Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Surprised By What?

Jake Magee responds to some conversion stories in Surprised by Truth. He is actually pretty fair and rational. He takes seriously the fact that well-formed, intelligent protestants came to believe Sola Scriptura is false. He also takes seriously the consequences. If Sola Scriptura is false then "Protestantism has been dealt a fatal blow."

The first objection he deals with is that SS is unbiblical. He goes to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. He actually tries to follow the logic though.
     All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for  
     correction, for training in righteousness 16; that the man of God may be adequate, 
     equipped for every good work 17 (NASB).

First of all, Scriptures are described by Paul as being “inspired by God.”  The phrase “inspired by God” is translated from the Greek word “theopneustos” which is literally rendered  “God-breathed.”  By this Paul is communicating that the very writings were breathed out of the mouth of God.  Further, the authority that Scriptures do have is derived from the verity that the very words were spoken by God. 
Sure the scriptures are God-breathed. Catholics don't deny Sola Scriptura because we disrespect scripture. We just want it in it's proper role. The word "authority" is wrong here. Scripture is a book. It cannot have authority. Authority is defined as "the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine". A book can't do that.
 Secondly, notice that Scriptures are “profitable.” No one in this debate disagrees about this statement.  However, the text says that Scripture is profitable “for” one kind of thing “in order that” another kind of thing might be true.  To put the matter formally, Scripture is profitable for x, in order that y.  The variable x refers to “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.”  The variable y refers adequacy and equipping believers.  It is the y that Protestants point to as a clear declaration in Scripture of its own sufficiency.  Let’s look at verse 17 more closely.
This is a big problem. If x is profitable for y that does not imply nothing else is profitable for y. If eating right is profitable for health then exercise cannot be profitable for health? You cannot just focus on what y is and ignore the connecting word "profitable" that open the door to other things being just as important.
 Paul says that Scripture can produce believers which are “adequate” and “equipped for every good work.”  The TDNT defines “adequate” (artios) as “fitted, complete, perfect.”  Bauer defines “adequate” as “complete, capable, proficient = able to meet all demands.”  The TDNT defines “equipped” (exartizo) as “to complete, finish, to furnish perfectly, to accomplish” (1:475,80).  Bauer also defines “equipped” as to “finish, complete...equip, furnish” (273).    
These definitions point to the meaning of our English word “sufficiency.”  To make this issue as clear as possible, let’s define and contrast the words “sufficiency” and “necessity.”  To say that one thing is necessary for another is to say that without this condition in place the desired effect will not occur.  For example, water is necessary for human life.  That is, water is a condition without which human life could not exist.  To say that a thing is “sufficient” is to say that this condition is all one needs.  In the case of water, it is necessary but not sufficient for human life (for we need food in addition to water).  If it were the case that water is both necessary and sufficient for human life, than food is irrelevant.   
But what does  "sufficiency" apply to here? To teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It does not apply exclusively to scripture. For that you have to deal with that word "profitable" that does not imply any exclusivity. So the logic has a hole in it.
Now, if I say that Frank’s Furniture Farm is complete or adequate to furnish perfectly my house, I mean that I don’t need to go anywhere else.  In other words, Frank’s Furniture Farm is sufficient, or good enough; no other store is necessary.  In the same way, Paul is saying that Scripture is adequate and complete to perfectly furnish the believer to live life as God intends; nothing else needs to be added. 
Even this does not prove his point. If Frank's Furniture Farm has all the furniture I need then I still need to find a way to get it delivered. I still need to organize it in my home in the right way. It is complete in one way but not in all ways. Truth is like that. It is there in scripture but it needs to make the trip from the book to my head and my heart. That means you need an interpreter. Interpreters can make errors. Mr Magee just demonstrated that by making a logic error in interpreting these 2 verses. I mean he is a bright guy and he spent a fair amount of effort on just 2 verses. Yet he blows it. He saw what he wanted to see and not what the text actually says. The furniture truck went off the road and delivered a bunch of kindling.
In short, Scripture is necessary and sufficient.  Contrary to Scott Hahn’s and Bob Sungenis’ assertion that “sola scriptura is simply not taught anywhere in the Bible, either explicitly or implicitly,” 2 Tim 3:16 &17 is as explicit and clear in its support of Sola Scriptura as John 1:1-3 is explicit and clear about Christ’s deity.  
This one key problem with Sola Scriptura. Not only do people arrive at false conclusions but they have rock solid confidence in those conclusions. Suddenly strained logic becomes "clear and explicit". Now John Magee's opinion has become the Word of God.  There are no checks and balances. Any error instantly goes all the way up to the mouth of God Himself. He says he is as sure of his little syllogism as he is of the divinity of Christ. Amazing.

Now he goes on to anticipate what a Catholic might say in response. He gets some of it right but does not include the strongest responses. Firstly that his logic is off. That cannot be stressed enough because he builds on this statement he has "proven" through his faulty argument.

But secondly the context really shoots holes in his conclusion as well. When you examine the verses prior it becomes clear Paul is talking about the Old Testament when he mentions scripture. That is a devastating problem he does not mention.

Also, the phrase "man of God" could have some meaning. Some feel it refers to someone who is ordained. Even if it does not it seems this teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that Paul refers to assumes a certain familiarity with the faith. He is not talking about anybody, anytime, anywhere.

I shall stop here and continue this another day.

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