has problems with that, I would suggest that one supports a status quo that practices an oppression based on discrimination not smiled on by the Scriptures.

    ONe other point, Scalia’s approach to The Constitution seems to preclude the possibility that the words of The Constitution might carry implications that were unforeseen by the founding fathers.

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  35. Hey Susan,

    Why are you carping on this? Why would you tell me that I can’t know the dogmas of the Christian religion with certainty?

    The reason I’m pressing this is because you seem to be badly confused and missing the mark. For example,

    That would have landed me in a place of believing only those things that comported with my five senses, or what I believed my five senses usually inform me.

    No, that’s not true at all. Descartes, for example, knew he couldn’t trust his senses and so he did not believe that could be the indubitable foundation to build the foundation for knowledge. The quotes I cited from Meek are applied explicitly to Descartes (though you can’t see that from what I quoted). They also apply to the claims that you’ve made about certainty and knowledge.

    I reread this article again after posting this afternoon. It addresses what we’ve been talking about.

    This article is highly problematic and it doesn’t address what we’ve specifically been talking about. We’re talking about whether or not we can have “true” knowledge of something without knowing it infallibly.

    Since you brought it up though, I’ll comment on it. First, David admits that the Reformed do claim to have a certainty to allow for the act of faith–the very Words of God himself. David’s historical work on the Reformed tradition completely ignores the context and contorts the theology of the various Reformed traditions to accomplish his apologetic task. This quote is particularly egregious,

    Zwingli and Calvin were naive in their belief that Scripture-interpreted-by-the-Reformed-ministry would provide doctrinal clarity and theological unity. By the time of the Westminster Assembly, theological pluralism was a fact of Protestant life.

    Calvin, Zwingli, Luther & Melancthon, Cranmer, Bullinger, Zanchi, Vermigli, etc. etc., did not agree on everything. They disagreed on important points, actually, but they held numerous things in common, including the conviction that God’s Word is infallible and is intended to build us up into every good work. They may have held their opinions strongly (and they were probably impacted by a bit of Renaissance hubris), but they did not naively believe that their teaching would automatically provide doctrinal or theological unity. Disagreements that existed at Westminster were not surprising, they’d existed from the very beginning (even in the Apostolic era). Much more could be said here but time and space make that prohibitive. The more important point is that David’s article doesn’t address the issues of epistemology I understand you to be raising.

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  36. Brandon and Susan,

    We’re talking about whether or not we can have “true” knowledge of something without knowing it infallibly.

    Bingo. This is the entire argument. The RC position is basically that in matters of faith if something hasn’t been given the label infallible, it is unknowable and unable to provide a foundation. The Protestant answer is “No, that’s wrong, and even if it were true, you the individual RC are out of luck because you, the individual RC, aren’t infallible.”

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  37. “If you mean, how do I know the things that I can affirm as a Christian, they are those things that are Divinely revealed.”

    Are divinely revealed things irreformable or are they subject to revision?

    “God’s special revelation to humanity is contained in the Scriptures.”

    Is the extent and scope of the canon of Scriptures and its contents divinely revealed, per your first statement?

    “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith.”

    Is this teaching itself divinely revealed, per your first statement? If so, is it offered as an infallible teaching by any Protestant body, or is it offered as possibly in error and subject to revision by all Protestant bodies?

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  38. “Are divinely revealed things irreformable or are they subject to revision?”
    What does it mean to reform a “thing”? The object of revelation is irreformable, my identification of it, my understanding of it, and my articulation of it are reformable. This is true for every other person with one very important exception. The reason some of Paul’s writings and some of Isaiah’s writings (for example) are treated differently is because their origin was not Paul or Isaiah, but they, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (my paraphrase). This is not true for the Apostle’s Creed, WCF, or the Catholic Catechism – they aren’t God’s Word thus they are not incapable of error.

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  39. “What does it mean to reform a “thing”? ”

    BA: “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible”. Irreformable and not subject to revision. A textbook, newspaper, or WCF or Protestant church’s teaching is reformable and subject to revision.

    “my identification of it, my understanding of it, and my articulation of it are reformable.”

    What about your church’s identification of it, understanding of it, and articulation of it? Still reformable?

    “The reason some of Paul’s writings and some of Isaiah’s writings (for example) are treated differently”

    Is the identification and teaching of these writings as inspired and inerrant offered as reformable in your system?

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  40. Brandon,

    I am very appreciative of your tone. You and I have both been sarcastic and mocked the other side in the past, and for my part, I am very sorry.
    You usually are very above board and an admirable opponent(that is; in discussion only) and I don’t come away feeling mocked or humilated.
    God bless you for your belief in the dignity of the other, and for working to understand those with whom you disagree.
    I homeschool my youngest and am busy at present, but I will get back to you.

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  41. Brandon,

    Since as you said, this discussion can take a lot of time and space on a blog, I’m going to check to see if I still have your email.
    I did try to come meet you and hear you preach once, but I didn’t realize you were only at this particular Presbyterian church for one Sunday. I thought you were on staff…

    Anyways, I will try write you by email and if you are ever available, I’d like it if we could meet and talk.
    Or if you’d be willing to just meet and hang at a theology on tap.
    The ordinariate that I came into the Church through holds ToT events here:http://www.valiantbrewing.com/

    If you are still in the Fullerton area, maybe I could but you and your wife a beer;)

    Blessings to you!
    Susan

    Like

  42. CVD,

    Are divinely revealed things irreformable or are they subject to revision?

    I think this needs to be a much tighter question. For example, geographic boundaries of countries (like the Philistines), can be divinely revealed and also subject to change/revision. In addressing what I think you’re trying to get at, however, God’s revelation is self-referentially the final word and not subject to change.

    Is the extent and scope of the canon of Scriptures and its contents divinely revealed, per your first statement?

    No, not like the Ten Commandments.

    Is this teaching itself divinely revealed, per your first statement? If so, is it offered as an infallible teaching by any Protestant body, or is it offered as possibly in error and subject to revision by all Protestant bodies?

    Yes, it’s tautological and as such it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies. If God says something, given the classical doctrine of God, it is necessarily infallible. There are some who deny my assumptions: A) Classical Theism B) Divine revelation, but then those bodies are not Protestant in any meaningful sense.

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  43. CVD,

    I think you may have raised an important point.
    The Church before the Reformation( and after) was living its divinely revealed truth in its liturgy and then all of a sudden things changed for ecclesial life of some after the fallible discretion of Luther and even more so through Calvin and so on.
    Of course protestants are going to take issue wih this by claiming that the reformers were restoring proper worship, but they would have to know what was proper in the first place and that would mean locating the date when the first accretion appeared, and it would mean trusting the fallible reformers over the church that had up to some indeterminate time been the( not “an”ecclesial authority.
    There is no way for the protestant to determine that the reforms were permissible or not,except by having some criteria by which to enact those changes, and the criteria would have had to come from outside the religion( scripture and tradition combined).
    Circular arguments and special pleading can never get one closer to the truth.

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  44. Also, for the record.
    We know things with certainty ( infallibly) all the time.
    I know without having to have faith that I am female and my husband is male.

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  45. Susan,

    The Church before the Reformation( and after) was living its divinely revealed truth in its liturgy and then all of a sudden things changed for ecclesial life of some after the fallible discretion of Luther and even more so through Calvin and so on.

    I’m sorry, but this reads just like the Roman Catholic Jack Chick version of church history. There was no “all of a sudden.” Everything the Reformers did had been brewing for centuries; the only reason it didn’t happen sooner is because there weren’t any Western monarchs who successfully stood up for anybody that dared to say, “Hey, wait a minute.”

    Of course protestants are going to take issue wih this by claiming that the reformers were restoring proper worship, but they would have to know what was proper in the first place and that would mean locating the date when the first accretion appeared, and it would mean trusting the fallible reformers over the church that had up to some indeterminate time been the( not “an”ecclesial authority.

    Why is locating the date when error first appeared precisely necessary? None of this follows.

    There is no way for the protestant to determine that the reforms were permissible or not,except by having some criteria by which to enact those changes, and the criteria would have had to come from outside the religion( scripture and tradition combined).

    Circular arguments and special pleading can never get one closer to the truth.

    You mean special pleading such as “fallible in discipline, infallible in the dogma no one can identify”?

    We know things with certainty ( infallibly) all the time.

    Therefore, you don’t need an infallible church to know that Jesus is Lord.

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  46. Cletus,

    What about your church’s identification of it, understanding of it, and articulation of it? Still reformable?

    Until your church stops practicing textual criticism, your church’s identification of it is still reformable.

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  47. Robert,

    “There was no “all of a sudden.” Everything the Reformers did had been brewing for centuries;

    “What” was brewing for years? What is the evidence of that thing or things that had been brewing for years? And how many years?
    If I’m being vague, so are you.

    “the only reason it didn’t happen sooner is because there weren’t any Western monarchs who successfully stood up for anybody that dared to say, “Hey, wait a minute.”

    If this backed up by recorded history?
    Who was saying “wait a minute” and how to do know what they had an opposition to?

    Before Luther the big names that we have are Hus and Tyndale.
    Was there gripes legit and would they warrant an overhaul and schism?

    First Luther had a difference about what it meant to receive initial salvation and then he’s questioning the canon–why because they hurt his needed interpretation.

    I would not be able to draw this conclusion if:

    1) He didn’t want only those certain books removed that supported a view different from the sola fide.
    2) He wasn’t scrupulous.

    Why do you believe that he wasn’t capable of being driven and desirous of a reading of the scriptures contrary to the authority of the church?

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  48. We know things with certainty ( infallibly) all the time.

    Infallible means that you cannot fail, not that you just didn’t happen to get it wrong in any particular instance.

    I know without having to have faith that I am female and my husband is male.

    That may all be true, but it isn’t because you couldn’t have been mistaken. We see that there are a lot of people who evidently are (Jenner?) wrong despite their “certainty” that they have the wrong body parts.

    You have made a much stronger claim for the RCC than it makes for itself. You claimed above that whatever the RCC teaches is true, but the RCC restricts infallibility to a pretty narrow circle of statement. Consider what Fr. Martin says about the hierarchy of truths:

    Not everything is equally essential, nor does every church teaching carry the same weight. This itself is Catholic teaching, and is contained in the Catechism (#90)….To use a simple example, a pastor proclaiming from the pulpit his opinion on a political matter in the community (a form of church teaching at a low level) does not enjoy the same authority as a papal encyclical (a higher level of teaching) or a document from an ecumenical council (higher still) or the words of Jesus in the Gospels (the highest)….So to answer your question about the essentials: In the interests of space, I will be brief….First, I can surely understand the frustration of some who feel that what they view as essential is up for grabs. Seeing something that you deem essential being held up for debate would be disturbing indeed. But, for me, the essentials are contained, first, in in the Gospels and, second, in the Nicene Creed. So no pope—no Christian—could say, “There is no need to love your enemy, to forgive, or to care for the poor.” Nor could any Christian say, “Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead.” After the Gospels and the Creed, I look to the whole rest of our church tradition, through the lens of the hierarchy of truths, understanding what has a greater level of authority over us.

    A hierarchy of truths is a far cry from every thing the church teaches is true… it suggests degrees of accuracy (truth) and certainty that your approach doesn’t allow. Perhaps you were speaking hyperbolically? I’m pretty sure Fr. Martin isn’t presupposing a protestant model like me (we can’t all be perfect).

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  49. Robert,

    Nevermind. I want to drop out of this conversation.
    It is so important but I am having a hard time keeping up the conversation when it involved more than one person and myself.

    I wish you all the best,
    Susan

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  50. Sdb,

    The examples you and Fr Martin gave differ in kind.

    If a priest says that abortion is a sin of the highest kind, he is speaking infallibly.
    If he says you should vote for Trump, he speaks from his opinion and you shouldn’t listen to him( not that priests tell you how to vote).

    If I say I know with certainty that Jesus is God, I am speaking about something of which I am certain, but more important, is certain whether or not it is believed. The statement “Jesus is God”,is an infallible statement.
    That is why we say that infalliblity means that clarity can be counted on when there are unclear or wrong as in.competing( through misunderstanding or shortage of affirmations…)ideas about something.
    For instance ,when you say that justification is by faith alone, I as a Catholic can say “yes!, I agree if you include love in there.
    If you just mean faith, well then the demons also believe but they don’t.have friendship with God.
    So qualification and illumination is needed and that is the job of the church( who had authority).
    Get it?

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  51. Robert, Brandon, sdb, Jeff,

    I have been thinking that maybe it can’t be said that I, or anyone else, is speaking infallibly when we rightly speak the truth. I would love to understand the difference. I know that we are inspired when we are creative but it can’t be said that we are inspired by the Holy Spirit when we create a painting, a novel or a musical composition.
    I will stand corrected when someone explains how my certain knowledge about the faith is held within my mind when the pronouncement is an infallible pronouncement concerning faith or morals. If I receive an infalible truth doesn’t it remain and infallible truth when I think about it, live by it, and pass it on to others?
    In the meantime here is a great read that clears up some things.
    .http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/11/papal-fallibility.html?m=1

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  52. Susan,
    When you state that a abortion is a sin, you are not speaking infallibly. You *could* have been mistaken and said that abortion isn’t really a sin. It is not impossible for you to say that abortion isn’t really a sin. You personally are not protected from error. That isn’t to say that we are uncertain that abortion is a sin or that (in your system) a Pope couldn’t declare ex cathedra and thus infallibly that abortion is a sin. But when you repeat what he said, you are not declaring that truth infallibly. Perhaps writing it in a comment box with your cell phone you mistakenly write “abortion is not a sin”. That is *possible*. When God speaks, such an error is not possible.

    If I receive an infalible truth doesn’t it remain and infallible truth when I think about it, live by it, and pass it on to others?

    I think you are mixing knowing and being. There is a reality that just is what it is. It doesn’t sense to say that it is fallible or infallible. The description of that reality can be communicated either correctly or incorrectly. God is incapable of describing reality incorrectly, therefore His words are infallible. We are capable of describing something incorrectly, therefore our words are fallible even when we are right (we *could* have been wrong). We prots believe that only God’s Word is incapable of being wrong and that the scriptures are the only source of God’s Word. The scriptures are infallible only insofar as they are God’s Word, and as Peter tells us, these words did not originate in the will of the writers of scripture, but rather they were moved by the Holy Spirit to communicate God’s Word (this does not entail that the Holy spirit dictated every letter, but mode of inspiration is a different discussion). Had those words originated in the will of man, they could have been wrong (even if they happened to have been correct).

    Where we SS-RPs and RCCs disagree is whether there are other conditions under which someone communicates something and it is *impossible* to have been wrong. We say no. When something originates in the will of man, it is always possible that it could be wrong. My understanding is that the RCC says that under certain conditions such as the Pope speaking ex cathedra or Bishops in union with the Pope defining doctrine at a General Council they are protected from error (i.e., infallible). Not everything the RCC teaches is infallible (even if it is authoritative and requires “the submission of your intellect and will”), therefore it is possible that there are errant teachings that are nonetheless authoritative even if they do not rise to the level of demanding your full assent of faith.

    We magisterial SS-RPs put every extra-scriptural teaching/writing in the fallible category even as it requires the “submission of the intellect and will”. Only God’s Word can bind the conscience and demand the full assent of faith – and then only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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  53. If a priest says that abortion is a sin of the highest kind, he is speaking infallibly.

    No. Your church teaches that he is speaking fallibly – the priest is not protected from error.

    If I say I know with certainty that Jesus is God, I am speaking about something of which I am certain, but more important, is certain whether or not it is believed.

    No. Certainty describes your mental state. Some people are very uncertain about whether Jesus is God. Others are quite certain that he is not God.

    The statement “Jesus is God”,is an infallible statement.

    It is a true statement and I am certain that it is true (even if it is not impossible for me to be wrong). Coming from me or you, the statement is not infallible.

    That is why we say that infalliblity means that clarity can be counted on when there are unclear or wrong as in competing (through misunderstanding or shortage of affirmations…) ideas about something.

    No. The book of Ezekiel is infallible, but it is notoriously unclear. The fact of the infallibility of God’s word does not on its own entail clarity (consider Philip and the Ethiopian).

    For instance ,when you say that justification is by faith alone, I as a Catholic can say “yes!, I agree if you include love in there. If you just mean faith, well then the demons also believe but they don’t.have friendship with God. So qualification and illumination is needed and that is the job of the church( who had authority). Get it?

    Who could disagree? Certainly not a magisterial protestant who believes that the church (particularly Elders) have the authority to teach and we have the responsibility to submit to their teaching. That does not require the elders to be infallible. Indeed, even in the RCC the ordinary magisterium (which is not infallible) still demands the *submission* of the intellect and will.

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  54. Robert,

    “What” was brewing for years? What is the evidence of that thing or things that had been brewing for years? And how many years?
    If I’m being vague, so are you.

    Many things. Here are just three: 1) The nature of free will and its relationship to God’s sovereign decree/plan. That debate continued past the Reformation even within the RCC. That’s why you have Thomists, Molinists, Augustinians, etc. 2) The authority of the papacy vis a vis church councils. 3) The proper relationship between Scripture and tradition.

    There was a big blow up at the Reformation over these issues and others precisely because the debates hadn’t been settled. Don’t forget that even at Trent there were people sympathetic to Luther.

    “the only reason it didn’t happen sooner is because there weren’t any Western monarchs who successfully stood up for anybody that dared to say, “Hey, wait a minute.”

    If this backed up by recorded history?
    Who was saying “wait a minute” and how to do know what they had an opposition to?

    Hus, for example, tried. No one protected him. Wycliffe had a modicum of protection, but even he was eventually dug up and burned after his death.

    Before Luther the big names that we have are Hus and Tyndale.
    Was there gripes legit and would they warrant an overhaul and schism?

    Susan, it’s statements like this that raise questions about how well you know church history. Maybe you misspoke. Tyndale was a contemporary of Luther; he didn’t come before. Maybe you meant Wycliffe?

    Yes their gripes were legit, and yes they warrant a reform of the church, not an “overhaul” or schism. The schism was not Luthe’s fault. It was the papacy’s.

    First Luther had a difference about what it meant to receive initial salvation and then he’s questioning the canon–why because they hurt his needed interpretation.

    I would not be able to draw this conclusion if:

    1) He didn’t want only those certain books removed that supported a view different from the sola fide.
    2) He wasn’t scrupulous.

    This is simplistic. No less a Romanist than Cardinal Cajan, who did not agree with Luther on justification, also questioned the received canon.

    Why do you believe that he wasn’t capable of being driven and desirous of a reading of the scriptures contrary to the authority of the church?

    I don’t understand this question, I’m sorry. It also assumes that the church’s reading of the Scriptures is correct whenever the church claims it is correct, which is precisely the point of dispute.

    But if you are asking if Luther was capable of being driven and desirous of a reading of the Scriptures simply because he was tired of church authority, of course he was capable. The trajectory of his life and exegesis of the text don’t bear that out, however. That’s not to say his personality wasn’t involved; it is to say that all the evidence shows that Luther did not want to cause a rupture in the church but Rome’s recalcitrance and its willingness to lie to Luther about protecting him certainly didn’t help.

    This is historical fact. Even more recent RC historians have said that Luther was not treated justly even if he was wrong.

    The more important question is why you become all agnostic and skeptical about religious matters simply because Protestants disagree about some religious matters but you don’t when nobody can agree on what the Magisterium means. Seems to me that all you’ve done is gone from picking Calvinism over Lutheranism to picking Mother Teresa over Walter Kasper.

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  55. Brandon,

    “God’s revelation is … not subject to change.”

    So should teachings offered and admitted as subject to change be considered as reflecting divine revelation? If so, what would be different about the nature of teachings that should be rejected as reflecting divine revelation?

    “Is the extent and scope of the canon of Scriptures and its contents divinely revealed, per your first statement?
    – No, not like the Ten Commandments.”

    So you do not affirm the identified canon and contents as a Christian or as part of the Christian faith, per your statements that, “If you mean, how do I know the things that I can affirm as a Christian, they are those things that are Divinely revealed.” and “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith.”

    “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith.
    – Is this teaching itself divinely revealed, per your first statement? If so, is it offered as an infallible teaching by any Protestant body, or is it offered as possibly in error and subject to revision by all Protestant bodies?
    — Yes, it’s tautological and as such it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies. If God says something, given the classical doctrine of God, it is necessarily infallible. There are some who deny my assumptions: A) Classical Theism B) Divine revelation, but then those bodies are not Protestant in any meaningful sense.”

    It’s tautological only if you grant a host of assumptions first – e.g. God’s word exists, it was written down, it was confined to that writing, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant. Are all those teachings divinely revealed, per your above statement?
    Classical theism also precludes open theism. Are open theists not Protestant in any meaningful sense because they reject your interpretation of Scripture as teaching classical theism?

    Which Protestant body infallibly teaches it? Any Protestant church subscribing to WCF asserts its teachings are subject to revision.

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  56. Susan,

    SDB is right. You are confusing knowing and being–though you are not the first RC to do that here. Meek argues throughout her book that modernists and postmodernists are both looking for infallible knowledge in order to establish “true” knowledge. You fall squarely in that camp. Meek provides a much more satisfying epistemology, which is why I recommend you read her work.

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  57. So should teachings offered and admitted as subject to change be considered as reflecting divine revelation? If so, what would be different about the nature of teachings that should be rejected as reflecting divine revelation?

    First, yes. Second, I don’t know what you mean.

    So you do not affirm the identified canon and contents as a Christian or as part of the Christian faith, per your statements that, “If you mean, how do I know the things that I can affirm as a Christian, they are those things that are Divinely revealed.”

    No, that’s not accurate. God’s Word is self-authenticating and is, by definition, part of Divine Revelation. Is the Church’s collection of God’s Word infallible? No, but are the contents, as God’s Word, infallible? Yes.

    Is this teaching itself divinely revealed, per your first statement? If so, is it offered as an infallible teaching by any Protestant body, or is it offered as possibly in error and subject to revision by all Protestant bodies?

    Yes and it is offered as infallible by every Protestant body. Your ignorance on this point is disconcerting.

    It’s tautological only if you grant a host of assumptions first – e.g. God’s word exists, it was written down, it was confined to that writing, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant. Are all those teachings divinely revealed, per your above statement?

    Right, and if you grant the assumptions that God’s Word exists in Scripture (which we both do), then it is tautological that this writing is infallible.

    Classical theism also precludes open theism. Are open theists not Protestant in any meaningful sense because they reject your interpretation of Scripture as teaching classical theism?

    This is a debatable claim, but it misses the point entirely. Even most open theists admit God’s speech is infallible, which is the point I was making. So even they acknowledge that when God speaks, it is infallible.

    Which Protestant body infallibly teaches it? Any Protestant church subscribing to WCF asserts its teachings are subject to revision.

    This is a malformed summary of what the WCF teaches. The WCF does not use the language you put in its mouth. In chapter 2, the WCF says,

    The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture

    The Supreme Judge of all controversies concerning theology is God himself by the Spirit speaking in Scripture. Later, in Chapter 31, the WCF teaches that councils “may err [i.e. are not inherently infallible]…Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

    The WCF does not teach that subscribing to the WCF requires “its teachings are subject to revision.” That may be your ignorant understanding, but it’s not the position of the Reformed.

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  58. Brandon,

    No. I am not confusing knowing and being.
    You could prove that you are right and I am wrong by telling me what things I am seeking certainty about and then tell me how I am wrong to be reaching to know those things. Don’t you assume that when we speak of knowing something, that we mean that we possess information about things? I agree that we can be wrong, but you are in a worse state be believing that falseness can never be verified to the mind of non-knower because truth is only saturated in the thing itself. How does truth ever get in the mind of the seeker?
    Wow, just wow.

    Please answer the question above.
    “Tell me what things I am seeking certainty about and then tell me how I am legitimately reaching to know those things.”

    Say I want to know If transubstation is the a correct dogma of Christianity, is your view that it is not correct a dogma of Christianity?
    Whatever your answer is, how do you know?

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  59. “No. I am not confusing knowing and being.”
    Can you explain what a “fallible truth” would be then? This looks like a category mistake to me. You might fallibly apprehend the truth, express the truth, etc… but “infallible truth” or “fallible truth” don’t make much sense to me. Maybe I’m not thinking clearly here?

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  60. Susan,

    Here are examples of your confusion between being and knowing:

    If I receive an infalible truth doesn’t it remain and infallible truth when I think about it, live by it, and pass it on to others?

    [The Truth remains infallible, your apprehension of it is fallible]

    If a priest says that abortion is a sin of the highest kind, he is speaking infallibly.
    If he says you should vote for Trump, he speaks from his opinion and you shouldn’t listen to him( not that priests tell you how to vote).

    [As SDB has pointed out, no, the priest is not speaking infallibly. He may be communicating something that is true, but because he communicates truth (being) does not mean he is infallible himself (knowing).]

    Say I want to know If transubstation is the a correct dogma of Christianity, is your view that it is not correct a dogma of Christianity? Whatever your answer is, how do you know?

    In a word, fallibly. In my fallibility I could rightly or wrongly condemn transubstantiation, but even if transubstantiation were infallibly revealed (as Catholics claim it is), I can still only know that as a fallible human being.

    If your question is asking more specifically upon what grounds, I could list many. There are exegetical, theological, and philosophical problems with transubstantiation (IMO). I don’t think we want to derail the conversation into talking about those specific points, though.

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  61. Susan: If I receive an infalible truth doesn’t it remain and infallible truth when I think about it, live by it, and pass it on to others?

    Just to add to Brandon’s comments, a person is capable of error when you thinking about that infallible truth, when he or she decides how to live by it, and especially when he or she passes it on to others.

    An infallible truth is not a rock to be given, but a concept encoded in symbols to be transmitted.

    Because your ears, mind, and mouth are links in the chain of transmission, the infallible message P is not necessarily the same as the message P* that you receive, and even less necessarily the message P** that you transmit to others, UNLESS you can guarantee an infallible chain of transmission.

    That’s why I’ve been so pesky about pointing out things like the fact that you yourself have never encountered the (supposedly) infallible Nicene Creed. You’ve only encountered copies of translations of that Creed — and indeed, a revision of that Creed (filioque).

    So unless the entire transmission process is itself infallible, the message from God to man will not be. This is why, eg, the Confession insists that the original languages be used as the standard by which to judge translations.

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  62. Jeff, ( hello good man)

    I have much that I could( and I will when I have more time) say, but for now let me point our something…,

    You said,
    “That’s why I’ve been so pesky about pointing out things like the fact that you yourself have never encountered the (supposedly) infallible Nicene Creed. You’ve only encountered copies of translations of that Creed — and indeed, a revision of that Creed (filioque).”

    But the truths in the creed must be doctrinal statements that have risen to dogma. Otherwise why have a summary that encapsulates truth?The reason dogma is, is to define what is true, not what the moral collection of people( the church) only guesses is true.
    So we can push this back even more….
    The scriptures are only infallible if they accurately tell God’s word to us. ( and if we get his word wrong, what use was infallibility as embedded in scripture?) God’s word is not a series of propositions they are his living, breathing personal communication. They are himself.

    So the scriptures aren’t infallible either, rather His Word is.

    Scripture is inspired being some and most of what God wants to communicate and therefore it is without error, but it isn’t infallible because infallibility can’t decribe books that makeup the canon.
    Infalliblity is a predicate that can only be asserted of persons.

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  63. Also when I am thinking about a true of the faith that is said to be true via the revelation of God, I can think about that ( infallible truth).
    Where I contemplate rightly, I have encountered rightly, where I have a mistake I have veered off from what has been revealed. So say I believe that the thunder cracks and God the Father at that moment is damming the Son, I am leaving what is revealed about what really occured in the atonement, because it takes scripture and tradition to illuminate my mind about the truth.

    But say I contemplate Jesus on the cross and I imagine myself there looking up at him and him gazing back at me, my imagination has supplied more and so historically it is untrue that I saw Him, but I have also at the same time encountered Him outside of the scriptures.
    The scriptures are a sign of the person signified.

    Now, that is pretty sloppy, but hopefully you will understand what I mean.

    You don’t want the scriptures, you want the God of the scriptures, and you want the moral body that can tell you all the things that we need to know about how to have that relationship.

    I know this is long but I highly recommend it.
    It took me an hour to read it, but it explains well our obstacles.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/07/empiricism-and-sola-scriptura-redux.html?m=1

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  64. Jeff,

    An infallible truth is not a rock to be given, but a concept encoded in symbols to be transmitted. Because your ears, mind, and mouth are links in the chain of transmission, the infallible message P is not necessarily the same as the message P* that you receive, and even less necessarily the message P** that you transmit to others, UNLESS you can guarantee an infallible chain of transmission.

    This is not entirely related to what we are discussing, but this is why persons are not intrinsically clearer than texts. The mediums of communication are different and clearer in some areas than others, but every mode of communication uses concepts “encoded in symbols to be transmitted.” This is not to say that personal or textual communication can never communicate meaning, but rather that the approach presented by Ctc, as an example, is sophistical.

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  65. Susan,

    God’s word is not a series of propositions they are his living, breathing personal communication. They are himself.

    Infalliblity is a predicate that can only be asserted of persons.

    You are picking up something very important here. And, in fact, the Protestant position is essentially that to have God’s Word is to have God Himself.

    Given that reality, the Scriptures must be infallible. So you don’t have infallible dogma either, because dogma isn’t the Word of God. Scripture is in a class by itself; nothing else rises to it.

    Infallibility can be asserted of Scripture because it is personal, living, and active. So in reality, you can’t claim that Rome gives you infallible doctrinal statements such as the extent of the canon. The best you can argue for is that the people who produced the doctrinal statement on the canon were infallible. The doctrinal statement is neither infallible or fallible; it is errant or inerrant.

    The best Rome can offer us inerrant doctrine produced by infallible persons. But you don’t need infallibility to produce inerrant documents. You make inerrant statements all the time. What Protestantism offers is inerrant dogma/doctrine produced by a fallible church.

    Which is one reason I’ll say again and again that for RCism, it finally doesn’t matter what the dogma actually is. It only matters what the church is. It can’t be held accountable; it has taken the place of God Himself. In conservative circles that is. Most of your church has gone liberal and don’t buy what CTC is selling.

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  66. Sophistry means that arguments are intended to deceive. Know one is doing that. I don’t even accuse you of trying to deceive.
    I am not associated with CTC and while I’m thankful( so very thankful!) for all their time and hard work, I didn’t need them to sell me on the idea that we need the church otherwise we are left to many divisions and know way to know what was essential.
    I just became aware that Protestantism had many heads and that realization scared the hell out of me.
    I could never grant that any of your versions about what was the truth actually was the truth and so I went in search of a body that came first and honestly makes sense of scriptures and the world.
    Thomism is lacking in your system and the cracks eventually become apparant if you stop granting your fideism and that your essentials are mutually agreed upon.

    But that is all I’m saying for now.

    If you read that article by Feser, maybe you will get a glimpse of the problem.

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  67. Brandon,

    “First, yes.”

    So divine revelation is not subject to change. And a teaching that is offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation which is not subject to change. I await clarification.

    “Second, I don’t know what you mean.”

    See above. If a teaching that is subject to change should be considered as reflecting divine revelation, what is different about teachings that should not be considered as reflecting divine revelation? A possible answer some might propose is that a teaching that is offered as subject to change should not be considered as reflecting divine revelation but rather opinion, but since you don’t take that view, I’d like to know the difference in order to elucidate your position.

    “Is the Church’s collection of God’s Word infallible? No”

    So the canon is not divinely revealed, and so it is not affirmed by you as a Christian since only those things that are divinely revealed are affirmed by you as a Christian and part of the Christian faith per your above statements. So any book or passage within those books you affirm as inspired and inerrant is not affirmed by you as a Christian since its inspiration and inerrancy are not divinely revealed or part of the Christian faith per your above statements. So someone’s rejection of certain books/passages of your canon, or adding of other books/passages should be immaterial to the Christian faith according to your criteria.

    “but are the contents, as God’s Word, infallible? Yes.”

    Which asterisked passages are infallible and which aren’t? Are the contents of the deuteros, gnostic gospels, or book of Mormon infallible?

    “Yes and it is offered as infallible by every Protestant body.”

    So “it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies.” So Protestant churches claim to infallibly teach correct? So they make the same claims to authority/ability Rome makes correct?

    “It’s tautological only if you grant a host of assumptions first – e.g. God’s word exists, it was written down, it was confined to that writing, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant. Are all those teachings divinely revealed, per your above statement?
    – Right, and if you grant the assumptions that God’s Word exists in Scripture (which we both do), then it is tautological that this writing is infallible.”

    So the following teachings are all divinely revealed: God’s word exists, it was written down, it was confined to that writing, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant. But above you said your canon and its contents are not divinely revealed.

    “but it misses the point entirely… So even they acknowledge that when God speaks, it is infallible. ”

    Your point was those who reject classical theism aren’t Protestant in any meaningful sense. You were using this to buttress your “tautological” claim which was handwaving the assumptions I pointed out you take for granted. Someone can acknowledge when God speaks, it is infallible, without accepting that when God spoke, it was written down, it was confined to that writing, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant.

    “The Supreme Judge of all controversies concerning theology is God himself by the Spirit speaking in Scripture”

    Right. And this teaching of WCF is not infallibly taught by WCF, given its disclaimers. If it was infallibly taught, why would you affirm above that teachings offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation?

    “The WCF does not teach that subscribing to the WCF requires “its teachings are subject to revision.””

    So the WCF claims to infallibly teach with the following?
    “It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith … which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission”
    “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”
    “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.”

    “That may be your ignorant understanding, but it’s not the position of the Reformed.”

    Are these people Reformed?

    Horton: “Doubtless there are many beliefs and practices that Reformed believers share in common with non-Reformed believers committed to God’s Word. We must always remain open to correction from our brothers and sisters in other churches who have interpreted the Bible differently … [T]hose of us in confessional Reformed churches must also beware of forgetting that our doctrinal standards are subordinate to the Word of God. Christ’s church was reformed by God’s Word in the Reformation and post-Reformation era. It was brought back to God’s Word and the fruit of that great work of the Spirit continues to guide us through our confessions and catechisms. And yet the church is not only Reformed; it is always in need of being reformed. Like our personal sanctification, our corporate faithfulness is always flawed …. When God’s Word is the source of our life, our ultimate loyalty is not to the past as such or to the present and the future, but to “that Word above all earthly pow’rs,” to borrow from Luther’s famous hymn.”

    Anna Case Winters: “we recognize that there is no aspect of our lives that is unaffected by our estrangement from God. Even our best endeavors and highest aspirations are prone to sin and error. Forms of faith and life in the church are no exception. This is why Reformed confessions tend to have their own built-in disclaimers. The preface to the Scots Confession invites all readers to offer correction from Scripture if they find the confession to be in error. The Westminster Confession of Faith asserts, “Councils may err and many have erred.” … Recognizing how far short we fall from God’s intentions, we continually submit all doctrines and structures to be reformed according to the Word of God and the call of the Spirit. The church is a frail and fallible pilgrim people, a people on the way, not yet what we shall be. The church, because of who we are, remains open to always being reformed … Therefore, while we honor the forms of faith and life that have been bequeathed to us, we honor them best in a spirit of openness to the Word and the Spirit that formed and continue to re-form the church. The church, because of who God is, a living God, remains open to always being reformed.”

    JRC: “What provisionality means… For a Protestant, it simply means “revisable in theory.””
    “So if we find something that is provisional, we understand that its provisionality is human, not divine.”
    “The canon is our best effort at identifying the Scripture. Its accuracy is provisional.”
    “Translations are our best effort at rendering meaning. Their accuracy is provisional.”
    “Exegesis and sermons are our best efforts at communicating meaning. Their accuracy is provisional.”
    “In the Protestant system, claiming to be able to “define or identify infallible or irreformable dogma” is not even possible for fallible humans.”
    “CVD: Further, can you give me an irreformable doctrine then?
    – JRC: It’s hard to answer your question”
    “CVD: Then they also assert: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. …” Which of course includes the WCF itself and men behind it and Article 1. So the disclaimer applies not only to you, but to any confessional and Protestant church teaching, including any identification and interpretation of Scripture they offer.
    – JRC: Naturally. Who’s on first.”
    “CVD: Everything is and remains provisional. That’s not a “problem” for you. That’s fine, but it’s a stunning admission.
    JRC: Stunning? Our “side” admitted that in 1647 at the latest. Where have you been, my man?”

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  68. “This is not entirely related to what we are discussing, but this is why persons are not intrinsically clearer than texts.”

    So was Christ wasting time explaining the OT Scriptures to his audiences and disciples? Were the Apostles wasting time explaining the OT Scriptures to Jews? If Christ and the Apostles appeared next to you in a room for unlimited feedback and clarification, that would not add clarity to your understanding?

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  69. Susan,

    That should have said sophomoric, not sophistical.

    Clete,

    Your formatting and method are nearly impossible to deal with in long exchanges, making conversation very difficult. If you can, please use quotes and also provide more substance than strings of veiled, leading questions, it would be appreciated. Otherwise, it’s not really fruitful to engage.

    So divine revelation is not subject to change. And a teaching that is offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation which is not subject to change. I await clarification.

    This is where your methodology has me confused as to what you’re asking. Please clarify.

    So the canon is not divinely revealed, and so it is not affirmed by you as a Christian since only those things that are divinely revealed are affirmed by you as a Christian and part of the Christian faith per your above statements.

    No, wrong again.

    So any book or passage within those books you affirm as inspired and inerrant is not affirmed by you as a Christian since its inspiration and inerrancy are not divinely revealed or part of the Christian faith per your above statements. So someone’s rejection of certain books/passages of your canon, or adding of other books/passages should be immaterial to the Christian faith according to your criteria.

    No.

    Which asterisked passages are infallible and which aren’t? Are the contents of the deuteros, gnostic gospels, or book of Mormon infallible?

    This is ultimately decided by the Spirit of God. The motives of credibility are means that Spirit uses as well.

    So “it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies.” So Protestant churches claim to infallibly teach correct? So they make the same claims to authority/ability Rome makes correct?

    No, you’re being sloppy. I said that it is offered by every Protestant body as infallible. That doesn’t mean the Protestant bodies are infallible, but they do claim that their infallible rule is God’s Word.

    So the following teachings are all divinely revealed: God’s word exists, it was written down, *it was confined to that writing*, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant. But above you said your canon and its contents are not divinely revealed.

    You’re trying very hard to make the Reformed position your mischaracterization of the Reformed position, but you’d be well served to slow down. It is divinely revealed that God’s Word exists and is written and in our position in the current canon. It is also tautologically true that it is inerrant.

    Someone can acknowledge when God speaks, it is infallible, without accepting that when God spoke, it was written down, it was confined to that writing, that writing is confined to your current view of the canon and its contents, that writing is inerrant.

    I’ve nowhere argued it is confined to writing or that God’s Word is bound to the canonical Scriptures. Once more you’re getting creative in describing my position (and the Reformed position). Your points on open theism are red herrings and once more miss the point—that is a completely unrelated thing you’ve brought in. It simply muddies the waters.

    I said,

    The WCF does not teach that subscribing to the WCF requires “its teachings are subject to revision.

    You responded,

    So the WCF claims to infallibly teach with the following?

    Why are the options either “subject to revision” or “infallible,” and how is one closer to the truth than the other? IMO, you’re creating a dichotomy here that prejudices the discussion.

    So was Christ wasting time explaining the OT Scriptures to his audiences and disciples? Were the Apostles wasting time explaining the OT Scriptures to Jews? If Christ and the Apostles appeared next to you in a room for unlimited feedback and clarification, that would not add clarity to your understanding?

    You’ve missed the point. As I said,

    …every mode of communication uses concepts “encoded in symbols to be transmitted.” This is not to say that personal or textual communication can never communicate meaning, but rather that the approach presented by Ctc, as an example, is soph[moric].

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  70. James Young, “So was Christ wasting time explaining the OT Scriptures to his audiences and disciples?”

    You left out the Holy Spirit, a source unavailable to Aristotle. But that didn’t prevent RC’s from baptizing pagan philosophy.

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  71. Brandon,

    If scripture is clear in the first place no reform is needed except to bring people into conformity with what was already revealed.
    Any other kind of reform will be moving outside the boundries of what has already been revealed.
    Since scripture is inerrant, no one can reform it and so any reformation will only be the practice within the church and according to some leaders determination based on their interpretation.

    For instance, simony is a sin and so selling indulgences was wrong, but keep in mind that indulgences are a concept that was and is a part of the life of the church and so thoroughgoing ” reform” that means restructuring the church so as not to include indulgences, is unprincipled.
    Same thing goes for reducing the number of the sacraments and getting rid of holy orders and saying there is no sacrifice of the mass and so on.
    That is not reform that is overhaul and you can see this by looking over at the EO who is basically the church preserved in liquid amber.
    That’s how I was able to compare and judge.
    Also, sola scripture is not even in the bible but it is dogma. Dogma to whom? Every person who starts a new church.
    That is one sure fire way to demand obdience, ” I am only teaching God’s word”. Yeah says you and the other three churches around two blocks. Multiple.that by the power of ten.

    Yes, I know that reformers claim they adhere to sola and not solo, but when they left the ontological church and changed centuries old liturgical practice, saying that without archeological and early church fathers as proof,they obviously are really only the same as the Willow Creek. More learned but equal as authority goes.

    Sola scripture has been raised to infallible dogma even though the church has historically never lived by it or taught it, and it is not even in the scriptures.

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  72. Hey pagans can get things right, but they can’t get to grace.
    God can be know through natural reason.
    That’s how a person can move into revelation easier. If we couldn’t know God exists we could move into the incarnation.
    Fideism is a heresy.

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  73. Besides, how do you know what philosophy is pagan. Is logic pagan too?
    The earth is the Lord’s.
    All of it, and if the pagans discovered truth, it was and could only be God’s truth. That’s the thing, that hurts the reformed persons credibilty. No one knows anything even about the natural world and order. Nature and super-nature has a hierarchal structure and Aristotle understood this truth.
    He was without God in this world but he was no dumby..

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  74. “God can be known through natural reason. That’s how a person can move into revelation easier.”

    Actually, God, not a concept of God, but the actual God, is already known to every person because He takes the “effort” to make Himself known to every Person. But each person, using their natural reason, takes that knowledge and turns it on head in order to suppress what God has shown them about Himself. Thomas Aquinas never got this.

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Rom 1:18-21)

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  75. If scripture is clear in the first place no reform is needed except to bring people into conformity with what was already revealed. Any other kind of reform will be moving outside the boundries of what has already been revealed. Since scripture is inerrant, no one can reform it and so any reformation will only be the practice within the church and according to some leaders determination based on their interpretation.

    Pretty much.

    indulgences are a concept that was and is a part of the life of the church and so thoroughgoing ” reform” that means restructuring the church so as not to include indulgences, is unprincipled.

    Unless the principle is that such a practice should have warrant in scripture.

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  76. CVD: So the canon is not divinely revealed, and so it is not affirmed by you as a Christian since only those things that are divinely revealed are affirmed by you as a Christian and part of the Christian faith per your above statements. So any book or passage within those books you affirm as inspired and inerrant is not affirmed by you as a Christian since its inspiration and inerrancy are not divinely revealed or part of the Christian faith per your above statements.

    Your argument is logically incorrect, as has been explained numerous times.

    It confuses a set with the items in that set. The set, the canon, is a collection of items with a property: Inspired by God. The set itself does not possess that property, nor does it need to do so in order for its members to possess that property. Sets do not enjoy the properties of their members.

    As a simple example, the set of Even Numbers consists of all integers divisible by 2. The set itself is not divisible by 2, nor would that concept even make sense. Nevertheless, all of its members are divisible by 2.

    Likewise, the canon is not inspired by God; this in no way prevents its members from being inspired by God.

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  77. “CVD: Then they also assert: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. …” Which of course includes the WCF itself and men behind it and Article 1. So the disclaimer applies not only to you, but to any confessional and Protestant church teaching, including any identification and interpretation of Scripture they offer.
    – JRC: Naturally. Who’s on first.”
    “CVD: Everything is and remains provisional. That’s not a “problem” for you. That’s fine, but it’s a stunning admission.
    JRC: Stunning? Our “side” admitted that in 1647 at the latest. Where have you been, my man?”

    Right. But notice the one thing that is not provisional: Scripture itself. The actual books that God actually inspired are not able to err, even if we may not be able to identify those books with infallible accuracy.

    Think about objects in the real world. They do what they do, and they do it infallibly, in the sense that an object is never going to just fail to obey the relevant laws of physics.

    Nevertheless, our identification of those laws is always and in every way fallible and subject to revision upon further data.

    If we were to apply your argument to this situation, we would have to say that the actual laws of physics are fallible because our identification of them is fallible, that objects can “screw up” and fail to do the right things just because we haven’t infallibly discovered what they should do.

    That’s silly talk. And it’s silly talk in the context of the canon also. That’s like saying that because Amos’s audience couldn’t infallibly identify his authority, therefore his message was fallible.

    You’re wrapped around an axle, friend.

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  78. Robert, Jeff, and Brandon

    I’m going to have to leave this conversation but I would like to give you a really great lecture that explains the NT church’s relationship to the OT church…it’s visible attributes and continuity to Israel. I just listened to it and it’s jam packed with information that illuminates and makes sense of all the signs of the OT, showing correlation and so forth.
    The degree of understanding of Catholic theology makes evident that the RCC is led by the Holy Spirit. No body but nobody connects all the pieces so perfectly.
    If you can’t understand why anyone would become Catholic maybe you can begin to see how it appeals to reason and a sense of fitingness.

    Pray you listen, friends.http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/S3L01PeopleKingdomGod.mp3

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  79. Susan, “Besides, how do you know what philosophy is pagan. Is logic pagan too?”

    So how do you know Protestantism is wrong? Eee gads. Are you a relativist? Don’t tell Mermaid.

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  80. Darryl,

    When St. Paul had a dream about a man from Macedonia(Acts 16:9) pleading that Paul come over and help them,and so Paul believing God was calling him, went and that is how God’s revelation came to sync with pagan philosophy. That’s how the west was won.
    Western Civ.101

    But, all I ever learned from protestantism( not the people’s fault) was that Aristotle was bad. Nice way to beat up on the mother that bore you. Liberals do this all the time when they talk about social justice but knock and disbelief Christianity. They dont even stop to THINK, “Wait how would I ever know that man has dignity and inalienable rights If it hadn’t been for Judeo-Christian w–w!”
    Thank a Christian today.

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  81. Susan,

    My friend, you’re all over the place. A few meandering points:

    1. Aristotle is not the Word of God, but he’s a rich and valuable philosopher (and philosophy is not “pagan”). If all you learned from Protestantism was that Aristotle was bad then one of two things happened: A. You weren’t listening B. The person doing the teaching was clueless

    2. I can understand why someone would become Catholic, as I wrestled with some of the same questions. To claim, however, “No body but nobody connects all the pieces so perfectly,” is a fallible human opinion that many intelligent people reject. Why do they reject it? Is it some moral or intellectual failing on their part?

    3. I agree reducing the number of Sacraments in the church is not a good thing, but what do you think about *adding* sacraments to the church? The number of sacraments was not settled nor widely agreed upon for centuries and were not codified until Trent.

    4. You said,

    That is one sure fire way to demand obdience, ” I am only teaching God’s word”. Yeah says you and the other three churches around two blocks. Multiple.that by the power of ten.

    You understand that Rome falls under this condemnation as well, right? Setting aside the historical problems of Apostolic Succession, you still have to arbitrate between all the Apostolic Sees who disagree with one another and Rome. There are a surprising number of claimants. Just because there are multiple claims does not mean that Rome is *not* the true Church. If that can be true of Rome, you’re being inconsistent when you criticize Protestants for possessing disagreements.

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  82. Susan, you’re way to modest. The west was won I thought when Peter became bishop of Rome. Now you’re giving Paul credit? Make up your mind.

    If you read and THINK after reading at OL, you’d know that calling someone a pagan isn’t a slur. H. L. Mencken was a pagan and I can’t think of a person I’d rather read these days. But baptizing Aristotle’s happiness as Jesus’ blessedness is bad theology. Maybe even heretical. And yet, all we hear from RC’s these days (after papal infallibility) is human flourishing. If you take the fall seriously you talk much more about human sucking.

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  83. Brandon,

    Yes, I’m all over the place. If you read Darryl’s view on the value of philosophy you might understand my quick retorts. Plus, If you haven’t noticed when I try to stick to one topic, someone else attacks something related to it as by support.
    Imagine talking to someone about Aquinas’s proof for God while someone else repeats that Aquinas is a no nothing because he incorporates Aristotle……

    No, not everyone that I knew said Aristotle was bad, but they also didn’t incorporate Aquinas. I truly believe that because of Luther’s harsh words about Aristotle, other protestants were wary of Aquinas. I can read Aristotle and understand that he had much light but was without complete understanding of that true light who gives light to every man.(John1:9).
    But if he followed the light he was given and tried not to sin, then he might attain heaven. That is beside the point of this, but thought I’d through in what Catholicism teaches about pagans.

    No Aristotle is not the word of God and neither is Aratus’s Phaenomena but Paul didn’t have any problem making use of him. Is that line attributed to Zeus, God’s revelation?
    You know, I just never heard these things parsed out.

    Was I supposed to say that I became Catholic because Catholic theology understands God and the world in way, that I never heard before. If I said that it was time for a change because I was just not being fed anymore, that too would have not gone over well.
    Would Dr. Riddlbarger suggested I listen to Lawrence Feingold, read Aquinas or Maritain, Ratzinger or JPII?
    Plus the issue of the sacrament of the Eucharist. I never genuflected towards the bread and wine before. No one modeled that in my Reformed Church.

    That much at least was enough to convince me that my denomination was anemic. Sure there are many good things that Protestantism have me( wonderful hymns is a thing I really miss), but the other things that it lacked began to cause me to recognize the startling differences.

    I’m not going to convince you that Catholicism knows more and can really offer you Jesus. You will.find your 21st on your own with God’s help.

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  84. Nothing valuable and laudable as given towards human flourishing, according to Dr.Luther.

    “In this regard my advice would be that Aristotle’s Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Ethics, which have hitherto been thought his best books, should be altogether discarded, together with all the rest of his books which boast of treating the things of nature, although nothing can be learned from the either of the things of nature or the things of the Spirit. Moreover no one has so far understood his meaning, and many souls have been burdened with profitless labor and study, at the cost of much precious time. I venture to say that any potter has more knowledge of nature than is written in these books. It grieves me to the heart that this damned, conceited, rascally heathen has with his false words deluded and made fools of so many of the best Christians. God has sent him as a plague upon us for our sins.”

    Did he read Aristotle thinking that he would learn about the things that only revelation would supply?
    He should have thrown out Euclid, Homer, Virgil…
    Could there have been an agenda here? Just thinking out loud.
    Do you think later seminarians listened and obeyed?

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  85. Darryl,

    “Susan, you’re way to modest. The west was won I thought when Peter became bishop of Rome. Now you’re giving Paul credit? Make up your mind.”

    I was deliberating whether I should respond. If you were in the same room with me, I would so I might as well play….
    Ha, funny! No Paul and Peter ( and the other, what , 11?) went our all over the known world as best they could.
    Rome just happens( by divine providence) to be the place where St. Peter was martyred and the next pope took his place. Nothing demands that the papacy be in Rome, but everything demands that there be a pope! ☺
    That’s the way history has played out. I guess it could be different but it isn’t, so we go with it.

    “If you read and THINK after reading at OL, you’d know that calling someone a pagan isn’t a slur. H. L. Mencken was a pagan and I can’t think of a person I’d rather read these days.”
    Nope. I understood how you meant it.
    Your qualification ( below)is what I take issue with.

    This>>>” But baptizing Aristotle’s happiness as Jesus’ blessedness is bad theology. Maybe even heretical.”
    It’s not “baptizing” it. You speak like a fundie.
    See, that’s why we needed Aquinas.

    “And yet, all we hear from RC’s these days (after papal infallibility) is human flourishing. If you take the fall seriously you talk much more about human sucking. ”

    Bantering is fun, (and I feel towards you as I do to a cousin and like you so know that I’m teasing…..I would never want to truly hurt or offend you.,) but it doesn’t help us resolve our differences! That’s what we should be doing.

    Wish you well! Have wonderful rest of the day and a great weekend!

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  86. Susan: But, all I ever learned from protestantism( not the people’s fault) was that Aristotle was bad.

    That’s surprising. Who told you that? Aristotle was a human being, with some remarkable ideas and insights, and some real loser ideas, like the rest of us.

    We still use Aristotle’s universal quantifiers in logic and math. We have long ago abandoned the notion that all things naturally tend towards a state of rest.

    And we have also realized through bitter experience that deduction is insufficient for acquiring knowledge. There is a reason for that, and it has to do with the failure of the Ptolemaic model of the universe. Deduction is only as good as the axioms fed into it.

    One way to view the epic struggle here over epistemology is to see it as an attempt to reassert Aristotelian models of knowledge among people who have already seen the elephant.

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  87. Jeff,

    Are you saying that teleology is not built- in to everything?

    Your philosophy and physics lexicons are bigger than mine, so you will definitely have to dumb it down for me to follow.

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  88. Brandon,

    You assert divine revelation is not subject to change. You assert a teaching that is offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation. So you assert a teaching that is offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting something not subject to change.
    Presumably, you would also assert a teaching that is offered as not subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation.
    So you are asserting that both types of teachings – teachings that are subject to change and not subject to change – should be taken as reflecting divine revelation equally. So there must be something else in the nature of certain types of teachings that would entail they should not be taken as reflecting divine revelation. What is it?

    “No, wrong again.”

    Above,
    “CVD: Is the extent and scope of the canon of Scriptures and its contents divinely revealed, per your first statement?
    BA: No.”

    Okay, so the canon is divinely revealed, but its identification is not yes? If so, I fail to see why you disagreed that “So any book or passage within those books you affirm as inspired and inerrant is not affirmed by you as a Christian since its inspiration and inerrancy are not divinely revealed or part of the Christian faith per your above statements. So someone’s rejection of certain books/passages of your canon, or adding of other books/passages should be immaterial to the Christian faith according to your criteria.”

    “This is ultimately decided by the Spirit of God.”

    So “the contents, as God’s Word, [are] infallible”, but the extent and scope of these contents are not divinely revealed per your above statement. So the Spirit has not chosen to enlighten any Protestant church in its identification of the contents, just as is the case with all Protestant teachings offered as provisional and subject to revision. So if a gnostic or Marcionite or liberal claims to be enlightened by the Spirit in rejecting your canon or certain passages therein, your response is to assert you are enlightened by the Spirit and he is deceived?

    “I said that it is offered by every Protestant body as infallible.”

    You also said “it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies.” Is it infallibly taught or not? If so, they make the same claims to authority/ability Rome does. If not, then their teaching that “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith” is provisional and subject to revision.

    “It is divinely revealed that God’s Word exists and is written and in our position in the current canon.”

    Above,
    “CVD: Is the extent and scope of the canon of Scriptures and its contents divinely revealed, per your first statement?
    BA: No.”

    BA: “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith.” So your current canon is taught in Scripture?

    BA: “If God says something, given the classical doctrine of God, it is necessarily infallible. There are some who deny my assumptions”

    Why do you need to bring assumptions to the table for something that is held as divinely revealed by you and thus taught in Scripture? Do you do that for sola fide or baptism or every other teaching you hold as taught in Scripture?

    “I’ve nowhere argued it is confined to writing or that God’s Word is bound to the canonical Scriptures.”

    Okay, so now the canon is back to not being divinely revealed. The point is just affirming that “when God speaks, it is infallible” does not justify your leap to therefore, “Those things taught in Scripture are infallible and contain the Christian faith” is “tautological and as such it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies.”

    “Why are the options either “subject to revision” or “infallible,””

    Okay, so now the WCF does not infallibly teach anything contra what you said above. What’s the third option it uses? Did Horton, Winters, and JRC blunder in their ignorance of Reformed theology by affirming the confession is provisional and subject to revision?

    “This is not to say that personal or textual communication can never communicate meaning, but rather that the approach presented by Ctc, as an example, is soph[moric].”

    What is the sophomoric approach CtC takes that make my examples ones that miss the point?

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  89. Jeff,

    “Likewise, the canon is not inspired by God; this in no way prevents its members from being inspired by God.”

    So is the inerrancy and inspiration of every book and passage in your Protestant canon divinely revealed?

    “But notice the one thing that is not provisional: Scripture itself.”

    The teaching that Scripture is God’s Word is provisionally offered by all Protestant bodies.

    “The actual books that God actually inspired are not able to err, even if we may not be able to identify those books with infallible accuracy.”

    The teaching that God inspired books in the first place is provisionally offered by all Protestant bodies. God could be speaking through a mountain goat in Mongolia or cloud formations somewhere or audio recordings in a basement from 1950. Further, the teaching that God inspired those books in such a way as to conform to a specific theory of inerrancy is provisionally offered by all Protestant bodies. Most Protestants don’t affirm divine dictation theory. Liberals affirm certain passages are culturally conditioned/biased and no longer apply or were in error. Conservatives and liberals dispute the authenticity of various passages. The Chicago Statement is not uniformly accepted. And so on.

    “That’s like saying that because Amos’s audience couldn’t infallibly identify his authority, therefore his message was fallible.”

    That’s not what’s being said. Amos didn’t offer his message as admittedly provisional or tentative or subject to revision. That’s the point. The audiences of Amos or Christ or the Apostles were fallible. So are we. That’s not the crux of the matter.

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  90. CVD,

    You assert divine revelation is not subject to change. You assert a teaching that is offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation.

    This is your confusion on ontology and epistemology. Fallible people can and do communicate the infallible Word of God. The messenger does not need to be infallible to communicate infallible truths.

    Okay, so the canon is divinely revealed, but its identification is not yes

    The canon contains the Word of God which has been revealed. The canon is the church’s collection of the books given by God to the Church. The church fallibly receives what God has given.

    So if a gnostic or Marcionite or liberal claims to be enlightened by the Spirit in rejecting your canon or certain passages therein, your response is to assert you are enlightened by the Spirit and he is deceived?

    No. I’ve already explained that above. It’s been explained to you multiple times before so no need to rehash it again other than to say: Motives of credibility.

    You also said “it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies.” Is it infallibly taught or not?

    Ok, sorry for the confusion. No, it’s not infallibly taught, but it is taught as infallible.

    Okay, so now the WCF does not infallibly teach anything contra what you said above. What’s the third option it uses? Did Horton, Winters, and JRC blunder in their ignorance of Reformed theology by affirming the confession is provisional and subject to revision?

    At no point did I claim that WCF was infallible. I noted that nowhere does the WCF say that it should be continually revised either. You are trading on linguistic games to try and score apologetic points. I’m pointing out your language is not shared by others. Your quotes from Horton and Winters highlight the humility that Reformed Christians should bring as a result of our fallibility. I can’t imagine Pope Francis saying anything different. The quotes from JRC make the epistemological point that distinguishes epistemology from ontology (something it seems you continually blur). You’ve begun to use the word “provisional” for your apologetic purposes, but my point is that such language is not used by the Reformed to describe themselves. Guess who is the only one using that language in this thread? You.

    What is the sophomoric approach CtC takes that make my examples ones that miss the point?

    Proclaiming that persons are inherently clearer than texts.

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  91. CVD,

    You assert divine revelation is not subject to change. You assert a teaching that is offered as subject to change should be taken as reflecting divine revelation.

    This is your confusion on ontology and epistemology. Fallible people can and do communicate the infallible Word of God. The messenger does not need to be infallible to communicate infallible truths.

    Okay, so the canon is divinely revealed, but its identification is not yes

    The canon contains the Word of God which has been revealed. The canon is the church’s collection of the books given by God to the Church. The church fallibly receives what God has given.

    So if a gnostic or Marcionite or liberal claims to be enlightened by the Spirit in rejecting your canon or certain passages therein, your response is to assert you are enlightened by the Spirit and he is deceived?

    No. I’ve already explained that above. It’s been explained to you multiple times before so no need to rehash it again other than to say: Motives of credibility.

    You also said “it is infallibly taught by many Protestant bodies.” Is it infallibly taught or not?

    Ok, sorry for the confusion. No, it’s not infallibly taught, but it is taught as infallible.

    Okay, so now the WCF does not infallibly teach anything contra what you said above. What’s the third option it uses? Did Horton, Winters, and JRC blunder in their ignorance of Reformed theology by affirming the confession is provisional and subject to revision?

    At no point did I claim that WCF was infallible. I noted that nowhere does the WCF say that it should be continually revised either. You are trading on linguistic games to try and score apologetic points. I’m pointing out your language is not shared by others. Your quotes from Horton and Winters highlight the humility that Reformed Christians should bring as a result of our fallibility. I can’t imagine Pope Francis saying anything different. The quotes from JRC make the epistemological point that distinguishes epistemology from ontology (something it seems you continually blur). You’ve begun to use the word “provisional” for your apologetic purposes, but my point is that such language is not used by the Reformed to describe themselves. Guess who is the only one using that language in this thread? You.

    What is the sophomoric approach CtC takes that make my examples ones that miss the point?

    Proclaiming that persons are inherently clearer than texts because of their potency for unlimited interpretive clarification.

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  92. James Young, “The teaching that God inspired books in the first place is provisionally offered by all Protestant bodies.”

    Right. It’s Roman Catholics that do Inquisitions.

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  93. CVD: The teaching that God inspired books in the first place is provisionally offered by all Protestant bodies. God could be speaking through a mountain goat in Mongolia or cloud formations somewhere or audio recordings in a basement from 1950.

    And bats could fly out your nose. But they won’t. The air in your room could suddenly rush to one corner and freeze solid, but it won’t.

    Just because you can list logical possibilities does not mean that all possibilities are equally probable. It follows that just because God could speak from a goat in Mongolia — He did after all speak from a donkey once — that possibility does not make the Protestant canon doubtful.

    I agree with Brandon. Your argument has not advanced any new ground since the last round. You seem to be nibbling around the edges looking for some kind of “gotcha” wording. You already know that we believe that

    * The word of God is held to be infallible by definition,
    * The 66 books of the Protestant canon are held to be the word of God by the overwhelming universal consent of the church.

    It’s not a mystery that we believe that the canon is a fallible list of infallible books. Time to stop badgering the witness.

    Liked by 1 person

  94. “Just because you can list logical possibilities does not mean that all possibilities are equally probable.”

    You don’t believe those things are logical possibilities, do you Jeff?

    You can only determine probability if those things are logically possible. If logically possible we would have to have instances by which to call it logical.
    Probability would just tell me the likelihood of only possible occurances.

    I could say that an earthquake is possible tonight( I live in Ca ) but the probability is low( I hope and it based on nothing but that they seem to happen in the fall for some reason). If I said an earthquake is not probable in NY( we usually expect them on the Pacific rim) but it is possible( NY is located on the earth where earthquakes happen).

    What you prepose is something more like: It is possible that Godzilla could show up in San Diego tonight but it isn’t probable that he will.

    We need to be clear on what is logical before ever venturing into what is probable.
    When bats begin to fly out of noses, maybe then we could anticipate the probability of it happening at a certain time or to a certain person or group.

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  95. “If logically possible we would have to have instances by which to call it logical.”
    No. This statement is incorrect. To say that something is “logical” is to say that given a set of premises, the conclusion follows. Certain things are logically impossible (e.g., a square circle). Aristotle concluded many things that are logically possible that are not in fact observed in nature (e.g., perfection of heavenly bodies, geocentric nature of the cosmos, different laws of motion for celestial and terrestrial objects). It is logically possible for those things to be true, but we see from observation that they happen to be false. Of course our theories in which these observations are embedded are falsifiable, but given their empirical adequacy (speaking of of which, Feser would have been on stronger ground to consider van Fraassen’s successful resurrection of Empiricism as stance and considered how that applies to the protestant understanding of scripture rather than equate polemical slogans to Baconian Empiricism) modification of the theories will have to reproduce what current theories successfully explain – even under conditions of paradigmatic revolutions.

    The funny thing about induction is that one can never *prove* the hypothesis or logically show that some result is impossible. However, we can show that certain results are so improbable as to rule out the likelihood in practice (if not in principle). CVD wants to call such a conclusion provisional or refer to such conclusions as opinions. This is a polemical move that does not advance the conversation. To say that Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is falsifiable is not to say that it is provisional (string theory could be referred to as such insofar as the implications of GR are much more certain than the implications of string theory). The fact that Newton’s theory (and his law of gravity) is wrong does not mean that it is not very useful or that it does not give us true conclusions – in many regimes it is fine (nod to engineers).

    There is a very good analogy to theology here and the role of sola scriptura. Restricting the bible as the only rule of faith is not to say that the Bible is our only source of knowledge or the only source of truth (recall Luther’s statement at the Diet of Worms – conscience and reason matter too!). Rather it is our only infallible source material against which all conclusions must be judged. This is true as a matter of principle. Once a certain belief is shown to be consonant with God’s word, that belief does not become infallible. I maintain that it does not make sense to talk about “infallible truths” – it is a confusing phrasing. By it one may mean that the truth itself cannot fail, but that doesn’t really make sense. Perhaps what is really meant here is that our communication, apprehension, or trust in true statement is not possible of failing. I don’t see how that is true for people as a matter of principle. Where RCs and SS-RPs differ is on the question of whether there are conditions under which the church collectively or the Pope in particular is incapable of erroneously communicating the truth of some statement.

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  96. Sorry of this duplicates. Posting glitch…

    Susan, your question about telos is a good one.

    God has an end for every event and atom. However, that purpose cannot be reliably read out of Providence. In fact, God warns us not to try to do so without Scriptural warrant.

    Consider both Job’s friends and Jesus’ rebuke of the apostles in re: the tower of Siloam (Luke 13). Then contrast those two with James’ counterintuitive encouragement: “Consider it pure joy when you encounter trials of various kinds…”

    So telos is important for understanding that God is not deistic, but not helpful in trying to read out God’s purposes in providence. Down that road lies superstition, as both Catholic and Protestant have embraced at points.

    One of the turning points away from medievalism and towards the Enlightenment mentality was the failure of the Church to handle the Black Death. Church and folk alike attributed the plague to God’s punishment for sin, and tried to stop the plague with penance and flagellants. It did no good, and the church lost a huge amount of political capital.

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  97. sdb,

    Thank you for your response.You have given me a lot to think about. I can feel the limitations of knowing by what you have outlined, buuuuut its going to take me some time to address them.
    So I’m going to copy your response into a word doc. and try to tackle it at another time.

    In the meantime, would you mind telling me how you might deal ( or advise your spouse, children or friend)with situations where there are disagreements about very important( the degree is intrinsically known by those who disagree and is said to be non essential however) doctrines?

    For instance, (and I don’t remember the doctrine [wish I did] ), but I distinctly remember my former pastor explaining a teaching of the bible as understood by Reformed-Calvinism( because that’s what the church of which I was a member was), and he said, ” This is where Luther got it right”.
    I remember being viserally uncomfortable, and even though I can’t remember the topic, I was jarred to attention by that seemingly innocuous intellectual statement.
    It changed things for me and started me searching for a way to understand whose view of the truth was the true truth.
    I mean whatever my pastor was teaching that afternoon, it was being lifted from scripture and expounded within Dutch Calvinist churches and it had a truth value attached to it, evidenced by it being said that Luther” got it *right* “on this particular subject. So whatever the subject was about, Lutherans and Calvinists are in agreement.
    But then I thought about the doctrines where there isn’t agreement and began to wonder who was right. Before it hadn’t mattered, but suddenly it became extremely important to know.

    From the data available in my sphere( the Catholic view was not an option at then time) I was correct to believe that one of them was right and the other wrong, being that they couldn’t both be right at the same time and in the same way. They could both be wrong but they could not both be right.

    Just like in the case of a geocentric vs. Heliocentric solar system, somebody was wrong. Does scripture make it very clear whether Lutherans or Calvinists are correct about the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? I believed that in order to have a good conscience, I needed to understand what a sacrament is and whose belief and practice is the true one. Call it “the true one” as being communicated via words into my ears and received by my brain, even if the infallibility of the doctrine remains in the scriptures, if you want, but I wanted to know what the scriptures teach about this important subject.
    Is the truth up to me or can the ontological truth reach my fallible self somehow?

    Epistemologically speaking I am asking if reading the bible and gleaning from it is strictly a empirical science, because if it is ,then it fails the only testable experiment. How would you determine if it fails?

    And can’t it be said that the doctrine of sola scripture is itself an induction hypothesis?

    If you believe that Catholicism is *merely* gleaning in a empirical way, the scriptures just as Lutherans and Calvinists do, then why do you take issue with Catholic theology’s interpretation?
    Basically you believe that she is another denomination that has “some things right” too. Can you empirically disprove the interpretation of Catholic theology?
    These things seem to me to be the problems we have to address together.

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  98. Sdb,
    I mispoke about induction. I have always had a difficult time understanding induction and deduction.
    There meaning in what I said it the sentence where I used the word induction but obviously it doesn’t apply in this instance.
    Please don’t disregard all of what I said because of that glaring show of ignorance.

    I won’t swear off OL, but I have so many things that I need to do that I can’t promise that I can continue to discuss things here. I will pop in when I feel my life is balanced enough to do so.

    Best to you,
    Susan

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  99. Susan,

    Let me interject with a question:

    Just like in the case of a geocentric vs. Heliocentric solar system, somebody was wrong. Does scripture make it very clear whether Lutherans or Calvinists are correct about the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? I believed that in order to have a good conscience, I needed to understand what a sacrament is and whose belief and practice is the true one. Call it “the true one” as being communicated via words into my ears and received by my brain, even if the infallibility of the doctrine remains in the scriptures, if you want, but I wanted to know what the scriptures teach about this important subject.

    My question is why is this issue so important to you but other issues, such as the Thomist-Molinist debate isn’t? This isn’t just you, but I’ve read plenty of RCs who are so worried about getting every contour of the sacraments right but they just don’t care about answering the debate between Molinists and Thomists about grace. I honestly don’t get it.

    Why is it so important for a definitive answer on the sacraments but nobody cares that Rome has never spoken definitively on whether Thomism or Molinism is right?

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  100. Hi Robert,

    I hope you are having a good Saturday. My answer about Thomism vs. Molinism is that I didn’t know there was a dispute:)
    Are Molinist’s taking communion next to me? I don’t know why the answer isn’t definitive.
    No one should attribute evil to God, so as long as that trap is avoided maybe other thoughts are permissible??
    I don’t think I can be your Huckleberry in this discussion:)

    I knew that a sacrament was serious business( it must be if Christians are divided over it) and so correct understanding was something to try to get. That’s all.

    I’m always tempted to just say that I am happy to be Catholic( I am of course) thank you very much! and that it’s no skin off my teeth if you aren’t convinced. I don’t need the hassle.
    But God forbid that I truly think this way.
    Yes we can go on living the way we have been until we die and God will sort it out, but He wants more from us.
    I believe separation is a bad thing, not because I say so but because God says so. It hurts the whole body.
    Do you believe that Christian’s are supposed to have unity about things related to faith and morals including what the sacraments are?

    I am linking another lecture from Feingold. I listened to it earlier and thought about you all.
    I believe that it answers my questions by giving me the truth. From your perspective it might be right or partly right, and you might even say that he didn’t represent Reformed theology right. If that’s so, I would be interested in hearing what you take issue with, but to me( and I hare to sound subjective) it has all appearances of being on target whether( to you) it’s representing the truth of the subjects it’s addressing.
    Actually, the problem of evil is satisfactorily( to my thinking) addressed in this lecture. If it’s wrong, I guess I will never know the infallible truth. I can live with this figuring that nobody knows. Some things can never be completely known.
    Hope you will give it your attention.

    [audio src="http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/S4L04ChristasNewAdam.mp3" /]

    God bless,
    Susan

    Like

  101. JRC: bats could fly out your nose. But they won’t. The air in your room could suddenly rush to one corner and freeze solid, but it won’t.

    Susan: You don’t believe those things are logical possibilities, do you Jeff? You can only determine probability if those things are logically possible.

    Another good question. So let’s distinguish between logical possibilities and physical possibilities. Take my second example, the air in the room suddenly rushing to one corner and freezing. This is a logical possibility in that we can describe a state in which all of the air molecules are, by random chance, in one corner of the room. And in fact, we can compute the probability of such a state occurring by dividing up the room into 3″ cubes and counting all of the logically possible states in which all of the air molecules are in one corner, compared to all other possible states.

    When we do, we would get a horrendously small probability: 10^-1000 or worse. The reason is simple: a 2x2x2 m room holds about 0.1 million trillion trillion molecules. There are just 8 states in which those molecules are a corner, but a humongous number of states in which the molecules are evenly distributed throughout the room.

    What does that mean? It means that while it is logically possible for all air molecules to find themselves in one corner, the probability is so small that it will never happen in the lifetime of the universe.

    In other words, that situation is physically impossible.

    If that’s confusing, take a simpler example. Imagine a fair quarter. Is it logically possible to flip that quarter 100 times and get heads each time? Yes. Will that happen? No. The probability of that happening is about 1 in 100 trillion trillion.

    So what should I conclude if you flip a quarter and get 100 heads in a row?

    The conclusion is clear: You have an unfair quarter. Is that an infallible claim? No — I could be wrong. It IS logically possible to get your result by random chance. Is it a certain claim? Yes. I would testify in a court of law under oath that you have an unfair quarter.

    The probability of your result happening by chance is SO small that it would never happen in a hundred billion years of continuous coin-flipping.

    I hope that these examples make clear the difference between three concepts;

    * Infallible truth, which cannot be wrong.
    * Fallible yet certain truth, which could be wrong, but has negligible probability of being so, and
    * Uncertain propositions, which have a non-negligible chance of being wrong.

    That doesn’t settle the question of whether the Protestant canon has a non-negligible chance of being wrong, of course, but I hope it does settle the issue that keeps getting raised, “If you don’t have an infallible canon, how can you be sure about anything?”

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  102. Jeff,

    Those were great visuals:) and I get it but my problem is with the determination of the canon.

    Imagine the books that makeup the canon being judged one by one as the authority of the church makes their determination( and that’s what they are doing right?; each one isn’t already assumed as in,” Hey this one is a letter to the Hebrews but we don’t have any proof who wrote it, so whats the verdict fellas? In or out?”
    How does determination of the infallible books happen without a corresponding spirit of infallibily in the selectors,.that can identify an infallible book?

    Plus, the new covenant church was operating with books that were at a much later date, determined not to be inspired.
    What does that say of the Church’s ability to know which books are really infallible?

    I’ve spent way too much time doing this.
    I hate to just recommend that you listen to those lectures offered b Dr. Feingold but man you won’t be disappointed if you really have pressing questions, they are really incredible!
    For myself, I think that if I listen to all the podcasts, I can have a pretty good foundation in Catholic theology.

    If nothing else, at your next friendly discussion / argument with protestant friends over a particular topic, you can throw in “another view” For good measure, so it can be wrestled with too.😋

    I’m done guys, but I wish you well.
    Pray for me as I pray for you:)

    Like

  103. Jeff:
    That doesn’t settle the question of whether the Protestant canon has a non-negligible chance of being wrong, of course, but I hope it does settle the issue that keeps getting raised, “If you don’t have an infallible canon, how can you be sure about anything?”>>>>>

    Howdy, Jeff,
    Well, your explanation is great for many things. Not everything that Christians say – whether Catholic or non-Catholic – has to have a sort of stamp of infallibility. Even the Pope is mistaken on many things, as has been discussed. Thank you for the clarity, esp. for a non-science person like myself. Much appreciated.

    However, this is the issue: Infallibility. We have to be able to be sure in an infallible way about the basics like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That has to be infallible truth, or we have no Gospel. We have to be able to say that, whether we understand it completely or have all the details or not.

    Just as aside, I can see why it was necessary for the Council of Trent to declare the canon of Scripture closed. Sure, for a long time it was just assumed that the Vulgate’s canon was it. Then guys like Luther – and I am sure others – began to pick away even at the NT canon which – as has been state – is the same for all Christians.

    It is a protection for the Church to have the canon closed. Even though Protestants never officially closed their canon, for all practical purposes, it is closed.

    So, anyway, forgive my rambling, but that is my issue. How do you get to infallibility from “being sure”? Or is that what you consider to be infallibility?

    Kind regards,
    The Little Mermaid 🙂

    Like

  104. Susan, why are you satisfied with the determination of the bishops who make up the magisterium but not with the determination of the canon? Again, it’s an issue of selectivity. The skepticism you use against Protestants you don’t apply to your own beliefs but act like believing in the church hierarchy and its infallibility is easy peasy. It’s not. It’s even messier than making up the canon. Just look at church politics today.

    Like

  105. Hey Mermaid 🙂

    Glad you chimed in!

    You said,
    “How do you get to infallibility from “being sure”?”

    This is what I don’t understand either. Don’t you have some criteria for what infallibility entails to label it infallible?
    I know of people who read the bible because it’s good literature and part of the western canon. They read it for it’s poetic beauty and to inform themselves of references that they will encounter in other literature and art. But if I told them that scripture is infallible, they would probably ask me, “infallibly what?”. If I said, “Its infallibly the word of God”. “They would say, “Excuse me, but foul. You just said, ” I infallibly declare that those books are the words of God. How do you infallibly” know that?”
    If I said, ” I mean it’s the word of God being, that its inspired by the Holy Spirit, and there are no errors in regards to the literal situations that are told( yes even the events in Genesis and Exodus and in the four Gospels) or the spiritual and eschatological meanings.” They might ask me to prove it. I could help them by showing them the OT prophecies and their fullfillment in the NT, but I couldn’t empirically prove that it was the Oracle of God.
    Plus, I will say it again, infallibility can’t be attributed to the bible. It’s said to be inerrant. So we should stop using that word to describe the bible.

    You know, I had the hardest time reading the deterocanonicals after I converted.
    I trusted the books that Protestantism said were God’s word, but everytime I tried to pick up Maccabees or Tobit I would have doubts about not just these books but the whole bible.
    I couldn’t discern any differences between any of the books to be able to say with certainty that the deteros. were not inspired.
    I realized that I was at the mercy of some group, some church, to be in the know.
    Plus, I realized that early council’s where very important doctrinal decisions were made, could have included gleaning from the deterocanonical in order to understand such-and-such about Jesus, the trinity, etc….

    Anways, as I said, I need to be on my way.
    Thank you MWF, for your input. You articulate your grievances, your concern and the truth, very clearly.
    Your thoughts are always a pleasure to read.

    Take care,
    Susan

    Like

  106. Mrs. Mermaid: “It is a protection for the Church to have the canon closed. Even though Protestants never officially closed their canon, for all practical purposes, it is closed.”

    The NT canon is only closed until the next edition of Nestle-A!and comes out. That is the truth for Prots and Catholics. Not sure that is a good thing or not, just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  107. @ Mermaid:

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad the explanation is helpful.

    Both you and Susan argue for the necessity of infallibility:

    Susan: How does determination of the infallible books happen without a corresponding spirit of infallibily in the selectors,.that can identify an infallible book? …

    If I said, “[Scripture is] infallibly the word of God”. [non-Christians] would say, “Excuse me, but foul. You just said, ” I infallibly declare that those books are the words of God. How do you infallibly” know that?”

    Merm: However, this is the issue: Infallibility. We have to be able to be sure in an infallible way about the basics like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That has to be infallible truth, or we have no Gospel. We have to be able to say that, whether we understand it completely or have all the details or not.

    This feature of your argument is a sticking point for the two sides. As I understand it, you are saying that

    If those who determine the canon do not do so infallibly, then we cannot point to the canon and say ‘these books are infallible.’

    Is that a fair summary?

    Like

  108. Jeff Cagle says:
    March 13, 2016 at 7:48 pm
    @ Mermaid:

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad the explanation is helpful.>>>>

    Yes. It was. You are welcome. 🙂

    Jeff:
    Both you and Susan argue for the necessity of infallibility:>>>>>

    Sola scriptura assumes and then argues for the necessity of infallibility as well. That infallibility is confined to Scripture. Correct?

    That is what I am wondering. When you say, for example, “Protestant canon has a non-negligible chance of being wrong” do you mean “infallible”? Well, I assume you mean a negligible chance of being wrong. IOW, it is as correct as can be given the fact that fallible human beings are determining what the canon is.

    Of course, you do not rule out the work of the Holy Spirit. That work is assumed. Correct.

    So, you mean what sola scripturaists have always meant by “infallible” – as in the Word of God is the only infallible rule of faith and practice? It could be you are taking a bit different route but arriving at the same place.

    Not sure.

    Hey, you have a great day wherever you may be.

    Susan: How does determination of the infallible books happen without a corresponding spirit of infallibily in the selectors,.that can identify an infallible book? …

    If I said, “[Scripture is] infallibly the word of God”. [non-Christians] would say, “Excuse me, but foul. You just said, ” I infallibly declare that those books are the words of God. How do you infallibly” know that?”

    Merm: However, this is the issue: Infallibility. We have to be able to be sure in an infallible way about the basics like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That has to be infallible truth, or we have no Gospel. We have to be able to say that, whether we understand it completely or have all the details or not.

    This feature of your argument is a sticking point for the two sides. As I understand it, you are saying that

    If those who determine the canon do not do so infallibly, then we cannot point to the canon and say ‘these books are infallible.’

    Is that a fair summary?

    Like

  109. Oh, my bad! Sorry about that. I forgot to erase some of the comment I was responding to. Take two:

    Jeff:
    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad the explanation is helpful.>>>>

    Yes. It was. You are welcome. 🙂

    Jeff:
    Both you and Susan argue for the necessity of infallibility:>>>>>

    Sola scriptura assumes and then argues for the necessity of infallibility as well. That infallibility is confined to Scripture. Correct?

    That is what I am wondering. When you say, for example, “Protestant canon has a non-negligible chance of being wrong” do you mean “infallible”? Well, I assume you mean a negligible chance of being wrong. IOW, it is as correct as can be given the fact that fallible human beings are determining what the canon is.

    Of course, you do not rule out the work of the Holy Spirit. That work is assumed. Correct.

    So, do you mean what sola scripturaists have always meant by “infallible” – as in the Word of God is the only infallible rule of faith and practice? It could be you are taking a bit different route but arriving at the same place.

    Not sure.

    Hey, you have a great day wherever you may be.

    Like

  110. (A different) Dan says:
    March 13, 2016 at 7:44 pm
    Mrs. Mermaid: “It is a protection for the Church to have the canon closed. Even though Protestants never officially closed their canon, for all practical purposes, it is closed.”

    The NT canon is only closed until the next edition of Nestle-A!and comes out. That is the truth for Prots and Catholics. Not sure that is a good thing or not, just saying.>>>>>

    Hah! Well, it could be that you are right and I am wrong. After all, I am not omniscient. (see, Jeff, I don’t REALLY think I know everything. 🙂

    Try as they might – and both Protestant and Catholic philologists have tried – the Woman taken in adultery and the last part of the 16th chapter of Mark are still in. So, it is really the publishers and the people who determine the Protestant canon, IMO – not primarily the philologists.

    Besides, the teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church, especially as manifested in the CCC, is not taking those passages out. The story of the woman caught in adultery was read last Sunday in Mass. It is often referred to by both Catholic and Protestant teachers.

    So, maybe the philologists have been vetoed and ignored to some extent. That does not mean their work is unimportant. It is just that they don’t get the final say.

    This seems to be an excellent summary of the issues surrounding the pericope and it comes from the IVP New Testament Commentary Series:

    “Those who believe that authorship is a primary criterion for canonicity will suspect or even reject this passage. Most of Christendom, however, has received this story as authoritative, and modern scholarship, although concluding firmly that it was not a part of John’s Gospel originally, has generally recognized that this story describes an event from the life of Christ. Furthermore, it is as well written and as theologically profound as anything else in the Gospels.”
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+8&version=NRSVCE

    Like

  111. Merm: Sola scriptura assumes and then argues for the necessity of infallibility as well. That infallibility is confined to Scripture. Correct?

    Right. By asking the question I’m not disputing the need.

    I’m asking for clarity. Is it a fair summary of your argument that

    If those who determine the canon do not do so infallibly, then we cannot point to the canon and say ‘these books are infallible.’

    Like

  112. Jeff Cagle says:
    March 14, 2016 at 10:20 am
    Merm: Sola scriptura assumes and then argues for the necessity of infallibility as well. That infallibility is confined to Scripture. Correct?

    Jeff:
    Right. By asking the question I’m not disputing the need.

    I’m asking for clarity. Is it a fair summary of your argument that
    If those who determine the canon do not do so infallibly, then we cannot point to the canon and say ‘these books are infallible.’>>>>>>>

    Yes, those who determine the canon need to get it right if they are going to talk about infallibility. Sola scriptura – Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice – is your doctrine.

    You are the one who needs to defend the infallibility of Scripture. So, when you say that “the Protestant canon has a [non-]negligible chance of being wrong” is that your way of saying it is infallible? Really, really, really close is close enough, IOW.

    Did I get that right?

    Like

  113. Mermaid,

    Yes, those who determine the canon need to get it right if they are going to talk about infallibility.

    Why is infallibility a precondition of getting the canon right? Don’t you need to determine the church correctly if you are going to talk about infallibly. How do you know you got it right since you are not infallible?

    Like

  114. Mermaid,

    Yes, those who determine the canon need to get it right if they are going to talk about infallibility.

    Why is infallibility a precondition of getting the canon right? Don’t you need to determine the church correctly if you are going to talk about infallibly. How do you know you got it right since you are not infallible?>>>>>>

    Howdy, Robert,
    How are you doing?

    Can the rule be infallible if the canon is fallible? It seems like you are saying yes.

    It seems to be a change in the doctrine of sola scriptura, but maybe it’s not.

    It’s your doctrine, not mine. Here is A.A. Hodge’s answer to the question of what does the only infallible rule of faith and practice mean. Have more recent Reformed theologians been avoiding the “i” word?

    What does “infallibility” mean in your Reformed context at this point in time?

    —————————————————–

    1. What is meant by saying that the Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

    Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. Whatever conveys to us an infallible knowledge of his teachings and commands is an infallible rule. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us.
    https://www.monergism.com/rule-faith-practice

    Like

  115. @Susan,

    I’ve been offline for a bit and am late getting back to this thread. Here are a few brief answers in case you are still lurking…

    In the meantime, would you mind telling me how you might deal (or advise your spouse, children or friend) with situations where there are disagreements about very important (the degree is intrinsically known by those who disagree and is said to be non essential however) doctrines?

    I’m not sure I follow you here. How do I deal with disagreements about “very important” but “non essential” doctrines? I guess it depends who it is. The extent to which I “deal” with disagreements depends on the social connection – I don’t try to convince all of my baptist relatives of the merits of paedobaptism at the family reunion. My inlaws and I have discussed baptism a few times, we disagree, and we leave it at that.

    For instance, but I distinctly remember my former pastor explaining a teaching of the bible as understood by Reformed-Calvinism (because that’s what the church of which I was a member was), and he said, ” This is where Luther got it right”. I remember being viserally uncomfortable, and even though I can’t remember the topic, I was jarred to attention by that seemingly innocuous intellectual statement.

    How would that be different from your priest saying something like, “This is where Wills got it right.”?

    From the data available in my sphere, I was correct to believe that one of them was right and the other wrong, being that they couldn’t both be right at the same time and in the same way. They could both be wrong but they could not both be right.

    Another option is that both positions have some merit, but one is closer to the truth than the other.

    Just like in the case of a geocentric vs. Heliocentric solar system, somebody was wrong.

    Yes and no. There were problems with the heliocentric solar model – it didn’t get certain facts right (one of them was that the sun sat at the center of the solar system…Kepler fixed that sometime later). And the defenders of the geocentric system made good points that the heliocentrists did not have good answers to at the time. Of course the Copernican model was closer to the truth than the various geocentric models floating about, but it was not as simple as saying that one was false and the other true or that they were both false. There are degrees of error.

    Does scripture make it very clear whether Lutherans or Calvinists are correct about the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? I believed that in order to have a good conscience, I needed to understand what a sacrament is and whose belief and practice is the true one. Call it “the true one” as being communicated via words into my ears and received by my brain, even if the infallibility of the doctrine remains in the scriptures, if you want, but I wanted to know what the scriptures teach about this important subject.

    Again, perhaps both views have merit and get more right than they get wrong. Perhaps their divergence is in the end inconsequential? Maybe both traditions should continue on seeking to glorify God to the best of their ability, and God in his providence will work it out in the end?

    Is the truth up to me or can the ontological truth reach my fallible self somehow?

    Are you asking generally whether you can have a complete, perfect understanding of the things of God? I think the answer is the same answer he gave Job – no.

    Epistemologically speaking I am asking if reading the bible and gleaning from it is strictly a empirical science, because if it is ,then it fails the only testable experiment. How would you determine if it fails?
    </blockquote
    No. I do not believe (nor do the reformed confessional standards claim) that reading the bible is strictly an empirical science. Reason matters (as Luther noted at the Diet of Worms), "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason…". This is where Feser makes a hash of things. The reformers, by Sola Scriptura, did not mean that scripture was our only source of knowledge regarding history, exegesis, logic, language, science, tradition, etc… all of these things inform our understanding of theology. But at the end of the day, scripture is the final judge of all of our conclusions, theological statements, beliefs, traditions, etc… To build on the analogy with science, no matter how elegant your theory, no matter how tight your logic, no matter how prestigious the advocates, the theory must conform to the data. You don't get to ignore those eight minutes of arc (to paraphrase Kepler). That's not to say that every theory will be falsified or that we need to reinvent the wheel from the ground up every time we do science, that data is always handled well, or even that the data alone is sufficient to describe all scientific knowledge.

    If you believe that Catholicism is *merely* gleaning in a empirical way, the scriptures just as Lutherans and Calvinists do, then why do you take issue with Catholic theology’s interpretation?
    Basically you believe that she is another denomination that has “some things right” too. Can you empirically disprove the interpretation of Catholic theology?
    These things seem to me to be the problems we have to address together.

    1) not all exegesis is of similar quality. The guys who think they have a code from which they can discern the antichrist from revelation are not engaged in quality exegesis. One needn’t appeal to scripture to realize that.

    2) theology is not merely exegesis. The references to ECFs, medieval theologians, and their relative contemporary RC theologians in the minutes of the deliberations by the Westminster assembly are a great example of the practical difference between the Sola Scriptura (to which they adhered) and some guy sitting in a bunker in Waco with his Bible and guitar opining on End Times.

    3) the fact that those of us who adhere to SS disagree on a few very important things is unfortunate. The larger disagreement as I see it though are among those who reject SS (or the authority of scripture period) and those who believe that the scriptures judge us (or that we should conform to what they teach). This is a much more profound dividing line and it is not helpful to lump Bishop Spong together with Machen (for example). When you narrow your focus to those who adhere to SS (and admittedly, we are a small group – it is not very popular to hear that you have to conform your life to a 2000 year old book), there is minimal diversity.

    4) You might read your Quine and you would see that it is nigh impossible to empirically “prove” a scientific theory wrong – proving that the “interpretation of Catholic theology” is beyond my pay grade I’m afraid. But then I read things like this,

    Your Pontifical Commission wrote last December, “The Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews…it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God.”

    I for one read the NT to tell us that the gospel is for the Jew first and then all who believe and that those who reject the Son hate the Father. The idea that one can be saved apart from faith in Christ is foreign to the NT. Insofar as the quote above accurately reflects the teaching of the RCC, then I don’t think it would be too hard to exegetically disprove at least one teaching…

    Like

  116. Susan:
    Anways, as I said, I need to be on my way.
    Thank you MWF, for your input. You articulate your grievances, your concern and the truth, very clearly.
    Your thoughts are always a pleasure to read.

    Take care,
    Susan>>>>>

    Wow! Thanks.

    Not everyone feels the same way. 😉 You have done a great job of defending the faith, Susan. Well done!

    Like

  117. Brandon,

    “The messenger does not need to be infallible to communicate infallible truths.”

    Right. Infallible truths are not subject to change. So a messenger offering a “infallible truth” that he freely acknowledges is provisional and subject to revision is not communicating an infallible truth or divine revelation, by his own admission.
    So teachings that are subject to change and teachings that are not subject to change should both be taken as reflecting divine revelation correct? So what’s different about the types of teachings that should not be taken as reflecting divine revelation?

    “The canon is the church’s collection of the books given by God to the Church.”

    The extent and scope of which is not divinely revealed and thus not part of the Christian faith, per your above statements. Nor is the teaching itself that God gave a collection of books to the church in the first place.

    “No, it’s not infallibly taught, but it is taught as infallible.”

    Right. So it’s taught as “infallible” just as much as any other Protestant doctrine is taught as infallible – be it the canon, justification, SS, sacraments, etc. – that is, provisional and possibly in error and subject to revision.

    “At no point did I claim that WCF was infallible.”

    BA: “The WCF does not teach that subscribing to the WCF requires “its teachings are subject to revision.”” Are its teachings subject to revision or are they not?

    “I noted that nowhere does the WCF say that it should be continually revised either.”

    At no point did I claim that the WCF stated it should be continually revised. I did note it asserted its teachings are subject to revision. Which Horton, Winters, and JRC affirm and echo, despite your ad homs. When Reformed people say it, it’s “humility”. When non-Reformed say it, it’s ignorance and linguistic games.

    “You’ve begun to use the word “provisional” for your apologetic purposes, but my point is that such language is not used by the Reformed to describe themselves. Guess who is the only one using that language in this thread? You.”

    I haven’t “begun” to use it – I use it and “subject to revision” interchangeably and have so for months. I’m not the only one using this language – Jeff affirmed it explicitly as I cited, as did Horton and Winters in equivalent language:
    Horton: “We must always remain open to correction from our brothers and sisters in other churches who have interpreted the Bible differently”
    Winters: “Even our best endeavors and highest aspirations are prone to sin and error. Forms of faith and life in the church are no exception. This is why Reformed confessions tend to have their own built-in disclaimers… The preface to the Scots Confession invites all readers to offer correction from Scripture if they find the confession to be in error.”
    As does WCF in the already-cited “disclaimers”. As does every Protestant confession when it explicitly rejects the type of authority/ability Rome claims.

    So you don’t agree with “provisional” or “subject to revision” contra what is cited above from your brethren and earlier from WCF, since as you said “Why are the options either “subject to revision” or “infallible”. So what’s the third option you offer?

    “Proclaiming that persons are inherently clearer than texts because of their potency for unlimited interpretive clarification.”

    Were Christ and the Apostles after Pentecost inherently clearer than the OT because of their potency for unlimited intepretive clarification? Is the author of a text inherently clearer than the text because of their potency for unlimited interpretive clarification?

    Like

  118. CVD: So a messenger offering a “infallible truth” that he freely acknowledges is provisional and subject to revision is not communicating an infallible truth or divine revelation, by his own admission.

    A messenger provisionally identifying X as infallible is not offering X as subject to revision. He is offering a revisible opinion that X is infallible.

    No matter how many times you try to fit the square peg into the round hole, it won’t fit.

    The only question is why you keep trying.

    Like

  119. Cletus,

    Is the author of a text inherently clearer than the text because of their potency for unlimited interpretive clarification?

    At best, potentially clearer. If the author is drunk, goes insane or other such thing, he won’t be clearer. If he changes his mind and reinterprets what he originally said without telling us that’s what he is doing, he won’t be clearer. If the author speaks in an intentionally obtuse or leading matter, he won’t be clearer.

    I assume you are granting the following conditions:

    1. That the author is in is right mind.
    2. That the author speaks clearly.
    3. That the author does not intend to deceive.
    4. The questioner is able to understand the author.

    In such a case, I suppose there would be some kind of advantage to having the ability to ask Paul questions about what he means in some hard-to-understand text in Romans. But of course Rome isn’t Paul, so even if we were to grant that it would be better to have the author, the Roman system can’t offer an advantage a Protestant lacks. This is yet another reason why CTC is sophomoric in its presentation.

    Basically, I see your error in assuming that just because something might be advantageous from our perspective, God therefore must have given it and that such would be the only possible “principled means.” The CTC argument, it seems to me, is based on taking what people wish were so and making it so. But the question never really asked in the whole “principled means” discussion is, “What did God actually give His church?”

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  120. @robert
    One need not appeal to the conditions you list. I doubt Isaiah understood the implications of his suffering servant passage better than believers today. Of course a complication is that Isaiah wasn’t the ultimate author of that text. As Peter tells us, it was none other than the Holy Spirit. The question of course is whether the Word of God is alive or, if by being a text, it is necessarily a dead letter as CtC has suggested.

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  121. SDB,

    Agreed. My point is asking the human author a question could potentially put one at an advantage if the human author can tell you what he meant. Think asking Paul about baptism for the dead.

    But CtC does reduce Scripture to being a dead letter or at best a living letter that only a few people can really “get” because of some charism. I had one RC tell me that yes Scripture is living and active as long as it is being interpreted within the church. Of course, Scripture itself doesn’t give that qualification. And the fact that I’ve known plenty of people who are converted simply by reading Scripture without any church interpretative aid is strong evidence that this line of thinking is, well, completely wrong and blasphemous even.

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  122. So a messenger offering a “infallible truth” that he freely acknowledges is provisional and subject to revision is not communicating an infallible truth or divine revelation, by his own admission.

    No, epistemology is different than ontology.

    The extent and scope of which is not divinely revealed and thus not part of the Christian faith, per your above statements

    This is trading on ambiguity. In one sense, the scope of the canon is divinely revealed because it is the summation of Divine revelation. In another sense, the Church’s identification of the canon is itself fallible, but is dependent on the infallible testimony of the Spirit speaking through the motives of credibility.

    Right. So it’s taught as “infallible” just as much as any other Protestant doctrine is taught as infallible – be it the canon, justification, SS, sacraments, etc. – that is, provisional and possibly in error and subject to revision.

    No, epistemology is different than ontology. If you say the Magisterium teaches something infallibly, that doesn’t mean your statement that the Magisterium teaches doctrine “X” is infallible.

    BA: “The WCF does not teach that subscribing to the WCF requires “its teachings are subject to revision.”” Are its teachings subject to revision or are they not?

    Please see the statement. The point is you are using loaded language to play a game of “Gotcha.” Nowhere does the WCF say it’s teachings are subject to revision. It *does* say all teaching of the church is subject to the Word of God, however.

    I did note it asserted its teachings are subject to revision.

    No that is not what the WCF says. That is what you say that WCF says of itself, but I’m not allowing you to use the language you are using. You believe the WCF necessarily entails that its doctrine is subject to revision, but that’s not what the WCF says about itself. That’s why even though what Jeff has said about provisionality is correct, I’m not conceding your attempts at using loaded language to prejudice your argument. And you’ll notice that Horton and Winters say what the Confession says, all views are ultimately subject to Scripture.

    So what’s the third option you offer?

    A new conversation entirely without prejudicial language.

    Were Christ and the Apostles after Pentecost inherently clearer than the OT because of their potency for unlimited intepretive clarification? Is the author of a text inherently clearer than the text because of their potency for unlimited interpretive clarification?

    Inherently? Nope, because all communication uses signs and symbols that must be interpreted whether they are characters in a book or sounds on someone’s lips. All communication is then decoded in the others brain, regardless of mode of communication. Misunderstanding is inherently possible in every form of communication. And no, there is nothing inherently clearer about an author speaking about his text than the text itself, again, because all communication is interpreted. It is true; there is a possibility for the clarification, but with every opportunity for clarification there is a possibility for obfuscation as well. For example, there are times where I, as an author, misinterpret my own written work. There are also times where people who signed a contract intentionally lie about the meaning of their written words. There is nothing inherent in the form of communication that makes talking with a living person inherently superior to reading a written text.

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  123. Apropos of nothing, I stumbled across the following study,

    Americans who leave news comments, who read news comments, and who do neither are demographically distinct. News commenters are more male, have lower levels of education, and have lower incomes compared to those who read news comments.

    Insofar as this study also applies to comments on blogs like oldlife, what else can we conclude than that the lurkers here are overwhelmingly brilliant women….or its wise to comment under a pseudonym.

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  124. Brandon,

    No, epistemology is different than ontology.

    I agree. So did the Apostles or Christ offer their teachings as provisional and subject to revision?

    This is trading on ambiguity.

    I merely restated the above,
    “CVD: Is the extent and scope of the canon of Scriptures and its contents divinely revealed, per your first statement?
    BA: No, not like the Ten Commandments.”

    If you say the Magisterium teaches something infallibly, that doesn’t mean your statement that the Magisterium teaches doctrine “X” is infallible.

    It does mean I am saying doctrine X is infallible and reflects divine revelation and is not subject to change.
    So your position is teachings that are subject to change and teachings that are not subject to change should both be taken as reflecting divine revelation correct? So what’s different about the types of teachings that should not be taken as reflecting divine revelation?

    Nowhere does the WCF say it’s teachings are subject to revision. It *does* say all teaching of the church is subject to the Word of God, however.

    So its teachings are subject to revision according to the Word of God. So its teachings are subject to revision. Including its teaching on the identification, function, and nature of the Word of God.
    “CVD: Then they also assert: “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred.…” Which of course includes the WCF itself and men behind it and Article 1. So the disclaimer applies not only to you, but to any confessional and Protestant church teaching, including any identification and interpretation of Scripture they offer.
    – JRC: Naturally. Who’s on first.”
    Horton: “We must always remain open to correction from our brothers and sisters in other churches who have interpreted the Bible differently”
    Winters: “Even our best endeavors and highest aspirations are prone to sin and error. Forms of faith and life in the church are no exception. This is why Reformed confessions tend to have their own built-in disclaimers… The preface to the Scots Confession invites all readers to offer correction from Scripture if they find the confession to be in error.”
    WCF: “It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith … which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission”
    “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”
    “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.”

    That’s why even though what Jeff has said about provisionality is correct

    So your charges of ignorance and linguistic games to score points were disingenuous. No prejudicial language there of course.

    Misunderstanding is inherently possible in every form of communication.

    Agreed. But iterative communication reduces the risk of that more than non-iterative communication.

    It is true; there is a possibility for the clarification

    Which as far as I can tell the rather modest point of CtC’s sophomoric argument. Someone with Joyce sitting next to them for unlimited discussion and feedback on reading Finnegan’s Wake has an advantage over someone without his iterative live commentary.

    but with every opportunity for clarification there is a possibility for obfuscation as well.

    Just because there’s a possibility of that does not mean that possibility actually obtains and is realized.

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  125. Clete,

    Which as far as I can tell the rather modest point of CtC’s sophomoric argument.

    No, the CtC argument only “works” if clarification goes beyond possibility to certainty. There’s possibility of clarifying under a sola Scriptura model as well.

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  126. Clete,

    Addendum: The CtC argument also assumes that no true clarification can happen if the clarifier is fallible. It’s not a modest point, which is why Bryan can tell us that there is no way to know if Scripture is against swinging or not unless we have an infallible church. Which is also insane and frankly shows both philosophical and exegetical incompetence or willful obfuscation to gain converts.

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  127. Clete,

    Another addendum: Which also means that CTC and every other RC seeking to offer clarity on RCism should sit down and shut up unless they’re the pope speaking infallibly or a council making a dogmatic declaration. CtC is violating its own epistemological principles.

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  128. I agree. So did the Apostles or Christ offer their teachings as provisional and subject to revision?

    Christ’s teaching was not provisional or subject to revision because he is God. The Apostles teaching *was* subject to revision—by the Word of God. The message they received they delivered. If anyone, whether an Apostle or an angel proclaimed a different message, they would be anathema (Gal 1). The canonical Scriptures are written by the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is God, and is therefore infallible.

    So your position is teachings that are subject to change and teachings that are not subject to change should both be taken as reflecting divine revelation correct? So what’s different about the types of teachings that should not be taken as reflecting divine revelation?

    Divine revelation is not subject to change (though again, this is probably not an ideal way to speak about Divine revelation). Any human agent that teaches Divine revelation is fallible and has the intrinsic potency for misunderstanding Divine revelation.

    So its teachings are subject to revision according to the Word of God. So its teachings are subject to revision

    Christian teaching is subject to the Word of God. You can continue to use your own language, but you will continue to mischaracterize the Reformed position.

    Including its teaching on the identification, function, and nature of the Word of God.

    Right, anything that Christians believe is subject to God’s Word. Perhaps you could enumerate doctrines that you believe escape subjection to God’s Word.

    So your charges of ignorance and linguistic games to score points were disingenuous. No prejudicial language there of course.

    No, what I said about ignorance prejudicial language is still relevant. You’re trying to use press something that is trivially true. It’s not actually forwarding the conversation, but you want to continue pressing it to make an apologetic point.

    Which as far as I can tell the rather modest point of CtC’s sophomoric argument.

    Exactly, the argument is sophomoric. The “modest” point is that people can potentially clarify. But so can texts if the reader consults the text.

    Someone with Joyce sitting next to them for unlimited discussion and feedback on reading Finnegan’s Wake has an advantage over someone without his iterative live commentary

    Possibly, but not inherently. And the point is that “personal” communication is not inherently superior to textual communication *because* communication relies on signs and symbols and interpretation.

    Just because there’s a possibility of that does not mean that possibility actually obtains and is realized.

    Precisely, but then the superiority is not inherent to personal communication. And in practice texts can be clearer than persons.

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  129. Brandon Addison:
    Divine revelation is not subject to change (though again, this is probably not an ideal way to speak about Divine revelation). Any human agent that teaches Divine revelation is fallible and has the intrinsic potency for misunderstanding Divine revelation.>>>>>>>>>

    The OPC version of the WCF – CHAPTER 1 – 9. Of the Holy Scripture.
    The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
    http://www.opc.org/wcf.html#Chapter_01>>>>&gt;

    Statement from the PCA website:
    When the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was formed in 1788, it adopted (with minor revisions) the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647), as its secondary standards (the Bible itself being the only infallible rule of faith and practice). Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America take a vow to “sincerely receive and adopt” these confessional documents “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.
    http://www.pcaac.org/resources/wcf/>>>>>&gt;

    Brandon, do these excerpts from the OPC and the PCA websites express your belief? If so, what does the word “infallible” in each one mean to you? It would be good if the Confessionalists here would clarify what they mean by sola scriptura – the Bible being the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

    It seems that some of you guys are changing the meaning of infallibility in your own standards. Does “infallible” now mean “close enough”?

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