The Confession and Scripture

What is the relationship of the Confession of Faith to the Scripture? And by “the Confession of Faith” I am referring here to the Westminster Standards. The question could just as easily be asked of the Three Forms of Unity for our Continental brothers and sisters. This question has produced quite varied answers. On the one extreme, there is practically no relationship at all of the Confession to Scripture. Usually, these people are motivated by a desire to retain the unique authority of the Word of God. Nothing has the same level of authority as Scripture, and certainly not any words of men. This is a laudable motivation, and we must pay serious and careful attention to it. No position that we embrace can bring into question the unique authority of God’s Word.

On the other extreme are those who say that the words of men can have equal authority with the words of God. Certainly the Roman Catholics would be in this category. This is not a position that a Protestant can hold. The question for us is this: is there any middle ground between these two positions? I would argue that there is indeed a middle ground. We can go back to a couple of indicators in the Scriptures, in the Westminster Confession, and also some history to prove our point.

First point from Scripture: there is a pattern of sound teaching in the Bible. 2 Timothy 1:13 says this (in the HCSB): “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” In the Greek it is ὑποτύπωσιν ἔχε ὑγιαινόντων λόγων ὧν παρ’ ἐμοῦ ἤκουσας ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ τῇ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. The word ὑποτύπωσιν means “pattern,” or “prototype,” or “standard.” Then the text says “healthy words,” or “sound teaching.” The magisterial Reformers agreed that it was not just the very words of Scripture that have binding authority. It is also the meaning of the words that binds us. After all, would we not agree that the doctrine of the Trinity binds Christians? And yet nowhere is that term used in Scripture. But the meaning of the term is certainly present. Here is a deservedly central truth of the Christian faith, and it is not explicitly used in Scripture! Is this a problem? Not at all! For it is the meaning of the “pattern of sound teaching” to which we hold. I would argue then that this verse is the germ of systematic theology and of church creeds and confessions. Creeds and confessions are supposed to answer this question: what does the Bible mean?

The second verse I would like to point out is Jude 3, which says that we should contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Here we are interested in that phrase “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” The faith here is not the subjective appropriation of the truth, but rather the doctrine to which we must adhere.  Jude tells us that this doctrine does not keep on changing and developing (even though our understanding of it may improve or deteriorate). It is “once for all delivered.” Therefore it is legitimate for the church to delineate what this faith once for all delivered is, since it is for that faith that we must contend.

In the Westminster Confession, this idea is expressed by the phrase “good and necessary consequence” in WCF 1.6, which is used to describe the “whole counsel of God.” There are two constitutive ways of delineating the whole counsel of God: what is “expressly set down in Scripture,” and what can “by good and necessary consequence…be deduced from Scripture.” As a practical illustration of this principle, note that the Reformers always believed that the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Always assumed in this equation is the idea that the preaching had to be accurate preaching. It had to be according to the “analogy of faith,” which is a phrase used to express the entire teaching of Scripture. The safeguards in the Confession are obvious: it has to be a “good” consequence, and it has to be a “necessary” consequence. In other words, we have to do our exegesis of Scripture. There is no substitute for this, and there is no shortcut. It is the work that every person coming to be ordained in the PCA, OPC, URC, RCUS, etc. needs to do BEFORE he is ordained. He needs to put the standards of the church on trial before he subscribes to them.

I would simply point out that if the preaching of the Word of God is the word of God (i.e., the whole counsel of God), with the caveats mentioned, then how much more are the Standards the Word of God (i.e., the whole counsel of God), with the caveats mentioned! In other words, the Standards seek to express the good and necessary consequence of Scripture. Does this fall foul of making the Standards into God’s own truth? No, it does not, for the following reasons: 1. The standards are mutable, whereas God’s Word is not (witness the 3 changes that have been made to the Westminster Standards since its adoption in America); 2. The standards only have a derived authority (which is therefore a dependent authority, dependent on its accuracy to Scripture), whereas Scripture has an underived (and therefore undependent) authority; 3. The standards are written only by men, whereas Scripture is written by God through men; 4. The standards can only voluntarily be submitted to (this is a self-binding, which is of course mutable if one’s opinions change), whereas Scripture binds the conscience of all involuntarily.  The usual adage is this: the Scriptures are the “norming norm,” whereas the Standards are the “normed norm.” But notice that the Standards ARE a norm. They are, in fact, standards.

All too often today, what we see is a false dichotomy being perpetrated: either the Standards have no authority, or they have God’s authority. Since they are obviously not the latter, then they must be the former. This drives a wedge between Scripture and the Standards, a wedge that the divines would have rejected most heartily. The divines believed that the Standards they were writing expressed the good and necessary consequence of the whole counsel of God. This what they believed the Scriptures to be saying. There is no wedge between Scripture and the Standards if the Standards express what Scripture is saying. Officers of the church take an oath stating exactly this point: that the Standards express what Scripture says. There is always an out. If one’s opinions change, they can go somewhere else without violating an oath. What is a violation of the oath, however, is to reinterpret the Standards, or to drive a wedge between Scripture and the Standards, or to put the Standards on trial after one’s oath.

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115 Comments

  1. Bryan Cross said,

    August 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Lane,

    I do agree with the following statement from your post:

    Therefore it is legitimate for the church to delineate what this faith once for all delivered is, since it is for that faith that we must contend.

    But, if what counts as “the church” is defined by one’s own interpretation of Scripture, then this sort of ‘confessionalism’ is merely solo scriptura hiding itself from itself.

    You might say that your definition of “the church” is from the WCF. But, again, what makes the WCF the authoritative declaration of “the Church”? Answer: the agreement between the doctrine taught by the WCF and your interpretation of Scripture. This is why you wouldn’t treat the WCF as authoritative, if you were Baptist or Lutheran. So, for this reason confessionalism is a sophisticated scheme that allows persons to think they are submitting to the Church, when in reality they are only ‘submitting’ to a group of persons chosen on the basis of their agreement with one’s own interpretation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  2. greenbaggins said,

    August 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Bryan, I would say in reply that your objections against the post only work if there is no objective, discoverable meaning that God has put into Scripture. If it were all a matter of interpretation, that’s one thing. But it isn’t. Words mean something. The Bible means one thing and not another. There is some agreement even between Protestants and Catholics in some areas here: God is Triune; Jesus is fully God and fully man; He was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit; He was crucified for our sins as a substitute; He was raised from the dead; He now sits at the right hand of the Father. Surely you would agree that the Bible objectively says these things because God has revealed them to us. There might be disagreement over what that objective revelation says. But then, there is disagreement within Catholicism over that, isn’t there? That does not diminish the objective character of God’s revelation. If God didn’t mean anything by His Word, then it wouldn’t have had the impact that it has had in history.

  3. Bryan Cross said,

    August 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Lane,

    This creates a dilemma. Here’s the first horn of the dilemma. If the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then the fact of these doctrinal disagreements needs to be explained. Reformed Christians make up only a small percentage of the world’s Christians, even among those who faithfully and diligently study and believe the Bible. If the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then given your belief that the Bible objectively and clearly teaches the Reformed system of doctrine, along with the fact of your being in such a small doctrinal minority among Bible-believing Christians, this entails that all non-Reformed Christians are either ignorant of Scripture, or blind when reading Scripture, or stupid, or malicious. So, one (or more) of those four alternatives is the consequence of the first horn of the dilemma.

    Here’s the second horn of the dilemma. If the Bible does not objectively and clearly address the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then what I said in comment #1 applies, because in that case Christians are defining “the church” by their own interpretation of Scripture in questions of doctrine that are not objectively clear in Scripture. So the consequence of the second horn of the dilemma is that the confessionalism of the sort you are describing in your post is solo scriptura in disguise.

    How do you resolve that dilemma?

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  4. August 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Why can’t the answer simply be that the Bible, if read perfectly, provides a system of doctrine, but due to our sin and hardness of heart no one reads it perfectly. Thus it is not the Bible’s fault that its readers misinterpret it, any more than it is God’s fault that agnostics don’t see him.

    If this is the case, then we Reformed should have a measure of hermeneutical humility as we acknowledge that the “T” in TULIP still affects us. In a word, we might be wrong about some things. But given both our imperfections as well as the sincere desire to hear God’s voice in Scripture, we believe that the Reformed system of doctrine is correct. But we don’t consign to hell those who don’t see it.

  5. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Jason,

    I agree with you when it’s us Reformed guys talking, but we still have to address the Catholic assumptions before we can get to what the Scripture does and does not say. Our problem with what Bryan says is that “church” in Bryan’s understanding is the product of his (and those other Roman Catholics he agrees with) interpretation of tradition. It’s the interpretation of RC’s like Bryan bring to the table concerning “church” which makes it so difficult to have a discussion about what the Bible says since of course it is the church which mediates God’s Word to His people.

  6. Ron said,

    August 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    If the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then the fact of these doctrinal disagreements needs to be explained.

    Explanation: sin

    Reformed Christians make up only a small percentage of the world’s Christians, even among those who faithfully and diligently study and believe the Bible. If the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then given your belief that the Bible objectively and clearly teaches the Reformed system of doctrine, along with the fact of your being in such a small doctrinal minority among Bible-believing Christians, this entails that all non-Reformed Christians are either ignorant of Scripture, or blind when reading Scripture, or stupid, or malicious.

    All of those descriptions fall under the umbrella of sin.

    If the Bible does not objectively and clearly address the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then what I said in comment #1 applies, because in that case Christians are defining “the church” by their own interpretation of Scripture in questions of doctrine that are not objectively clear in Scripture.

    Nope, the Bible defines the church and it defines Reformed doctrines clearly, especially justification by faith alone. God is simply pleased to illuminate some more than others on the ins-and-outs of doctrine.

  7. Bryan Cross said,

    August 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Ron,

    May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you with every spiritual blessing, preserve you faithfully in Him through all your days on earth, and make you shine eternally with Him and all His angels and saints in glory. Pray for me also, that I may grow in purity and holiness, and in my remaining time here, be an instrument of His peace to men divided by sin, speaking the truth in love, and following the holy and courageous examples of the saints and martyrs who have gone before us.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  8. Ron said,

    August 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Bryan,

    It will be my pleasure to pray for you.

  9. TurretinFan said,

    August 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Bryan wrote: “If the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then the fact of these doctrinal disagreements needs to be explained.”

    1) Scripture, in fact, answers the question of why Christians disagree with one another. The answer, as noted by Ron and Jason above, is (broadly speaking and as to the major reason) sin and what Scripture calls “the flesh.” Thus, Bryan’s request is relatively easily met.

    2) In point of fact, the existence of phenomena does not, in itself, demand explanation of the phenomena. In other words, our curiosity does not produce legitimate demands for explanation from Scripture or from God generally. To put it differently, our ignorance does not oblige God. Thus, Bryan’s assertion is not really true.

    3) The Bible may not objectively and clearly address all of the questions that divide (true) Christians into different doctrinal camps. That’s Bryan’s alleged other horn – we’ll address it below.

    4) Within Rome’s communion there are questions that divide Romanists (not intended pejoratively, but simply as a shorthand for people in the Roman communion) into different doctrinal camps. It seems it might be better for Bryan not to throw stones while living in a glass house.

    Bryan wrote:

    If the Bible does not objectively and clearly address the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then what I said in comment #1 applies, because in that case Christians are defining “the church” by their own interpretation of Scripture in questions of doctrine that are not objectively clear in Scripture. So the consequence of the second horn of the dilemma is that the confessionalism of the sort you are describing in your post is solo scriptura in disguise.

    This is a fallacious argument by Bryan. The conclusion that the church has no authority (solo scriptura) does not follow from the premise that the Bible does not clearly address the questions that divide (true) Christians. Bryan has asserted that: Christians are defining “the church” by their own interpretation of Scripture in questions of doctrine that are not objectively clear in ScriptureBut, of course, the definition of “the church” as described in Scripture is an objective truth. Either Christians are rightly or wrongly interpreting Scripture. Either way, though, the Christians are identifying the church, not “defining” it.

    Going back to Bryan’s first comment, Bryan continued (from that line just addressed above):

    You might say that your definition of “the church” is from the WCF. But, again, what makes the WCF the authoritative declaration of “the Church”? Answer: the agreement between the doctrine taught by the WCF and your interpretation of Scripture. This is why you wouldn’t treat the WCF as authoritative, if you were Baptist or Lutheran. So, for this reason confessionalism is a sophisticated scheme that allows persons to think they are submitting to the Church, when in reality they are only ‘submitting’ to a group of persons chosen on the basis of their agreement with one’s own interpretation.

    Let’s address these assertions in turn:

    a) “You might say that your definition of “the church” is from the WCF.”

    There is a meaning given to the term “the church” in the WCF. That meaning, however, does (and ought to, if it did not) align with the meaning of the term in Scripture. So, there may well be a meaning to the term “the church” in the WCF, but there is also a meaning to the term, “the church,” in Scripture.

    Incidentally, it’s worth pointing out that the meaning of “the church” in Scripture is never a hierarchy of bishops with the Roman bishop as the head. In fact, one will notice that there are not lots of “Protestant” sects (in fact, I can’t think of even one) trying to claim to be the true bishop of Rome, because the Bible doesn’t teach that a city should have only one bishop or that any one or more of the bishops of Rome is particularly important in the church.

    b) “But, again, what makes the WCF the authoritative declaration of “the Church”?”

    It is an authoritative declaration of churches, and “the church,” though not of “the Church.” No one, except Christ the true Head of the Church, the Father who is over all, and the Spirit through whom we are led into all truth, speaks for “the Church.” Public revelation has (as Rome admits) ended. Thus, while “the Church” believes, “the Church” doesn’t speak. The churches speak and “the church” speaks, but “the Church” does not.

    The elders are the rulers and overseers of “the church.” Subordinate standards, such as the WCF, obtain their authority as church documents through the rulers of the church – the elders. This should be obvious.

    The nature of the authority, however, is subordinate. It is not of equal authority to the Scriptures. It is not even of equal authority to “the church,” since “the church” can revise it. On the other hand, it has greater ecclesiastical authority than an individual elder, since it is the voice of the elders speaking together.

    c) “Answer: the agreement between the doctrine taught by the WCF and your interpretation of Scripture.”

    That isn’t the answer. Bryan would never get that answer from you by waiting for you to reply. He knows that, which is why he didn’t wait for you to reply.

    The agreement between Scripture and the WCF isn’t what gives the WCF it’s ecclesiastical authority, except that the elders would not have adopted the WCF if they did not believe it agreed with Scripture.

    The agreement between Scripture and the WCF is what gives the WCF the authority to bind the conscience. But, of course, every believer (even women and children – not just assemblies of elders) can faithfully proclaim the Word of God and thereby bind the consciences of their hearers. Nevertheless, it is only the Word of God that binds the consciences properly – and the words of men derivatively.

    That ability to bind the consciences is distinguishable from ecclesiastical authority. The church does not have the authority to bind men’s consciences beyond what the Word of God says. The church may impose various duties on men, but the church cannot rightly demand implicit faith (as Rome does).

    The agreement between Scripture and the WCF (or more general the elders) may explain why a believer would submit to the authority of the elders. However, the reasons a believer has for submitting to the authority of the elders (and of particular elders) are distinguishable from the way by which the elders have authority.

    For example, the elders have authority from God. That authority from God is received by means of ordination and calling. The former is typically expressed through other elders, whereas the latter is expressed through the brethren.

    There are many elders with authority from God. In lands like the United States of 2011, there are numerous groups of legitimate elders to whom a believer may submit. Even though all the elders with legitimate authority have legitimate authority, the believer may submit only to one group of elders. In view of the numerous groups of legitimate elders, believers ordinarily seek to submit to elders with whom they find agreement not only about the gospel, but also about many secondary issues that can divide true Christians.

    That choice to seek out likeminded elders is not a statement about the authority of the elders. This should be obvious, but it seems not to be obvious to Bryan.

    Accordingly, Bryan’s answer is not only an answer he’d never get from us – it does not follow from the answers we would give him.

    d) “This is why you wouldn’t treat the WCF as authoritative, if you were Baptist or Lutheran.”

    The elders of those churches (and the brethren in them) haven’t adopted the WCF. Thus, it lacks ecclesiastical authority in those churches. It may still have persuasive authority. And, to the extent it agrees with Scripture it declares the binding and authoritative Word of God. But it does not have power in itself, of course.

    e) “So, for this reason confessionalism is a sophisticated scheme that allows persons to think they are submitting to the Church, when in reality they are only ‘submitting’ to a group of persons chosen on the basis of their agreement with one’s own interpretation.”

    Confessionalism is a way for people to submit to the church, not the Church. While they may have submitted to the church based on agreement with the church (it often happens that people submit for other reasons, such as family ties, geographic convenience, and so on), that fact seems essentially irrelevant, for the reasons already expressed above.

    So, it seems Bryan has missed the mark by quite a large distance, both in his original comment and in his proposed dilemma. As Andrew has hinted at, part of the problem may arise from Bryan loading terms like “the church” with the meaning “the Church,” and treating “authority” and especially “authority of the church” as though it were an infallible and ultimate authority, rather than being a fallible, subordinate, and sometimes relative authority.

    -TurretinFan

  10. Ron said,

    August 4, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    what he said

  11. Bryan Cross said,

    August 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Ron,

    Take as a given the claim that the Bible is objectively clear about the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps. Claiming that the reason all other Bible believing Christians disagree with the Reformed interpretation of Scripture is due to sin creates another dilemma.

    Here’s the first horn of this dilemma. Assume that every other kind of Christian is claimed to be more sinful than Reformed Christians. If first you conducted an investigation of all persons who read and believe the Bible (without knowing their particular doctrinal positions), and you then noticed that one group was objectively less sinful than all the others, and then when you uncovered the doctrinal identity of this more righteous group, you found it to consist almost entirely of Reformed Christians, and to include almost all Reformed Christians, it could be reasonable to believe that the other Bible believing Christians reached different interpretations of Scripture (than the Reformed interpretation) because of their sinfulness. But if you first arrive at your Reformed doctrines through your study of Scripture, and you then posit that everyone who disagrees with your interpretation of Scripture does so because of their sinfulness, this is committing the ad hoc fallacy. It is the epistemological equivalent of painting the target around the embedded arrow, and it is intellectually dishonest and self-deceiving. So the consequence of the first horn of this dilemma is that the claim is ad hoc and intellectually dishonest (i.e. not a genuine pursuit of truth) and self-deceiving.

    Here’s the second horn of the dilemma. Assume that it is not the case that every other kind of Christian is claimed to be more sinful than Reformed Christians. If Reformed Christians are no less sinful than all the other Christians who, one believes, have been deceived by their own sinfulness to reach non-Reformed interpretations of Scripture, then it is not reasonable to believe that one’s own Reformed system of doctrine is any more likely to be true than any other system of doctrine arrived at by other Bible-believing, non-Reformed, sin-deceived Christians. For example, if I am one of one hundred people asked to solve a particular math problem at the end of the semester, and I believe that I have no mathematical advantage over any of the others who have attempted to solve the problem, and when I turn in my answer the teacher looks at it and tells me that each of the other 99 persons came to a uniquely different answer from my own answer (such that there were 100 different answers given by the 100 persons who attempted to solve it), then so long as those conditions pertain, it is not reasonable for me to believe that my answer is right and all the other answers are wrong. That’s because I recognize that I’m in exactly the same epistemic condition as the 99 others, and so the likelihood that my answer is right, given all the information available to me, is no more than 1 in a 100. For the same reason, if there are many different interpretations of Scripture by Bible believing Christians, and Reformed Christians are no more righteous than other Bible believing Christians, and sin is the root cause of all doctrinal divisions and interpretive disagreements among Bible believing Christians, then it is not reasonable for Reformed Christians to believe that their interpretation is right and that the interpretations of all other Bible believing Christians are wrong, because again the likelihood of it being right is very low. So the consequence of the second horn of this dilemma is a kind of interpretive skepticism — it leaves the Reformed Christian in a epistemic position in which the Reformed system of doctrine is no more likely to be true than any of the other systems of doctrine proposed by Bible believing Christians.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  12. rfwhite said,

    August 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    11 Bryan:

    What do you believe is the epistemic condition of Bible readers when they find themselves in agreement about its teaching?

    How does the epistemic condition of those in agreement differ from those in disagreement?

  13. August 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Although secondary standards can be good, I fear the extremes: I’ve had at least one Reformed person tell me that not only can the WS not be changed, they cannot even be questioned (the most extreme view I’ve found yet). I’ve also discovered, as a general rule that Reformed people say they love the Word of God, but they’re frequently more obsessed with the WS – almost always going to them first, instead of to the Word, to settle exegetical or theological questions.

    I think lay people need to be reminded (sometimes ordained people, too!) that the secondary standards are just that – secondary. They are, merely, words of men, which must, in principle, always be regarded as fallible and errant, because only the Word of God is neither of those things. We should read them, study them, and refer to them, but all final authority must belong to the Bible only.

    I get tired of reading Reformed literature in which the standards are cited extensively, with the Bible referred to…eventually, if at all. That’s happened more than once.

    Not having been raised in Reformed circles (I was originally from a nominally RC family, then attended sort of generic evangelical churches before discovering the Reformed faith), and so not having been innurred in the standards from my youth up, I guess I can approach them more objectively, or calmly, than some Reformed folks can…

  14. Ron said,

    August 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Mods, please delete the post above if you would like.

    Assume that every other kind of Christian is claimed to be more sinful than Reformed Christians.

    Bryan,

    I never implied that Reformed Christians cannot be more sinful than all other Christians. My point was that in the area of doctrinal interpretation, Reformed Christians have been given more light and non-Reformed Christians are not reasoning aright due to sin, whether noetic or otherwise.

    If first you conducted an investigation of all persons who read and believe the Bible (without knowing their particular doctrinal positions), and you then noticed that one group was objectively less sinful than all the others, and then when you uncovered the doctrinal identity of this more righteous group, you found it to consist almost entirely of Reformed Christians, and to include almost all Reformed Christians, it could be reasonable to believe that the other Bible believing Christians reached different interpretations of Scripture (than the Reformed interpretation) because of their sinfulness.

    My observation and opinion regarding which group is “objectively less sinful” is irrelevant to how sinful the group actually is in God’s eyes. In any case, one’s error is due to the fall. To think about things falsely is not to think Christ’s thoughts after him. It’s to bear false witness to oneself (and possibly others) about the truth. It’s sin. This sin can occur in the most externally righteous people.

    But if you first arrive at your Reformed doctrines through your study of Scripture, and you then posit that everyone who disagrees with your interpretation of Scripture does so because of their sinfulness, this is committing the ad hoc fallacy.

    Bryan, sometimes I get the impression that the only fallacy you know of is the “ad hoc” fallacy, which might explain why you always try shove that particular peg into every hole you can fabricate. Thoughts?
    I don’t base upon a Reformed distinctive the premise that all error is due to sin. It’s a premise that is derived from Scripture apart from tenets that are peculiar to Reformed thought. In fact, before I was Reformed I knew that error was due to sin. It’s simply a Protestant premise that to think incorrectly is a violation of the ninth commandment, or in your communion the eighth commandment.

    it is not reasonable to believe that one’s own Reformed system of doctrine is any more likely to be true than any other system of doctrine arrived at by other Bible-believing, non-Reformed, sin-deceived Christians.

    Not so. God has revealed in his word and illuminated the minds of the truly Reformed that the five points of Calvinism are gospel truth. That may not sit right with you, and you might not find that reasonable, but I’m quite certain on God’s authority that you cannot disprove the claim.

    For example, if I am one of one hundred people asked to solve a particular math problem at the end of the semester, and I believe that I have no mathematical advantage over any of the others who have attempted to solve the problem, and when I turn in my answer the teacher looks at it and tells me that each of the other 99 persons came to a uniquely different answer from my own answer (such that there were 100 different answers given by the 100 persons who attempted to solve it), then so long as those conditions pertain, it is not reasonable for me to believe that my answer is right and all the other answers are wrong.

    That’s about the most ridiculous thing I have ever read from someone who claims to be educated. (Well, I was interacting with some R2K folk lately so that might not be completely accurate.)

    Let’s assume the math problem was 1 + 1 and you turned in 2 as your answer. Would you begin to doubt that the answer was correct if you learned that even if 99 students had different answers than you? Even had you suspected that you had no “advantage” over the other students prior to the test, I trust that you’d come to realize you did after the teacher told you that you had a different answer than all the others. Luther had such an advantage at Worms too. You see Bryan, when one finds the pearl of great price, which is to say: is granted understanding of the beauty and simplicity of the gospel, they really do know it, even in spite of all the naysayers.

    Now then, you have no power here; so be gone, before somebody drops a house on you, too.

    I did pray for you earlier this evening and will continue to do so. Don’t continue to harden yourself, Bryan. There’s no future in it.

  15. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 12:02 am

    All, Bryan is taking a page from the growing popularity in the epistemology of disagreement. This is a fairly new area of inquiry, and is still in its infant stages—which means that it hasn’t been subjected to rigorous analysis like other older matters in epistemology, e.g., whether JTB is sufficient for knowledge, etc.

    Of course, on problem is that this is a philosophical issue, and so by its very nature is subject to disagreement. Thus, if the argument is that disagreement between epistemic peers implies that one is unwarranted in holding his conclusions as warranted to a degree sufficient for knowledge, then this criticism would apply to this very issue: for Bryan’s epistemic peers (and superiors, he’s no epistemologist!) are in disagreement about the very argument he is using. For example, see the disagreements about just what the epistemology of disagreement supposedly results in, here

    Moreover, when one considers the wide range of issues over which “epistemic peers” disagree, of which protestant religious disagreement is merely a species, it seems downright silly to claim you must withhold judgment on all of these matters.

    Of course, one problem is that this issue tends to view epistemology in highly individualistic terms. Disjoint epistemic peers disagreeing with each other. On this individualist perspective, the argument is that there’s no relevant difference between the two knowers. But social epistemologists have pointed out that looking at things in terms of social epistemology can add the needed relevant difference, for now it is social groups (with all the attendant epistemological implications this brings along) being compared. Thus there are important senses where other are not viewed as epistemic peers, for they are not peers at all, but members of different epistemic societies. In fact, Bryan himself does this. For if he didn’t, then his problem is that there are epistemic peers who disagree with his Catholicism!

    We must also note that these arguments make similar mistakes to economic arguments that seek to argue against the “rich,” or make statements about the “poor.” These are not static groups. Similarly, with various theological viewpoints, the positions are not held by static members, but members come and go, apparently in light of the putative evidence presented to them. We want to say that arguments won out, and give ourselves a pat on the epistemic back. With holdouts, we’re still debating, trying to persuade them of our view. Pessimist epistemologists of disagreement need to acquire the virtues of patience. Look at Flew, who converted to theism (I’m not saying this saved him or is the best outcome) after many, many years as a hardened atheist.

    Lastly, since epistemology is a strand within the normative web, this issue may have much in common with the older argument from normative disagreement—moral disagreement. At first, the arguments from moral disagreement seemed strong, resulting in a judgment of relativism or moral skepticism for many. After years of analysis, this argument is now an intellectual backwater. For we found that not only does disagreement about whether to eat cows or not fail to move us to be skeptical about the matter, we found that there’s actually way more agreement than disagreement—e.g., the Hindu thought the cow was grandma, and surely we all agree that we shouldn’t eat grandma! So it isn’t clear that in these theological debates there is true parity between both sides, there’s often subtle and hard to spot (before hindsight kicks in) differences about matters of fact or non-normative issues.

    All this to say, Bryan’s trying to scare people with an argument that is (a) very new in the field of epistemology, (b) looks self-refuting for him to do, (c) has philosophical answers the Reformed Christians can make use of in the vein of philosophy serving theology, and (d) has parallels to another area of “normative disagreement,” which, at first appeared strong, was later reduced to a paper tiger.

    I know I didn’t really provide any rebuttals to his claims, people like T-fan are doing just fine with that, but I’m smoking out the hidden context of Bryan’s arguments. Leveling the playing field.

  16. TurretinFan said,

    August 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Wonder of wonders, Bryan has replied!

    Let’s consider his response:

    Take as a given the claim that the Bible is objectively clear about the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps. Claiming that the reason all other Bible believing Christians disagree with the Reformed interpretation of Scripture is due to sin creates another dilemma.

    It can’t be overstated enough, but not everything that divides Bible-believing Christians is even a doctrinal disagreement, much less a doctrinal disagreement on a point where Scripture is objectively clear. However, let’s take the sub-set of cases where such disagreements and divisions exist …

    Bryan continued:

    Here’s the first horn of this dilemma. Assume that every other kind of Christian is claimed to be more sinful than Reformed Christians.

    That is not what is claimed. We can safely ignore the remainder of Bryan’s proposed testing of the “holier than thou” hypothesis.

    Bryan continued:

    Here’s the second horn of the dilemma. Assume that it is not the case that every other kind of Christian is claimed to be more sinful than Reformed Christians. If Reformed Christians are no less sinful than all the other Christians who, one believes, have been deceived by their own sinfulness to reach non-Reformed interpretations of Scripture, then it is not reasonable to believe that one’s own Reformed system of doctrine is any more likely to be true than any other system of doctrine arrived at by other Bible-believing, non-Reformed, sin-deceived Christians.

    Here we have the skepticism introduced. Bryan’s skeptical argument, however, is a non sequitur.

    It does not follow from the fact that we are all fallible human beings that we cannot have a reason to believe that our doctrines are correct, even when we think that other (true) Christians disagree with us. We can have reasons to believe that the doctrines we hold to are true, even if our reasons fall short of some sort of absolute proof.

    The number of (relevant) people who agree or disagree with us may enter into our consideration as a persuasive basis upon which to be careful in arriving at a conclusion. Nevertheless, the method by which we arrive at doctrine is not based on doing a statistical analysis of all the faithful, or of all the faithful who have studied the matter, or of all the faithful who have studied the matter as much as we have, or even of all the faithful who have studied the matter as much as we have and have concluded differently than we are concluded.

    In short, our claim is not a claim about probability of truth – our claim is about a binary truth claim (it is either true or false).

    Bryan continued:

    For example, if I am one of one hundred people asked to solve a particular math problem at the end of the semester, and I believe that I have no mathematical advantage over any of the others who have attempted to solve the problem, and when I turn in my answer the teacher looks at it and tells me that each of the other 99 persons came to a uniquely different answer from my own answer (such that there were 100 different answers given by the 100 persons who attempted to solve it), then so long as those conditions pertain, it is not reasonable for me to believe that my answer is right and all the other answers are wrong.

    Isn’t the reasoning of skepticism an amazing thing! It’s unreasonable (we’re told) for a student to believe his answer is correct, in view of (at least) 99 wrong answers by others! If there was only one other student in the class, and his answer was different, the skeptic’s argument wouldn’t work the way it does. But introduce 99 more students, all of whom get it wrong, and suddenly you should doubt your own answer on the basis of the errors of others!

    What is underlying this continuing non sequitur is the idea that somehow the answers get assigned to us by chance, such that all we have as a basis upon which to evaluate the truth of our answer is a statistical probability. But that’s not so. A student can have the same reason to believe his answer is correct when he’s the only student in the class, when he’s one of two students in the class, or when he’s one of a million students in the class.

    As an outsider not knowing how the student arrived at his answer, we might assign a very low probability to the chance that a given student out of the hundred has the right answer. On the other hand, there is no particular reason that a student should apply an “outsider” test to his position. If he were given the further information that Bryan mentioned, his conclusion might simply be that this must be a very tough math question – he might even want to go back over his own solution to see if he did his best. But if he does review his answer, he can still have a reason to believe his answer to be correct, notwithstanding the fact that many other people don’t agree with the answer he provided.

    Bryan continued:

    That’s because I recognize that I’m in exactly the same epistemic condition as the 99 others, and so the likelihood that my answer is right, given all the information available to me, is no more than 1 in a 100.

    That’s the outsider’s probability. But, of course, one can have a reason to think oneself right, even if the outsider might also have a reason to be skeptical.

    Bryan continued:

    For the same reason, if there are many different interpretations of Scripture by Bible believing Christians, and Reformed Christians are no more righteous than other Bible believing Christians, and sin is the root cause of all doctrinal divisions and interpretive disagreements among Bible believing Christians, then it is not reasonable for Reformed Christians to believe that their interpretation is right and that the interpretations of all other Bible believing Christians are wrong, because again the likelihood of it being right is very low.

    a) There may be numerous packages of views (like the entire Westminster Confession). There are not, however, that many different different interpretations on any particular point, for most points. It’s more like a class of two students than of one hundred students. Even to an outsider, the probability is not that low for the Reformed interpretation of any particular point.

    b) As noted above, we’re not required to evaluate the correctness of our position like an outsider. We’re required to evaluate the correctness of our position by comparison to Scripture. So, we are not stuck simply evaluating our position based on an “ad hominem” approach.

    c) It’s an aside, but while sin and the flesh is one and a chief cause of divisions amongst Christians, it is certainly not the only cause. There are Christians who are not as smart as other Christians – there are Christians who only know English and not Latin, much less Greek or Hebrew. Studying the original languages and seeking the aid of men of intelligence are means that believers use to establish greater confidence in the positions they hold – means that are relevant to epistemology, but not captured in Bryan’s “dilemma.”

    Bryan continued:

    So the consequence of the second horn of this dilemma is a kind of interpretive skepticism — it leaves the Reformed Christian in a epistemic position in which the Reformed system of doctrine is no more likely to be true than any of the other systems of doctrine proposed by Bible believing Christians.

    The skepticism is simply what has been introduced by the skeptic. Scripture does not tell us to evaluate doctrine based on the probability of the doctrine being correct based on how many other Christians share our view. This outsider test is doubly an outsider test, since it is a test that only would be used by an outsider, not someone familiar with Scripture.

    Bryan’s use of this skepticism from human fallibility argument is pretty standard fare. We see it all the time from atheists who reason to the effect that “You admit that 99.99% of all the gods are false; therefore there is a 99.99% probability that any given god is a false god; therefore, it is unreasonable for you to think that the LORD is the true God.”

    But, of course, our reason for believing that the LORD is the true God is not based on evaluating probabilities in connection with the errors of the heathen, just as our reason for believing that infant baptism is correct isn’t based on evaluating probabilities in connection with the errors of our Reformed Baptist brethren. While an outsider might judge the probabilities that way, such an evaluation isn’t especially relevant to our epistemology.

    -TurretinFan

  17. TurretinFan said,

    August 5, 2011 at 9:22 am

    “I’ve had at least one Reformed person tell me that not only can the WS not be changed, they cannot even be questioned (the most extreme view I’ve found yet).”

    I don’t know where you find these people. Would you mind naming names, so that we can politely ask them to stop saying such ridiculous things?

  18. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Ron,

    What you’re overlooking in my argument is the premise that each person is in the exact same epistemic position. Here’s another example.

    You’re a soldier in a war. There is a tall hill about a mile away, and your general wants to put one soldier on it, to relay back information. The problem is that to get there, one has to go through enemy territory. The general sends a soldier, but he is killed on the way there. Then the general sends another, and he too is killed on the way there. He does this 99 times, and each time, the soldier is killed on his way there, though you don’t know how or where any of the soldiers were killed. Then the general looks at you and says, “your turn.” You know (and here is the key premise) that all those men had the same training as did you, and that in all the relevant tests in training, you performed at the very same level as did all the other 99 men. You also know that you know nothing more than did the 99 other men, about the location and tactics of the enemy soldiers between you and the hill. So you know you have no epistemic advantage or skill advantage over the 99 others. The only ‘advantage’ you have is that the previous guy knew that 98 others had been killed before him trying this, and you now know that 99 others have been killed before you trying this. In this situation, it is not reasonable to believe that you are likely to succeed. And that’s because (a) you have no reason to believe that your success is likely and (b) because you have good empirical evidence to believe that your being killed is very likely.

    The Reformed person who believes that he is no more righteous than other Bible believing Christians, and who believes that sin is the cause of all the doctrinal divisions and interpretive disagreements among Bible believing Christians, but who believes that his interpretation is right and that the interpretations of all the other Bible believing Christians are wrong, is in that respect like being the 100th soldier and believing that it is likely that you will succeed in getting to the hill. That belief is presumptive and unreasonable, given the available empirical evidence.

    This truth can be seen in Keith Mathison’s example of the marchers. [See http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/keith-mathisons-reply/%5D If I am supposed to be marching with everyone else, and I find that I am marching in a different direction from everyone else, this gives me reason, claims Keith, to suspect that I’m not marching in the right direction, that I’ve made some mistake, or failed to hear the leader correctly. The implied premise in Keith’s example is epistemic parity — I have no epistemic advantage over the other marchers.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  19. Richard said,

    August 5, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I was reading through John Frame’s DKG this morning and he has a helpful discussion on subscription arguing against strict subscriptionism because that seems to place the Standards on a par with Scripture…I may have misread him though!

  20. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:05 am

    In concert with Paul, Bryan would have us believe that disagreement provides sufficient reason for doubt and that not to doubt in the face of disagreement is irrational. From the outset Bryan defines his position such that there is no room for a uniquely reasonable position, one that is held by only a minority.

    Now not for a moment do I doubt that often times I should give credence to another person’s view when it is contrary to mine – for instance, if it is believed that someone has access to evidence I don’t possess. But Bryan does not offer any reason to believe that he has more evidence than we on this matter of disagreement. He simply points out that most people disagree with Reformed theology. Well, isn’t it true that most people disagree with any given stripe of theology, and that the more specific we get with our theology the more that people disagree? Of course that’s true, but that shouldn’t lead us to believe that there are no facts of any kind that can be known, which is just a form of skepticism. Indeed, if one has not studied a particular matter, then disagreement has more force. And certainly if one has heard from God, then disagreement should have no force at all. Accordingly, contrary to the implication of Bryan’s approach, disagreement is not a sufficient reason for skepticism and, consequently, the abandonment of one’s position.

    At the end of the day, Bryan rests his conclusion that Reformed folks should doubt and, therefore, abandon their position because there is no fact of the matter to be known, or at least known by them. If Bryan allowed for Reformed folk to know the truth, would he then argue that we should abandon our convictions based upon an appeal to disagreement? Would Bryan, in other words, advise that we doubt what God has said to us if others disagreed with us? I hope not, for that would be devilish. :) For Bryan, though he doesn’t come out and say it, the reason we will not agree on the facts is because there are no real facts to agree upon. Yet does Bryan apply that same criteria to his own beliefs? No, he only wishes to constrain his opponents by such strictures.

  21. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Ron,

    It is not my position that disagreement per se provides sufficient reason for doubt. Rather, there is, as I pointed out in my previous comment, another premise in my argument, a premise regarding epistemic parity. To construe my position as though it were that disagreement per se provides sufficient reason for doubt, would be to set up a straw man.

    If you reject epistemic parity, then my argument (in comment #11) doesn’t apply to your case. But, then, if you accept parity of righteousness, but deny epistemic parity, you’ll have to revise the answer you gave in comment #6.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  22. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:51 am

    What you’re overlooking in my argument is the premise that each person is in the exact same epistemic position.

    Bryan,

    No, that’s not true at all. Not all people were cited as epistemic equals in the first case. The first case posited that the one person had no reason to believe that he had an “advantage” over the others, which is not the same thing as what you’re positing now, that the one person actually had no advantage.

    In any case, let’s consider the idea of epistemic peers for a moment. Are all epistemic peers truly equal with respect to intelligence, familiarity with the facts and reflection upon the facts? How do truthfulness, sin, experience and pre-commitments enter into the equation for you? Are there subjective dynamics that come into play with moral and theological issues that do not have the same influence upon mathematical issues that don’t contemplate one’s eternal destiny? Your position, as Paul pointed out, is that there can be no relevant difference between knowers, but such a view of epistemic peer groups does not allow us to individuate between persons, in which case all should expect to arrive at the same math answer, not different ones. As soon as you allow for different conclusions, the idea of epistemic equals begins to crumble into dust.

    In any case, the question you continue to beg is whether disagreement among epistemic peers is sufficient to undermine the rationality of holding to one’s position.

    Here’s another example…

    Now why would I entertain another example of yours when you have not dealt adequately with what others (and I) have said?

  23. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Ron,

    You wrote:

    Your position, as Paul pointed out, is that there can be no relevant difference between knowers

    That’s not my position, nor did I say anything implying that it is. We cannot profitably discuss this unless we strive through charity to avoid the straw man. When I lay out a dilemma that follows from certain claims, it is important not to assume that I hold those claims to be true. The dilemma I offered in #11 is a response to your claims in #6.

    Logically, there are four ways to respond to a dilemma proposed as an objection by one’s interlocutor: (a) show a third alternative, (b) show how the negative consequences of at least one horn can be avoided, (c) bite the bullet by accepting the consequences of (at least) one of the horns, or (d) retract at least one of the claims that lead to the dilemma.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  24. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Bryan, see post 22 where I clearly showed that you did not set up epistemic parity in the first post. It’s clear now by your elaborations that you intended such symmetry; yet as I’ve pointed out since that elaboration, it buys you nothing because such set theory breaks down rather readily.

  25. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

    “The dilemma I offered in #11 is a response to your claims in #6.”

    No it wasn’t, for in #6 I noted that God is pleased to illuminate some more than others, something you didn’t address.

  26. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Ron,

    If your claim is that the Reformed have received more illumination than all other Bible believing Christians, then the same dilemma offered in comment #11 applies; in every instance (in that comment) replace “more sinful” with “less illumined” (and “less sinful” with “more illumined”).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  27. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Bryan, if Reformed folk know the truth, would you argue that we should abandon our convictions based upon an appeal to disagreement?

    If Reformed folk know the truth, are Arminians and Calvinists epistemic peers?

    Those are direct questions so please answer concisely.

  28. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:52 am

    One response to pessimistic epistemologists of disagreement is what Chris Tucker (University of Aukland) is the argument from endorsing dogmatism, basically, if after having examined the evidence, it seems to S that p, then S is warranted in believing p in light of this phenomenological “seeming.”

    Another response comes from virtue epistemology, particularly in the real of doxastic loyalty. An epistemic agent should not drop his belief merely because there is disagreement between peers. The analogy here is that if your very good friend was charged with a crime, and epistemic peers were divided over his guilt or innocence, would you drop support of your friend, becoming agnostic? This doesn’t look like the loyal thing, especially since there is not overwhelming evidence against him rather than for him. Dropping your beliefs in all these cases would be epistemically vicious, failing to foster the epistemic virtues needed to be a successful epistemic agent.

    Another response comes from externalists, like Alston, Plantinga, etc. The elaborate theories of warrant here come into play, and avoid many of the challenges presented so far: take one example, the transitivity of knowledge by testimony considered along externalist lines.

    Another problem is how we explain disagreement. Logical positivists (now philosophical fossils) thought theological disagreement between peers showed that theological claims were meaningless. But Bryan can’t resort to this! So Bryan needs to do more than simply point to disagreement, he needs to show the epistemic significance of it, i.e., what it supposedly shows, and he needs to do so without undermining his own position.

    Another problem is that Bryan is focusing on a narrow slice of the pie. But of course, atheists and pluralists use the exact same argument from disagreement to show that (a) it is not rational to believe any religion or (b) all roads lead to heaven. What’s the epistemically relevant difference between my disagreement with a baptist and Bryan’s disagreement with a Muslim?

    But the above is simply a species of the problem. For there is disagreement between peers on every singe philosophical topic debated today. Thus Bryan can’t be an internalist or an externalist; he can’t hold a perdurantist or endurantist theory; he can’t be a realist or an intuitionist (about math and logic); and he can’t claim that epistemic disagreement does anything to the positive epistemic status of our beliefs, since there’s people (his peers) who disagree here.

    Moreover, Bryan needs to argue for this proposition:

    [DIS] = Known disagreement on a belief B about any subject ∂ between an agent S and S’s epistemic peer E provides a defeater D for S’s B, and S is unwarranted or irrational in continuing to affirm B about ∂ in light of E’s belief B´ about ∂.

    What is Bryan’s argument for the truth of [DIS]? Even granting his math analogy, that is insufficient to prove something like [DIS]. So Bryan needs to do more than just throw out some of the skeptical challenges presented by pessimists about disagreement. For we have been aware of these claims for quite some time. Consider the famous skeptic Sextus Empiricus, who wrote:

    “According to the mode deriving from dispute, we find that undecidable dissension about the matter proposed has come about both in ordinary life and among the philosophers. Because of this we are not able either to choose or to rule out anything, and we are driven to suspend judgement.”

    So we’ll need more than dusting off old Sextus’ argument, especially in light of where we’re at today given the recent analysis of claims like this by contemporary epistemologists.

  29. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Bryan responded to Ron’s claim,

    “Your position, as Paul pointed out, is that there can be no relevant difference between knowers”

    Was this:

    “That’s not my position, nor did I say anything implying that it is.”

    Bryan’s, here’s what you’ve said:

    • it is not reasonable for me to believe that my answer is right and all the other answers are wrong. That’s because I recognize that I’m in exactly the same epistemic condition as the 99 others, and so the likelihood that my answer is right, given all the information available to me, is no more than 1 in a 100. [and we'll disregard the shoddy appeal to probability on this]

    • What you’re overlooking in my argument is the premise that each person is in the exact same epistemic position.

    • It is not my position that disagreement per se provides sufficient reason for doubt. Rather, there is, as I pointed out in my previous comment, another premise in my argument, a premise regarding epistemic parity. To construe my position as though it were that disagreement per se provides sufficient reason for doubt, would be to set up a straw man.

    Then, considering that you are big on “charity,” we can charitably read Ron (and myself) as saying your position is that there cannot be any relevant epistemic difference between knowers, for if there can be said epistemic differences, what in the world would it mean to claim that “a premise of your argument” is that each epistemic agent is in “the exact same epistemic position”?!

  30. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Bryan,

    We all know what it’s like to hold a minority position, so let me extend this olive branch.

    The reason I said that you did not set up epistemic parity in your math scenario was because you said this: “..if I am one of one hundred people asked to solve a particular math problem at the end of the semester, and I believe that I have no mathematical advantage over any of the others who have attempted to solve the problem…” One’s belief about the equality of peers does not imply the equality of peers. For instance, I’m sure people think they are Paul’s and TF’s equal when they’re not. :) So, thinking so doesn’t make it so.

    Now here’s my concession. Paul just highlighted this part of that same post of yours: “That’s because I recognize that I’m in exactly the same epistemic condition as the 99 others…” Now that statement doesn’t quite imply that all within the group were actually equal in this regard, but only that a knower thought there was equality among members. (You’ll forgive me, but II tend to be a literalist at times, especially in discussions that require precision, but please don’t think I’m intending to erect straw men, for I’d always rather refute the actual position than a false one.) Nonetheless, there was enough there to have given me pause, so I’ll gladly accept responsibility of not inferring from that statement what I now know you were trying to say. Maybe your earlier statement – the one I interacted with and quoted first, filtered out what might be inferred by the second statement of yours. In any case, I won’t ask you to consider whether you were implying no such thing. Fair enough, or should I concede more?

    With that said, I think you have a lot of work before you, not the least of which is defining what it is to be in the “exact same epistemic position” especially since God causes each man to differ from another (and no two snowflakes ar alike). I, also, don’t see that you’ve addressed the question of whether we should reject contrary consensus when we’ve heard from God. (You’re going to have to presuppose that one can hear from God and know the truth.)

    Aside from all that, does the current pope have an epistemic peer on earth?

  31. Cris Dickason said,

    August 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Richard @ 19

    You know, just could be that John Frame is wrong on that point.

    I acknowledge he’s brilliant, but that doesn’t guarantee that he is correct all the time. I had his Intro to Theology (Doctrine of Word) and Intro to Apologetics courses at WTS-PA [old fogey alert] and learned quite a bit that sticks with me to this day, but I don’t think he’s correct on subscription.

    Sometime in the last year I read Frame’s biography (auto-biography?) at http://www.frame-poythress.org. The link is broken at the moment.

    But in reading that I was struck by how Mr Frame was dissatisfied with, and distancing himself from, WTS. I’m sure JohnFrame considers himself an evangelical first, and only secondarily (at best) as Reformed. The fact that Frame is not a strict subscriptionist is really no surprise.

    -=Cris=-

  32. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Paul (re: #29)

    You wrote:

    we can charitably read Ron (and myself) as saying your position is that there cannot be any relevant epistemic difference between knowers, for if there can be said epistemic differences, what in the world would it mean to claim that “a premise of your argument” is that each epistemic agent is in “the exact same epistemic position”?!

    Just because a person puts forward an argument he believes to be valid does not mean he believes it to be sound. That is, just because I use a premise in an argument, this does not mean I believe that premise to be true. That is what I said in #23, when I wrote, “When I lay out a dilemma that follows from certain claims, it is important not to assume that I hold those claims to be true.”

    So, once again, just because epistemic parity is a premise in my argument, that does not entail that I believe that “there cannot be any relevant epistemic difference between knowers.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  33. August 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    It’s funny that we can all get so hung up on the details and miss the point (which, it seems to me, is the question of how we Reformed people, given our equally fallen status among the rest of believers, can meaningfully claim to be correct in our interpretation of Scripture while most others are wrong).

    For my part, I don’t think there is some “principled reason” for our claim, nor does there need to be.

    Why can’t it be enough (echoing what I said above) simply to say that we believe we are correct in our understanding of what the Bible teaches, and when Baptists or Methodists disagree, we just open the Bible and have a discussion?

    Why does there have to be some principled reason that we trot out beforehand to load the dice in our favor? In other words, why can’t the winner of the argument be decided after the discussion actually ends instead of crowning the victor before the fight is even allowed to start?

  34. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Jason, you said in your first post: “In a word, we might be wrong about some things. But given both our imperfections as well as the sincere desire to hear God’s voice in Scripture, we believe that the Reformed system of doctrine is correct. But we don’t consign to hell those who don’t see it.”

    1. Yes, we might be wrong about some things.

    2. We’re not wrong about the gospel.

    3. We don’t consign people to hell…

    3a. … but on occasion we must declare people to be outside Christ.

    So, how can we do 3a if we can’t affirm 2? And if we affirm 2, then we need to qualify what we mean by “we might be wrong.” Wrong about what, the gospel? Certainly not, yet that is what Bryan’s polemic aims to bring it question.

    Bryan seems to want to suggest that it’s “valid” to argue that disagreement among “peers” implies reason to doubt, which in turn implies no discernible truth for those peers on matters in which they are presumed to be in an “exact epistemic position;” yet even that argument which he is so quick to call valid he’s not so quick to claim as “sound” or even his own.

  35. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Jason, don’t get me wrong; I think there is an enormous place for your sentiments among the brethren who are not philosophical skeptics.

  36. TurretinFan said,

    August 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Bryan wrote: “What you’re overlooking in my argument is the premise that each person is in the exact same epistemic position.”

    Well, we can reject that premise and move on to something like what Jason has suggested above: actually discussing the text without thinking we need to stack the deck.

    We can reject the premise because it is obvious that someone like James White or Carl Trueman is in a better epistemic position than a barely literate street urchin.

    What is marvelous is that the Scriptures are clear enough that they can convey eternal life to even an illiterate person, if they are read to him.

    Incidentally, while we’ve already disposed of Bryan’s argument by rejecting his premise, we could add that his military soldier’s example could be viewed as a sophisticated form of the gambler’s fallacy. Even if the fair roulette wheel yields 99 “odd” outcomes in a row, the chance that the next spin will yield an “odd” is still (1/2.111) (just under 50%). My odds of survival as a soldier are not determined by how many others have died, just as the odds of the next spin of a fair roulette wheel are not based on the results of the last few spins.

    -TurretinFan

  37. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    TF, (re: #36)

    You wrote:

    Incidentally, while we’ve already disposed of Bryan’s argument by rejecting his premise, we could add that his military soldier’s example could be viewed as a sophisticated form of the gambler’s fallacy. Even if the fair roulette wheel yields 99 “odd” outcomes in a row, the chance that the next spin will yield an “odd” is still (1/2.111) (just under 50%). My odds of survival as a soldier are not determined by how many others have died, just as the odds of the next spin of a fair roulette wheel are not based on the results of the last few spins.

    Apparently, If I were the crooked owner of a casino, and you were the inspector, you would never be able to determine that the wheels and die were loaded, since when the wheel yielded 99 “odd” outcomes in a row each time you tested it, you would continue to conclude that the chance that it would yield an “odd” is still just under 50%, rather than concluding that the wheel is not fair.

    Likewise, no matter how many soldiers were successively killed attempting this particular assignment, you would [apparently] not allow this information to inform your evaluation of the likelihood of your own success. The rational evaluation of this data, however, allows the actual rate of past failure by equally competent and equally knowledgeable persons to inform one’s own determination of the likelihood of one’s own failure, all other things being equal.

    Making use of induction to determine probabilities is not committing the gambler’s fallacy. One commits the gambler’s fallacy only when one adjusts one’s judgment of the probability of an event on the basis of a statistically insignificant number of past outcome events. And 99 successive failures out of 99 attempts, is statistically significant evidence of the likelihood of failure/success, if that is the only information you have to determine the likelihood of your failure/success, and if your knowledge and training is no better than that of the 99 who preceded you.

    Unsolicited advice: Don’t become a general. :-)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  38. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Jason @ 33, I’ve actually been dealing head on with the philosophical argument driving that point. 2Kers have got to learn to make room for apologetics and philosophy. Sorry.

    Bryan @ 32,

    You wrote,

    Just because a person puts forward an argument he believes to be valid does not mean he believes it to be sound.

    So your argument has a false premise? The best you can get from this is to argue that an essential protestant logically implies this false premise, doing so step by step, using valid rules of inference. This is an ambitious task! When can we see the derivation?!

    That is what I said in #23, when I wrote, “When I lay out a dilemma that follows from certain claims, it is important not to assume that I hold those claims to be true.”

    I’m sorry, I missed where you derived your two dilemma premises from any essential Reformed proposition.

    So, once again, just because epistemic parity is a premise in my argument, that does not entail that I believe that “there cannot be any relevant epistemic difference between knowers.”

    No, your argument has assumed epistemic parity as a premise and has used that premise to argue for a skeptical conclusion. I have argued against this move on your end. So, here’s my dilemma for you:

    Either, you believe that disagreement between epistemic peers over some proposition p (i) implies that the positive epistemic status p has for a cognizer who holds that p is downgraded to (at best) agnosticism about p, or (ii) that this epistemic situation does not imply that.

    If you believe that (i) is true, then you need to deal with the defeaters issued to it; if you hold that (ii) is the case, then your supposed dilemma doesn’t work since you think the unsavory epistemic implications do not follow from the parity premise.

  39. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I’m not particularly enjoying watching the Cross get this nailed. It’s the softy in me.

  40. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Paul,

    The argument is a conditional tree, laying out the various options following from a fundamental dilemma.

    (1) Either the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, or it does not.

    (2) If the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then from a Reformed point of view it follows that all non-Reformed Christians are either ignorant of Scripture, or blind (i.e. not-illumined) when reading Scripture, or stupid, or malicious (or some combination of these).

    (3) If the Bible does not objectively and clearly address the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then Christians are defining “the church” by their own interpretation of Scripture in questions of doctrine that are not objectively clear in Scripture, in which case Protestant confessionalism is solo scriptura in disguise (for the reasons I provided in comments #1 and #3, and argue in more detail in an article I co-wrote elsewhere titled “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”).

    (4) Claiming a priori that the reason non-Reformed Christians do not hold the Reformed interpretation is that they are more sinful (or less spiritually illumined), more stupid, or more ignorant of Scripture (or some combination thereof) than Reformed Christians is ad hoc and thus intellectually dishonest (i.e. not a genuine pursuit of truth) and self-deceiving (for the reason I explained in comment #11).

    (5) There is no independent (non-question-begging) empirical evidence showing that non-Reformed Christians are more sinful (or less spiritually illumined), more stupid, or more ignorant of Scripture than Reformed Christians. All the independent empirical evidence suggests that non-Reformed Christians are no more sinful (no less spiritually illumined), no more stupid, and no more ignorant of Scripture (or some combination thereof) than Reformed Christians.

    (6) If there is no independent evidence that non-Reformed Christians are more sinful (or less spiritually illumined), more stupid, or more ignorant of Scripture (or some combination thereof) than Reformed Christians, and there are vastly many more non-Reformed Christians than Reformed Christians, then it is not reasonable to believe that one’s own Reformed system of doctrine is more likely to be true than the other systems of doctrine arrived at by other Bible-believing, non-Reformed, sin-deceived Christians, all other things being equal. (Widespread disagreement with oneself about x by many other persons known to have epistemic parity with oneself in relation to x, makes it not reasonable to believe that one’s own opinion concerning x is more likely to be correct than are the opinions of all those who disagree with one concerning x, all other things being equal.)

    So the fundamental dilemma is this: Either the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, or it does not. If the Bible does not objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then Protestant confessionalism is a disguised form of solo scriptura. But if the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians into different doctrinal camps, then there are two possible implications: either (a) a priori Reformed claims to epistemic superiority are ad hoc, or (b) without independent evidence for Reformed epistemic superiority, and with independent evidence of non-Reformed epistemic parity, it is not reasonable to believe that one’s own Reformed system of doctrine is more likely to be true than the other systems of doctrine arrived at by other Bible-believing, non-Reformed, sin-deceived Christians, all other things being equal.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  41. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    BTW, notice that TF was careful in his statement: “Even if the fair roulette wheel yields 99 “odd” outcomes in a row, the chance that the next spin will yield an ‘odd’ is still (1/2.111) (just under 50%).” It’s pretty apparent to me that he preempted with his premise the crooked casino.

  42. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Bryan,

    Ad (1): This needs work, as I think most sophisticated Christians would claim that the set of “issues that divide them” is larger than the set of “issues the Bible addresses.” Moreover, the Bible might clearly address “some” issues that divide Christians, though address-but-not-clearly other issues. And I wonder why the matter is cast in terms of a conjunction? What if the Bible objectively addresses a matter but not clearly? And, depending on what is meant by ‘objective,’ what if it clearly addresses an issue but not objectively? Why must this be put in terms of a conjunction?

    Ad (2): Would “sincerely mistaken” fit here? If not, why not?

    Ad (3): The problems here can be seen from your problems with (1). First, it appears that you’re using “address the issues that divide them” as an all-or-nothing principle. Accordingly, if one takes the second horn of your dilemma, then he’s committed to saying that each and every issue Christians are divided over must be a matter of “solo Scriptura.” But the problem here seems clear, for protestantism is by no means committed to an all-or-nothing principle in terms of which every debated doctrine myst be taught “objectively or clearly,” or none of them are. If that’s not what you mean, then admitting the second horn of your dilemma does not imply that the protestant must admit that, say, the specific doctrine you picked out is one of the doctrines that are clearly and objectively taught. So your argument has this crucial ambiguity in it.

    Ad (4): First, I wouldn’t have thought this move was something held to be believed a priori. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong in principle with making <ad hoc adjustments. This is done all the time by scientists who have theories threatened, by metaphysicians, by logicians, mathematicians, etc. Moreover, problematic employment of ad hoc adjustments take place when we offer an after-the-fact explanation that isn’t similarly applied in relevantly similar situations. I so no reason to think that’s happening here, do you? Furthermore, the Bible seems to give this type of explanation at times (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:14; Romans 1:18-23, Romans 8:7, etc). Lastly, “honest mistakes” (or other variants) don’t seem to be ad hoc.

    Ad (5): Which empirical studies did you have in mind? Can I find them in psychology journals? Who does them? Does this beg the question against the position you attack, assuming that these non-Reformed are capable of judging these matters aright? Or, did you have in mind Reformed thinkers who engaged in these controlled studies? Perhaps Jay Adams? Ed Welch? Paul and Ted Tripp?

    Ad (6): I see no reason to believe this, and I have addressed it in numerous posts above and do not see any response or interaction with the points I raised. In fact, the very principle you cite is one which is subject to heated debate. There are epistemic peers (and superiors!) of yours who disagree with your claim here; so if you are to be consistent, hence, etc.

    Thus, I find each and every move to be subject to vagueness, ambiguity, conceptual muddles, overreaching dogmatism, and self-exceptingly fallacious. I therefore find no reason to feel the force of your “dilemma.”

  43. August 5, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Turretin Fan: As to the person who said that extraordinary thing about secondary standards not being even questioned (much less changed) – I don’t remember his name. It was in a conversation I had with the person several years ago now.

  44. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I should add that Bryan’s soldier’s tale is odd. I grant that if I were the next soldier in his story, I wouldn’t have a rational reason to think I might survive, though I might have a prudential or proper function reason to so believe.

    Anyway, as far as I can tell, the situation can be re-written and the Reformed Christian placed in a better light. And there’s no impropriety here since as far as I can tell Bryan simply asserts some parity between the Reformed and the soldier.

    However, what if we look at things in terms of units rather than soldiers. If someone from Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta unit died every time they went out, but someone from Foxtrot unit made it every time they went out, and I was from Foxtrot, then I’d have reason to believe I would make it too.

    Moreover, Bryan is treating *each disagreement* as similar to the soldiers who run off into the darkness without a clue who’s out there, not seeing why or where the others went off. However, the Reformed Christians claims to be able to “see,” in at least some cases, just where others went wrong. For example, the Reformed presbyterian might claim to be able to “see” just where the dispensational baptist got off track, e.g., say, he didn’t follow covenant theology. So back to the soldier story. If you had a map that led to the objective, and you knew that some soldiers had a outdated map and followed it nonetheless, you might be able to see how they got off course.

    Of course, I could build this up and add scenarios, but I think the main point has been made.

  45. August 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Apropos of secondary standards generally, I just finished reading this set: “Forty Years’ Familiar Letters of James W. Alexander, D.D., Constituting, with the Notes, A Memoir of His Life,” edited by John Hall; 2 volumes (New York: Charles Scribner, 1860).

    In one of these letters (all of which were addressed to Hall over a period of 40 years [1819-1859]), Alexander makes this remark: “Weary, weary am I of these theological controversies. I have a peculiar position; being in favor of strict subscription, but to a very short creed.” (2:281) (The letter is dated August 9, 1858.) That’s all he says on the subject, but I take his point. Perhaps, sometimes, creeds and confessions get a little too elaborate?

  46. Bryan Cross said,

    August 5, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Paul,

    When an “x or ~x” premise is objected to as “needing work,” then I don’t think further discussion would be fruitful. But thanks for discussing this with me.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  47. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Bryan,

    In reference to your #40, let me just briefly ask something about your points 5 and 6 in post #40 above. You and I have had innumerable conversations about why it is that you and other Catholics look at the same historical data and yet come to different conclusions concerning any number of matters. Your answer to me, in some form or another, is that these other Catholics who disagree with you are not orthodox and you (and other Catholics who agree with you) are. There are Roman Catholics all over the theological map from the very liberal to the ultra-conservative. They look at the same tradition of the Church that you do and yet come to different conclusions than you do. So are they more sinful and ignorant than you? Or maybe you perceive something that is lost of them? Remember that in the Roman Catholic world you are in the vast minority. Why should we accept your interpretation of tradition versus that of other Catholics?

    Paul M speaks of the “theology of disagreement” in the context of your critique of Evangelicalism. Is there any reason we should not apply the same sort of investigation to the debates that exist within Catholicism?

  48. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Bryan,

    No problem. But to help you out with future convos, check it out:

    [1] Either, S is tall or S is not tall.

    [2] If S is tall, then ∂.

    [3] If S is not tall, then ¥.

    [4] Therefore, either ∂ or ¥

    Um, objection: tall is vague.

    Or,

    [1] Either that book has the answers or it does not.

    [2] If it does, then Ω

    [3] If it does not, ∆

    [4] Therefore, either Ω or ∆

    Um, objection: answers for what?

    Similarly, your [1] was not rigorous enough and is subject to different interpretations. That is, your X could mean X1, X2, X3 … Xn.

    Moreover, you’ll note that on certain interpretations, no sophisticated protestant alive would object to the second disjunct. But you’ll note that on the interpretation given, your (3) doesn’t follow from it since it moves from a universal to a particular, but it doesn’t follow from

    [U] Scripture does not address each and every issue Christians are divided over with objectivity and clarity.

    that

    [P] Scripture does not address at least one issue Christians are divided over with objectivity and clarity.

    Clearly, your post has several problems with it, but I certainly can understand why you wouldn’t want to defend it against criticism. And here we have an awesome irony. For we have disagreement about whether I can object to your (1). Seems to me that I can, seems to you that I can’t. Thus, why not be agnostic about the matter? But no, you dogmatically assert your viewpoint and go on your merry way thinking your epistemically warranted in your dogmatic dismissal of my objections. So here’s a dilemma for you: Either (i) you defend your premise or (ii) explain why the protestant can’t make similar appeals to dogmatism.

    Or, nevermind. You did say further discussion would be fruitless. Well, thanks for discussing it with me anyway.

  49. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Bryan,

    Before you leave, I was hoping you might address something from before.

    If Reformed folk know the truth, would you argue that we should abandon our convictions based upon an appeal to disagreement?

  50. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    To be clearer on what I claimed was the illicit move:

    Universal: The totality of propositions Christians are divided over are not addressed with objectivity and clarity.

    does not imply that:

    Some propositions Christians are divided over are nor addressed with objectivity and clarity.

    The first one claims that the set of disagreed on doctrines isn’t addressed with objectivity and clarity.

    The second one says that this doesn’t imply that some members of the set are not so addressed.

    E.g., {All counting numbers} is not ÷ by 2

    does not imply that no member of the set is so divisible, for, e.g., 4 is.

  51. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Paul, good point on the soldiers and the map. But apparently Captain Sextus won’t consider that we might have a map.

  52. Ron said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Andrew,

    re 47

    Not that you don’t know this, but it is thought that there is no epistemic peer to the papacy, so if one hitches his wagon to it, then he’s in good company. It’s not always voiced that way but that’s the bottom line. It’s gnostic man.

  53. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Perhaps Bryan should do a Weird Al and write a pop hit with the title: “SextusBack.”

  54. Paul M. said,

    August 5, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    No epistemic peer to the papacy . . . but Bryan’s epistemic peers disagree with him about that (!); thus, he should maintain a position of agnosticism regarding the peerlessness of the papacy. Unfortunately for him, his knife cut’s both ways.

  55. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 6, 2011 at 4:48 am

    Concluding Paragraph: “All too often today, what we see is a false dichotomy being perpetrated: either the Standards have no authority, or they have God’s authority. Since they are obviously not the latter, then they must be the former. This drives a wedge between Scripture and the Standards, a wedge that the divines would have rejected most heartily. The divines believed that the Standards they were writing expressed the good and necessary consequence of the whole counsel of God. This what they believed the Scriptures to be saying. There is no wedge between Scripture and the Standards if the Standards express what Scripture is saying. Officers of the church take an oath stating exactly this point: that the Standards express what Scripture says. There is always an out. If one’s opinions change, they can go somewhere else without violating an oath. What is a violation of the oath, however, is to reinterpret the Standards, or to drive a wedge between Scripture and the Standards, or to put the Standards on trial after one’s oath.”

    Basic question. “Standards” above refers to WCF. What if I replaced the word/concept of WCF Standards above with any of the following:

    (A) Roman Catholic Magisterium
    (B) Lutheran Confessional Standards like the Book of Concord, etc….
    (C) 1689 Baptist Confession

    It seems like this would be a perfectly acceptable move. At least for the resolution of internal matters within each Church body.

    So perhaps within each Church body there is “epistemic parity.” Intra-epistemic parity.

    And between various Church bodies there is “epistemic disparity.” Inter-epistemic disparity. Or in other words, the claim of epistemic superiority of one Church Body’s Standards relative to another’s.

    “Our Standards are better than your Standards. And how we arrived at our Standards are better than what you did. And what we rest our Standards upon are better than what you rest your Standards upon. We’re epistemically superior to you. And we say these things to you in the peace of Christ.”

  56. Bryan Cross said,

    August 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Paul,

    I’m aware of the things you wrote in #48 and #50; that’s not what I was talking about in #46. A sincere mutual truth-loving approach (even where there is significant disagreement) is very different from the hostile/antagonistic/critical stance in which some criticism or other is thought up for every claim one’s interlocutor makes, including an “x or ~x” premise. The truth-seeking response to such a premise, if one is not sure exactly what is meant by x, is not to criticize the premise as needing work, but to request clarification. The hostile/critical approach makes progress toward agreement regarding the truth quite impossible, because the critic is not engaged in the same activity and does not share the same goal as the person seeking to reach agreement concerning the truth. The person who takes the critical stance will continue to criticize anything his interlocutor puts forward. For that reason, arriving at mutual agreement with him concerning the truth is impossible, and so engaging with him is fruitless if one is seeking mutual agreement in the truth. The critical stance is relatively easy. But mutual pursuit of truth with those with whom one disagrees is a very different activity, and much more difficult, because it requires much more than the ability to criticize. A good example on this site of someone who exemplifies the mutual truth-seeking approach is rfwhite.

    Feast of the Transfiguration

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  57. Paul M. said,

    August 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Bryan,

    I don’t believe you. I believe you meant that since X or ~X covers all the possible alternatives and is tautological, then it can’t need work; thus, claiming that it does, is to fail to understand the tautological nature of the proposition. I find that you’re now backtracking and doing everything you can do ignore my rebuttals. I find it incredible that you object to my clearly correct claim that your (1) “needed work.” Moreover, I did not simply assert that it needed work, but explained why and where it needed work done. I then took some possible interpretations, showing that from either of them, the rest of your premises didn’t follow. That is, I refuted you via a proof by cases approach.

    You have now taken the anti-intellectual out via the argument from piety, implying that my approach isn’t “loving” or “truth seeking,” and thereby maligning my character and method as “hostile” or “antagonistic.” Your premise (1) is fraught with problems, and I pointed it out. I won’t let you move an apparent inch if you are trying to hide or paper over a mile passed off for an inch.

    At this stage we’d better part ways, for you’re not arguing for your position anymore. All that is left now is the ugly downhill slide into pointing out how the other side isn’t really after truth, or isn’t really loving . . . or “wuving.” Indeed, on your own terms it is means-end irrational for you to continue with me as you consider conversation with me to be “fruitless,” and me to be “hostile” and “unloving” and not “seeking truth.” So, why don’t you save the name calling and pious elevation of your own intentions and arguments, and just forego future dialog. I am thus far satisfied in my critique of your argument, and, believe it or not, I am all about progressing the discussion and laying your argument on the table and inspecting each and every premise with a scalpel. Since at this point there is no further progression, but a digression into how sincere and honest and loving you are, pace me, then I’m fine with leaving your emotive judgments and ending dialog—I don’t care or need to defend myself on that score. Indeed, even grant that I am a mean and unloving lover of rigor and analysis and precision and clarity, that does nothing to undercut anything I said in response to your argument. That is, “You’re not a truth-seeker and you’re critical” isn’t a defeater, if I’ve read my Plantinga and Bergmann aright.

  58. rfwhite said,

    August 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    40 Bryan: What would you have us count as independent evidence of someone’s epistemic superiority?

  59. Bryan Cross said,

    August 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    rfwhite,

    I take it that you are referring to my last paragraph in #40. In premise (5) of that argument (in comment #40), I mentioned that by ‘independent’ I mean “not question-begging.” So, for example, that a group of persons hold the same Reformed interpretation of Scripture one holds, wouldn’t be independent evidence of Reformed epistemic superiority; it would beg the question, just as it would be question begging for a Baptist to argue from the fact that other Baptists also hold the Baptist interpretation to the conclusion that these Baptist interpreters have epistemic superiority over non-Baptist interpreters. That’s what I mean by ‘independent’ here.

    So when I say (in comment #40) “without independent evidence for Reformed epistemic superiority, and with independent evidence of non-Reformed epistemic parity,” I mean that we don’t find the preponderance of intelligent, well-educated, well-read persons who study the Bible are Reformed. What we do find are intelligent, well-read, well-educated persons informed in the biblical languages and biblical history, in almost all the different Christian traditions. There is no independent evidence that all those non-Reformed Bible scholars have a lower IQ than do Reformed Bible scholars, or received a lower quality education, or something like that. Nor is it the case (in my experience) that the only reason that the non-Reformed Bible scholars are still not Reformed is that they have not been exposed to the best Reformed exegetical arguments in support of the Reformed interpretation. The situation is just more complicated than that, as I’m sure you know. If you go to ETS meetings, you experience this directly.

    If, for example, at least 90% of persons who know the Bible well, are well-trained in the Bible languages and Biblical history, and possess above-average intelligence, adopted the Reformed interpretation of Scripture, then the thesis “the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians” would be more credible. Even if the number were 75%, the thesis would still be credible, coming from a Reformed person. But, when the claim that the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians is combined with the fact that many other equally intelligent and equally well-trained persons come to division-requiring interpretations of the Bible, then this is a problem for the thesis. And positing that everyone who comes to non-Reformed conclusion is doing so because of sin in their heart, or because God must have chosen to leave them in the dark of non-illumination, is, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest (for the reasons I explained in earlier comments in this thread.) It seems far more reasonable and intellectually honest, in my opinion, to give up the thesis that the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians, than it does to hold on to that thesis and attempt to explain the fact of so many persons coming to different interpretations, by positing that everyone who comes to a non-Reformed interpretation must be blinded by sin.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  60. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Andrew,re 47

    Not that you don’t know this, but it is thought that there is no epistemic peer to the papacy, so if one hitches his wagon to it, then he’s in good company. It’s not always voiced that way but that’s the bottom line. It’s gnostic man.

    Ron – Yes, it’s what I call the “we have Peter as our Father” argument which apparently exempts the faithful RC (those that side with the way the current RC Magisterium look at things) from the same kinds of epidemiological pitfalls that plague everyone else. Apparently once this dispensation is granted it is then the job of the philosophically orientated RC apologist to find the epistemic silver bullet that will kill the ugly Protestant beast. But while some of this sort of analysis of philosophical assumptions can be valuable, so much of this kind of thing detracts serious debate away from matters that ought to be debated between Catholic and Protestant.

    Paul M – Thanks for all of your commentary on the nature of disagreement. An interesting and convoluted subject no doubt….

  61. TurretinFan said,

    August 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Bryan:

    Re: #37.

    a) As Ron already noted, I carefully worded my example, “Even if the fair roulette wheel yields 99 …” Whether the casino owner is crooked or not, 99 odds (or evens) in a row is a possible outcome of a fair wheel. It’s a very improbable outcome of such a wheel.

    b) It would be a stupid casino owner (not a crooked one) who would rig a roulette wheel to always come up odd. After all, after enough “odd” results, a lot of folks might assume that the wheel is not “fair” and might take advantage of the wheel’s weakness. Furthermore, a casino owner should expect that every possible bet may be made it

    c) Since you offer me a word of advice, I offer you a word of advice: don’t gamble.

    d) Leaving aside the gambler’s fallacy problem of your analogy, the ways in which your military example are non-analogous are almost too many to mention. But because you have failed to address some of them as applied above, let me reiterate two:

    1) Even the less clear parts of Scripture are not normally capable of being reasonably interpreted anything approaching 100 different ways.

    2) Our confidence that our position is right may be influenced by the counsel of our Christian brethren, but doesn’t subsist in a statistical analysis of the positions of true Christians.

    -TurretinFan

  62. TurretinFan said,

    August 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Bryan wrote: “And positing that everyone who comes to non-Reformed conclusion is doing so because of sin in their heart, or because God must have chosen to leave them in the dark of non-illumination, is, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest (for the reasons I explained in earlier comments in this thread.) ”

    Bryan himself must be starting to recognize that he’s losing the debate, now that he’s resorting to accusations of “intellectual dishonesty” backed up by vague handwaving.

    -TurretinFan

  63. Reed Here said,

    August 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Bryan: when you say,

    “So when I say (in comment #40) “without independent evidence for Reformed epistemic superiority, and with independent evidence of non-Reformed epistemic parity,” I mean that we don’t find the preponderance of intelligent, well-educated, well-read persons who study the Bible are Reformed. What we do find are intelligent, well-read, well-educated persons informed in the biblical languages and biblical history, in almost all the different Christian traditions. …”

    I can’t help but think of verses like Rom 1:22; 1Co 1:19-21 and 3:18-19.

    Rather than taking comfort percentages, worldly majorities, such verses cause me to look with a skeptical eye at appeals based on such worldly measurements. Your whole line of argument here is based on such worldly premises. I’d be worried if I were you.

  64. Bryan Cross said,

    August 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Reed,

    A cult leader could appeal to the same set of verses and use the same argument you offer, in response to a cult member who is questioning the orthodoxy of the cult. Imagine something like this: “Don’t look out there in the world, boy, at all those folks who interpret the Bible differently. That’s a worldly way of thinking. Just keep on interpreting the Bible the way we interpret the Bible; that is part of what it means to abide in the wisdom from above.” That’s one reason, in fact, that Mormon missionaries are typically not allowed to read anti-Mormon literature, either books or online.

    I see no a priori reason why we should assume that it is contrary to the wisdom of God to hold up theological presuppositions (i.e. “the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians”) to empirical scrutiny. So, I don’t see any non-question-begging reason to believe that those verses forbid evaluating that theological presupposition by way of empirical observation. Co-opting divine wisdom as though it forbids holding up one’s presuppositions to empirical examination seems manipulative, in my opinion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  65. Ron said,

    August 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    But, when the claim that the Bible objectively and clearly addresses the questions that divide Christians is combined with the fact that many other equally intelligent and equally well-trained persons come to division-requiring interpretations of the Bible, then this is a problem for the thesis.

    Claim: The Bible clearly teaches the Reformed doctrine of election and those who disagree with the doctrine do so because of sin.

    Bryan finds that claim incredible and he thinks that is more reasonable that Reformed folk follow the masses rather than stick to their beliefs (as if that’s available to them). Yet unless I’ve missed it, Bryan has avoided answering the question of whether one would be wiser to follow the pack than to go with the understanding that God has granted. That question has particular relevance to the truthfulness of Unconditional Election. Should the Calvinist follow the masses, or should he go with the understanding that God has granted? The reason Bryan won’t address the question is probably because he would incriminate himself if he does. If he says that one should follow men rather than God, he’s shown to be an unbeliever, or worse. If he says that one cannot learn from God, then he undermines any lip service he might give to the profitability of private Scripture reading. Rather than do any of those things, Bryan is left simply to create doubt for those who cannot navigate through the confusion he creates.

    Now to our feature presentation… The apostle Paul makes it clear by his rebuke of the gainsayer in Romans nine that the disagreement over the Reformed doctrine of Unconditional Election is not matter of intellect or theological training, but rather an ethical matter. It’s a matter of sin. In fact, the sin is so severe that created vessels can even talk back to God in their rebellious challenge of the doctrine. (Romans 9:20) Yet Bryan would have us believe that the disagreement is not really a matter of sin, and that the doctrine must not be plainly taught in Scripture because so many people disagree. Yet the rebuke the apostle Paul issues in Romans nine is not consistent with a doctrine that is not plainly taught in Scripture. In fact, the rebuke comes after he has plainly taught the doctrine – hence the rebuke! Secondly, how can one be wrong on a doctrine apart from sin? Could one have been wrong on doctrine prior to the fall?

    Bryan believes that we need an infallible magisterium to decide for us which doctrines we’re to believe. He has tried to create the need for the magisterium by trying to create doubt over what can be known. (I vaguely remember someone else doing that in Genesis 3.) Yet the basis upon which he has tried to create this doubt and thereby the “need” is by pointing to disagreement among “epistemic peers.” Aside from all the holes that have been poked in his Sextus polemic, Bryan doesn’t live up to his own philosophical strictures for the Christian masses reject Bryan’s view of apostolic succession. Are we to believe that Protestants are not epistemic peers with Romanists? Or are we to believe that they are and that is why we need the “Supreme Pontiff”?

  66. Reed Here said,

    August 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Bryan: mine was not an argument saying being a minority favors one’s claims to truth. Instead it was an argument against claiming that being a minority detracts from one’s claim to truth, i.e., your argument.

    You make an empirical based argument that goes against the very grain of Scripture. Following the Bible, applying your empirical model, it is more likely that a minority is right than a majority. Observing that another wrong minority can use the same argument does not invalidate this point.

  67. TurretinFan said,

    August 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    There’s another reason that Bryan’s appeal to the Mormons (I think he may have in mind the JWs, who are much more rigid about not reading external materials) is bogus. Mormons and JWs are – like Rome – ultrasectarian. They are the one true church.

    We are not ultrasectarians, but the inheritors of the catholic faith (that’s one reason that Rome’s communion referring to itself and itself alone as “the Catholic church” is so offensive).

    Thus, while we reasonably believe we are right about our doctrinal distinctives – even those that divide us from our believing brethren – we don’t feel the need to say that the distinctives that go beyond the gospel are points where Scripture is so clear that no believer with the Holy Spirit cannot see the truth of the matter.

    Were we to be ultrasectarians, perhaps we would have to say something like that, but we are not.

    Nevertheless, we can still affirm that the Scriptures teach that a principle cause of divisions among Christians is sin and the flesh. Moreover, we can also affirm that God gives a greater gifts and a greater measure of light to some than to others. None of this forces us to refuse to consider what other Christians have to say.

    -TurretinFan

  68. TurretinFan said,

    August 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Reed:

    I think you left a “not” out of your final sentence. And with that “not,” you are correct. Let me take it a step further.

    A) Bryan makes an empirical argument.

    B) You shoot it down with a Scriptural-empirical rebuttal.

    C) Bryan claims that a heterodox person could shoot down his argument the same way.

    D) But the fact that Bryan’s empirical approach is so flawed that it can be defeated both by an orthodox critic and by a cultic, heterodox critic using the same argument does not strengthen Bryan’s approach – it shows how weak that approach is.

    It’s one reason that while we do take into consideration what other Christians believe (and while we believe that there is wisdom in seeking consensus among our Christian brethren), we make our rule of faith the Word of God, not the votes of the men we know.

    -TurretinFan

  69. Bryan Cross said,

    August 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Reed,

    You lost me in two places. You claim that my empirical based argument goes against the grain of Scripture. How does my argument (I assume you mean the one in #40) “go against the very grain of Scripture”?

    Also, you say, “Following the Bible, applying your empirical model, it is more likely that a minority is right than a majority.” How did you get that out of anything I have written?

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  70. Reed Here said,

    August 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Bryan: see the verses I referenced. A denial based on minority status goes against these verses.

    What I meant was, even if we apply an empirical based argument, as you do, the Scriptures argue that the truth is more likely to be found in a minority than a majority. I.O.W., this is not a conclusion from what you’ve argued, but a conclusion following your method of argumentation, but letting the Scripture correct our premises.

  71. Bryan Cross said,

    August 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Reed,

    In my understanding, the persons being referred to as fools in Rom 1:22, and 1 Cor. 1:19-21 are non-Christians. And the contrast in 1 Cor 3:18-19 is between the wisdom of the world (which refers at least to non-Christians), and the wisdom of God. These passages don’t say anything about majorities or minorities. They say that the wisdom of the world is foolishness compared to the wisdom of God.

    So those verses don’t seem to be relevant to the question whether or not only a small percentage of all Christians will have the right understanding of Scripture. They seem not to be relevant to that question because they don’t give any information about percentages or ratios at all, let alone what percentage of Christians will have the right understanding of Scripture. The contrast in those passages is between the world and the Christians, not between the Christians who rightly understand Scripture, and the hermeneutically benighted Christians.

    So the passages do not even seem to be relevant to my argument, let alone justify the claim that my argument “goes against the grain of Scripture.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  72. Reed Here said,

    August 7, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Bryan: wisdom of the world = a majority.

    This is your argument: the more who hold an an opinion the more likely it is true. This is an example of worldly thinking. I.e., wisdom of the world.

  73. Ron said,

    August 7, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Bryan,

    If God has granted a Christian the understanding that Romans nine teaches the Reformed doctrine of election what would you recommend he do, doubt? Go with the masses? Question God? Trust the Roman pontiff? What does the Satan recommend a Christian does when we has heard from God? Doubt? Go with the masses? Question God? Trust the Roman pontiff? You can draw your own conclusions.

  74. Dozie said,

    August 7, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    “If God has granted a Christian the understanding that Romans nine teaches the Reformed doctrine of election what would you recommend he do, doubt?”

    Your question demonstrates the need for a catholic teaching office as the individual Christian (alone or with similar minded cohort) cannot be the final authority regarding what he must believe as a Christian.

    And, if a Catholic asks:

    If God has granted a Christian the understanding that the bible teaches that the papacy was instituted by God as a necessary structure of governance in His Church “what would you recommend he do”, doubt and scoff?

  75. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    August 8, 2011 at 6:04 am

    “And, if a Catholic asks:

    If God has granted a Christian the understanding that the bible teaches that the papacy was instituted by God as a necessary structure of governance in His Church “what would you recommend he do”, doubt and scoff?”

    Your question demonstrates the need for this Catholic to become a Christian as this individual Catholic (alone or with similar minded cohort) cannot be the final authority regarding what he must believe as a Catholic.

  76. Ron said,

    August 8, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Ron asked: “If God has granted a Christian the understanding that Romans nine teaches the Reformed doctrine of election what would you recommend he do, doubt?”

    Dozie Responded: Your question demonstrates the need for a catholic teaching office as the individual Christian (alone or with similar minded cohort) cannot be the final authority regarding what he must believe as a Christian.

    Dozie,

    You like Bryan will not answer the question as asked because any answer incriminates you. Either your answer would imply that we’re to disobey God and go with the masses, which is sin, or we’re to follow God and not go with the masses, in which case Bryan’s new (for him) disagreement polemic fails.

    Dozie also wrote: If God has granted a Christian the understanding that the bible teaches that the papacy was instituted by God as a necessary structure of governance in His Church “what would you recommend he do”, doubt and scoff?

    That’s an easy one, Dozie. I’d recommend he submit to the revelation and go against the masses. The only questions are whether such a revelation exist? Where is to be found? Does it contradict Scripture? I know where Romans nine is to be found and we can discuss the Scriptures on that matter, as Jason noted earlier.

  77. Tim Harris said,

    August 8, 2011 at 8:33 am

    John Robbins alerted us to the danger of taking a sociological view of Christianity, that is, defining it as something “Christians believe” as if the set containing “Christians” is known prior to knowledge of what the Bible teaches.
    There is certainly a kind of validity in the sociological definition, since we can study institutions that have continuity through history.
    Nevertheless, in terms of the gospel, we must define Christianity and thus “the church” as “that which conforms to the teaching of the Bible,” not, “we believe the Bible teaches what the church (or even ‘Christianity’) says.”
    Thus, Romanism is “Christianity” in the sociological/historical sense, yet we must also be willing to bite the bullet and say that it is not Christian and not the church, in view of its authoritative rejection of the gospel.
    All the branches of Protestantism (and, I think, the anabaptists) agree on justification by the merits of Christ, appropriated by faith alone. Moreover, this summary has at least never been DENIED by the eastern Orthodox.
    So, there is not this dizzying array of opinions out there on the most essential thing.

  78. Dozie said,

    August 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Ron:

    I noticed you did not really object to my assertion that the individual “cannot be the final authority regarding what he must believe as a Christian”.

    “I’d recommend he submit to the revelation and go against the masses. The only questions are whether such a revelation exist? ”

    The Christian, if he is one, must ask, “what is revelation and why should I trust your testimony of whatever you say it is? And, where did you, Ron, get your information on what revelation is or consists of?”

  79. Ron said,

    August 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Dozie,

    Bryan came over with a new toy and he was showed rather quickly that his toy was defective. He then played the “Paul, you’re not nice” card and left with his tail between his legs. Now you’ve come over and stepped in the same pile of dung as he.

    If you say we ought to follow the masses rather than God’s voice, then you show yourself to be an infidel. If you deny that individuals can hear God’s voice, then the masses that are made up of individuals are just blind leaders of blind men and, therefore, not worth following.

    Now you would like to switch the discussion yet without living up to your own strictures. After all, how am I more of a final authority when I submit to Christ’s voice than you are when you submit to the pope’s voice? We’re both in submission to someone, and we’re both exercising our wills in the process. When Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice and follow him, did he mean that those who follow him according to their own wills are becoming their own authority in the process? Certainly not. Therefore, why can’t I follow Christ’s voice without being my own authority? I’m a sheep, so I hear Christ’s voice and I follow him. It’s really that simple. It’s irrelevant how we received the canon, for no matter how you think we received it – it’s been received(!) and, therefore, by your own admission we must have Christ’s voice!

    I could only wish that you’d quit following a hireling and actually tune your ear to Christ. Trust me, when you stand before Christ at the final judgment, you’ll wish you had trusted him and not a pope who will not be able to come to your rescue.

  80. Dozie said,

    August 8, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    “Bryan came over with a new toy and he was showed rather quickly that his toy was defective. He then played the “Paul, you’re not nice” card and left with his tail between his legs”.

    Ron:

    When a mother makes a bad meal, she may end up eating most of it just to convince her family it is not so bad. I think you are eating too much of your bad meal. I have read the entire entries on this thread and I nowhere got the sense that Bryan could not hold a reasonable position.
    As a matter of class, he clearly made better and decent arguments than anyone on the Protestant side.
    That said; when I ask you a simple question you respond with a non-answer. I will attempt once more to rephrase part of the questions: “what is revelation and why should anyone trust your testimony on whatever you say revelation is? And, where did you, Ron, get your information on what revelation is or consists of?”

    Note that I do not pretend that these are sophisticated questions but I hope that in attempting to formulate an honest answer you will be able to get a faint idea of the emptiness of your belief system.

    On another note, I have just finished listening to Bart Ehrman’s engagement with Darrell Bock on the Unbelievable website. Bart Ehrman contends that the Apostle Peter, for example did not write any of the epistles attributed to him. Darrell Bock also agreed with Dr. Ehrman that most evangelical scholars believe that St. Peter did not write all the epistles that bear his name. If in reality one of the books that bear Peter’s name was written by say, the apostle’s wife, would this fact affect a Protestant’s confidence in his book-based religious system? If not, what sorts of arguments can individualistic Protestants make to say it does not matter who wrote any of the books of Peter/bible? Of course, you can turn around and ask the same question of a Catholic but I can assure you that a Catholic should be able to answer more confidently and without injury to his Catholic faith than an individualistic Protestant will be able to assert.

  81. Ron said,

    August 8, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    “what is revelation and why should anyone trust your testimony on whatever you say revelation is? And, where did you, Ron, get your information on what revelation is or consists of?”

    Dozie,

    You’re not interesting in debate. You’re interested in avoiding the subject, but I’ll play along for a while.

    Revelation is primarily God’s disclosure of (i) himself and (i) his works (creation and redemptive history). Secondly, revelation is God’s disclosure of what he requires of man.

    Through God’s revelation I came to know what constitutes revelation, which has been shown to you here and here, yet for some reason you didn’t accept the challenge then, so I have little expectation that you’re inclined to discuss matters now.

    As I’ve written elsewhere: Jesus promised to build his church. (Matt. 16:18) Jesus also told his apostles that those who received them received Him. (Matt. 10:40) The implication is that the building project of the Lord was to be founded upon the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone. (Eph. 2:20) Consequently, the words of the apostles and Christ had to be received without error because Jesus promised to build his church upon them. The apostolic tradition was both oral and written (II Thess. 2:15) but only the written apostolic tradition has been providentially preserved. Accordingly, Scripture alone is what the church is to be built upon, which must have been God’s intention since Scripture alone is all he left us in keeping with Christ Jesus’ promise to build his church.

    This simple argument has recently been met by Romanists from “Called to Communion” with resistance for two primary reasons. The claim is that the apostolic office in view in Ephesians 2:20 includes both the perpetual seat of the papacy and the oral tradition of the church. Let’s assume then that the unwritten tradition still exists even though it has never been produced. Jesus promised to build his church and we’ll say that he promised to build it upon both Scripture and unwritten tradition. (I of course would say that if Jesus promised to build his church on the unwritten tradition then he failed since there is no preserved unwritten tradition that the church has been built upon; yet for argument sake let’s assume the tradition is intact.) Whether we have the unwritten tradition or not has zero impact on the argument from “intent and providence” for the reception of the written tradition. Any preservation of the unwritten tradition does not undermine the reception of the written tradition. Now in a last ditch desperation Romanists will resort to saying that the texts in view are not just speaking about the teachings of Christ and his apostles (even oral traditions) as being the foundation of the church, but rather the texts mean that we are to receive for the foundation of the church the teachings of their alleged successors (the popes) both written and oral. In passing I’ll note that to have to receive the teaching of a pope 2,000 years after the teachings of the apostles and Christ would clearly deny the import of “foundation of the church.” But aside from the obvious, even if we grant the point, the reception of the written tradition through divine intent and providence is not affected by the Gnostic “exegesis” of Ephesians 2:20 regarding popes because a papal apostolic succession and the reception of the canon are not mutually exclusive premises. To “refute”” the Protestant position on the canon in a non-arbitrary, non-ad hoc fashion the Roman apologist will have to deny that Jesus had any intent whatsoever for the church to be at least partially built upon his written words and the written words of the apostles. To introduce Gnostic dogmas regarding unwritten traditions and the succession of bishops is simply to throw up Red Herrings in a sophist manner.

    In sum, the Roman apologist needs to avoid the divine intent at all cost; for as soon as he acknowledges Christ Jesus’ intent to build His church “at least in part” on Scripture, he is then constrained to show why God’s intent could not have come to pass without an infallible magisterium (according to the same divine providence by which the rest of the eternal decree comes to pass). Since Romanists cannot possibly succeed in showing that God could not bring to pass the reception of the canon without an infallible magisterium, they are left no other choice (short of becoming Protestant on this matter) than to bring into question the divine intent. The Romanist does this through arguing by false-disjunction, introducing non-mutually exclusive premises to the promise of building the church “at least in part” on the canon; these Red Herring premises are the intent (a) to bring to pass the reception of the apostolic oral tradition, and (b) of establishing a succession of infallible bishops, neither of which undermine the divine intent to bring to pass the reception of the canon for the establishment of the NT church. Yet even allowing for those unjustified premises, the Romanist still cannot with any valid argumentation undermine the divine intent, which presuppose the necessity of bringing to pass the reception of the canon. They with the Satan can only say, “Has God said?”

  82. Ron said,

    August 9, 2011 at 12:04 am

    “what is revelation and why should anyone trust your testimony on whatever you say revelation is? And, where did you, Ron, get your information on what revelation is or consists of?”

    I explained what Revelation is and I explained where I got my information. Of course you won’t interact with what I’ve said. Actually, I have little hope that you’d be able to articulate my position back to me to my satisfaction. In any case, as for why anyone should trust my testimony – again, you toss me an easy question like before. They shouldn’t trust me, Dozie. That you would ask such a question simply shows that you have yet to begin to grasp that God speaks through the pages of Scripture and if we’re to know what he says, then he must apply His word to our minds. Flesh and blood doesn’t reveal these things, yet you think God requires the mediation of the church in order to communicate to his people, which isn’t an affirmation that God speaks to his people but the very denial of that gospel tenet. Dozie, you are simply too frightened to get alone with God and to learn from him. Do you see where your communion has led you? Do you see where Bryan Cross is happy to see you go? Your hope is any things other than Christ alone.

  83. Ron said,

    August 9, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Mods,

    I would ask you to read this thread carefully and see how the Romanists once again refuse to interact.

  84. Reed Here said,

    August 9, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Ron: yes, it is seen. A stark contrast has been presented between those who seek truth via the Spirit’s illumination and those who seek it via Man’s declaration.

    In a weird way we owe some thanks to these RCC men. At least they are presenting clear evidence of the nature of the apostacy of the RCC. (For the exclamation point, everyone break out into a brief rendition of Tevia’s “Tradition!”)

    I might add that in addition to refusing to interact, it is also possible that they just don’t get it. Without illumination, they are blind. E.g., Dozie continued to respond to you from the basis of his own presupposition, namely that there has to be a “man” somewhere who is our source of authority. This is consistent with the rest of the RCC apologists’ refusing inability to understand the doctrine of illumination.

  85. Ron said,

    August 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Reed,

    Yes, indeed. This verse comes to mind from what you said.

    “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:1-6

  86. rfwhite said,

    August 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Ron, Reed, et al.:

    Having watched or participated in a few of these exchanges, it looks to me that they often break down over the questions of whether and how, in this age, God gives relief from subjectivity in the interpretation of His Word. (It’s not that this wording offers any great insight; it just helps me navigate the verbiage and rhetoric.) Yes, there are other questions embedded in that wording, such as whether the sinfulness of Bible interpreters sufficiently explains their divisions. Even if we concede that sinfulness is not the whole story behind disagreement, there is still the question of whether and how God gives relief from the subjectivity that breeds such division: if he gives relief, does he do it immediately, or mediately, or both? Moreover, what is the nature and effect of the relief that he gives in this age as distinct from the age to come? Interestingly, most of the NT documents reflect apostolic efforts to facilitate unity from a range of doctrinal divisions, thus harking back to the burden of the texts that Lane mentions.

  87. Ron said,

    August 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    “Yes, there are other questions embedded in that wording, such as whether the sinfulness of Bible interpreters sufficiently explains their divisions.”

    RFWhite,

    I’m not quite certain I am grasping the point, but let me offer that the sinfulness of Bible interpreters certainly doesn’t exhaustively explain their disagreements, but sin is the root cause. The sin could simply be due to the noetic effects of the fall or a matter of pride that resides in the sanctified, yet without it being devious sin, let alone utterly wicked or satanic. Again though, I’m not sure I’m tracking, but I’m sure we Reformed brothers would agree with each other given a clear definition of terms, which I have no doubt you have put forth but my fallenness is getting in the way. :)

  88. rfwhite said,

    August 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    87 Ron:

    I should have filled in the blank with what I had in mind. What I meant was that it seems to me that disagreement occurs because we are finite as well as because we are fallen.

  89. Ron said,

    August 9, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Hmmm, I’d have to ponder that one. My initial reaction is that our finitude is not what causes disagreement, though it can cause our inability to agree and thereby our lack of agreement. My belief is that prior to the fall if one were not to agree with another there would be no disagreement. When there would be no agreement, at least one party in his finitude would operate from a posture of “I don’t know.” In other words, I would think that apart from sin, man would know his limitations, leaving no occasion for disagreement, which again is not to say that people would agree.

  90. Ron said,

    August 9, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Of course you might be using disagreement in such a way as to include no agreement. :)

  91. rfwhite said,

    August 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    89-90 Ron:

    Actually, as I wrote 88, it occurred to me that “disagreement” due to finiteness may differ from “disagreement” due to fallenness.

  92. Dozie said,

    August 9, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Ron:

    Once again you expose the Protestant mind which, to put it lightly, is incredibly scandalous. I am not going to waste your time or mine, but I can tell you that the only thing I find significant about your response is the liberty you take in making reckless and outlandish assertions, almost on every paragraph. If this is the Protestant mind you exhibit, frankly it is frightening and it is not worth interacting with. Perhaps this is why the present pope has almost entirely avoided interactions with members of your religion.

    You declare: “through God’s revelation I came to know what constitutes revelation…”

    I am simply hoping you did not intend to make sense out this statement. If you did, you display a lot of poverty – poverty of a religious system. You are very shy to say how revelation came to you and that says a lot about your lack of confidence in the system you have embraced.

    Next you assert: “Consequently, the words of the apostles and Christ had to be received without error because Jesus promised to build his church upon them.”

    Well, I can charitably inform you that this is not a very careful claim, even if you mean well.

    “The apostolic tradition was both oral and written (II Thess. 2:15) but only the written apostolic tradition has been providentially preserved.”

    How did you come to this irrational and unsupportable claim and to what would you appeal to support your claim?

    “ Accordingly, Scripture alone is what the church is to be built upon, which must have been God’s intention since Scripture alone is all he left us in keeping with Christ Jesus’ promise to build his church.”

    You must know that you will not be able to say when and where Scripture alone was left for you. Perhaps you mean something else but this is another example of your reckless use of words. You throw words together simply because you feel you have the authority to do so, just as you do with the word of God. You really have to reason as you write.

    I must point out also that another interesting thing from your response is the clear indication that you, Ron, do not understand the Catholic objection to Protestantism. As far as this Catholic is concerned, the Protestant has no contact with Christ, or Christianity, or the Apostles until he has made contact with the Church of Christ (he who hears you, hears me and he who rejects you, rejects me). The bible is not God’s personal letter to Ron, it is God’s word to his Church. The bible is also a living oral Tradition.

    You state: “Let’s assume then that the unwritten tradition still exists even though it has never been produced”.

    Well I am glad you are less dogmatic on this point as you are throughout your post. For the Catholic, oral tradition permeates the Church’s life. In a real sense, as I state above, the written tradition is a product of oral tradition so that when you ask where oral tradition can be found, one can rightly hold up the bible as evidence of it. You quote Matthew but you cannot say that God told you that Matthew wrote the book of Matthew; you learned that from Tradition.

    I suppose the sad thing about the whole Protestant project is the desire and ability of individuals and groups to dispense with common sense at every opportune time. The claim is made that God or Jesus left them the bible but where in the world did he do that? How many copies did he leave behind? In reality, the bible that Ron has in his hand came via the Catholic Church, to whom the word of God is entrusted. The Church of Christ was not built on scripture but on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with the “Word” as the cornerstone. Christ did not make writing scriputure a priority as he made oral teaching and preaching. Any other contrary story teller is of the devil.

    Elsewhere, Ron gets confused about the written word of God. He asserts: “… God speaks through the pages of Scripture and if we’re to know what he says, then he must apply His word to our minds”.

    The Protestant must know that the bible is first and foremost a document of the Church before it can be appropriated by the individual. The bible is to be read within the Church (with the mind of the Church) and not to be left with minds as reckless as has been displayed. Not all who read the bible read it with benefit, some in fact read it to their destruction, whatever their intent may be. Finally, Ron assumes the pontificate of one but he is far from Christianity and far from the “intent” of God. If he has a sober mind, he must know this, his posturing and his “educated” guesses notwithstanding.

  93. Andrew McCallum said,

    August 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    rfwhite (re: 86),

    Having watched or participated in a few of these exchanges, it looks to me that they often break down over the questions of whether and how, in this age, God gives relief from subjectivity in the interpretation of His Word.

    Yes, that is a good insight and certainly agrees with the experience I have had. It’s this issue of avoiding the subjectivity that the Roman Catholics perceive to be in Protestantism that is often a significant force in driving them to Roman Catholicism, or keeping them there. The RC’s have no confidence that the Scriptures can be interpreted by the means defined in Scripture without devolving into radical subjectivity. This always turns out to be a long and convoluted topic but still one that I think would be a great one for this blog (what do you think Mr. Moderator?)

  94. bsuden said,

    August 10, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Well, the question I would have dozie, is just how do you know that you have the right magisterium in the first place. Yeah, I know the one you claim is the true magisterium, itself claims to be the true magisterium, but that really doesn’t answer the question.

    IOW all you, Bryan and the rest of the Called to Confusion crowd amply demonstrate in spades and aces is that you are skeptics of the eeny, meeny, miney, moe variety. Faith in your magisterium is OK for you, but not faith in Scripture on the part of those of us who are reformed catholics. Hint: A little more equal opportunity skepticism would demonstrate the proper facade of (deceitful) humility and possibly win over the sophmores in your audience.

    (As for “he who hears you hears me”, it was spoken to the apostles. Who died over 2000 years ago. How that morphs into carte blanche for romanists to thump protestants into ecclesiastical submission is beyond rational explanation. Neither will voluminous irrelevant quotations of ECFs over at CtC in their newest article suffice to obscure the matter so that we may implicitly believe it.)

    Neither did Bryan care to discuss John 6:65,6 in regard to numerical majorities.

    When Christ said: “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father”, from that time forth many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

    Contra the wisdom of the world and academic degrees, it’s not about counting noses and philosophy phds. It’s about the will of God and his sovereign power and choice as to who shall be saved. That the natural man is responsible for his sin, does not mean that he is able to repent of it and believe in Christ. Rome nevertheless, touts the spiritual ability of man’s free will to at least cooperate with God in salvation.

    Regardless, Isaiah 6:10 says:

     Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

  95. bsuden said,

    August 10, 2011 at 1:35 am

    The bible is to be read within the Church (with the mind of the Church) and not to be left with minds as reckless as has been displayed. Not all who read the bible read it with benefit, some in fact read it to their destruction, whatever their intent may be. Finally, Ron assumes the pontificate of one but he is far from Christianity and far from the “intent” of God. If he has a sober mind, he must know this, his posturing and his “educated” guesses notwithstanding.

    Ah yes. I forgot. “The” Church.
    Well it has decided, dozie. In 1647.

    WCF I:VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16): yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Psalm 119:105,130).

    Somebody needs to tolle, lege. Pick up and read.
    We are not anabaptist anarchists here, but again reformed catholics.

  96. Ron said,

    August 10, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Dozie,

    I rest my case.

  97. Ron said,

    August 10, 2011 at 3:20 am

    91 – Wonderful! :)

  98. John said,

    August 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    TurretinFan, Ron and Paul,

    Great job addressing and demolishing Bryan and Dozie.

  99. Dozie said,

    August 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    “I rest my case”.

    Enjoy your rest and while at it, watch “scripture only”/evangelical meltdown (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/138957812/evangelicals-question-the-existence-of-adam-and-eve).

  100. Reed Here said,

    August 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Dozie: like the RCC doesn’t have the same issues alive in her communion. Seriously, deal with the topic at hand. Cheap shots are rather telling of a weak position.

    You should try and leave that cheap shotgun you carry around above the fireplace at home. It only does you harm.

  101. TurretinFan said,

    August 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Christoph Cardinal Schönborn reports (approvingly – see the first link):

    In 1985, a symposium took place in Rome under the title “Christian Faith and the Theory of Evolution.” I had the privilege of taking part in it and contributed a paper. Then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, presided, and, at its conclusion, Pope John Paul II received us in an audience. There he said: “Rightly comprehended, faith in creation or a correctly understood teaching of evolution does not create obstacles: Evolution in fact presupposes creation; creation situates itself in the light of evolution as an event which extends itself through time — as a continual creation — in which God becomes visible to the eyes of the believer as ‘creator of heaven and earth.’”

    Some supposed “meltdown” on NPR is very much the mote in the eye of evangelicals, to the plank in the eye of those in the Roman communion when it comes to the heresy of theistic evolutionism. In the Roman communion it is more or less endorsed at the highest level.

    Meanwhile, of course, there is not a word of official dogma to infallibly define the matter from the supposed see of Peter. Why not? If they infallibly define evolution to be true, they will contradict the unanimous consent of the fathers. If they infallibly define evolution to be false, they condemn themselves.

    -TurretinFan

  102. Reed Here said,

    August 12, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Dozie: I pulled your last comment because you are abusing your privileges here. I let pass your first completely off topic comment with the embedded link. It sadly confirms Ron’s complaint that you won’t (can’t?) deal with the subject at hand.

    This second is simply ruder behavior. Talk about the topic of the post or do not post. Thanks!

  103. TurretinFan said,

    August 15, 2011 at 6:30 am

    “Bryan came over with a new toy and he was showed rather quickly that his toy was defective.”

    In one sense it was a new toy, but in another sense it was the same thing we always see from Rome’s advocates and other cultists. They all want us to doubt the sufficiency of Scripture, so that they can make room for the papacy, of for Mohamed, or Joseph Smith, etc.

    But the Scriptures are able to make one wise to salvation and are able to thoroughly equip the man of God. Their sufficiency ought not to be denied or questioned, though we are ready to give an answer to those who do.

    -TurretinFan

  104. TurretinFan said,

    August 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

    I see that Paul already responded to “When an “x or ~x” premise is objected to as “needing work,” then I don’t think further discussion would be fruitful. But thanks for discussing this with me.”

    Either Bryan will apologize for his mistake, or he will not apologize for his mistake. (of course, he might think that this premise needs work, inasmuch as he does not admit he made a mistake … but that would seem to lead to him running into his own argument)

  105. Reed Here said,

    August 15, 2011 at 8:06 am

    TFan, no. 103: nail, hammer, WHACK! In one blow – good job.

  106. August 15, 2011 at 9:01 am

    re: 103, yes I agree. It was new for Bryan because in the past he has tried to create doubt in other ways than employing a 2,000 year old technique.

  107. Mark said,

    August 15, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks everyone for the very interesting discussion. From my layman’s read, I think rfwhite in #86 and A. McCallum in #93 get at the fundamental problem being discussed, which remains unsolved. Even if we agree that sin is the ultimate cause of disagreement among Christians, I don’t see how acknowledging this helps us avoid the problem of “subjectivity” because obviously one cannot know if his own sin is greater than that of one with whom he disagrees.

    I have a reformed Presbyterian friend who is wrestling with confessional Lutheran (specifically, Missouri Synod Lutheran) views of baptism, eternal security (namely, the lack thereof), and the real physical presence of Christ in communion, among other things. We have had some interesting discussions. I can tell her that to resolve these questions she needs to be one of Christ’s children (she believes she is and no one I know has ever expressed doubt about this). She needs to study the Bible, church history, and theology with at least a working knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and German. And I can tell her she needs to pray fervently and seek to grow in holiness. However, she can point to people on both sides of these issues who are doing and/or have done all of these things, but still do not agree and do not commune with one another. Like Bryan’s soldier story, why should she believe that by doing these things she will reach objective truth and not just a subjective opinion? I think that’s a fair question. We aren’t dealing with matters of math or physical science. Nor are we saying that matters of faith are against reason. But, Ron seems to suggest that we can know we have God’s truth on these essential matters and I would like to know how.

    My friend and I both believe that God wants his children to have a reliable way to identify orthodoxy from heresy on the essentials. I doubt that anyone here would contend that the nature of baptism, communion, and eternal security are not essential matters of the faith. Both sides may hold that those on the other side can be true Christians who will be in heaven, but obviously there is danger in believing and living according to an incorrect view of how one (and one’s children) receives salvation and whether or not it can be lost.

    In 33, Pastor Stellman suggests that it should be enough to open the Bible and study in order to discern among differing opinions. After centuries of disagreement and no apparent signs that Christians of outstanding intelligence and good-will (including those of us who believe in the sufficiency of Scripture) are coming closer to one another theologically, what ground is there for a Christian to believe that such effort would yield any greater objectivity?

    Maybe we are guilty of inordinate skepticism. We think we are being honest, while we continue to pray to God for guidance.

    Any thoughts?

  108. brandonadams said,

    February 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I realize I’m very late to this, but I can’t find an answer to my question anywhere…

    The safeguards in the Confession are obvious: it has to be a “good” consequence, and it has to be a “necessary” consequence.

    Can you please explain the difference between these, and give examples of each? Can a consequence be one but not the other?

    Thanks!

  109. Cris Dickason said,

    February 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Brandon:
    Here’s a quick example off the top of my head:

    A good consequence: Look at what occurred in the earliest days of the Christian Church (in Jerusalem) in Acts 4:32-5:11: The believers (in Jerusalem) were giving up personal ownership & control of goods, committing them to the use of the fledgling Church. This was a good thing. But it was not a necessary thing.

    Looking at Acts, drawing on Acts with reference to contemporary ecclesiology, we can say for a congregation to have all things in common could be good, but it is not necessary.

    It is quite noticeable that this is never recorded as occurring in any other cities outside Jerusalem. It is noticeably absent for the instructions to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, and absent also from the Pastoral Epistles. Thus the conclusion that it is not necessary to the definition, function or life of a church. It was a “pre-deacon” response to a specific situation.

    The text of Acts makes it clear, holding goods in common was a good thing. Ananias & Sapphira ran afoul of thinking it a necessary thing, to which they could only give a false, outward conformity.

    This little book might be of service. I read a chunk of it while flying home from somewhere last summer, unpacked my bags and shelved it. Haven’t got back to it, but it should be useful.

    http://www.wtsbooks.com/product-exec/product_id/8507/nm/By+Good+and+Necessary+Consequence

    -=Cris=-

  110. brandonadams said,

    February 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks Cris. So would you say “good and necessary consequence” would mean the same thing as “good or necessary consequence” in the confession?

    Do you have any comment on Scott Oliphint’s bizarre interpretation here: http://www.reformation21.org/confession/2013/01/chapter-16.php

  111. Bob S said,

    February 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    108 Brandon,
    However disregarded or unknown today, there actually are objective rules for arguments or deciding what is a good and necessary consequence. Which is why one of the rules for the examination of ministers in the Directory for the same in the Westminster Assembly’s Form of Presbyterial Government reads:

    (2.) He shall be examined touching his skill in the original tongues, and his trial to be made by reading the Hebrew and Greek Testaments, and rendering some portion of some into Latin; and if he be defective in them, enquiry shall be made more strictly after his other learning, and whether he hath skill in logick and philosophy.

    Beside’s McGraw’s book, you could try Clark’s Logic for an introduction. Watts, Jevon, Joyce are other older authors.
    I would be interested to hear what others would recommend in print or on the web.

    Oliphant’s treatment is pretty light, but consider the venue. Personally I would question the proposition that “preaching is optional” is a necessary consequence of the doctrine of election.

  112. Cris Dickason said,

    February 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Brandon:

    The WCF has at I.6 “by good and necessary consequence”. (OPC edition) That’s what I’ll stick to. In a tightly technical way “good and necessary” is not the same thing as “good or necessary”. For example, confusing ANDs and ORs can be fatal in the world of software. In these discussions it is/was probably loose (para)phrasing.

    So, you put Scott Oliphint and “bizarre interpretation” in the same sentence! Not sure I should even go near this… I’ve known Scott Oliphint since before he was Dr. Oliphint: we were at the same church in WTS days and are both back in that same church these days.

    And further, to learn a bit about you, I click to your blog and see comments about T. David Gordon: another friend & former classmate. Dr. Gordon is, like Dr. Oliphint, head & shoulders above me. In T. David’s case it is intellectual only, as I’m a number of inches taller. I don’t share Dr. Gordon’s view of John Murray.

    Sorry to sound like a name-dropper, I’m just an old guy who’s been around for awhile (but I’m not calling Drs. Oliphint and Gordon old).

  113. brandonadams said,

    February 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the recommendation. I have Clark’s book. I understand that necessary consequence refers to logical deduction. I’m not looking for lessons on logic so much as I’m trying to get some consistent answers as to what “good consequence” refers to (or if it doesn’t refer to anything and it should be considered as one phrase “good and necessary”). Gillespie refers to necessary consequence in distinction from good consequences. Oliphint also distinguishes them and makes a rather bizarre claim that something can be necessary, but not good.

    Cris,

    I know AND and OR are two different things, that’s why I asked you about it. Your first answer implied that a good, but not necessary, consequence is sufficient for certain things.

    What I’m getting at is that if WCF 1.6 says that a consequence must be both good AND necessary, would you not achieve the same meaning by simply saying it must be necessary? Why the addition of “good”. What meaning does this additional word portray that necessary alone does not?

  114. Bob S said,

    February 25, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    113 Brandon,

    Just my opinion but I think it is redundant, a two witnesses sort of thing saying the same thing.

    Is there any real difference between the statutes, laws and commandments in Gen 26:5?

    cheers,

  115. Cris Dickason said,

    February 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Brandon
    >> I know AND and OR are two different things, that’s why I asked you about it. Your first answer implied that a good, but not necessary, consequence is sufficient for certain things.<<

    Well, sure. Think of WCF chapter 20: Of Christian Liberty and the Liberty of the Conscience. A Church and its session, or an individual believer, has the freedom to organize their life and actions, based on things that could be scripturally judged as "good." But these decisions, actions and policies may not also or always rise to the level of "necessary." Which means other believers or Churches are not bound to the same conclusion and practice or policy. Does the morning worship precede or follow Sunday School (organized instruction on the Lord's Days). In fact, is something like "Sunday School" a necessity for a biblical church polity?

    So, I am comfortable with this approach: from the more clear teachings of Scripture, that something can be good, but not necessary (universally required). If something can be determined from Scripture to be necessary, I would expect it would also be found to be a good thing. But we may need to adjust our attitudes to agree with or see the good.

    Now, how closely this fits within the spectrum of opinions of the Westminster Divines? Not sure, haven't done a historical survey.


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