Monday, October 4, 2010

Jake Magee Again

Apologies to the color blind. I shall interject in purple. 
Hey Randy, I’ll change up the format a bit to avoid confusion and frustration for those with color blindness. 
You say,This is where we disagree. Why do we need judges? Why can't you just let the law decide? Because both parties will often claim the law is on their side. The law is inadequate to function as a sole authority precisely because it is a document.  Scripture can't function as the sole authority for the same reason. Disputes often have both sides claiming their position is biblical. Someone has to vet that claim.” 
Judges are to pronounce and apply written laws in particular cases.  Sometimes that is as easy as holding up a written statute and seeing the connection from law to case.  At other times it involves him wading through nuances of both law and cases.  But even here, the judge’s authority is derivative, and he is to never add or take away from the content of the law.  We disdain judges who either think they are the law or above the law or tamper with it.  We sanction judges who misuse the law.  Similarly, SS (Sola Scriptura) doesn’t negate the authority of the officers of the church to pronounce and apply Scripture.  “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove exhort…” SS says that Timothy’s authority is derivative and subservient to Scripture.  Timothy may rebuke with it. But, Timothy might himself be rebuked by it.  He must study and show himself approved to God so that he does in fact rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). 
Catholics buy all of this. So if that is what SS means then it is Catholic doctrine. Bishops and popes are never to see themselves as above scripture or tradition. They are the servants of God's word. They are to teach it and govern the church according to it. They can be sanctioned if they abuse it. For a pope any official sanction can only come after the pope has died but nobody is above being scrutinized. Look at St Catherine of Sienna. She was a lay woman telling the pope he was making some serious errors. She was right. The church has applauded her for doing that.

But what the church cannot stand and SS allows is for people to disobey because their own view of scripture over the church's view of scripture. Just like if you disagree with the judges decision and think he interpreted the law wrong. You must still obey the law as the judge sees it. You may appeal to a higher judge. You may criticize the judge as far as the law allows. But the judge is the judge. If people didn't respect that then anarchy would result. SS produces spiritual anarchy. 

Later on you continue, “I think you are pointing out another difference. Catholics don't believe the scriptures and the word of God are the same thing. The word of God is scripture, tradition, and the magisterium. So Heb 4:12 would not be talking just about scripture. Scripture isn't actually "living". We have living church leaders who, based on scripture and tradition, bring the word of God to life.”
Let me state the obvious in order to continue the contrast of RC thinking with Protestant thinking you’ve begun. Protestants claim that Scripture makes the church and preaching living, not the other way around.  An outlet doesn’t cease to have power because an appliance is not plugged into it.  An appliance does however cease to have power when unplugged from the outlet.  A church that fails to faithfully preach Scripture doesn’t take away from the life of the word of God, but its own life.  Further, I would argue (but won’t for space) that many of the passages that refer to the Word of God with organic metaphors are contextually tied to Scripture, and not tradition or the magisterium (Psalm 19:7-9; 119; etc).  I believe this is the case with Hebrews 4 as well. 
Historically the church came before the scriptures. Today it is hard for us to imagine a church without the scriptures but on Pentecost that is what we had. Just the church. That continued for a few decades. In fact, many letters that make up the New Testament came out of the life of the church. They were written in response to what was happening in an already existing church.

What is the source of power for the church. It is Jesus Himself. How does he come to the church? Through the Eucharist, through the Word, through the community, and through the priest. The first two being the most important of the four. The word implies the gospel Jesus brought to us during his teaching ministry. Scripture, when properly interpreted, is the best source of that now. But those teachings also were transmitted in countless other ways to the church just by life to life contact with the apostles. Beyond that the Holy Spirit has led the church into a deeper understanding of that message and prevented that message from being corrupted. 

“I did read the whole thing. I intended to respond to the rest of your article later. In the second section you did take the matter of sufficiency to be proved. It isn't. The text does not say scripture is sufficient. If anything, it says teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness together are sufficient.” 
The movement of the article from exposition to sub-head “How might a Roman Catholic Response” is just a different way of saying “some RC’s like Randy will say that I didn’t prove the sufficiency of Scripture for the following reasons…”  You raise objections to my claim by citing issue I deal with subsequent to the claim.   For example, later on in your assessment you argue that Paul also “gives tradition high praise and the church high praise in other place.”  Elsewhere you cite the “canon question,” as well as the relationship of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to the Old Testament.  Elsewhere you refer to the problem of interpretation.  You offer these as considerations for why Paul is not arguing for the sufficiency of Scripture. And yet, these are precisely the objections I anticipated later on in the article, I’ve considered, and have argued do not militate against my interpretation of the 2 Timothy passage.  In fact, I’ve argued that they are very compatible with it (even supportive). 
This is why it doesn’t seem like you’re treating the article as a disputation that offers a thesis, argues for it, anticipates objections, and seeks to answer those objections.   
I did plan to do a series of posts on the entire article. I did read it all but not in enough detail. I missed some things. I should have waited until all my replies were done before I interacted with you. Although I hinted at other issues the main aim of this post was to argue that the words of 2 Tim 3:16-17 simply do not say what you are trying to make them say. There is no logical flow from A to B. I still think that is the main issue. 

Now to the crux of the contention: you say that the text doesn’t say that Scripture is sufficient.  Why? “If anything, it says teaching reproof, correction, and training in righteousness together are sufficient.” Elsewhere you say that the content of what is taught, reproved, corrected, and trainedis not equated with Scripture and nothing more…It says that scripture is one thing that would do these things…” 
I have argued that Paul says a man of God will be adequately furnished for every good work when he is taught with Scripture.  The delivery system (i.e. teaching) for Scripture is an instrumental cause, not a formal.  Paul seems to be saying that because of the nature of the formal cause (inspiration), these Scripture-informed instruments (e.g., teachers or whatever) can produced adequately equipped Christians.    
The man of God is adequately furnished for every good work when he is taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness. Doing this from scripture is profitable. You keep trying to finesse around that word profitable. It can't carry the logical weight you are putting on it. It does not mean only scripture should be used or even that only scripture could be used. It just means using scripture is better than not using scripture. The nature of inspiration implies the difference is not small. Using scripture for these things is way better than not.

There is an implication here that scripture will be properly interpreted and I would even argue Paul means interpreted as he and the other apostles would interpret it. There were false teachers in Paul's day.He is not saying every false teacher is now equal with the apostles as long as they claim to be interpreting scripture.

Now you’ve repeatedly brought up that the passage might logically allow for things other than Scripture to equip.  I’ve argued that the fact that something else could be (in a possible worlds sense) used to equip a believer adequately (my example was the personal presence of Jesus to a native in Africa) doesn’t negate the sufficiency of Scripture to equip the non-native.  What it does negate is the necessity of Scripture for the African (or put more precisely, in the case where there is special revelation).  But likewise, it negates the necessity of this divine appearance for the person who possesses the Bible.  I have argued that this rejoinder is irrelevant to my case.
That particular example is irrelevant. It is what Catholics would call private revelation. It is kind of another topic so I just ignored that the first time. Catholics believe that the revelation of Jesus is complete. That is, that nothing will be added to the public deposit of faith that the church confesses. That faith can be deepened and more precisely defined but God will not give us anything new along the lines of what Joseph Smith or Mohammad claim to have received. So visions like this are a private matter. Nobody is compelled by the church to believe them. If you discern them to be from God you should obey them. If not then you may ignore them. You must respect others who made a difference choice.

With this distinction understood, SS could be stated as saying scripture is the whole of public revelation. That all other revelation is private.

Anyway, I don't see why the logical possibility of other private revelation somehow does not prove the logical possibility of other public revelation. If a native ran into a Jehovah Witness would scripture be enough to equip him for every good work? Even of the Jehovah's Witness used a proper translation I would suggest he would not have a very good chance of receiving the gospel. It is a book. It needs to be taught properly.

 I said, “The doctrine of Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean that Scripture is necessary and sufficient for everything.  In other words, we readily admit that even though Scripture is necessary and sufficient for x, it may be necessary and not sufficient for y.  For example, we maintain that although Scripture is necessary and sufficient as a guide to live a godly life, it is insufficient as to whether or not I live a godly life.  For, in addition to the guide, I must add my will.”
I’ve made this point in a number of ways.  I used the example of Frank’s Furniture Farm.  You argued that you still need a truck and people to arrange the furniture.  Applied to the discussion, we still need teachers and churches and etc to get this truth arranged in people’s lives.  My response was essentially, "that's my point... the doctrine of Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean that Scriptures do all that work for us and so it doesn’t eliminate instrumental causes (i.e., teachers, text, literacy, churches, pliable wills, etc…).  But likewise, it doesn’t impugn the sufficiency of Scripture for furnishing all that we need for faith and practice.  The passage does say that one can sufficiently equip a believer for works of service with the Bible.     
You seem to be watering down SS to the point where it is meaningless. You agree that one can come to a false gospel using SS? That the teachers and churches and traditions can cause somebody who thinks they are following the bible to actually not be? That somebody who is bright and sincere and reads his bible can get the gospel hugely wrong? If you believe that it seems to me to be a denial of SS. If you don't then you need to show how all these things that change the way we read scripture cannot cause us to lose the gospel. That is hard to do given how many strange doctrines there are out there.

 I’ve also used the compass/stars analogy.  Your response was that “God’s word needs to provide us with all the essential answers to questions of faith, morals, worship, etc.  We don’t even know what all those questions are.” 
Well, we’re going to differ on some points here.  You feel that there are certain questions that the Bible doesn’t give answers to, and therefore makes it insufficient.  We would probably disagree on what one needs to know to be adequately equipped for every good work.  Certainly, the Bible doesn’t answer all the questions related to faith and practice (but we don’t include omniscience as a prerequisite of sanctification).  But it doesn’t need to.  It needs only to answer the questions that are necessary to please him and serve him. 
You respond that, “You keep running away from the Sola part of Sola Scriptura.  This is a good thing. It is the problematic part. We need an interpreter. The Sola part tells us we can't find one that is trustworthy. None that at least gets the basics infallibly right. Sufficient needs to mean that Sola Scriptura is at least workable. It would not imply it is best but it would be at least one possibility. But empirical evidence shows it is not workable. The interpreter problem seems to be way bigger than people are willing to admit.”
First of all, I’m not running from the Sola part of Sola Scriptura, I’m establishing what it means and what it doesn’t mean.  Maybe this doesn’t fit what you think the Protestant believes.  Maybe that’s something you have to revise as you work through your critique.  
I know what protestants believe. I was one for 40 years. I still have several protestant pastors in my immediate family. The problem is not that I don't understand it. It is that it is ill-defined. A true SS person would commend a bible Christian who say gay marriage is OK. They should say he is following his view of scripture just like Martin Luther did. But they don't say that. They react like gay marriage has been infallibly condemned as heresy. That is good. It has been. But they are not being consistent. 

Moreover, you say that the problem with the above schema is that We need an interpreter.”  Again you make no mention of my handling on this particular problem.
Later on you say, “So what are we trying to do? You want to show Sola Scriptura is taught in scripture. In response to some texts where scripture tells us to cling to tradition or tells us that the church is the pillar and foundation of truth you give a logic argument why we should ignore what scripture actually tells us to do and stick with scripture alone.”   
You write as if I never addressed that.  In representing the Roman Catholic position, I began a considerable portion addressing this particular objection early on in the article: 
What’s another route that a Catholic might take?  Roman Catholic apologists have argued that Scripture is insufficient because Scripture itself clearly teaches that believers must also affirm and hold onto oral traditions (Staples 224)…….” 
You say later on, When you say nothing else has "proved itself to be an authoritative voice of God". How does something prove itself? What is the standard you measure something against to see if it is the voice of God or not? Isn't it a matter of faith rather than proof? When somebody publishes a list of 100 biblical contradictions, are you surprised they found that many? I am not. I don't believe any of them are real but if you don't approach the question with faith you will find lots. Same with scripture and tradition. Does it require some faith to believe what they teach makes sense? Sure. Is it more faith than it takes to believe the bible alone makes sense? No….So how does the bible prove itself? It doesn't. Sola Scriptura can't solve the canon question. Tradition flows directly from Jesus so it can be as reliable as it's source. Scripture was not written by Jesus. We need to believe some other revelation that tells us these books were inspired. When you try and describe what that is it sounds a lot like tradition.”
Again, I’ve addressed these points in the section on the canon and argued that the RC position is in the same epistemological boat as the Protestant.
You say, “Sorry if I seemed uncharitable. That was not my intent. I did think it was a bit much for you to compare your conclusions to the divinity of Jesus.” 
Your initial statement was, “He says he is as sure of his little syllogism as he is of the divinity of Christ. Amazing.” 
That is a misquote.  What I said was, 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.”  It seems that you represent me as saying, “take all the Scriptures for the divinity of Christ and put them in a scale, and my exposition of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves to me Sola Scriptura with the same weight as all of these Scriptures do so for the divinity of Christ.”  What I said is that the reasoning that leads one to conclude Sola Scriptura from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is as iron clad as the reasoning that leads us to postulate the deity of Christ from John 1:1-3.  That’s not a grandiose or presumptuous statement.    
That still seems pretty grandiose and presumptuous. The deity of Christ has been held by all Christendom since the beginning. SS has never been in the same category. That and the fact that there is a huge gaping hole in your logic. To me it does not show a problem with you so much as a problem with SS. The idea that one man with his bible and an argument is the highest authority that Christianity has. That there really isn't another category for doctrines like the divinity of Christ.  
Randy, I find it difficult dialoging over a topic when objections are offered as novel and devastating to my position, and yet there’s never the acknowledgement that I’ve covered those particular objections with considerable effort (and in fact in the bulk of the article).  What this has led to is no interaction with the bulk of the polemic.  You spend your time responding to about 1,400 words and neglect about 6,700 words that are dedicated to the very objections with which you dismiss the claim formulated in the 1,400 words.    
I will let you have the last word and let the readers decide whose contention stands scrutiny. 
I could have written a 10,000 word reply to you 8000 word article. That would have been a lot of work. Who would have read it? I'm not convinced anyone would have. So I replied only to the first 1400 words. It turns out you read it and gave me a great reply. Thanks for that. I am sorry that my strategy annoyed you. I can see why when the discussion jumped into some of the topics you discussed in the 6700 words. The truth is blog discussion always jump around. I should have been more careful but all these topics interconnect. It can try one's patience because you end up going over things again and again. Cutting and pasting can help if you just want to point out that this is exactly what I have addressed elsewhere.


God bless you Jake. It was good of you to take the time to respond.  

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