And…And

De Chirico’s introduction does an excellent job of laying out the issues that he raises. The first question is the ecumenical one: what is the future of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics? He does not presume to answer the question, as too many things are still up in the air. The main thing that De Chirico raises in this regard is the Evangelical approach to Rome, which, in his view, has not typically resulted in understanding RC as a unified system.

A case in point is the Evangelical perplexity on how to interpret RC in the light of Vatican II. Does Vatican II signal a break with the past, or continuity? Of course, this question has been asked with vigor among Roman Catholics as well. De Chirico has the best analysis of this question of any that I’ve seen. He goes back to the principle of “et-et” (Latin for “both-and”). Robert Barron noted in his book on RC that they don’t throw anything away (meaning that anything that can be assimilated to the system is retained). De Chirico agrees and will eventually say that a new idea, which might at first seem antithetical to the system, is drawn into the system, with the “rough edges” taken off, so that it will fit. The RCC has been doing this for centuries. This means that Vatican II is ultimately in continuity with the church of the past, if one considers its results in the light of the “and…and” principle.

One can see this in his definition of what was perhaps the key-word of Vatican II: aggiornamento. Probably the best translation of this word is “renewal.” De Chirico says:

The word does not denote reformation in the Evangelical sense but neither is it a merely political and linguistic device aimed at concealing an unchanging reality. It is instead the Roman Catholic way of responding to the need for some kind of renewal without altering the fundamental structure inherited from the past and its non-negotiable thrust (p. 15).

The result of this insight is that the Evangelical viewpoint can be resolved on the ultimate relationship of Vatican II to the rest of the history of the RCC. It is continuous. However, it is not a static continuity. There were changes. The fundamental system did not change, but it was renewed. Vatican II must, therefore, be taken into account just as much as Trent and Vatican I must be taken into account.

Evangelicals, however, do not think in “et-et” categories, and so Vatican II completely perplexes them. Even David Wells was a bit perplexed at what Vatican II meant for our interpretation of RC. He asked the continuity question, but did not really answer it, instead opting for the “wait-and-see-what-happens” approach. This would certainly be wiser than imposing Evangelical exclusivism on what is usually regarded as an assimilative system. The problem comes when Evangelicals try to critique RC on a static understanding of RC. They wind up interpreting the “semper eadem” (“always the same”) without the assimilative element. This result in confusion and misinterpretation.

As was mentioned in the last post, De Chirico argues that there is a core to RC. He describes it in these words:

This core is a composite one and entails the ways in which the relationship between nature and grace are worked out and the Roman Catholic self-understanding of the Church which is the main subject of the system itself. The Roman Catholic system can be seen as emerging from the range of the nature-grace motifs which are allowed to coexist within it and serve to enrich it, and expressing itself in the paramount role of the church which is basically understood in Christological terms as the prolongation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ (p. 24).

Given this understanding of a systemic awareness based on this core, De Chirico argues that “Evangelical theology needs to reshape its own perspectives on Roman Catholicism according to a systemic view taking into account its historical trajectory, dogmatic structure, theological dynamics, institutional outlook, and cultural project” (p. 24). I would put it a slightly different way: the systemic awareness based on the core of the nature-grace dynamic and the Christological prolongation of the Incarnation of Christ in the church (this latter point especially will be carefully nuanced by De Chirico in future chapters) needs to be evaluated from a generalist perspective. That is, RC as a system needs to be evaluated from the perspective of a united theological encyclopedia (church history, exegesis, biblical theology, systematic theology, apologetics, and practical theology working not in competition, but in mutual inter-dependence). This is certainly a mountainous task, and it is the one I have set for myself. Please pray for me.

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49 Comments

  1. Bryan Cross said,

    January 23, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Lane,

    Before you take up that “mountainous task,” of evaluating Catholicism from the encyclopaedist’s point of view, it might be worth considering (together) the assumptions implicit in the notion that there is a tradition-less encyclopaedic point of view, and that such a point of view is superior to, and that by which, all traditions are to be evaluated. Otherwise, the critique of the Catholic Tradition from that encyclopedic point of view would be one more exercise in question-begging. I have in mind MacIntyre’s Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, in which in the area of moral philosophy he presents the three competing traditions: the encyclopaedic tradition, the Nietzchean (anti-tradition) tradition, and the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. His evaluation of the encyclopaedic tradition (both in this work, and in After Virtue and in Whose Justice? Which Rationality?) with respect to morality is quite relevant, in my opinion, to your proposed use of an encyclopaedic approach to evaluating the Catholic Tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  2. greenbaggins said,

    January 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Bryan, my encyclopedic approach would not be a tradition-less approach by any means (at least not by any Evangelical definition: I suppose some RC’s would say that unless I believe in the infallibility of tradition, I have no tradition, which is not true). Part of that encylopedia is historical theology. Involved in that historical-theological approach would, of course, be an evaluation of tradition. Why do you assert that an encyclopedic approach is antithetical to tradition? I have seen many RC theologians use the encyclopedic approach. Of course, the other possibility here is that we are not understanding the same thing by “encyclopedic.” I am using the term as descriptive of the various theological disciplines working together. As such, I am not sure why it would or would not assume tradition, an issue I regard to be a distinct theological issue from the encyclopedia.

  3. Bryan Cross said,

    January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Lane,

    Yes, I was assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that you were using the term ‘encyclopedic’ to refer to a position that purports to stand above all traditions, and from which to judge and evaluate them. (BTW, I wouldn’t say nor do I believe that unless you believe in the infallibility of a tradition you have no tradition.)

    Perhaps not so much in this present post, but I think that in at least some of your previous posts regarding this same project, you have noted the importance of evaluating Catholicism as a whole paradigm, if for no other reason than to avoid the question-begging character of using one paradigm to evaluate the other. And I agree with that. When I read your post, and your claim that the “RC as a system needs to be evaluated from the perspective of a united theological encyclopedia,” I couldn’t help but thinking about the potential question-begging presuppositions implicit in the notion that an encyclopedic perspective is the superior one by which all other traditions are to be judged. I want to avoid a situation in which you put in months (or years) of work on such a project, and it turns out that the assumptions underlying the whole task are question-begging. That’s why I said something.

    If the “generalist” or “encylopedic perspective would not be “tradition-less,” then in what tradition would it stand?

    As such, I am not sure why it would or would not assume tradition, an issue I regard to be a distinct theological issue from the encyclopedia.

    Here it seems to me that you are saying that the encyclopedic perspective would not assume a particular tradition, but would take an allegedly ‘neutral’ point of view, not itself working within any particular tradition.

    Again, my concern is that this very notion of an encyclopedic approach that stands above all traditions, and evaluates them from a neutral, objective, tradition-less point of view, is question-begging with respect to the Catholic paradigm, according to which we see and understand rightly as immersed within the tradition. We see from within the paradigm, not by attempting to stand outside all paradigms.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  4. greenbaggins said,

    January 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Okay. Now I think I see where you are coming from. I would certainly not claim that the “encyclopedic” approach I would use is somehow neutral and superior a priori, as if any neutrality were possible. But I do not view the encyclopedic approach as somehow part of my presuppositions either, except insofar as I wish to be thorough, treating the subject from every possible angle.

    My point is that many treatments of the differences between Evangelicalism and RC (from both sides!) suffer from an overly narrow approach. One book focuses too much on the history. Another tries to get in cheap shots apologetically. Another is focused only on systematic theology, and a few (precious few!) examine exegetical concerns. What I would aim at is to analyze RC with all the tools of a theologian, not just some of them. The theological disciplines are the tools. These disciplines are things that all theologians do, some more balanced than others, of course. And while the disciplines are common to theologians of every stripe, each theologian has presuppositions that form his paradigm and world-view. I do not for a moment claim to be paradigm-less. I am a firm presuppositionalist, in fact. And in saying that I want to approach this from a generalist perspective, I am not claiming to be over and above all approaches, rendering judgment on them. However, I would claim that exegesis, church history, biblical theology, systematic theology, apologetics, and practical theology do not presuppose a particular viewpoint in and of themselves (since theologians can come to diametrically opposite conclusions in every one of those fields). Only when the paradigm and presuppositions of a particular theologian or church are applied to those disciplines are they filled with content. This must be qualified by saying that each discipline is bounded (church history is not properly focused on, say, the history of the samurai) by its subject matter.

    You say, “Again, my concern is that this very notion of an encyclopedic approach that stands above all traditions, and evaluates them from a neutral, objective, tradition-less point of view, is question-begging with respect to the Catholic paradigm, according to which we see and understand rightly as immersed within the tradition.” I would agree with this, and that is why I would firmly state that this is very far from my intent. No one can stand above all theology except God, and I am not Him. No one is neutral, totally objective, or tradition-less either (see my post “dependence on sources” for my argument that the people who argue that they are tradition-less are actually the most viciously dependent on sources!). My purpose will be to evaluate the entire paradigm from within my paradigm, but also seeking to do justice to the RC self-understanding of its paradigm, and compare the paradigms from a presuppositionalist perspective.

  5. Michael said,

    January 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    From the perspective of mundane experience, something we “rank and file” share even with great scholars like yourselves, isn’t this still the key point for all Christians:

    “the paramount role of the church which is basically understood in Christological terms as the prolongation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ”…?

    Is there any Christian group or ultimately any Christian who doesn’t share this self-awareness somehow? If not, please tell me what’s the point, either theoretically or existentially, of Christianity?

    Christ claimed to be God incarnate; the Church and by extention, all believers in some way, claim to be His presence in the present… otherwise.

    This is certainly my personal experience; Protestants make this “claim” more or less implicitly, or confusedly. Only the Catholic Church has the full awareness to actually *be* the Body of Christ, without which, in experiential terms, what is there that could possibly be attractive to a modern person who comes from “outside” these interesting debates?

    Sorry if this sounds a bit negative; it is not meant to be, but rather realistic.

    Cheers!

  6. greenbaggins said,

    January 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Michael, the issue of ecclesiology is one that De Chirico deals with later on the book. I will certainly be devoting quite a bit of attention to the question. The short answer now is that the church is the bride of Christ (so says Ephesians 5) and that the Roman Catholic view identifies Christ and the church too closely. Even though the analogy of head and body exists in Scripture, there is a distinction that can be made between the head and the body. Certainly there is a distinction between bride and groom, however united they may be. This distinction between Protestant and Catholic views of ecclesiology is one reason why the Roman Catholic Church does not see error as a possibility, whereas Protestants (more humbly) claim to be very much fallible. Otherwise, why the letters to the seven churches in Asia? Almost all of them had very serious problems, many of which were doctrinal problems. The church can most certainly err.

  7. Bryan Cross said,

    January 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Lane,

    I think I have a better understanding of what you mean by ‘encyclopedic,’ and how you see these disciplines as tools that in themselves do not intrinsically presuppose a particular paradigm or theological tradition. This is why both Catholics and Protestants can make use of exegesis. But they do not come to the same theological conclusions, because of their different beliefs concerning the role, authority, and relation of tradition and biblical exegesis and interpretation. So their beliefs concerning the role, relation and authority of tradition and exegesis are part of their respective paradigms. So the role of these tools in their way of evaluating a theological position depends on the paradigm in which they are used.

    A couple thoughts about the last few sentences you wrote in comment #4:

    My purpose will be to evaluate the entire paradigm from within my paradigm,

    Ok. I’m not sure why you would do that, since you already know that from the perspective of the Reformed paradigm, the Catholic paradigm is deeply flawed and distorts the truths of Scripture.

    but also seeking to do justice to the RC self-understanding of its paradigm,

    Sounds good.

    and compare the paradigms from a presuppositionalist perspective.

    To me, that looks identical to evaluating “the entire [Catholic] paradigm from within [your] own paradigm,” since you are a presuppositionalist.

    I’m not sure I see here yet a proposed way of comparing the paradigms that avoids question-begging.

    Take, for example, your claim in comment #6 that “the Roman Catholic view identifies Christ and the church too closely.” My first response to that claim will be, “according to what standard”? That is, what is the standard by which to determine what is too close, not close enough, or just right? You seem to think (by way of biblical interpretation) that the fact that the seven churches in Asia can err shows that the universal Church can error when she speaks with her full authority to all the faithful concerning a matter of faith or morals. A person named Ted made that same claim in comments #276 and #345 in the “Ecclesial Deism” thread at CTC. But in the Catholic paradigm, particular Churches can and have erred, and even the universal Church has erred in various ways, though not when speaking with her full authority to all the faithful concerning a matter of faith or morals. My point and intention is not to get into the question of ecclesial infallibility, but only to point out that your use of the book of Revelation, interpreted apart from the Catholic tradition, as the standard by which to judge the Catholic tradition, is a question-begging approach, because the relation between Scripture and Tradition is precisely one of the points in dispute between the Protestant and Catholic paradigms. That’s what I was describing in the “Tradition and the Lexicon” post at CTC.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. Sean Gerety said,

    January 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    and even the universal Church has erred in various ways, though not when speaking with her full authority to all the faithful concerning a matter of faith or morals.

    Talk about begging the question.

  9. michael said,

    January 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    “…The result of this insight is that the Evangelical viewpoint can be resolved on the ultimate relationship of Vatican II to the rest of the history of the RCC. It is continuous. However, it is not a static continuity. There were changes. The fundamental system did not change, but it was renewed. Vatican II must, therefore, be taken into account just as much as Trent and Vatican I must be taken into account. …”.

    So by that paragraph one is saying the RCC isn’t a caterpillar that cocooned then now has morphed into a new creation butterfly but rather a reptile that has shed it’s skin now with a fresh tender feel when touched?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    January 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Michael, I’m not sure it would be that small of a change. Maybe a better analogy would be a chameleon. Different skin color, same animal.

    Bryan, by your definition of question-begging, there doesn’t seem to be any way for a Protestant to talk about the tradition using the Bible without begging the question. Either that, or use the tradition, and if we use the tradition in a way that goes against the church, we’ve begged the question there, too. Looks like, according to your view, there isn’t any way for a Protestant to avoid begging the question. To quote The Princess Bride (slightly altered), “You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  11. Michael said,

    January 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    “This distinction between Protestant and Catholic views of ecclesiology is one reason why the Roman Catholic Church does not see error as a possibility, whereas Protestants (more humbly) claim to be very much fallible.”

    This is a perfect summary of my main (only?) point. Protestants (if they think about) claim to fallible. But act and speak as if they were infallible.

    This is simply the view of anyone not raised Christian, and thank God I never lost it even when I became a Christian. With Christ, you can forgive even the Christians.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    January 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Michael, don’t you think you’re painting with too broad a brush here? I have admitted error on this blog before now, for instance.

  13. Michael said,

    January 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I’m painting deliberately with the broad, clumsy brush of the amateur, the loser, the lover, yes. But…

    One illustration:

    Read the paper linked above, by de Chirico. Note what he says about the threefold office of Christ.

    Then read what it says about it on this site:

    http://www.chriscastaldo.com/2012/01/06/the-church-in-rome/

  14. Michael said,

    January 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I’m still a little afraid to paint with a negative brush though: my experience is that I met the Catholic Church through and in the Protestant church(es) and this was a wholly positive thing for me.

    Cheers,

    m

  15. Michael said,

    January 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Sorry, of course it was linked here (http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/the-best-book-on-roman-catholicism-i-have-read/#comments) not “above”.

    Posting these journal articles could constitute copyright infringement if you don’t have permission.

  16. TurretinFan said,

    January 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I wonder if Bryan thinks that Basil was begging the question when he suggested that hearers who knew the Scriptures well should judge the teachers by the Scriptures, and those who knew the Scriptures only a little should judge the teachers by their fruits? (Morals, Rule 72)

    Text of rule and some related discussion can be found here:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2013/01/responding-to-scott-alt-regarding-sola.html

    And yes, Bryan’s use of “question-begging” is (as I’m pretty sure he knows) not the usual sense of engaging in the fallacy of petitio principii..

    -TurretinFan

  17. Bryan Cross said,

    January 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Lane,

    Bryan, by your definition of question-begging, there doesn’t seem to be any way for a Protestant to talk about the tradition using the Bible without begging the question. Either that, or use the tradition, and if we use the tradition in a way that goes against the church, we’ve begged the question there, too. Looks like, according to your view, there isn’t any way for a Protestant to avoid begging the question. To quote The Princess Bride (slightly altered), “You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    This topic occupied a major portion of my dissertation, so perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about. Or perhaps I do.

    What you’re doing in this paragraph, it seems to me, is reasoning from the apparent absence of a way to avoid begging the question, given the way I’ve laid out the situation, to the conclusion that I don’t know what “begging the question” means. That’s not a safe inference (because the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise). There are two kinds of ‘begging the question,’ as I explained in the first eight comments of your “The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus” post in April of 2012. And using the standards of one paradigm as the standard by which to judge between it and another paradigm falls under one of those two kinds of begging the question.

    And I *do* think there is a way of moving forward; Barrett sketched it briefly this morning at CTC toward the end of his “Walking Beyond Barriers” post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. Pete Holter said,

    January 23, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    “[T]he Roman Catholic view identifies Christ and the church too closely. Even though the analogy of head and body exists in Scripture, there is a distinction that can be made between the head and the body. Certainly there is a distinction between bride and groom, however united they may be.”

    Hi Lane! How are things in Bag End?

    I just thought I’d pass along this extended thought from Augustine:

    “ ‘Neither is there any rest in my bones, from the face of my sin.’ It is commonly enquired, of what person this is the speech; and some understand it to be Christ’s, on account of some things which are here said of the Passion of Christ; to which we shall shortly come; and which we ourselves shall acknowledge to be spoken of His Passion. But how could He Who had no sin, say, ‘There is no rest in my bones, from the face of my sin.’ The meaning therefore of necessity constrains us to recognise here the whole and entire person of Christ, that is, both the Head and the Body. For when Christ speaks, He speaks sometimes in the Person of the Head only; Which is the Saviour Himself, born of the Virgin Mary: sometimes in the person of His Body, which is the Holy Church, dispersed through all the world. And we ourselves are in His Body, if, that is, our faith be sincere in Him; and our hope be certain, and our charity fervent. We are in His body; and members of His; and we find ourselves to be speaking in that passage, according to the Apostle’s saying, ‘For we are members of His body’; and this the Apostle says in many passages. For if we were to say that they are not the words of Christ, those words, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me,’ will also not be the words of Christ. For there too you have, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? The words of mine offences are far from my health.’ Just as here you have, ‘from the face of my sins,’ so there also you have, ‘the words of my offences.’ And if Christ is, for all that, without sin, and without offences, we begin to think those words in the Psalm also not to be His. And it is exceedingly harsh and inconsistent that that Psalm should not relate to Christ, where we have His Passion as clearly laid open as if it were being read to us out of the Gospel. For there we have, ‘They parted My garments amongst them, and cast lots upon My vesture.’ Why should I mention that the first verse of that Psalm was pronounced by the Lord Himself while hanging on the Cross, with His own mouth, saying, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ What did He mean to be inferred from it, but that the whole of that Psalm relates to Him, seeing He Himself, the Head of His Body, pronounced it in His own Person? Now when it goes on to say, ‘the words of mine offences,’ it is beyond a doubt that they are the words of Christ. Whence then come ‘the sins,’ but from the Body; which is the Church? Because both the Head, and the Body of Christ, are speaking. Why do they speak as if one person only? ‘Because they twain,’ as He hath said, ‘shall be one flesh. This’ (says the Apostle) ‘is a great mystery; But I speak concerning Christ and the Church.’ Whence also when He Himself was speaking in the Gospel, in answer to those who had introduced a question concerning the putting away of a wife, He says, ‘Have ye not read that which is written, that from beginning God made them male and female; and a man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.’ If therefore He Himself hath said, ‘they are no more twain, but one flesh,’ what wonder if, as they are but one flesh, they should have but one tongue, and the same speech, as being but one flesh, the Head and the Body. Let us listen to them then as being one person; but yet let us hear the Head as the Head, and the Body as the Body. The persons are not separated: but their dignities are distinguished; because the Head saves, the Body is saved: it belongs to the Head to shew mercy, to the Body to mourn over misery; the office of the Head is to cleanse, the duty of the Body, to confess sins; yet have they but one speech, in which it is not written when it is the Body that speaks, and when the Head; but we indeed, while we hear it, distinguish the one from the other; He however speaks as but one. For why should He not say, ‘my sins,’ Who said, ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat ; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in. I was sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not.’ Assuredly the Lord was not in prison. Why should He not say this, to Whom when it was said, ‘When saw we Thee a hungered and athirst, or in prison; and did not minister unto Thee?’ He replied, that He spake thus in the person of His Body. ‘Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of Mine, ye did it not unto Me.’ Why should He not say, ‘from the face of my sins,’ Who said to Saul, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me,’ Who, however, being in Heaven, now suffered from no persecutors? But, just as, in that passage, the Head spake for the Body, so here too the Head speaks the words of the Body; whilst you hear at the same time the accents of the Head Itself also. Yet do not either, when you hear the voice of the Body, separate the Head from it; nor the Body, when you hear the voice of the Head: because ‘they are no more twain, but one flesh’ ” (Exposition on Psalm 38, 5).

    May you be blessed in your study of the Catholic faith!

    With love in Christ,
    Pete

  19. greenbaggins said,

    January 23, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Pete, although I am familiar with the bare outlines of Augustine’s Totus Christus theology, I am not sure what to make of it yet. Still chewing on that one.

    Bryan, you write:

    BOQ What you’re doing in this paragraph, it seems to me, is reasoning from the apparent absence of a way to avoid begging the question, given the way I’ve laid out the situation, to the conclusion that I don’t know what “begging the question” means. EOQ

    This is not what I’m doing. I’m saying that you have not yet laid out any way by which a Protestant can even TALK about RC without begging the question. Then you send me to a link on CTC which argues that there is a way forward. The author you quote references me as doing that very thing that you think will avoid begging the question! So, am I begging the question or not?

    Furthermore, I did not argue from “reasoning from the apparent absence of a way to avoid begging the question” to “you don’t know what begging the question means.” You illegitimately inferred that from my words. There is no “therefore” at the beginning of my sentence that begins “to quote.” The quotation from The Princess Bride was simply to point out how many times you use the phrase “begging the question.” You use it rather too many times.

    Also, you can kindly stop implying that I know little or nothing about logic. I know what “not a safe inference” means without your explaining that it means “the conclusion does not follow from the premises.” That is rather logic 101. It rather implies a condescending tone. My father taught logic at Covenant College for many years, and was Gordon Clark’s best friend there (Gordon Clark, as you know, wrote a textbook on logic). My father taught me logic quite extensively, and I have myself taught logic and apologetics.

    Waving a Ph.D. in my face does not impress me, by the way, though I will certainly extend congratulations on your accomplishment. Just know that I have read many Ph.D. dissertations that are rot. Not that yours is, since I have not read it. But just know that a Ph.D. does not make a person a better theologian or philosopher. In fact, I know many Ph.D. holders who become completely unteachable because they have a piece of paper saying (they think) that they are smarter than everyone else. I don’t buy it.

    Bryan, your every answer to Protestants is that we are always begging the question. Yet you fail in almost every instance to point out exactly how that is happening. Also, you fail completely to enter into the Protestant paradigm to see how it might NOT be begging the question, given OUR presuppositions. Instead, you remain in your paradigm and critique our attempts at describing the RC paradigm. Apparently, the other folks at CTC have a bit more patience than you do, and are willing to see what my approach will net.

    You say:

    BOQ And using the standards of one paradigm as the standard by which to judge between it and another paradigm falls under one of those two kinds of begging the question. EOQ

    Please explain to me how you are not doing the very thing you critique! So far, I have seen zilch evidence that you critique Protestantism on Protestantism’s paradigm. You critique Protestantism on Catholicism’s paradigm. So how can you avoid begging the question when critiquing Protestantism when you do it from a Roman Catholic paradigm? And especially when you accuse us of begging the question, when the whole time, your accusation is based on RC assumptions!

  20. Bryan Cross said,

    January 23, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Lane,

    This is not what I’m doing. I’m saying that you have not yet laid out any way by which a Protestant can even TALK about RC without begging the question.

    Ok, perhaps I haven’t. But I’ll do so right now. A Protestant can talk about the Catholic Church without begging the question by describing it on its own terms, and not using *uniquely* Protestant standards as the standards by which to evaluate the Catholic claims.

    Then you send me to a link on CTC which argues that there is a way forward. The author you quote references me as doing that very thing that you think will avoid begging the question! So, am I begging the question or not?

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. What Barrett sees, and I myself see, in what you are doing (up to this point) has been a project of seeing and evaluating the Catholic Church on her own terms, as a whole system. That’s why Barrett commends your project. And so do I.

    Under that description, your project doesn’t involve or entail using one paradigm as the standard by which to compare the two paradigms.

    Furthermore, I did not argue from “reasoning from the apparent absence of a way to avoid begging the question” to “you don’t know what begging the question means.” You illegitimately inferred that from my words. There is no “therefore” at the beginning of my sentence that begins “to quote.”

    Ok, my mistake.

    Also, you can kindly stop implying that I know little or nothing about logic. I know what “not a safe inference” means without your explaining that it means “the conclusion does not follow from the premises.” That is rather logic 101. It rather implies a condescending tone.

    I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention, but I see how it could come across that way. My intention is to be clear in my writing, and that extra emphasis on clarity can be taken as presuming that my reader doesn’t know the subject matter. Mea culpa.

    Waving a Ph.D. in my face does not impress me, by the way, though I will certainly extend congratulations on your accomplishment.

    I appreciate the congratulations. Thank you. To be clear, I wasn’t “waving it in your face.” And if it came across that way, then I apologize. That wasn’t my intention. With your Princess Bride comment you seemingly implied that I don’t know something that I spent a lot of time researching. I’m just saying that on this subject I deserve at least to be heard out, and not dismissed with a Princess Bride comment as though I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Bryan, your every answer to Protestants is that we are always begging the question. Yet you fail in almost every instance to point out exactly how that is happening.

    In any case in which you think I am doing this, please ask me to clarify how exactly the question is being begged.

    Also, you fail completely to enter into the Protestant paradigm to see how it might NOT be begging the question, given OUR presuppositions.

    I’m quite aware how, for example, from the Protestant point of view, quoting Scripture to demonstrate the errors of Rome is not question-begging. I did it myself for many years. Again, the problem of question-begging arises not when one speaks to others who share one’s own paradigm, but when one speaks to those holding a different paradigm. So when Catholics talk among themselves about Protestantism, they aren’t attempting to speak across paradigms, but are speaking from within the same paradigm, about another paradigm. And likewise, when Protestants talk among themselves about Catholicism, they aren’t attempting to speak across paradigms, but are speaking from within the same paradigm, about another paradigm. But when a Catholic attempts to reason with a Protestant about, say, the gospel, and the Catholic appeals to the pope and the authority of Trent, etc., he begs the question, because the Protestant does not accept the authority to which the Catholic appeals. And likewise, when a Protestant attempts to reason with a Catholic about the gospel, and the Protestant appeals to his own personal interpretation of Romans 3, that begs the question, because the Catholic doesn’t accept the authority [i.e. personal interpretation] to which the Protestant appeals. That conversation isn’t going anywhere, because both persons are each appealing to paradigm-relative standards. So the conversation will go on for years, even five hundred years, or the communities will just turn their backs on each other and give up (and the back-turning isolation will remain for even five hundred years). To get over that hurdle, both sides have to recognize the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement.

    Please explain to me how you are not doing the very thing you critique! So far, I have seen zilch evidence that you critique Protestantism on Protestantism’s paradigm. You critique Protestantism on Catholicism’s paradigm. So how can you avoid begging the question when critiquing Protestantism when you do it from a Roman Catholic paradigm?

    That sort of thing [The pope said x; Protestants say ~x, therefore Protestants are wrong] addressed to Protestants can be found in the most juvenile level of internet apologetics. I don’t waste my time with that, for the reasons I explained in the previous paragraph. But that’s altogether different from explaining *how* from a Catholic point of view, a uniquely Protestant doctrine can be seen to be in error, or *how* in the Catholic paradigm a Catholic doctrine can be seen to be true. That sort of thing is useful for persons attempting to look at and through both paradigms, in an effort to compare them. But that is not a case of using the standards of one paradigm to compare the two paradigms. Rather, that’s simply explaining more deeply the Catholic paradigm.

    And especially when you accuse us of begging the question, when the whole time, your accusation is based on RC assumptions!

    I don’t think so. I think anyone who has carefully researched both paradigms would observe that appeals by a Protestant to his own interpretation of Scripture would be question-begging when presented to Catholics as objections to the Catholic paradigm, and appeals by a Catholic to the papacy would be question-begging when presented to Protestants as objections to the Protestant paradigm. One doesn’t have to be standing only in the Catholic paradigm (or only in the Protestant paradigm) to see this. It follows from the nature of the paradigms themselves.

    But perhaps I’ve said more than enough for a day. I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion of the “mountainous task” you have set for yourself. My intention in commenting here today was only to help possibly ward off a future objection, by raising it now. If I’ve troubled or annoyed you, then please forgive me. May God bless your endeavor, and lead us all to unity in the truth of Christ.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Brad B said,

    January 24, 2013 at 12:49 am

    “Again, the problem of question-begging arises not when one speaks to others who share one’s own paradigm, but when one speaks to those holding a different paradigm”

    Hi Bryan, on your best summation, which was Martin Luther doing?

  22. dgwired said,

    January 24, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Bryan, you’re doing it again. You’re sounding like the computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

  23. michael said,

    January 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    ok Lane,

    so you are being more generous and gracious than I!

    I don’t want to give him legs and you do!

    A snake in the grass or a lizard in a tree!

    Where in Scripture does it show that a chameleon talked?

  24. Brad B said,

    January 24, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Huh, I thought I’d see an answer to my question to Bryan #21, it seems like if anyone was qualified to reason within the Roman paradigm, it’ve been Luther. Either that or anyone who disagrees with the Roman church, no matter their starting point, is guilty of question begging under this standard.

  25. January 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Bryan’s position amounts to an accusation of begging the question at there mere idea that we can read words on a page without an intervening magisterium.

    But how does that already presuppose the Protestant “system”? The possibility of reading comprehension and basic historical inquiry is hardly a distinctive unique to our system. Indeed, those assumptions are *prior* to our theological system. One cannot scrutinize or establish Protestant theology (or much of anything else) if they are not true. So it is a level-confusion to simply lump everything we believe into the category of the “Protestant system.”

    If God did not create in His own creatures the epistemic faculties to understand language in texts, conduct historical inquiry, nor understand even His own speech, we are in a heap of trouble (both Prots and Romanists). We would be functional Deists- God exists but hasn’t spoken, at least with sufficient clarity, to us. But this sort of radical skepticism belongs to postmodernists, not professing theists.

    Also, it is worth noting that all of this represents a tacit admission that the Roman system demands that its claims be unfalsifiable by appeal to Scripture.

    Bryan’s view of systems and paradigms also strikes me as being overly-deterministic, as if presuppositions and paradigms are so vicious that they simply cannot be overturned and corrected by experience, data, or other phenomena we encounter. But isn’t that the point of divine revelation, to correct some of our most basic assumptions? He views our respective “systems” as impenetrable, closed boxes governed by presuppositions, so we can only legitimately argue about paradigms, damn the data.

    But in practice our belief formation is more like a hermeneutical spiral, an ongoing process that oscillates between pressupositions and facts, generalities and particularities as one learns and reflects through life experience. And doing so is not “begging the question” (this brings to mind Frame’s discussion of narrow/vicious circularity vs. broad circularity).

    It also seems to deny that Catholics and Protestants ought to have common ground, or a “starting point” in man’s nature as intelligent image-bearers of God.

    As is the case with most epistemological criticisms of sola scriptura, Bryan would also have to accuse inter-testamental Israelites of “begging the question” in their claim to follow the true religion of Yahweh, seeing as how they didn’t have the Roman magisterium (and thus no possibility of the “Catholic Interpretive Principle”).

  26. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 24, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    God exists but hasn’t spoken, at least with sufficient clarity, to us.

    David G (re: 25),

    That’s exactly what the RC’s claim of our system since we will not allow the current Magisterium to tell us what the Scripture says. God has spoken through His Word, but if we will not allow for an infallible human interpreter to tell us what the Scripture says, then there is no way to distinguish what God has revealed to us from mere opinion. This is what I’ve been told umpteen times by the RC’s. It’s a curious philosophical position to adopt since in no other area of human thought would any scholar try to make an analogous claim. But when it comes to theology, the Catholics tell us either submit to an infallible human authority or been banished to epistemological never-never land.

    Concerning paradigms and their function, one of the things I’ve noticed is that the Catholics seem not to want to talk about how paradigms are formed, but only on how they function. Maybe this touches on some of what you are speaking of – there is a close interaction of data and system. Hypotheses are formed and tested and become working paradigms. These paradigms are then further tested and refined by reassessments of the data. And so on…

  27. Don said,

    January 25, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Hey Brian,
    It would probably help your arguments to be taken seriously if you used the common, established definition of “begging the question” instead of the novel (and somewhat controversial) “dialectical form.” I’ll accept that you think you know what you’re talking about, but if you’re going to not use a phrase according to its normal definition, then you should be obligated to explain yourself. Otherwise, as you may have noticed, you might gain the reputation of perpetually accusing people of begging the question rather than engaging their arguments.

  28. Brad B said,

    January 25, 2013 at 12:50 am

    David #25, while I agree with your post, I wonder about this:

    “He views our respective “systems” as impenetrable, closed boxes governed by presuppositions, so we can only legitimately argue about paradigms, damn the data.”

    And if so, submission to Rome is in spite of rational process….must be by fiat…so why the prosletizing by argumentation?

  29. dgwired said,

    January 25, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Andrew, if this is true, “if we will not allow for an infallible human interpreter to tell us what the Scripture says, then there is no way to distinguish what God has revealed to us from mere opinion,” then wouldn’t it be incumbent on the Vatican to issue a commentary series. I bet it would even sell.

  30. Ron said,

    January 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

    But when a Catholic attempts to reason with a Protestant about, say, the gospel, and the Catholic appeals to the pope and the authority of Trent, etc., he begs the question, because the Protestant does not accept the authority to which the Catholic appeals. And likewise, when a Protestant attempts to reason with a Catholic about the gospel, and the Protestant appeals to his own personal interpretation of Romans 3, that begs the question, because the Catholic doesn’t accept the authority [i.e. personal interpretation] to which the Protestant appeals. That conversation isn’t going anywhere, because both persons are each appealing to paradigm-relative standards. So the conversation will go on for years, even five hundred years, or the communities will just turn their backs on each other and give up (and the back-turning isolation will remain for even five hundred years). To get over that hurdle, both sides have to recognize the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement.

    Bryan,

    1. It’s interesting that when a Protestant points to God’s word you call it an appeal “to his own own personal interpretation…” but when a Roman Catholic appeals to the pope and councils you don’t portray those appeals as reflecting mere opinion of the Roman Catholic, but rather you presuppose that what is inferred by the Roman Catholic is as equally true as the doctrinal pronouncement. In other words, nothing is lost in the translation for the Roman Catholic. And when it comes to the gospel, why there is perspicuity within Rome that cannot be found in Scripture is a curious thing, especially given that Rome was to have based her gospel upon Scripture.

    2. You suggest the “conversation isn’t going anywhere because…” of different authorities to which the Roman Catholic and Protestant appeal. But rarely, if ever, have I seen a Roman Catholic appeal to the pope or Trent to make his case. Rarely does one find a Roman Catholic assert “the pope has said so and that settles it.” No, the Roman Catholic makes appeals to Scripture because Scripture, so it is claimed, is an authority for Rome, just not her only authority. Indeed, the faithful Catholic won’t interpret Scripture so as to undermine his understanding of Roman Catholic teaching, but notwithstanding he does attempt to reconcile James with Paul by the analogy of Scripture. That’s why I find it rather misleading to index the Catholic-Protestant impasse to a Protestant’s subjective understanding of Scripture versus a Roman Catholic’s appeal to the clear pronouncements of popes and councils. At the very least, doesn’t a Roman Catholic try to justify the very idea of the popes from Scripture? Or is his reasoning so circular that he would dare to justify the papacy from an appeal to the papacy?

    Sundry implications

    Can Rome produce an infallible tradition not found in Scripture that has its origins with the apostles? Of course not, which leads to the question – If Scripture does not inform the Roman Catholic magisterium about what Scripture has to say, then who or what does? To deny that the popes affirm the analogy of Scripture for the magisterium is to reduce Scripture to brute particulars that have no discernible coherence, which would mean that the magisterium with respect to interpreting Scripture must be making things up as they go along and that any appeal to Scripture is disingenuous at best. Therefore, it’s not so much that Rome denies the intelligibility and lucidity of Scripture. Rather, Rome would have us believe that Scripture is only intelligible and clear to the magisterium. Consequently, individual Roman Catholics should not, as they do, appeal to Scripture to justify the Roman Catholic communion and the church’s need for the popes. Rather, Roman Catholics should be consistent by simply pointing to the authority of the popes to defend the claims of the popes, and once they do that then yes, we will be at an impasse. That, however, would be an admission of being a blind follower of something other than Scripture, which is an embarrassment for Roman Catholics yet a necessary implication of their view of the church and Scripture.

    In sum, as soon as a Roman Catholic argues from Scripture he denies the need for an infallible magisterium. Once he points to Rome apart from Scripture, he shows himself to be a blind follower of something in the face of Scripture.

  31. Michael said,

    January 25, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Hi Ron,

    I like your comment:

    “In sum, as soon as a Roman Catholic argues from Scripture he denies the need for an infallible magisterium. Once he points to Rome apart from Scripture, he shows himself to be a blind follower of something in the face of Scripture.”

    Exactly as I did as a non-denom, then later as an Anglican, and now as a Catholic, I did and do follow something other than my New International Version. It is the presence (not the idea) of Christ in the here-and-now. Otherwise known as “the Living Tradition” or “the Acts of the Holy Spirit” etc. The Pentecostals do get things right too ;)

    Without this none of the rest is possible; in fact, the Scriptures, written Catholic Tradition, the canonised Saints, the Protestant and Catholic magisteria… all of these rely on His presence; otherwise how can I explain their manifest coherence and persistence, despite the equally manifest sinfulness of each of us involved?

    Cheers,

    m

  32. Michael said,

    January 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Hello Andrew,

    I like your comment:

    “when it comes to theology, the Catholics tell us either submit to an infallible human authority or been banished to epistemological never-never land.”

    This is not quite specifically how it looks from inside the Catholic experience (I say “experience” not just “theory” or “paradigm”).

    From in here it looks as though Protestants *claim* not to have an infallible human authority, but in practice act just as though they have their own magisterium (this is just Latin for “teachers”, right?) and even a de facto hierarchy, although this admitedly varies in type and degree, it is however always present.

    So it’s not an “epistemological” problem in the abstract, but rather a Christological problem in the concrete: “as the Father sent me, so I send you”; “the one who hears you, hears me”; it’s an existential problem of personal unity, not just an abstract problem of coherence or abstract certainty.

    Otherwise the logical limit is to concede that Christ never came in history; how sad, but possible, as the decline of all types of faith in the West surely shows us.

  33. Ron said,

    January 25, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Michael,

    Let me see if I have this right. If indeed you follow the teachings of the Bible (or at least a particular translation of the Bible) at all, it is not only the teachings of the Bible you follow. In addition you follow the “presence of Christ” upon which you say the Scriptures rely. To help me better understand this, would you disclose some propositions that you follow that are included in the presence of Christ but not contained in Scripture?

    Then you speak about a “manifest coherence” of things that equally rely upon that same “presence” yet within the list of things that supposedly cohere you include two communions that are on a collision course over cardinal doctrines. Not sure I’m tracking.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    January 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Bryan, thanks for your comments. Let me ask a few questions about them. You say:

    A Protestant can talk about the Catholic Church without begging the question by describing it on its own terms, and not using *uniquely* Protestant standards as the standards by which to evaluate the Catholic claims.

    Now, you would agree, I’m sure that the books of the Bible (at least the 66 books that Protestants hold to) are at least common ground between RC’s and Prots, correct? We differ as to interpretation of many passages, but the books themselves are common. Supposing we are looking at Matthew 16, and discussing the meaning of “petra” as so many gazillion people have done before. Suppose many early church fathers did not believe that “petra” referred to Peter? Suppose the interpretation of the early church was not monolithic at all? Then what? What happens when the tradition itself is divided? I remember reading that a Roman Catholic scholar (!) had written a paper on the interpretation of this passage, and had noted that the early church fathers were not agreed at all on the meaning of the passage. He couldn’t get his paper published. I don’t remember who it was. Now, there are about 3-4 books I need to read on this passage (not to mention each one of the ECF’s commenting on the passage) before I can get a handle on it. My current impression, however, is that the ECF’s were not unified at all on the interpretation of the passage. Does the RCC then need to resort to the idea that those passages in the ECF also have to be read in the light of later tradition? Does the later development control what we think of earlier doctrine? And how do we avoid anachronistic readings of the texts?

    I appreciate your graciousness in acknowledging the misreading. In turn, I do not claim that you are ignorant of what “begging the question” means, any more than Vizzini actually was ignorant of what “inconceivable” means. My only point was that it seems a sort of “fall-back” criticism of yours much like Vizzini just used the word as an exclamation. In this respect, I think David G’s comments are well worth pondering on these matters vis-a-vis the hermeneutical spiral.

    My intention is presuppositionalist. That is, I intend to examine RC within its own paradigm, and show how it does not work. Then, I will examine Protestantism, and show how it does work, and by “work” I don’t mean a crassly pragmatic sense, but rather I refer to consistency: does the RCC paradigm’s conclusions follow from its premises? Generally speaking, I would say that the early church fathers, many of whom are regarded as part of the tradition, are not monolithic at all when it comes to things that RC’s believe. I typically find that RC theologians tend to either ignore or downplay or re-interpret the ECF’s that don’t agree with teachings that are now standard RC. The RC theologian, of course, says the same thing about Protestant interpretation of the ECFs. Of course, any tradition can find skeletons in the closet, if you will. However, what would happen if a majority of the ECF’s did not hold to something that is now standard RC belief? What then?

  35. Michael said,

    January 25, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Hello Ron!

    >>> Let me see if I have this right.

    Thanks :) I don’t deserve this but I do appreciate it.

    >>> If indeed you follow the teachings of the Bible (or at least a particular translation of the Bible) at all, it is not only the teachings of the Bible you follow.

    Yes. Absolutely. In my memory I hold the precious events which led me recognise Him; among them are the Evangelical friends I met in 1999 who told me about Christ and went with me to buy that NIV. I followed their “teachings” because I trusted them (and Christ in them) when they said “this is the Bible; the Word of God”…

    >>> In addition you follow the “presence of Christ” upon which you say the Scriptures rely.

    Objectively, yeah – i.e. the Apostles and their helpers who wrote the thing…!

    >>> To help me better understand this, would you disclose some propositions that you follow that are included in the presence of Christ but not contained in Scripture?

    Already did. The Table of Contents is a very big example… but of course you and I agree on that proposition, thank Goodness…

    Plus then a huge number of Christian teachings; centrally of course the idea that even if the Bible *was* the Word when it was written, it applies to us even though clearly none of it is literally addressed to anyone who’s not a thousand or two years dead…

    >>> Then you speak about a “manifest coherence” of things that equally rely upon that same “presence” yet within the list of things that supposedly cohere you include two communions that are on a collision course over cardinal doctrines. Not sure I’m tracking.

    I suppose they cohere. Maybe you don’t. But in reality, most of the issues are merely misunderstandings. Viewed objectively, the similarities of Catholics and Protestants are much more obvious than the couple of genuine differences. But objectivity is hard to attain and not transferable via text alone. Sorry.

  36. Ron said,

    January 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Yes. Absolutely. In my memory I hold the precious events which led me recognise Him; among them are the Evangelical friends I met in 1999 who told me about Christ and went with me to buy that NIV. I followed their “teachings” because I trusted them (and Christ in them) when they said “this is the Bible; the Word of God”…

    Ah, but certainly the authority upon which you believe, if it is saving belief, is God’s word attested to by the Spirit. That Word, of course, can be transmitted by friends as it were and not read for yourself, but in any case to call the testimony of friends as the “presence of Christ” is a bit unusual but at least I now grasp your meaning.

    Objectively, yeah – i.e. the Apostles and their helpers who wrote the thing…!

    The only record of “the Apostles and their helpers” that you believe to be inspired, I hope, is not only recorded in Scripture, but rather is Scripture. You carry no brief for Thomas and Barnabas I would think. So, to call any words but Scripture the “presence of Christ” is either to equate the testimony of your friends with the authority of Scripture or to equivocate over “presence of Christ.”

    The Table of Contents is a very big example… but of course you and I agree on that proposition, thank Goodness…

    Hmmm, now it would seem that you’ve introduced a third way of interpreting the meaning of “presence of Christ”. But at least now we’re talking about something derivable from Scripture, the divine intent for the church to receive the canon and God’s ability to ordain the choices of men so that we might have a table of contents. Same goes for the implication you reference that Scripture is applicable to faith and practice today.

    I suppose they cohere. Maybe you don’t. But in reality, most of the issues are merely misunderstandings.

    You do say. If only the delegates to Trent knew what you do. :)

    What we’re discussing is rather uninteresting and I’d rather hear what Bryan has to say about Lane’s last post than detract from the thread.

  37. January 25, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Ron said But rarely, if ever, have I seen a Roman Catholic appeal to the pope or Trent to make his case. Rarely does one find a Roman Catholic assert “the pope has said so and that settles it.” No, the Roman Catholic makes appeals to Scripture because Scripture, so it is claimed, is an authority for Rome, just not her only authority.

    I can actually scare up a modicum of respect for the traditional RC apologists (Matatics, Sungenis, Madrid, Hahn, etc.) who could man up and present a straightforward argument for their church and theology from the Bible and/or church history. Instead, what we get from this new crop of self-appointed, zero-authority and zero-standing apologists is the accusation of begging the question and clearly unbalanced obsession with paradigms when pressed for this kind of evidence. It is just a good, old-fashioned cop-out with a philosophical veneer.

  38. Ron said,

    January 25, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    And let’s not forget the tu quoque card, David.

  39. Bob S said,

    January 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Well, notwithstanding David in 25, I have to admit that Bryan in 20 is an improvement. Of sorts. No longer are we hearing the standard hand waving table pounding assertion of question begging/assuming the protestant paradigm as the silver bullet refutation of the reformed faith. (It could have been far worse. Gollum in a snit fit screaming, The Baggins is cheating. We knew it. We knew it. The dirty little rat.)

    Yet the inherent contradictions of his latest remain unresolved. If we have been previously told that paradigms are inescapable – which the reformed have never denied – much more that the Roman paradigm necessarily swallows the Protestant whole like Moses’s rod swallowed those of the Egyptian magicians, now he’s backed off a bit and is only touting “paradigm-relative standards”. IOW what is truth? So much for objectivity, it is unattainable. Subjectivity is the new norm. Rejoice and go with the flow.

    Nevertheless here we now stand in the combox/foyer discussing the issue, if not the prolegoma before what? Each party takes a supposedly “irrational” leap and ducks back through the door into his own respective jail cell of a paradigm?

    Again, the reformed have never denied that Romanism isn’t a system, only that it is the wrong system. As in that it is mistaken, confused and incoherent in regard to its own presuppositions in exalting apostolic history and oral tradition over apostolic Scripture as the principium cognoscendi or the external objective means by which we know God.

    But not only will Bryan refuse to accord to Scripture the same courtesy that he requires of Romanism; that it be viewed systematically and acknowledged for what it is, according to its own self interpreting paradigm, as David mentions, he assumes objectivity, perspicuity and system for his own comments, if not by implication the magisterium.

    Not so again, for the written revelation of the God who made the creature, made in the image of that same God with a reasonable soul and faculties, able to read or hear that revelation and to whom in Scripture it is promised that Holy Spirit will enable them understand it.

    IOW that God could actually communicate with us here in the combox sans the magisterium, there’s not a proverbial snowball’s chance in you know where according to Bryome’s (sic) paradigm.

    Not that a certain paradigm itself doesn’t have some choice words for those who have eyes, but refuse to see.

    And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. John 9:39-41.

  40. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    From in here it looks as though Protestants *claim* not to have an infallible human authority,

    Michael (re: 32),

    In any Protestant communion there is going to be some kind of Magister, so as to speak. There will always some type of teaching authority defined. And at least in Reformed and Evangelical circles there are things which are defined in a such a way where it sounds like we are speaking of an infallible pronouncement. Take the issue of the Trinity. We are confident that this doctrine is true and we are convinced that the Scriptures teach this. And we are convinced that the doctrine will never be refuted. But we never say that a human formulation of a given doctrine is infallible, no matter how convinced we are of the correctness of our understanding of that doctrine. A rough analogy might be the law of gravity. We don’t say that the law of gravity is an infallible statement of what we see in nature, but we are still convinced it is true and don’t ever see the possibility that the law of gravity could be proven false.

    So in the Reformed tradition we never say that any human pronouncement is infallible because we see no evidence that God has granted any person or group of people the gift of infallibility.

    On Christology, we believe as firmly as the Catholics do that Christ acted in history and established a Church via the Apostles. Where we differ is over our understanding of the specific nature of that Church. We read the Medieval formulations of the papacy and the authority that theologians of that time claimed for the Roman Catholic Church and her officers, and we see no basis for these claims given the primary standard set out for us in Scripture nor secondarily in the statements of those who immediately followed the Apostles.

  41. Bryan Cross said,

    January 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Lane, (re: #34)

    Now, you would agree, I’m sure that the books of the Bible (at least the 66 books that Protestants hold to) are at least common ground between RC’s and Prots, correct?

    Yes.

    We differ as to interpretation of many passages, but the books themselves are common. Supposing we are looking at Matthew 16, and discussing the meaning of “petra” as so many gazillion people have done before. Suppose many early church fathers did not believe that “petra” referred to Peter? Suppose the interpretation of the early church was not monolithic at all? Then what? What happens when the tradition itself is divided?

    Tradition cannot be divided against itself, because truth cannot be divided against itself. So to word it that way (i.e. “what happens when the tradition is divided?”) is like asking what happens when Jesus contradicts Himself. It is a loaded question. What you mean, I think, is how do we know what the Tradition says about a particular question when there is no clear consensus in the Church Fathers on that particular question? In answer, we might not know, at least not until the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, clarifies the content of the Tradition regarding this particular question.

    I remember reading that a Roman Catholic scholar (!) had written a paper on the interpretation of this passage, and had noted that the early church fathers were not agreed at all on the meaning of the passage. He couldn’t get his paper published.

    Well, the reason cannot be that the paper raised some objection to Catholic doctrine. Catholics publish stuff like that all the time.

    My current impression, however, is that the ECF’s were not unified at all on the interpretation of the passage.

    I agree. That does not necessarily mean, however, that the different ways they understood the passage are contradictory, or mutually exclusive. Often (in the Catholic paradigm) passages are understood to be rich in having multiple facets, so that they can be simultaneously understood in many different (but compatible) ways. And that’s true of the Matthew 16 passage as well (see this post I wrote in 2008). So it is important not to ‘create’ division by imposing an either/or paradigm on interpretations that can be understood as mutually compatible in a both/and paradigm.

    Does the RCC then need to resort to the idea that those passages in the ECF also have to be read in the light of later tradition?

    No, at least not in the sense I think you’re meaning. When later development clarifies definitively some aspect of Tradition, we don’t have to try to twist or distort the words of earlier patristic writers who rejected what would become that later development. Rather we acknowledge that on that question they were wrong, but (in many cases) not culpably wrong, because they were living in a time when the particular question had not yet been clarified. Nevertheless, wherever there is a moral consensus among the Fathers, we can know that this does belong to the Tradition, and can never be denied.

    Does the later development control what we think of earlier doctrine?

    “What we think of” is quite open-ended. Later development can verify or falsify a claim made by an earlier writer, but it does not ‘control’ retroactively what the author meant. Rather, development informs our understanding of the Tradition, and thus allows us better to understand and evaluate patristic statements in their relation to the Tradition.

    And how do we avoid anachronistic readings of the texts?

    By not imposing on them what the authors didn’t mean. But one does not have to deny development of doctrine in order to avoid anachronism. Development of doctrine does not require claiming that earlier writers already knew what would develop later.

    In this respect, I think David G’s comments are well worth pondering on these matters vis-a-vis the hermeneutical spiral.

    For what it’s worth, David G’s description of my position does not accurately represent my position.

    My intention is presuppositionalist. That is, I intend to examine RC within its own paradigm, and show how it does not work. Then, I will examine Protestantism, and show how it does work, and by “work” I don’t mean a crassly pragmatic sense, but rather I refer to consistency: does the RCC paradigm’s conclusions follow from its premises?

    Ok. In order to do that, you have to make sure you first understand the RC paradigm very well, because it is very easy to erect a straw man.

    Generally speaking, I would say that the early church fathers, many of whom are regarded as part of the tradition, are not monolithic at all when it comes to things that RC’s believe. I typically find that RC theologians tend to either ignore or downplay or re-interpret the ECF’s that don’t agree with teachings that are now standard RC. The RC theologian, of course, says the same thing about Protestant interpretation of the ECFs. Of course, any tradition can find skeletons in the closet, if you will. However, what would happen if a majority of the ECF’s did not hold to something that is now standard RC belief? What then?

    Nothing. You seem to think that in the Catholic paradigm, any Catholic doctrine not explicitly stated in Scripture (or deducible therefrom by good and necessary consequences) must be found in the majority of Church Fathers. And therefore if you can find a Catholic doctrine that is not explicitly stated in Scripture or deducible therefrom by good and necessary consequence, and not affirmed by the majority of Fathers (but not denied by a moral consensus of Church Fathers) you (seemingly) think that this is a problem for the Catholic paradigm, and that you would have thereby shown that that Catholic paradigm doesn’t work. But in the Catholic paradigm a truth’s being affirmed by the majority of Fathers is not a necessary condition for its belonging to the Tradition. So your proposed way of showing that the Catholic paradigm doesn’t work would only be taking on a strawman.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  42. Bob S said,

    January 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    41
    Tradition cannot be divided against itself, because truth cannot be divided against itself. So to word it that way (i.e. “what happens when the tradition is divided?”) is like asking what happens when Jesus contradicts Himself. It is a loaded question.

    It’s not a loaded question, but rather that you, Bryan have prejudged the situation and determined that the infallible church cannot make a mistake. That’s all.

    Further over at OLTS you informed us that both the Protestant and the Romanist bring their paradigms to Scripture and consequently the hermeneutical spirals never merge, converge or agree.

    Which means somebody has got to be wrong, if not both parties, because it surely can’t be Scripture.

    But you in 2o and Devin on another thread have also told us that essentially whatever works for you, is true, We just disagree/have different paradigms. No big.

    Again, what is truth? Can we ever know it? How? And by definition/categorically we mean objective truth.
    Rome’s advocates here deny. The reformed affirm.

    Christ said, Scripture cannot be broken. Jn. 10:35
    Paul said just as there is one body and spirit, there is one faith, one Lord and one baptism. Eph. 4:4,5

    WCF I:IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
    II Pet. 1:20, 21; Acts 15:15, 16.

  43. Ron said,

    January 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Bob,

    Re: 42

    It’s not a loaded question, but rather that you, Bryan have prejudged the situation and determined that the infallible church cannot make a mistake. That’s all.

    Yes and no. It would be a loaded question to ask a Protestant (or Roman Catholic for that matter), What should be done when Scripture contradicts Scripture? A suitable reply could be as Bryan’s, that Scripture is not divided against itself. In that sense, we too have “prejudged the situation…” in that the infallible word cannot err. That Bryan presupposes and asserts there is no discrepency between Rome and Scripture requires us to perform an internal critique of his claim, which I believe has been done ad nauseam. To your point though, I do agree with you 100% that the question is not so loaded given the obvious discrepency Rome has with Scripture. Notwithstanding, Bryan’s answer is adequate given his unfortunate axiom.

    Much of what I see in all of this is that many Roman Catholics, such as Bryan, find themselves on the horns of an epistemological dilemma and fall into a form of skepticism as David, for instance, painfully sees. By placing a mediator between God and men they render God’s living word inoperable. If their authority is Rome, then Scripture is rendered useless because any interpretation of any passage of Scripture must await adjudication for one to know what Scripture is saying. And as Darryl alluded to, no commentary series seems to be forthcoming but man would it sell! Yet when a Roman Catholic reads Scripture they themselves demonstrate that an infallible magisterium (or commentary series) is unnecessary to know the truth of at least the gospel. Roman Catholics live in a tension that they cannot reconcile. We all get that I think.

    What else has become apparent, I think, is that Roman Catholics pay lip service to the authority of Scripture, for given an apparent discrepancy between Scripture and tradition Scripture always loses (your point Bob), whereas Protestants can become more Reformed and move toward the OPC! :) For instance (and this is written to Roman Catholic lurkers), Scripture teaches that all miracles appeal to the mind through the senses. Now then, imagine that Jesus looked as though he were sinking in water yet claimed to be walking on it. Or imagine that the Israelites drowned in the Red Sea but that tradition said they crossed over on dry ground and only looked as though they drowned. Should we believe such testimony in the face of contrary truth? So it is with the hocus-pocus of the mass. We are told we must believe, lest we even risk hell(!), that the bread and wine has changed into the body and blood of the Lord; yet the elements continue to manifest the physical properties of bread and wine. Not only is there no biblical precedence to accept such obviously false claims, in principle we are warned and commanded not to do so! Yet such blind, irrational faith is required for one to be a good Roman Catholic. Yes, the demands are high, maybe because the stakes are so high. The skepticism created by Romanism begets doctrinal infidelity.

    Finally, Scripture has always taught that Scripture itself is to judge the teachers of God’s word. After all, if we were to allow the teachers to judge the Scriptures then the rejection of Christ by the religious leaders of his day would have been justified. There would be no Christianity! So it is with Rome. By placing herself above the Scriptures she too has fallen away – no less than the Jews. Or should we measure damnable heresies by degree? Roman Catholicism actually presents a bigger problem to true believers because she does hold to enough truth to be a more superior tempter. Could Jason Stellman have been lured away by modern day Judaism?

    My 2 cents

  44. michael said,

    January 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    What I sense is honorably happening in here by a few is this that seems contradictory yet not: Pro.26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
    5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

    Sadly with these following Words I came to know one who did: Mat.:529 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.

    Sad as it was he was given both His Grace and Truth that brought him face to face with his tragic error!

    Now he answers fools when he has opportunity as we sense is happening hereon!

  45. Brad B said,

    January 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    What a bargain Ron, good value for 2cents.

    I have to ask, how can a rational creature live out a faith that he cannot apprehend logically and it be peaceful within man/soul [or say heart and mind]? When historically a martyr stood and held his/her ground based on a reasonable faith, that knowledge of the truth has been given, it is then rational to die in the face of threat. What I think I see Roman Catholics arguing for is belief by fiat. It is so because the Church says it is so and if it seems illogical, it is your problem to deal with. How then would martyrdom be anything but an insane act and without any value if it not be based on a rational free choice? btw, the martyr example is just an ultimate commitment to belief, it’d be no different for decisions of lesser cost.

  46. Ron said,

    January 26, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Hi Brad,

    Man in his sin, apart from grace, will do many things to avoid God and coming to Christ for salvation. As bizarre as this may sound, I truly believe that some have actually comforted themselves with the idea that they will be able to blame God if the papacy ends up not being what it claims to be. After all, since there can be no division between Scripture and the popes then if the papacy is not of God it can only be because God lied in Scripture. Kind of reminds me of the rich man lecturing Father Abraham.

    For so many an infallible magisterium has become a necessary condition for God to reveal himself and what he requires of man. Yet as we well know, Scripture is insufficient only to those who haven’t heard God’s loving call in Scripture. For many of us who have tasted salvation through the clear voice of God in Scripture, we know that Rome preaches another gospel and is an apostate religion. And we can also know that we are justified and sealed until the final day of redemption.

    Oh, how terrible it will be for those who die in Rome, should they also die unsaved, to learn at the judgment that the communion they so trusted was no church at all but a synagogue of Satan. Oh, that they would listen to Christ alone when he said: “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”

    That passage alone presupposes that one can know without sinful presumption that he is saved. It also teaches that eternal life cannot be lost. Yet Rome would have us doubt even those words of our Lord’s. “Has God said?” is Rome’s way of keeping people in bondage, even outside Christ for all eternity.

  47. January 27, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Bryan said For what it’s worth, David G’s description of my position does not accurately represent my position.

    This is a bare assertion. If indeed he does not believe that paradigms are “impenetrable, closed boxes”, then he’ll have to occasionally give that poor, one-trick “begging the question” pony a rest.

  48. Bob S said,

    January 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    43 Hi Ron.
    Well yeah, it’s a yes and no proposition, but FWIW I felt like playing the paradigm subjectivity card that Bryan usually plays when push comes to shove.

    But again, while he backed off his usual One Roman Paradigm to Rule Them All, subjectivity then became the new ultimate reality/truth. There are of course “paradigm relative standards”, but God forbid that there could be such a thing as an ultimate self interpreting Scriptural paradigm in its place, all the while he continues to attempt to rationally argue about it. But again, never like Paul with the Jews, from Scripture.

    Granted, Rome obviously doesn’t and can’t believe in that paradigm all formalities and lip service to Scripture aside or her foundations would instantly crumble. (Once The Lost Apostolic Apocryphal Oral Traditions are thrown into the Crack of Doom, the evil kingdom has to dissolve in fire.)

    But at least there could be an effort to demonstrate the self contradictory nature of such an appeal rather than a fideistic deus ex magisterium reply in which we are solemnly instructed that ignorance is the height of holy reverence and pious devotion. While The Magisterium holds the key to all infallible interpretations of the Scripture, who are you o’little man to think that she should put it down once for all in writing. Like God in the Bible. So all men could know.

    But of course, Luke 11:52  is inapplicable. That’s only your fallible human opinion.

    Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

    As if the same God who gave us eyes, didn’t also give us the mind of Christ.

    Of course that skepticism is only one way and once inside the Roman fold, fideism becomes the norm above and beyond Scripture, reason and history, much more the order is reversed and history/tradition trumps all.

    Nice point about miracles. When Christ walked on the water, he really walked on the water to anybody there watching as opposed to swimming or being marvelously teleported from the shore to the boat.
    But then again one of my first bibles was the romanist St. Joseph Bible in which the burning bush and the crossing of the Red Sea was explained away in perfect naturalist fashion.

    IOW while the lies may change, Rome remains ever the liar.

  49. Michael said,

    February 3, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    “In any Protestant communion there is going to be some kind of Magister, so as to speak. There will always some type of teaching authority defined. And at least in Reformed and Evangelical circles there are things which are defined in a such a way where it sounds like we are speaking of an infallible pronouncement.”

    Yes – that is how it sounds. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck… I call it a duck.

    “we never say that a human formulation of a given doctrine is infallible, no matter how convinced we are of the correctness of our understanding of that doctrine”

    That’s a pretty good summary of what I said; there is a tendancy to speak about having no infallible guide; but to *act* as though there was. I’ll be the first to admit it is also a Catholic “failiing” – it’s actually a highly religious instinct to admit that man is not God; but the question is, did God become a man?

    “we see no evidence that God has granted any person or group of people the gift of infallibility”

    Does this include Jesus of Nazareth? And if so, did He promise to delegate or somehow confer this gift on others? This is the real question; and is it possible to rationally judge this hypothesis now, not 1000 years ago? If so, it seems more likely that it’s possible the same way the apostles did, just by sharing the simple daily life of the one indicated (“behold, the Lamb of God”), not by theorising.


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