Sola Scriptura and Authority: What authority does your interpretation of Scripture have?

Saints Peter and Paul, by El Greco

Saints Peter and Paul (between 1605 and 1608), by El Greco.

(I shouldn’t write much today. I stand poised to wrap up a draft of the last chapter of the thesis. But I know it’s been a little while and I wanted to share a little bit lest you forget about me. I have a bit of previously written material I may share over the next week or so.)

One thing in particular I’ve been thinking about lately is how knowledgeable Protestants can tenably defend their doctrines; how anyone, reading the writings of the Church Fathers, can honestly contend that the tenets of the Reformation were anything but a sixteenth-century invention, a novel interpretation of Scripture unsupported by any authority other than the interpretation of the Reformers — but trumpeted as “the authority of Scripture.” I’ve got news for you: despite your constant assertions to the contrary, your interpretation of Scripture has no inherent authority; it has only the authority you yourself give it and others might or might not accord it. If it did have a universal and absolute authority — if your interpretation of Scripture could be equated with Scripture itself — then it could not but be universally recognized, and could not fail to settle every doctrinal dispute and end every schism. If Scripture could indeed speak for itself, with a clear and perspicuous voice, then it would indeed be the ultimate authority, for it is God Himself speaking.

Gutenberg Bible

The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible. (Wikipedia)

But Scripture does not speak for itself; it does not edit itself; it does not translate itself; it does not interpret itself. Any reading of Scripture involves the apprehension and comprehension of the human mind; and any reading of Scripture in English involves reading what has already been apprehended and comprehended and reproduced by quite a few people before it came to you. As it stands, under the doctrine of sola scriptura, no matter how one formulates it, the authority of Scripture must always stand upon the authority of someone’s interpretation — be it your own, your pastor’s, your presbytery’s, your church’s, or the Reformers’. The question necessarily becomes not what authority Scripture has but what authority your interpretation has.

St. Thomas Aquinas (Crivelli)

St. Thomas Aquinas (15th century), by Carlo Crivelli. (Wikimedia)

So it is also in the Catholic understanding also, of course: our understanding is built on an interpretation, also. We ask, too, what authority our interpretation has; and rather than looking to ourselves, or to any single man or group of men, we look to the amassed weight of the whole of the Christian tradition, to the interpretations of those who first received Scripture, who understood it in its time and context, and to the many pastors and teachers and exegetes and theologians who have taught on it, thought on it, commented on it, and carried it forward through time to us. This tradition has authority in itself, supported by the very pillars of history. But even beyond that, we look to the voice of the combined Church, to the agreement of the whole people of God, and to the consensus of her bishops, invested with the authority of the Apostles from Christ Himself: to the Church to whom He promised the Holy Spirit, Who would lead her into all truth (John 16:13), to the Magisterium, which speaks with His authority (Luke 10:16).

This screed is not what I set out to write today. Oops. But sola scriptura and the question of authority has certainly been at the forefront of my thought recently, and I expect to be writing a bit more on it in the near future.

53 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura and Authority: What authority does your interpretation of Scripture have?

  1. Indeed,scripture, as a book, cannot interpret itself. And reasonable Protestants and Roman Catholics both recognize that the book that we both have must be interpreted.

    It is foolish to think that an individual’s interpretation of scripture is universally authoritative. That was an interesting phrase that you used, because I don’t think it exists–no interpretation is universally held unless universal is narrowly, and not universally, defined. Christianity, by its nature, is not individual but communal.

    However, we as human beings can and do screw up. No part of human activity is exempt from this impulse. One of the main thrusts of the Reformation traditions is the need to constantly reevaluate ourselves, to challenge our own complacency, to look at our mistakes, to ask ourselves, “How did we get to where we are? Where have we strayed? How do we fix it?” It is at the very heart of our tradition to know that any decision we make as a community can be wrong, and that we must rely wholly on the Holy Spirit to guide us.

    That is why sola scriptura is important to us. When we need guidance, we look in three places–What God has said, what God is saying, and what our ancestors have said about what God has said.

    • Yes, it is foolish to think that one’s interpretation of Scripture is universally authoritative, but that’s exactly how many Protestants speak of “the authority of Scripture” — when what they really mean is the authority of their interpretation of Scripture, which in itself carries no authority.

      You are on better footing than most Protestants — particularly of the Reformed variety, who have made a sacred cow of “the principles of the Reformation” and cling to it just as rigidly and uncompromisingly as any Catholic ever clung to Catholic tradition.

      The Catholic Church affirms, more than anybody, that individual men stray and fall. But we also believe, as Jesus told us, that the whole Church would never fail. He told us that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, because of and despite the fact of human error. And whatever the Reformation intended, it began with the questioning not just of human mistakes, but of divine revelation.

  2. Oh..Joseph…stop being so sooooo pretentious…
    You place too high a value on your own opinions as it is..
    You also misguidedly place value on the catholic traditions, that cannot even boast of any authority from Scripture at all….
    Who are you to make pronouncements about what Christians think…??
    You are not Christian at all. I know that you think that you used to be a Christian, but you were deceiving yourself..
    I suggest that you get a reality check…!!!

    http://wp.me/p3NlHB-16t

  3. Hi Joseph,

    I wonder if you realize that your argument is self-defeating. If no one person’s interpretation can be taken as valid, why should we trust yours? When you say you look “to the interpretations of those who first received Scripture” don’t you really mean your interpretation of those who first received Scripture? How is that any more trustworthy than the approach you ridicule? It’s not really, because you use the same method.

    And you can’t mean the Roman Catholic Church’s official intepretation of the Scripture because their isn’t one.

    And I think that is the point. The Scriptures are not dependent for their authority human understanding. That is precisely the point the Apostle Paul deals with in Romans 3 – “Let God be true and every man a liar.” God’s Word is not dependent upon His creation for verification.

    And I might refer you to a great little book by Professor Robert Louis Wilken entitled, “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God”. Professor Wilken is a patristics expert and as one example he quotes Origen on your topic:

    “How presumptuous, says Origen. Is the gospel to be judged by a criterion external to itself? The “gospel,” he responds, “has a proof that is proper to itself and is more divine than the dialectical arguments of the Greeks.” This more divine proof, he adds, is called “proof of the Spirit and of power” (i Cor. 2:4) by Saint Paul.” (Kindle loc. 249-251)

    You see, God’s Spirit does the work of verifying the Word’s truthfulness.
    I hope you’ll get a chance to read this book or some like it, Joseph. It will greatly help your understanding, as it has mine.

    Peace.

    • Paul,

      The Church interprets her own tradition. My interpretation has nothing to do with it. And yes, when any doctrinal definition or clarification is needed, the Magisterium speaks authoritatively. There is nothing more “official” than that. As you have so often reminded me, I am incapable as a Catholic of interpreting the Word of God, but must rely completely on the teachings of the Magisterium.

      I do not know the context of the quotation you give, but it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the question at hand. The “gospel” in the thought of early Christian writers invariably referred to the saving message of Christ, not to written Scripture.

      I have asked you before to clarify your position, and you have not obliged me. Certainly the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of Scripture — but surely you don’t mean to say that the Holy Spirit infallibly and perspicuously reveals a true and authoritative understanding of Scripture to only certain believers. Perhaps to you? You seem quite absolute in your certainty, and you haven’t explained that to me. Do you really mean to say that Scripture does not have to be interpreted, but is revealed solely and completely by the Holy Spirit, without the involvement of human reason or understanding at all? If that is the case, how do you explain the breakdown of any coherence or order within the Protestant tradition? How is it that you have access to the authoritative teachings of the Holy Spirit and no one else does?

      The peace of Christ to you.

      • thanks for your comments yesterday….

        I had no idea that you thought so badly of me…??

        ” There aren’t that many anti-Catholic bigots who post to my blog, are on a first-name basis with me, and already know me well enough to know that I’m “pretentious” and “think I used to be a Christian.” Who title their blogs “…site.wordpress.com.” Who are clearly British by their word choice and spelling. Who make the same grammatical, punctuation, and capitalization errors. Who post the same sort of ridiculous stories and charges to their blog and the same sort of baseless insults to others. Who by all appearances are merely trolls, bullying others merely to feel superior and get a rise out of others, and who have taken to ending their comments with links to their own blog. Who have the same infatuation with receiving responses in real time from the people they post to, a need to be noticed and talked to. Who post from the same IP addresses. You are pretty much one of a kind. ”

  4. Pingback: “Nuda Scriptura” and the Authority of Tradition | The Lonely Pilgrim

  5. Joseph,
    “If it did have a universal and absolute authority — if your interpretation of Scripture could be equated with Scripture itself — then it could not but be universally recognized, and could not fail to settle every doctrinal dispute and end every schism.”

    But the Catholic church speaking is not universally recognized, so it does not have absolute authority either?

    • Welcome, ChristianTrader. Thanks for the comment!

      I don’t think I meant for that to be a claim about the Catholic Church. Really my point here is that if a proponent of sola scriptura genuinely had an authoritative interpretation of Scripture from the Holy Spirit, then all others who are likewise discerning the Holy Spirit would surely agree with him — per the tenets of sola scriptura, that Scripture is clear and perspicuous and revealed authoritatively to each person by the Holy Spirit. You are right, though, that an absolute and universal authority does not entail that that authority will be universally recognized — and the Catholic Church is a case in point.

      God bless you and His peace be with you!

      • Joseph,
        Why should an implication of sola scriptura be that everyone agrees that a certain interpretation on a topic is correct? If church councils can err, then certainly anyone else can as well? Next, it seems that an implication of people being at various levels of sanctification at various points, is that people will have different views on various subjects.

        But taking a step back, Romans 1, talks about what General Revelation reveals and how everyone is without excuse for not knowing such. General Revelation is authoritative and absolute and not everyone comes to the same conclusion. Why should everyone not coming to the same conclusion about Special Revelation refute Sola Scriptura?

        Blessings to you as well,

        Hermonta

        • Hermonta,

          It’s true that on many particulars, there is not universal agreement on the precepts of the natural law; but there is wide agreement in the basic tenets: murder, theft, perjury, adultery, and many other offenses are pretty much universally understood to be wrong. And yes, there is basic agreement about many basic tenets of Divine Revelation — the person of Christ, the Trinity of the Godhead, salvation by grace.

          The fact that Protestants have demonstrated so thoroughly their inability to agree in matters of doctrine does not in itself refute sola scriptura — but it certainly casts doubt on the notion that Scripture is “perspicuous.” Protestants themselves claim that the saving message of the gospel in Scripture is clear and open to even the simplest minds; that yes, there will be agreement about these things. But when Christians cannot agree on such a basic point of faith as the role and necessity of baptism, for example, to claim that Scripture is “perspicuous” is a practice in denial.

          Scripture cannot speak for itself. So to claim that one speaks by the “authority of Scripture,” barring support from some ecclesial or magisterial authority, is inevitably to appeal to one’s personal interpretation. Because the next guy also claims to be speaking by the “authority of Scripture,” and is saying something completely different. Who is actually speaking by the authority of Scripture? And how can we know? How can the speakers even know for themselves with certainty? Our understanding of Christ and His Gospel must rest on something more than the strength of a person’s self-assurance. For God is not the author of disorder. Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, and I do not see that truth in the disorder of Protestantism.

          Peace be with you.

  6. Joseph.

    “Hermonta,
    It’s true that on many particulars, there is not universal agreement on the precepts of the natural law; but there is wide agreement in the basic tenets: murder, theft, perjury, adultery, and many other offenses are pretty much universally understood to be wrong. And yes, there is basic agreement about many basic tenets of Divine Revelation — the person of Christ, the Trinity of the Godhead, salvation by grace.”

    There really is not basic agreement. Ask a Muslim what is murder, adultery, or even theft? Then ask who do such rules apply to? And Romans 1, says that General Revelation is perspicuous; if it wasn’t so then the claim about being without excuse for the various evils done would make no sense. So widespread disagreements do not attack the notion that something is perspicuous.

    “The fact that Protestants have demonstrated so thoroughly their inability to agree in matters of doctrine does not in itself refute sola scriptura — but it certainly casts doubt on the notion that Scripture is “perspicuous.” Protestants themselves claim that the saving message of the gospel in Scripture is clear and open to even the simplest minds; that yes, there will be agreement about these things. But when Christians cannot agree on such a basic point of faith as the role and necessity of baptism, for example, to claim that Scripture is “perspicuous” is a practice in denial.”

    See above for a counter to this claim.

    “Scripture cannot speak for itself. So to claim that one speaks by the “authority of Scripture,” barring support from some ecclesial or magisterial authority, is inevitably to appeal to one’s personal interpretation. Because the next guy also claims to be speaking by the “authority of Scripture,” and is saying something completely different. Who is actually speaking by the authority of Scripture? And how can we know? How can the speakers even know for themselves with certainty? Our understanding of Christ and His Gospel must rest on something more than the strength of a person’s self-assurance. For God is not the author of disorder. Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, and I do not see that truth in the disorder of Protestantism.”

    First off, even if one accepted every claim made by the Roman Catholic Church, the view of confusion used here would still be the situation that we find ourselves in. There would still be multiple voices claiming different things. The only way to remove confusion would be to have only one voice speaking at all times. There is no reason to believe that such was ever the case in world history. If having multiple voices throughout all time, does not refute the view that God is not the author of confusion, then having multiple voices within Protestantism, does not imply the falseness of any non Roman Catholic viewpoint.

    Next, I agree with you that the wide ranging views within Protestantism is a problem, however, I disagree with you on the view that it is problem that unable to be overcome.

    Next, why do you believe that one can only get justified confidence in what one thinks the Bible is saying, if one has an infallible interpreter? There are many areas in life where we do not have an infallible interpreter, and still can have confidence that what we believe about the subject is true.

    I’ll stop here and let you respond, as you see fit.

    Hermonta

    • Hi Hermonta,

      There really is not basic agreement. Ask a Muslim what is murder, adultery, or even theft? Then ask who do such rules apply to? And Romans 1, says that General Revelation is perspicuous; if it wasn’t so then the claim about being without excuse for the various evils done would make no sense. So widespread disagreements do not attack the notion that something is perspicuous.

      Even Muslims understand the wrong of murder, adultery, or theft. They only see some such actions as justified by the cause of the advancement of their religion.

      See above for a counter to this claim.

      The above claim is invalid.

      First off, even if one accepted every claim made by the Roman Catholic Church, the view of confusion used here would still be the situation that we find ourselves in. There would still be multiple voices claiming different things. The only way to remove confusion would be to have only one voice speaking at all times.

      And how is this a response to Catholic claims? In the Catholic Church, all voices of authority speak in unity with the Magisterium of the Church: there is effectively only one voice.

      There is no reason to believe that such was ever the case in world history.

      There isn’t? But it’s the case now. And has been throughout all the ages of the Church. Of course, you will say that there will be and always have been people who disagree. That has been and always will be the case as long as humans have free will. But there is only one voice in the Church that is accorded universal authority.

      If having multiple voices throughout all time, does not refute the view that God is not the author of confusion, then having multiple voices within Protestantism, does not imply the falseness of any non Roman Catholic viewpoint.

      There haven’t been “multiple voices” in the Church “throughout all time.” That is a Protestant invention.

      Next, I agree with you that the wide ranging views within Protestantism is a problem, however, I disagree with you on the view that it is problem that unable to be overcome.

      I agree that it can be overcome — by returning to the authority of the Catholic Church. How would you propose to overcome it? Under the Protestant model, all unity, even the very concept of it, has disintegrated. There are today more than 40,000 distinct Protestant sects, and that is not even counting so-called “non-denominational” churches. Protestants are more content with individualism and independence than the unity our Lord prayed for — they don’t want any of it.

      Next, why do you believe that one can only get justified confidence in what one thinks the Bible is saying, if one has an infallible interpreter? There are many areas in life where we do not have an infallible interpreter, and still can have confidence that what we believe about the subject is true.

      Your claim refutes itself. “There are many areas in where we do not have an infallible inerpreter, and [we] still can have confidence.” Confidence in what, if not ourselves? Based on what, if not our own understanding?

      Peace be with you.

      • Hi Hermonta,
        There really is not basic agreement. Ask a Muslim what is murder, adultery, or even theft? Then ask who do such rules apply to? And Romans 1, says that General Revelation is perspicuous; if it wasn’t so then the claim about being without excuse for the various evils done would make no sense. So widespread disagreements do not attack the notion that something is perspicuous.

        Even Muslims understand the wrong of murder, adultery, or theft. They only see some such actions as justified by the cause of the advancement of their religion.

        To say that there is basic agreement on murder etc with Muslims is akin to saying that one has agreement on baptism without agreeing on the mode or who should be baptized. But one agrees that water should be used in some way. One cannot have agreement in concept while have such disagreement in application. One could perhaps say that there is universal agreement that some sort of killing is bad and other types are okay (but to be fair there are real pacifists), however such agreement is so minimal, that it is improper to say there is agreement on what murder is.

        First off, even if one accepted every claim made by the Roman Catholic Church, the view of confusion used here would still be the situation that we find ourselves in. There would still be multiple voices claiming different things. The only way to remove confusion would be to have only one voice speaking at all times.

        And how is this a response to Catholic claims? In the Catholic Church, all voices of authority speak in unity with the Magisterium of the Church: there is effectively only one voice.

        The problem here is even if one takes the Roman Catholic viewpoint that it speaks with one voice throughout history, is that there are other voices, that one has to attempt to decipher and decide who is telling the truth, in addition to the RC voice. If that is not horrific confusion that seems to imply bad things about God, then how can a myriad of Protestant voices, imply the falsehood of anything but the RC church?

        There is no reason to believe that such was ever the case in world history.

        There is no reason to believe that such was ever the case in world history.
        There isn’t? But it’s the case now. And has been throughout all the ages of the Church. Of course, you will say that there will be and always have been people who disagree. That has been and always will be the case as long as humans have free will. But there is only one voice in the Church that is accorded universal authority.

        If there was only one voice that has been accorded universal authority, then we would not be having this discussion. If people disagree, then that belief has not been accorded universal authority.

        Next, if you do think the RC church has always spoken uniformly on everything, then how do you understand the church’s voice/view on usury?

        If having multiple voices throughout all time, does not refute the view that God is not the author of confusion, then having multiple voices within Protestantism, does not imply the falseness of any non Roman Catholic viewpoint.

        There haven’t been “multiple voices” in the Church “throughout all time.” That is a Protestant invention.

        Um, every creed in Church history was put together in response to a controversy within the Church. If the Church had always spoken with one voice, then there would have never been any controversy in church history and probably no creeds.

        Next, I agree with you that the wide ranging views within Protestantism is a problem, however, I disagree with you on the view that it is problem that unable to be overcome.

        I agree that it can be overcome — by returning to the authority of the Catholic Church. How would you propose to overcome it? Under the Protestant model, all unity, even the very concept of it, has disintegrated. There are today more than 40,000 distinct Protestant sects, and that is not even counting so-called “non-denominational” churches. Protestants are more content with individualism and independence than the unity our Lord prayed for — they don’t want any of it.

        Here your history is just off. The lack of unity is what caused/created Protestantism and not the other way around.

        Now again the lack of unity in the church is a scandal, but the lack of unity would remain even if the RC church was able to get the Protestants to sit down and shut up.

        Next, why do you believe that one can only get justified confidence in what one thinks the Bible is saying, if one has an infallible interpreter? There are many areas in life where we do not have an infallible interpreter, and still can have confidence that what we believe about the subject is true.

        Your claim refutes itself. “There are many areas in where we do not have an infallible inerpreter, and [we] still can have confidence.” Confidence in what, if not ourselves? Based on what, if not our own understanding?

        Yes, confidence in our own understanding. Next, to refute my claim, you would have to maintain that we can have no confidence/knowledge in anything without an infallible intepretation.

        There are a number of things that we know, where the RC church has not claimed to speak infallibly concerning. Do you disagree that such knowledge exists? If you do not, then I am unsure what your claim against Protestantism is.

        • To say that there is basic agreement on murder etc with Muslims is akin to saying that one has agreement on baptism without agreeing on the mode or who should be baptized. But one agrees that water should be used in some way. One cannot have agreement in concept while have such disagreement in application. One could perhaps say that there is universal agreement that some sort of killing is bad and other types are okay (but to be fair there are real pacifists), however such agreement is so minimal, that it is improper to say there is agreement on what murder is.

          By “murder,” I am referring specifically to the intentional and unjust killing of another for an unjustified reason (that is, not in war or self-defense). You can quibble over definitions, but that is the definition I am using. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and atheists all agree that that kind of killing is wrong. This is a nearly universal agreement, and has been since the beginning of civilization. Now, do you mean to argue against Scripture, against God’s revelation itself, that He has written the law on the hearts of men?

          The problem here is even if one takes the Roman Catholic viewpoint that it speaks with one voice throughout history, is that there are other voices, that one has to attempt to decipher and decide who is telling the truth, in addition to the RC voice. If that is not horrific confusion that seems to imply bad things about God, then how can a myriad of Protestant voices, imply the falsehood of anything but the RC church?

          The Church speaks with only one voice. That is why Christ gave it to us, to “guide us into all truth.” One shouldn’t listen to heretics or schismatics, which are apparently the “other voices” to which you are referring.

          If there was only one voice that has been accorded universal authority, then we would not be having this discussion. If people disagree, then that belief has not been accorded universal authority.

          The Catholic Church has only spoken with one voice throughout all the ages of history. And Christians universally recognized the authority of the Church throughout history — until they didn’t, in which case they became heretics and schismatics. The fact that some in their free will have chosen not to accept the authority of the Church does not alter the fact that the Church has spoken with one voice, and that those who are faithful to the Church universally accept that voice as authoritative.

          Next, if you do think the RC church has always spoken uniformly on everything, then how do you understand the church’s voice/view on usury?

          What about usury? The Church has always condemned it.

          Um, every creed in Church history was put together in response to a controversy within the Church. If the Church had always spoken with one voice, then there would have never been any controversy in church history and probably no creeds.

          The voices of heretics and schismatics are not the voice of the Church. The voice of the Church is that spoken through the Magisterium — all the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. By definition, then, every council, every creed, is a declaration of the Church, with one voice, of true and proper doctrine.

          Here your history is just off.The lack of unity is what caused/created Protestantism and not the other way around.

          Would you care to explain that? Before the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was one, the only universal Church in the West. After the Reformation, there were many schismatic churches that have been continuing to splinter ever since. Do you have a different understanding of “unity”?

          Now again the lack of unity in the church is a scandal, but the lack of unity would remain even if the RC church was able to get the Protestants to sit down ad shut up.

          By definition, no, it would not, if the Protestant churches returned to communion with Rome. “Communion” means “one together” — by the very definition of the word, an end to disunity.

          Yes, confidence in our own understanding. Next, to refute my claim, you would have to maintain that we can have no confidence/knowledge in anything without an infallible intepretation.

          You keep making that claim, but it does not follow at all. We cannot have confidence without authority. It doesn’t have to be infallible; it only has to be recognized and accepted. Authority based solely on one’s own understanding is not authority at all.

          There are a number of things that we know, where the RC church has not claimed to speak infallibly concerning. Do you disagree that such knowledge exists? If you do not, then I am unsure what your claim against Protestantism is.

          All knowledge must be based on authority. You are speaking vaguely here, so I can only give a vague answer. Protestants set themselves up as their own authorities, all the while claiming to adhere to the authority of Scripture, but actually supplanting it.

          Peace be with you.

        • CT: To say that there is basic agreement on murder etc with Muslims is akin to saying that one has agreement on baptism without agreeing on the mode or who should be baptized. But one agrees that water should be used in some way. One cannot have agreement in concept while have such disagreement in application. One could perhaps say that there is universal agreement that some sort of killing is bad and other types are okay (but to be fair there are real pacifists), however such agreement is so minimal, that it is improper to say there is agreement on what murder is.

          JR: By “murder,” I am referring specifically to the intentional and unjust killing of another for an unjustified reason (that is, not in war or self-defense). You can quibble over definitions, but that is the definition I am using. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and atheists all agree that kind of killing is wrong. This is a nearly universal agreement, and has been since the beginning of civilization. Now, do you mean to argue against Scripture, against God’s revelation itself, that He has written the law on the hearts of men?

          My point is that the disagreements over what is justified vs. not justified shows that the agreement is just nominal and not real.

          Next, I am not arguing against Scripture or against anything that God has revealed in General or Special Revelation or has written on anyone’s heart. The issue is what does one expect from a suppressor of the truth in unrighteousness? Complete agreement with those who do not suppress the truth?

          CT:The problem here is even if one takes the Roman Catholic viewpoint that it speaks with one voice throughout history, is that there are other voices, that one has to attempt to decipher and decide who is telling the truth, in addition to the RC voice. If that is not horrific confusion that seems to imply bad things about God, then how can a myriad of Protestant voices, imply the falsehood of anything but the RC church?

          JR:he Church speaks with only one voice. That is why Christ gave it to us, to “guide us into all truth.” One shouldn’t listen to heretics or schismatics, which are apparently the “other voices” to which you are referring.

          You have an honest RC position, but you have to understand my point was concerning someone who was outside of the RC church and has to decide who is correct. You making such a point/claim would have to be treated as one voice among many. If such is the case, then the many voices issue remain even if every Protestant converted to Rome tomorrow. Therefore this cannot be an argument for the falsity of any non RC church.

          CT: If there was only one voice that has been accorded universal authority, then we would not be having this discussion. If people disagree, then that belief has not been accorded universal authority.

          JR: The Catholic Church has only spoken with one voice throughout all the ages of history. And Christians universally recognized the authority of the Church throughout history — until they didn’t, in which case they became heretics and schismatics. The fact that some in their free will have chosen not to accept the authority of the Church does not alter the fact that the Church has spoken with one voice, and that those who are faithful to the Church universally accept that voice as authoritative.

          The various creeds were accepted because of the strength of the claims and the arguments for those claims, not just because some hierarchy said X was the case. It seems that your position implies that the only reason the creeds read the way that they do is because a group of men decided that X would be the official position and everyone who opposed it would be labeled a heretic.

          I would argue that the heretics lost because they were unable to make sense of the Biblical data and lost the debate.

          CT: Next, if you do think the RC church has always spoken uniformly on everything, then how do you understand the church’s voice/view on usury?

          JR: What about usury? The Church has always condemned it.

          When was the last time a usurer was denied access to the Eucharist or excommunicated for being a usurer? If one is not willing to exercise church discipline in light of one’s condemnations then one does not care about the subject.

          Also such actions did occur in the past.

          CT: Um, every creed in Church history was put together in response to a controversy within the Church. If the Church had always spoken with one voice, then there would have never been any controversy in church history and probably no creeds.

          JR: The voices of heretics and schismatics are not the voice of the Church. The voice of the Church is that spoken through the Magisterium — all the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. By definition, then, every council, every creed, is a declaration of the Church, with one voice, of true and proper doctrine.

          It seems that you are forgetting that the creeds/councils were always written after the controversy took place. For a period of time, there was confusion/doubt as to which way the rulings would go. The heretics were normally/always? in step with the creeds to that point. The controversy occurs over some disagreement over an implication of a creed. A council gets together and produces a more comprehensive creed dealing with this tension/ambiguity/omission of the previous creeds.

          CT: Here your history is just off.The lack of unity is what caused/created Protestantism and not the other way around.

          JR: Would you care to explain that? Before the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church was one, the only universal Church in the West. After the Reformation, there were many schismatic churches that have been continuing to splinter ever since. Do you have a different understanding of “unity”?

          That one can only claim to be the only universal Church in the West vs. the only universal church is controversial in itself, but that is for another time.

          Here it seems that you are doing something to confusing a doctor who calls the time of death of a patient, with the person who shot the patient with a handgun. Calling a person’s death doesn’t kill them, it simply acknowledges the fact that the patient is dead. The doctor is not guilty of murder for calling the death. The Protestant Reformation did not kill the unity, the unity was already gone. This is why the Protestant Reformation was able to capture so many people.

          CT: Now again the lack of unity in the church is a scandal, but the lack of unity would remain even if the RC church was able to get the Protestants to sit down ad shut up.

          JR: By definition, no, it would not, if the Protestant churches returned to communion with Rome. “Communion” means “one together” — by the very definition of the word, an end to disunity.

          Your position seems to be akin to outlawing divorce so that the spouses will always be unified. Unity between spouses is not an implication of outlawing divorce.

          CT: Yes, confidence in our own understanding. Next, to refute my claim, you would have to maintain that we can have no confidence/knowledge in anything without an infallible intepretation.

          JR: You keep making that claim, but it does not follow at all. We cannot have confidence without authority. It doesn’t have to be infallible; it only has to be recognized and accepted. Authority based solely on one’s own understanding is not authority at all.

          Why do you believe 1+1=2?

          CT: There are a number of things that we know, where the RC church has not claimed to speak infallibly concerning. Do you disagree that such knowledge exists? If you do not, then I am unsure what your claim against Protestantism is.

          JR: All knowledge must be based on authority. You are speaking vaguely here, so I can only give a vague answer. Protestants set themselves as their own authorities, all the while claiming to adhere to the authority of Scripture, but actually supplanting it.

          As long as you acknowledge that the authority necessary for knowledge can be one’s own authority, I will not fight you here.

          • My point is that the disagreements over what is justified vs. not justified shows that the agreement is just nominal and not real.

            My point is that there are very many things, such as that unjustified killing is wrong, in which all people are in real, universal agreement. You seem to be denying this.

            Next, I am not arguing against Scripture or gainst anything that God has revealed in General or Special Revelation or has written on anyone’s heart. The issue is what does one expect from a suppressor of the truth in unrighteousness? Complete agreement with those who do not suppress the truth?

            I don’t really understand what you’re talking about here. Who is suppressing the truth? Who is unrighteous? And what does that have to do with this discussion?

            You have an honest RC position, but you have to understand my point was concerning someone who was outside of the RC church and has to decide who is correct. You making such a point/claim would have to be treated as one voice among many. If such is the case, then the many voices issue remain even if every Protestant converted to Rome tomorrow. Therefore this cannot be an argument for the falsity of any non RC church.

            Prior to the Reformation, someone who was outside the Church was by definition a schismatic. The Church was, as the Church of Christ and the teacher of His truth, by definition correct. That authority rested not only on the infallible authority you seem so concerned about, but on the agreement and communion of all the orthodox bishops. If all the Christian bishops in communion declared that you were wrong, you were wrong; if you denied that authority and insisted upon your own understanding and teaching, you were a heretic. You seem to be under the impression that there was a diversity of thought in the Early Church. There was not. If you did not accept the teachings of the Church, you weren’t a Christian — by definition.

            The various creeds were accepted because of the strength of the claims and the arguments for those claims, not just because some hierarchy said X was the case. It seems that your position implies that the only reason the creeds read the way that they do is because a group of men decided that X would be the official position and everyone who opposed it would be labeled a heretic.

            You are thinking like a Protestant. Do you think it ever even occurred to a lay Christian to hold the claims of his bishop, let alone a council of all the bishops, to the standard of his own private interpretation? No! Christians looked to their bishops, to the Church, as apt disciples to their teachers. When the Church spoke, that was Christian doctrine. The creeds were, in fact, carefully worded by agreement of the bishops; they did read that way because a group of men declared the official position and everyone who opposed that was, by definition, a heretic.

            I would argue that the heretics lost because they were unable to make sense of the Biblical data and lost the debate.

            The heretics “lost” because they were heretics. This was not a “debate” in the sense you seem to think it was. There is only one Christian truth. The Catholic Church is not like Protestant churches in that, if you disagreed with its teaching, you were free to go and start your own church and teach your own understanding of the truth. Though at times orthodox doctrine might not be clearly defined, when the bishops came together to define it, by their reasoning, by their authority, and above all by guidance of the Holy Spirit — when they spoke, that was orthodoxy.

            It seems that you are forgetting that the creeds/councils were always written after the controversy took place. For a period of time, there was confusion/doubt as to which way the rulings would go. The heretics were normally/always? in step with the creeds to that point. The controversy occurs over some disagreement over an implication of a creed. A council gets together and produces a more comprehensive creed dealing with this tension/ambiguity/omission of the previous creeds.

            What makes you think I’m forgetting? Yes, that is mostly correct — as I said, the orthodox truth may not have been immediately clear to everyone, until the Church spoke and defined the doctrine. But it was certainly clear to some, even long before the councils were convoked. Read some of St. Irenaeus’s polemics against the Gnostics, or St. Athanasius’s against the Arians, or St. Augustine’s against the Pelagians. They never had any doubt what the truth was. The faith had already been delivered once for all (Jude 3); there was no new revelation, only discernment and definition.

            When was the last time a usurer was denied access to the Eucharist or excommunicated for being a usurer? If one is not willing to exercise church discipline in light of one’s condemnations then one does not care about the subject.

            What does church discipline have to do with this discussion? You seem, anyway, to be misunderstanding what “usury” is. At one time, yes, it was understood to be any lending at interest — but today, it’s generally understood to refer only to unethical, immoral, exploitative or predatory loans. Quoting one of my books:

            “Usury, in its wider signification, means all gain made by lending. This is a sense which usury often has in the classics, and so understood usury occurs whenever a man lends capital at interest. Now, however, usury signifies unjust gain on a loan, unjust because not justified by the loss, risk, etc., of the lender or the advantage to the borrower, or because the amount of gain is exorbitant. … It became more and more evident that commerce could not exist without a rate of interest, and reflection showed many just grounds on which a moderate rate could be exacted. Such are the risk to the lender, the loss to which he is put by the want of capital with which he might trade, the fruit which the money yields, &c. The law can remove many of the dangers of usury by fixing a legal rate, and the poor are now just the persons who would suffer most, were all interest prohibited.” [William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, Sixth Edition, With Additions, 827–828 (New York: The Catholic Publication Society Co., 1887)]

            That one can only claim to be the only universal Church in the West vs. the only universal church is controversial in itself, but that is for another time.

            There is only one universal Church. But the Eastern Orthodox also claim to be that church. The Catholic Church was the only Church in the West up until the time of the Reformation.

            The Protestant Reformation did not kill the unity, the unity was already gone. This is why the Protestant Reformation was able to capture so many people.

            How many different schismatic churches were there prior to the Reformation? Who else was loudly proclaiming error prior to Luther?

            Why do you believe 1+1=2?

            Because mathematicians since the dawn of civilization have all agreed that 1 + 1 = 2.

            As long as you acknowledge that the authority necessary for knowledge can be one’s own authority, I will not fight you here.

            You won’t fight me? So you agree that Protestants supplant the authority of Scripture? ;) No, I explicitly said that certainty in knowledge cannot depend solely on one’s understanding or authority.

            Peace be with you.

        • My point is that there are very many things, such as that unjustified killing is wrong, in which all people are in real, universal agreement. You seem to be denying this.

          I am denying this because if you cannot agree on what is unjustified killing, then one has agreement in name only.

          I don’t really understand what you’re talking about here. Who is suppressing the truth? Who is unrighteous? And what does that have to do with this discussion?

          The point here is explaining why we should not be surprised to find a lack of agreement. And even amongst Christians, people are at various levels of sanctification etc, so we should not find across the board agreement on everything. However over time and generations, we should come closer together.

          Prior to the Reformation, someone who was outside the Church was by definition a schismatic. The Church was, as the Church of Christ and the teacher of His truth, by definition correct. That authority rested not only on the infallible authority you seem so concerned about, but on the agreement and communion of all the orthodox bishops. If all the Christian bishops in communion declared that you were wrong, you were wrong; if you denied that authority and insisted upon your own understanding and teaching, you were a heretic. You seem to be under the impression that there was a diversity of thought in the Early Church. There was not. If you did not accept the teachings of the Church, you weren’t a Christian — by definition.

          My words stretched beyond the various strands of Christianity and included non Christians religions such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. There are many voices beyond Christians on how one should live/believe and become right with God. So even if one assumes one Christian voice, one still has to decide the truth of the myriad of voices that speak today and have spoken since time began.

          You are thinking like a Protestant. Do you think it ever even occurred to a lay Christian to hold the claims of his bishop, let alone a council of all the bishops, to the standard of his own private interpretation? No! Christians looked to their bishops, to the Church, as apt disciples to their teachers. When the Church spoke, that was Christian doctrine. The creeds were, in fact, carefully worded by agreement of the bishops; they did read that way because a group of men declared the official position and everyone who opposed that was, by definition, a heretic.

          :), I am not thinking like a simply as a Protestant but also as one who sees the entire picture. People in general do not think about what they believe and why until they are challenged. For example, children who grow up in churches today, tend not to think deeply about their faith until they are challenged in college by skeptical professors and other students. The past isnt much different than the present on this point. If people in the past, did not run into people of other religions vs. often, then it would be relatively easy to maintain one’s belief in the status quo.

          The heretics “lost” because they were heretics. This was not a “debate” in the sense you seem to think it was. There is only one Christian truth. The Catholic Church is not like Protestant churches in that, if you disagreed with its teaching, you were free to go and start your own church and teach your own understanding of the truth. Though at times orthodox doctrine might not be clearly defined, when the bishops came together to define it, by their reasoning, by their authority, and above all by guidance of the Holy Spirit — when they spoke, that was orthodoxy.

          There was a debate because the church had not spoken on particular subject because doctrine had not developed enough to ask or answer the question beforehand. For example, a new believer or someone curious will ask certain basic question. Talk to them some time in the future and they will be asking different questions. Such is not necessarily attacking the truth of the previous answers. A silly answer would be that they had already been told everything.

          Similar situations have occurred over the course of Church history.

          What makes you think I’m forgetting?

          Well the way that you write about not having any debate for one.

          Yes, that is mostly correct — as I said, the orthodox truth may not have been immediately clear to everyone, until the Church spoke and defined the doctrine. But it was certainly clear to some, even long before the councils were convoked. Read some of St. Irenaeus’s polemics against the Gnostics, or St. Athanasius’s against the Arians, or St. Augustine’s against the Pelagians. They never had any doubt what the truth was. The faith had already been delivered once for all (Jude 3); there was no new revelation, only discernment and definition.

          Who said anything about new revelation? Discernment and definition, is enough to defend my position that there were questions that had not already been answered. Given such a situation, “a debate” is a proper term in addressing what happened.

          Next, the people named above where not magisterium all to themselves were they? If not, then even if they believed something, does not make it uniformly believed or the voice of the church, right?

          Next, there were further questions that came up as we attempted to build on what they left us. Those further questions had to be debated and discussed.

          What does church discipline have to do with this discussion? You seem, anyway, to be misunderstanding what “usury” is. At one time, yes, it was understood to be any lending at interest — but today, it’s generally understood to refer only to unethical, immoral, exploitative or predatory loans. Quoting one of my books:
          “Usury, in its wider signification, means all gain made by lending. This is a sense which usury often has in the classics, and so understood usury occurs whenever a man lends capital at interest. Now, however, usury signifies unjust gain on a loan, unjust because not justified by the loss, risk, etc., of the lender or the advantage to the borrower, or because the amount of gain is exorbitant. … It became more and more evident that commerce could not exist without a rate of interest, and reflection showed many just grounds on which a moderate rate could be exacted. Such are the risk to the lender, the loss to which he is put by the want of capital with which he might trade, the fruit which the money yields, &c. The law can remove many of the dangers of usury by fixing a legal rate, and the poor are now just the persons who would suffer most, were all interest prohibited.” [William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, Sixth Edition, With Additions, 827–828 (New York: The Catholic Publication Society Co., 1887)]

          How is this any better than the worse things that the Protestant Reformation has been accused of.

          One defines something, bans it/calls those who partake as being immoral and unworthy of the Eucharist, then look at the situation again, redefine the term, and then let those who we said were immoral off the hook?

          Here is a helpful ink on subject – http://revisionistreview.blogspot.com/2013/06/another-challenge-to-hoffmans-thesis-on.html

          There is only one universal Church. But the Eastern Orthodox also claim to be that church. The Catholic Church was the only Church in the West up until the time of the Reformation.

          It is still controversial that one has two competitors to the title of being that church. One would still need to come to their own conclusion as to who is right.

          How many different schismatic churches were there prior to the Reformation? Who else was loudly proclaiming error prior to Luther?

          One does not need to point to a particular precursor church in order to properly state that the unity had failed. If the unity was intact, then the church would not have lost so many people when the reformation kicked off!

          Because mathematicians since the dawn of civilization have all agreed that 1 + 1 = 2.

          You are an odd one then. Most would say something similar to the friends of the Samaritan woman at the well – John 4:42 “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

          They would say that they believe they can see it for themselves.

          You won’t fight me? So you agree that Protestants supplant the authority of Scripture? ;) No, I explicitly said that certainty in knowledge cannot depend solely on one’s understanding or authority.

          Just as in 1+1=2, I don’t need anyone’s authority for various issues. I can see it for myself.

    • By the way, Hermonta, since you are keen to defend sola scriptura, do you think you could undertake my challenge? It’s several practical questions about the historical foundations of sola scriptura that I think must be answered for the doctrine to be able to stand.

  7. My point is that there are very many things, such as that unjustified killing is wrong, in which all people are in real, universal agreement. You seem to be denying this.

    I am denying this because if you cannot agree on what is unjustified killing, then one has agreement in name only.

    I don’t really understand what you’re talking about here. Who is suppressing the truth? Who is unrighteous? And what does that have to do with this discussion?

    The point here is explaining why we should not be surprised to find a lack of agreement. And even amongst Christians, people are at various levels of sanctification etc, so we should not find across the board agreement on everything. However over time and generations, we should come closer together.

    Prior to the Reformation, someone who was outside the Church was by definition a schismatic. The Church was, as the Church of Christ and the teacher of His truth, by definition correct. That authority rested not only on the infallible authority you seem so concerned about, but on the agreement and communion of all the orthodox bishops. If all the Christian bishops in communion declared that you were wrong, you were wrong; if you denied that authority and insisted upon your own understanding and teaching, you were a heretic. You seem to be under the impression that there was a diversity of thought in the Early Church. There was not. If you did not accept the teachings of the Church, you weren’t a Christian — by definition.

    My words stretched beyond the various strands of Christianity and included non Christians religions such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. There are many voices beyond Christians on how one should live/believe and become right with God. So even if one assumes one Christian voice, one still has to decide the truth of the myriad of voices that speak today and have spoken since time began.

    You are thinking like a Protestant. Do you think it ever even occurred to a lay Christian to hold the claims of his bishop, let alone a council of all the bishops, to the standard of his own private interpretation? No! Christians looked to their bishops, to the Church, as apt disciples to their teachers. When the Church spoke, that was Christian doctrine. The creeds were, in fact, carefully worded by agreement of the bishops; they did read that way because a group of men declared the official position and everyone who opposed that was, by definition, a heretic.

    :), I am not thinking like a simply as a Protestant but also as one who sees the entire picture. People in general do not think about what they believe and why until they are challenged. For example, children who grow up in churches today, tend not to think deeply about their faith until they are challenged in college by skeptical professors and other students. The past isnt much different than the present on this point. If people in the past, did not run into people of other religions vs. often, then it would be relatively easy to maintain one’s belief in the status quo.

    The heretics “lost” because they were heretics. This was not a “debate” in the sense you seem to think it was. There is only one Christian truth. The Catholic Church is not like Protestant churches in that, if you disagreed with its teaching, you were free to go and start your own church and teach your own understanding of the truth. Though at times orthodox doctrine might not be clearly defined, when the bishops came together to define it, by their reasoning, by their authority, and above all by guidance of the Holy Spirit — when they spoke, that was orthodoxy.

    There was a debate because the church had not spoken on particular subject because doctrine had not developed enough to ask or answer the question beforehand. For example, a new believer or someone curious will ask certain basic question. Talk to them some time in the future and they will be asking different questions. Such is not necessarily attacking the truth of the previous answers. A silly answer would be that they had already been told everything.

    Similar situations have occurred over the course of Church history.

    What makes you think I’m forgetting?

    Well the way that you write about not having any debate for one.

    Yes, that is mostly correct — as I said, the orthodox truth may not have been immediately clear to everyone, until the Church spoke and defined the doctrine. But it was certainly clear to some, even long before the councils were convoked. Read some of St. Irenaeus’s polemics against the Gnostics, or St. Athanasius’s against the Arians, or St. Augustine’s against the Pelagians. They never had any doubt what the truth was. The faith had already been delivered once for all (Jude 3); there was no new revelation, only discernment and definition.

    Who said anything about new revelation? Discernment and definition, is enough to defend my position that there were questions that had not already been answered. Given such a situation, “a debate” is a proper term in addressing what happened.

    Next, the people named above where not magisterium all to themselves were they? If not, then even if they believed something, does not make it uniformly believed or the voice of the church, right?

    Next, there were further questions that came up as we attempted to build on what they left us. Those further questions had to be debated and discussed.

    What does church discipline have to do with this discussion? You seem, anyway, to be misunderstanding what “usury” is. At one time, yes, it was understood to be any lending at interest — but today, it’s generally understood to refer only to unethical, immoral, exploitative or predatory loans. Quoting one of my books:
    “Usury, in its wider signification, means all gain made by lending. This is a sense which usury often has in the classics, and so understood usury occurs whenever a man lends capital at interest. Now, however, usury signifies unjust gain on a loan, unjust because not justified by the loss, risk, etc., of the lender or the advantage to the borrower, or because the amount of gain is exorbitant. … It became more and more evident that commerce could not exist without a rate of interest, and reflection showed many just grounds on which a moderate rate could be exacted. Such are the risk to the lender, the loss to which he is put by the want of capital with which he might trade, the fruit which the money yields, &c. The law can remove many of the dangers of usury by fixing a legal rate, and the poor are now just the persons who would suffer most, were all interest prohibited.” [William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, Sixth Edition, With Additions, 827–828 (New York: The Catholic Publication Society Co., 1887)]

    How is this any better than the worse things that the Protestant Reformation has been accused of.

    One defines something, bans it/calls those who partake as being immoral and unworthy of the Eucharist, then look at the situation again, redefine the term, and then let those who we said were immoral off the hook?

    Here is a helpful ink on subject – http://revisionistreview.blogspot.com/2013/06/another-challenge-to-hoffmans-thesis-on.html

    There is only one universal Church. But the Eastern Orthodox also claim to be that church. The Catholic Church was the only Church in the West up until the time of the Reformation.

    It is still controversial that one has two competitors to the title of being that church. One would still need to come to their own conclusion as to who is right.

    How many different schismatic churches were there prior to the Reformation? Who else was loudly proclaiming error prior to Luther?

    One does not need to point to a particular precursor church in order to properly state that the unity had failed. If the unity was intact, then the church would not have lost so many people when the reformation kicked off!

    Because mathematicians since the dawn of civilization have all agreed that 1 + 1 = 2.

    You are an odd one then. Most would say something similar to the friends of the Samaritan woman at the well – John 4:42 “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

    They would say that they believe they can see it for themselves.

    You won’t fight me? So you agree that Protestants supplant the authority of Scripture? ;) No, I explicitly said that certainty in knowledge cannot depend solely on one’s understanding or authority.

    Just as in 1+1=2, I don’t need anyone’s authority for various issues. I can see it for myself.

    • I am denying this because if you cannot agree on what is unjustified killing, then one has agreement in name only.

      This is a ridiculous thing to be arguing back and forth about, so I’m going to stop it.

      The point here is explaining why we should not be surprised to find a lack of agreement. And even amongst Christians, people are at various levels of sanctification etc, so we should not find across the board agreement on everything. However over time and generations, we should come closer together.

      So, by your argument, all the people who are the most sanctified will agree? That certainly hasn’t held true for Protestants. It seems the people at the “highest levels of sanctification,” the supposed leaders, are the ones creating the most and the deepest divisions (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.).

      My words stretched beyond the various strands of Christianity and included non Christians religions such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. There are many voices beyond Christians on how one should live/believe and become right with God. So even if one assumes one Christian voice, one still has to decide the truth of the myriad of voices that speak today and have spoken since time began.

      As our Lord Himself said, “[May they] all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). The greatest witness to the message of Christ should be the agreement and unity of Christians. Guess we screwed that one up, huh?

      I am not thinking like a simply as a Protestant but also as one who sees the entire picture. People in general do not think about what they believe and why until they are challenged. For example, children who grow up in churches today, tend not to think deeply about their faith until they are challenged in college by skeptical professors and other students. The past isnt much different than the present on this point. If people in the past, did not run into people of other religions vs. often, then it would be relatively easy to maintain one’s belief in the status quo.

      So you’re saying you agree with me?

      There was a debate because the church had not spoken on particular subject because doctrine had not developed enough to ask or answer the question beforehand. For example, a new believer or someone curious will ask certain basic question. Talk to them some time in the future and they will be asking different questions. Such is not necessarily attacking the truth of the previous answers. A silly answer would be that they had already been told everything.

      The definition of a dogma may not have been in place — but the whole truth of God, all we would ever receive, was already revealed in Christ Jesus. When a heterodox doctrine arose, true Christians immediately knew that it was heterodox. For example, the Docetists supposed that Christ didn’t have a true, earthly body, but was merely a sort of phantom. But it was immediately clear to orthodox believers from Scripture that this is untrue, before anyone ever met to discuss it. No one had formally, dogmatically defined that Jesus was “fully man” or “had a true, earthly body” — but that doesn’t mean the Church didn’t already know the truth of that. There was never any question that Jesus had a true, earthly body. But it was only when someone began to teach error that the Church acted to define what had already been revealed. The case was the same with the Arians, who taught that Christ’s divinity was subordinate to that of the Father — that He was not “fully God.” It had already been revealed, it was already known, that Christ was “fully God” — but no one had defined it in those terms before. Similarly with the Pelagians: Scripture itself teaches that we are all sinners, unable to approach God apart from His grace. The Church, through the Revelation of God, had always known and understood this. But it was only when the Pelagians began to teach otherwise that the Church acted to condemn the error and define the orthodox doctrine. Your arguments suppose that Christian doctrine was “made up” as time went on — that it was uncertain at some points “which way a doctrine would go.” But no. There is only one Truth; only one Revelation; and it was revealed once and for all. The only people who were ever uncertain of the truth were the heretics.

      Per your analogy: Just because the new believer hadn’t asked the question yet does not mean that the answer wasn’t already there in front of him.

      Who said anything about new revelation? Discernment and definition, is enough to defend my position that there were questions that had not already been answered. Given such a situation, “a debate” is a proper term in addressing what happened.

      A “debate” presumes a discussion in which the truth is not already known, or more accurately in which there is no definite truth, only opinions. Such was never the case in the Church. When a church council met, it was almost always to condemn an error, not to “debate” what was the truth. The record shows that the First Council of Nicaea voted overwhelmingly to condemn Arius. If anything was “debated,” it was not the truth, but the wording and language with which to formulate the dogma.

      Next, the people named above where not magisterium all to themselves were they? If not, then even if they believed something, does not make it uniformly believed or the voice of the church, right?

      The Magisterium is made up of all the bishops of the Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. The Magisterium is only considered infallible when it speaks in concert. But individual bishops — as each of the above was — have an ordinary magisterium, an authority to teach doctrine to their own flock. By and through that authority, they were in a unique position to be led of the Holy Spirit in matters of doctrine, and their word carried great weight.

      How is this any better than the worse things that the Protestant Reformation has been accused of. One defines something, bans it/calls those who partake as being immoral and unworthy of the Eucharist, then look at the situation again, redefine the term, and then let those who we said were immoral off the hook?

      So, you would propose excommunicating all bankers? All lawyers? All politicians? The majority of those who lend money today do not do so “imorally” or with an eye to any of the evils discussed in Scripture. Our understanding of what something is can grow. And there is no evil in fair and honest lending. As the article states, our whole society depends upon it.

      It is still controversial that one has two competitors to the title of being that church. One would still need to come to their own conclusion as to who is right.

      Haven’t you heard? There are a lot of “competitors.” The Anglicans also claim to be the true Church. So do various Lutherans. So do many Calvinists. The fact that many claim it is an embarrassment, but that doesn’t make it “controversial.” Note that in common parlance, there is only one Church referred to as “Catholic.” No one but the Orthodox themselves call the Orthodox “Catholic.” No one at all calls Anglicans or Lutherans or Calvinists “Catholic” — they best they even ascribe to is some form of little-c “catholic.”

      One does not need to point to a particular precursor church in order to properly state that the unity had failed. If the unity was intact, then the church would not have lost so many people when the reformation kicked off!

      “If that window hadn’t been there, and so breakable, I wouldn’t have broken it!”

      They would say that they believe they can see it for themselves.

      How do you know what the numerals one and one even are? How do we know what “plus” is? Sure, basic arithmetic is something that is fairly obvious. But someone still defined it, put it in the terms in which we think of it, gave us the language with which we describe it.

      This is very similar to Protestants claiming the canon of Scripture is “self-revealing.” But they only know what it is in the first place because someone already defined it. I do not have much confidence that if it had been up to Protestants to agree upon a canon of Scripture, they ever would have had one.

      Just as in 1+1=2, I don’t need anyone’s authority for various issues. I can see it for myself.

      The ability to discern something doesn’t give you “authority.” Does your ability to “see” something allow you to speak on it and have others listen? That’s what authority is.

      For example, I have the ability to read historical sources, do my own research, and come to reasonable conclusions. But if I were to make public claims, or try to publish an article, who is going to listen to me? “Who the heck is this guy? He doesn’t even have a master’s degree.” I could claim that my sources are authoritative, that they speak for themselves, even that they are plain and open for anybody to see — but it’s questionable that anybody would even give me a fair hearing, because I simply don’t have the standing to make such claims.

      Protestants (at least, modern ones) pretend that Scripture is somehow different than that, that the mere fact of a believer’s ability to read Scripture somehow gives him “authority” to draw his own doctrinal conclusions and teach them to others. I do not think this is something Luther or Calvin ever conceived of. As we can easily see, such a notion is a recipe for chaos and division.

      May the peace of Christ be with you.

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