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The Bible, The Church, Tradition, Authority, and the Canon

post #1 of 300
Thread Starter 

From the other thread.

post #2 of 300
lurk.gif here to learn!

Here are some of the main questions that came up for me as I was reading in the other discussion:
-Is the Bible inerrant? Should all of it be interpreted literally and given equal weight? What happens when passages disagree? What happens when the message isn't clear, as in interpreted one way by one group and the total opposite by another?
-What was the Church like before the canon of the Bible was fixed? How does that influence how Christians today should practice, if at all?
-Should all aspects of Christian practice be easily described in the Bible (as in, the average reader could justify them)?
-What is the role of Tradition?
-If orthodox (small o!) Christians do not interpret the Bible literally and/or do not adhere to sola scriptura, how do they interpret it and where do they get the theological justification for their practices?
-What is the deal with Sola Scriptura? Is it good/bad/neutral? What is the theological justification for it? What are the arguments against it?
post #3 of 300

Thanks Bluegoat!  notes2.gif

 

la mamita has some good questions.  I'd also like to ask about Bible versions.  Which one is the most accurate and how do you come to that conclusion?

post #4 of 300

 

 

Quote:
-Should all aspects of Christian practice be easily described in the Bible (as in, the average reader could justify them)?
-What is the role of Tradition?

Not all Christian practices are outlined in the Bible, even when those practices are recommended by the Bible itself. For example, Christ says that when the Bridegroom (himself) is gone, then his disciples will fast, and told them not to fast ostentatiously "as the hypocrites do". However, neither the Gospels nor any other part of the NT explains how or when Christians should fast. We know the early Christians fasted in a specific way; the practice of fasting from specific foods on Wednesdays and Fridays is mentioned in the Didache, one of the earliest Christian documents - but is never described in the NT. The practice was established through oral instruction, apparently, and is part of Church Tradition, but could not be arrived at purely by reading Scripture. 

 

 

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-What is the deal with Sola Scriptura? Is it good/bad/neutral? What is the theological justification for it? What are the arguments against it?

I suppose one argument against Sola Scriptura is that the concept does not appear anywhere in the Bible.

post #5 of 300

 

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I suppose one argument against Sola Scriptura is that the concept does not appear anywhere in the Bible.

That's only an argument that works from a solo Scriptura point of view. I'm not sure we have any MDC members who believe that.

 

I'll start by clarifying a few things about sola Scriptura, just because it's a HUGELY misunderstood doctrine and tends to attract strawmen like a candle attracts moths. :p

 

Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible alone (generally applied to the Protestant canon, although in theory the concept could apply to the Catholic canon or indeed any set of religious texts) is to be used as the "rule of faith", against which all doctrine is to be judged.

 

It does not mean that explicating doctrines that are not explicit in the Bible is wrong (the Trinity, for instance).

 

It does not mean that oral teaching is wrong; nor discussing Biblical teachings in commentaries and the like.

 

It was not a concept that applied before the formation of the canon.

 

Oral teachings that are in accord with the Bible are authoritative, whether they were preached by Paul before the Scriptures were written or preached today by a pastor in Singapore. However, the teachings are only considered authoritative insofar as they accord with Biblical teaching (according to the usual methods of textual interpretation - hermeneutics, logic, cross-referencing and so on). According to sola Scriptura, no one body of believers or single believer have special revelation or the sole right or ability to interpret Scriptures infallibly. So a Christian who holds to sola Scriptura should never believe a doctrine simply because the Pope said it, or Don Carson said it, or her pastor said it; even if those people are generally reliable. All teachings should be tested against Scripture. (On the flip side, no sola Scriptura advocate should reject a doctrine that is Biblically supported just because it comes from an authority they disagree with on other areas.)

 

I gotta go for a driving lesson. Be back later. :p

post #6 of 300

 

Quote:
Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible alone (generally applied to the Protestant canon, although in theory the concept could apply to the Catholic canon or indeed any set of religious texts) is to be used as the "rule of faith", against which all doctrine is to be judged.

 

Thanks for this definition, Smokering.  Where did the doctrine originate and what were the reasons behind it? 

post #7 of 300

Er, Bluegoat's more up on church history than I am, but it developed during the Protestant Reformation. It was one of the five "solas" that were kind of the battle-cry of the Reformation - sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola (or soli?) Deo gloria... and one other one that I forget. :p Oh, Solus Christus. It developed largely because the Reformers rejected the Catholic claim that it, as a denomination, was the church Christ founded, and thus had the authority and ability to infallibly interpret the Scriptures. The Reformers believed there were serious Scriptural and logical problems with the way the Church was interpreting the Scriptures, and thus started to question the very concept and necessity of an infallible Tradition. Honestly though, I'm not sure what each individual Reformer thought about the matter - they didn't all believe exactly the same things, and had different emphases in their work in any case.

post #8 of 300

So, what evidence is there that Scripture alone was intended by God to be the "rule of faith" against which all doctrine is to be judged?  When the canon was formed and agreed upon, did those who did this do so with the knowledge and intent that it would become the ultimate and final say in matters of faith AND not be subject to the authority of the Church for its proper interpretation?

 

I'm sure there are no easy answers.  I just tend to think that the people who had the Holy Spirit to guide them to form the canon of Scripture are the same people we should trust to interpret those Scriptures.  If there is disagreement over what certain passages mean, there needs to be (in my opinion) an authoritative source that knows what the true meaning is.  And if the Church at the time the Scriptures were written and canonized had the protection of the Holy Spirit to do that, then why do they not have that protection now to interpret them properly?  Why would God abandon the Church like that?

 

I guess that is why there are different definitions of what the Church/church is.

post #9 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

Er, Bluegoat's more up on church history than I am, but it developed during the Protestant Reformation. It was one of the five "solas" that were kind of the battle-cry of the Reformation - sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola (or soli?) Deo gloria... and one other one that I forget. :p Oh, Solus Christus. It developed largely because the Reformers rejected the Catholic claim that it, as a denomination, was the church Christ founded, and thus had the authority and ability to infallibly interpret the Scriptures. The Reformers believed there were serious Scriptural and logical problems with the way the Church was interpreting the Scriptures, and thus started to question the very concept and necessity of an infallible Tradition. Honestly though, I'm not sure what each individual Reformer thought about the matter - they didn't all believe exactly the same things, and had different emphases in their work in any case.



 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post

So, what evidence is there that Scripture alone was intended by God to be the "rule of faith" against which all doctrine is to be judged?  When the canon was formed and agreed upon, did those who did this do so with the knowledge and intent that it would become the ultimate and final say in matters of faith AND not be subject to the authority of the Church for its proper interpretation?

 

I'm sure there are no easy answers.  I just tend to think that the people who had the Holy Spirit to guide them to form the canon of Scripture are the same people we should trust to interpret those Scriptures.  If there is disagreement over what certain passages mean, there needs to be (in my opinion) an authoritative source that knows what the true meaning is.  And if the Church at the time the Scriptures were written and canonized had the protection of the Holy Spirit to do that, then why do they not have that protection now to interpret them properly?  Why would God abandon the Church like that?

 

I guess that is why there are different definitions of what the Church/church is.


Yes, Smokering's correct, it is a reformation idea.  You will sometimes get people trying to argue that it is what the Early Church believed, but there is absolutely no historical evidence for that.  Really nada.  She's also right that the different parts of the Reformation had different theological views.  A lot of people think there was one Reformation.  In actuality the Western Church had quite a few break-away groups all around the same time. 

 

As far as their reasoning: most of them actually felt they themselves were The Church, and the Catholics were the ones who had fallen away.  Luther for example was really rather reluctant and only left when he was excommunicated.  The English Reformation just felt they were the same Church but had ditched the Pope and some problematic doctrines.But it seemed quite clear to them that the Catholic Church could not be the arbiter or interpreter of truth as it claimed.  So the perception is that they, the reformers, represented the true remnant of the Church, returning to a truer expression of what the early church believed (although expressed differently).  I am not sure what the other reformers felt specifically about the remaining Catholics, but the Lutherans I believe initially were unsure whether they were still part of the Church or not; after Trent however they affirmed that they were not - they had separated themselves from it.

 

The reformers in all cases were however left in a quandary. None of them were modern sola scriptura fundamentalists; they still thought the Church must interpret doctrine (so they were confessional) and used the lens of tradition to do that.  They were also by no means proponents of religious freedom - looking at England and Geneva shows that clearly. But they could not affirm that Tradition could be the guide to determining true doctrine - that after all is what had been the justification for many of the Catholic positions they rejected.  They then turned to Scripture, as understood by the Church through the lenses of tradition and reason, to be the final guide to doctrinal correctness.  (Interestingly, the same thing has happened in modern times with Scripture, with people losing faith in its place due to higher criticism.  This is where the new liturgical movement which sought to use early church historical documents as a basis for faith comes from.)

 

The Catholic Church has of course maintained that although the Church was indeed corrupt, its protection in doctrinal matters and authority were never lost. 

 

The E.Orthodox on the other hand usually maintain the whole thing was a total dog's breakfast that was the natural result of the Western Christians leaving the true Church (themselves) in the schism.  They would say the Catholics were indeed promulgating heresy and the reformers were correct in that.  Unfortunately when they became separate the reformers kept the basic Catholic structure based on hierarchical leadership, the Catholic understanding of development of doctrine, and although they re-framed it still thought of salvation in terms of merit.  As well, because there was no longer any real understanding of Tradition they were left with only Scripture, which was inadequate to be a guide.  Hence the unfortunate results we see today, the divisions of Christians who are meant to be One.

post #10 of 300

 

Quote:

So, what evidence is there that Scripture alone was intended by God to be the "rule of faith" against which all doctrine is to be judged?

I can think of a few answers to that. God doesn't contradict Himself; so any extra-Biblical teachings would have to be consistent with Scriptural teachings. God gave us reason, so it is possible for us to look at an extra-Biblical teaching and compare it to the Biblical text, thus determining whether or not it is accurate; and I see no reason to believe God wouldn't want us to do that. The Bereans were commended for it in Scripture, and Paul and Jesus and other NT writers heavily quote the OT scriptures to prove their positions.

 

The attitude of Scripture to Tradition is rather less positive. One of Jesus' main ministry focuses was to demonstrate how legalistic, hypocritical and plain unbiblical the oral traditions of the Jews had become. There were bits of Jewish knowledge the NT writers had no problem believing were factual - the names of a few figures not named in the OT itself, and so on - just as most Protestants are happy to accept bits of extra-biblical historical knowledge, such as the way in which Peter died. But Jesus made it clear he was fulfilling the Jewish law and Jewish prophecies - not the official interpretations of those prophecies. (Indeed, according to the Oral Torah it is impossible Jesus was the Messiah - the interpretations of the Messianic passages required Jesus to do things He did not do, like being accepted by all Jews.) Clearly God gave one set of moral precepts and Biblical documents without establishing an infallible interpretation system, and was extremely displeased when the religious leaders claimed that authority and started putting a hedge around the Torah and so on.

 

In terms of Tradition in the New Testament: God never promised that the church would be infallible - indeed, He promised that false teachers and false doctrine would enter the church, and much of the NT letters are devoted to combating errors that had already crept in. And that was while the Apostles were still alive! Nor did the Scriptural rebuttals rely on authority - "Believe what we teach because we're apostles and we know best" - but provided clear logical proofs for their positions, which could be analysed for accuracy and consistency with other Biblical doctrines. The term "tradition" in the NT is generally used disparagingly, of myths and unbiblical traditions of men; the few instances it is used positively (I think there are only two or three such instances?), it is referring to oral teachings, with no implication that these teachings differed in content from what was written in Scripture.

 

The thing to remember about sola Scriptura is that it is simply the attitude any scholar adopts to the interpretation of any other text. If we're studying Pride and Prejudice, the text itself is our basis for deciding what the author meant. We may view other sources as legitimately historical and of great scholarly value -  contemporary reviews, a few hundred years of critical scholarship, feminist interpretations of the text and so on - but we would never say that Jane Austen must have meant XYZ simply because a certain critic declared it to be so, even if that critic wrote his review a few years after the book was published and with a far greater knowledge of Austen's time and influences. (I suppose we could make an exception for Austen's own writings, which doesn't really fit in with my analogy - but then, she was known to be flippant in her letters, so even those should probably be taken with a grain of salt!) A scholar hellbent on proving a Marxist or feminist reading of the text will certainly twist the writing out of all hermeneutical and historical context; but reason allows other scholars to rebut such claims.

 

Quote:
When the canon was formed and agreed upon, did those who did this do so with the knowledge and intent that it would become the ultimate and final say in matters of faith AND not be subject to the authority of the Church for its proper interpretation?

Not as far as I know. But for the record, sola Scriptura advocates do believe the Church has authority - insofar as its teachings are Biblical.

 

 

Quote:
I'm sure there are no easy answers.  I just tend to think that the people who had the Holy Spirit to guide them to form the canon of Scripture are the same people we should trust to interpret those Scriptures.  If there is disagreement over what certain passages mean, there needs to be (in my opinion) an authoritative source that knows what the true meaning is.  And if the Church at the time the Scriptures were written and canonized had the protection of the Holy Spirit to do that, then why do they not have that protection now to interpret them properly?  Why would God abandon the Church like that?

I don't trust the people who formed the canon because I believe them to be infallible. I trust the canon because the arguments of those who formed the canon, as to its contents, are good arguments, and I can see no reason to dispute their findings (other than the apocryphal writings, if they were initially included). Insofar as their arguments on other matters of doctrine are demonstrably logical and Scriptural, I believe them too. Insofar as they aren't, they are clearly wrong no matter how venerable their proponents. And I'm amused that you phrased it as "God abandoning the Church" - for one thing, God never defined "the Church" as the Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox, and for another, why not assume they are abandoning Him when they start to distort and add to the doctrines He made plain in the Bible?

 

The trouble with church leaders who claim infallibility is that they don't just operate on authority. If they said "X text means Y, regardless of reason and Scriptural consistency, because we say so and we're the boss", I'd have less of a problem with them. (I wouldn't agree with them, but their position would make a certain blunt sense.) But they don't. The official pronouncements on various subjects - birth control, free will, Marian dogmas - use Scripture and logic to defend their positions. And once they do that - once they admit the necessity of logic and Scriptural harmony, and ally their positions with their arguments - they open the doors for someone to say "Well, hang on, that bit doesn't make sense, and you've ignored these three passages, and the Greek in this verse shouldn't really be interpreted that way". If it can be argued, it can theoretically be refuted. And once someone has exposed holes in the logic or flaws in the exegesis, what should he do - believe it anyway? Of course not. God NEVER tells us to believe what is irrational.

 

Of course, that's all academic if you believe the Catholic Church (or the EO church, or the Anglican church) always does have flawless logic and comes up with the most likely and scholarly expositions of the texts. Having familiarised myself with some of those doctrines, I don't. Hence (among other things), Protestantism, and indeed the specific subset of Protestantism to which I belong. Now, there's no infallible guarantee that my denomination is right, but by belief in sola Scriptura and the reliability of logic, it does at least have a system of self-correction, and doctrines can be corrected or dismissed on the basis of rational argumentation, unhindered by claims of infallibility. I think that's a Good Thing.

 

I'll add that in practice, Tradition and/or claims of infallibility doesn't seem to result in noticeable unity anyway. The sola Scriptura position is "Words have meanings, and meanings can be understood; therefore Scripture, being comprised of words, can be understood". The Catholic position requires a mediator, to infallibly interpret the words (I'm not quite sure on what basis, epistemically speaking). But that infallible interpretation must still be interpreted by the fallible minds of the laypeople - and sometimes through several "layers" of fallibility, priests and the like. And in the process, misinterpretations and disagreements with the original interpretation still arise. (It probably doesn't help that they're often written in a very dense legalese that's very hard to make sense of.) It's easy to write off dissenters as not "counting" as proper Catholics, but eliminating all the dissidents isn't really unity. And of course, even theoretically agreeing on a teaching doesn't mean having the moral strength to carry it out - look at the birth control issue. So in practice, there is HUGE disagreement among Catholics, even over doctrines that are very clearly laid out - the ordination of women, the Catholic position on homosexuality, and so on - to say nothing of the Vatican II disagreement, or cultural practices which depart from the official teachings of the church (such as the attitude to statues and icons in some European countries). I would say the Catholic Church could easily be split up into hundreds of "denominations" as doctrinally and practically distinct as many of the Protestant denominations - some of which, despite Catholicism's claims of splintering and schism, are actually extremely similar (Presbyterianism and Reformed Baptist-ism spring to mind). So any claims to unity need to be viewed with a skeptical eye. Anglicanism, too, is hardly a solid front these days (I can't speak for Orthodoxy, because I'm not familiar enough with it). And indeed, by Jesus' day Judaism - despite the fact that nearly all the sects believed in the authority of rabbinical intepretation - had an incredible divergence of views, and continues to do so today. In other words: if there's a way to reliably make sure everyone agrees, apparently Tradition ain't it.

post #11 of 300

Just subbing...

post #12 of 300

Smokering, thanks for your long and detailed response.  I'm still in the process of learning, and I do agree with quite a lot of what you're saying.  God does not contradict himself. 

 

 

Quote:
Of course, that's all academic if you believe the Catholic Church (or the EO church, or the Anglican church) always does have flawless logic and comes up with the most likely and scholarly expositions of the texts. Having familiarised myself with some of those doctrines, I don't. Hence (among other things), Protestantism, and indeed the specific subset of Protestantism to which I belong. Now, there's no infallible guarantee that my denomination is right, but by belief in sola Scriptura and the reliability of logic, it does at least have a system of self-correction, and doctrines can be corrected or dismissed on the basis of rational argumentation, unhindered by claims of infallibility. I think that's a Good Thing.

From what I'm learning elsewhere, I am coming to the conclusion that the CC also has a system of self-correction (and the EO does as well).  Upon my research, I'm finding quite logical and not un-Biblical explanations of doctrines which did not make sense to me at first.  Of course, I have four kids and a job and do not have time to study every single detail of every single doctrine, as the vast majority of people on earth also do not have the time and/or the inclination to do this.  It makes sense to me that God would set up a capital-C Church to do this for us, one that we can trust to have the protection of the Holy Spirit to guide them.  Not that mistakes will never be made or that there would never be false teachers to correct, but that on the most important issues we can have certainty that they will not lead us astray.  And I believe that it is said so quite specifically in the Bible that He did set up such Church.  I'm sure that you've read these Scriptures, and of course you interpret them differently.

 

I do realize that there is not 100% unity within the CC (or EO), but that doesn't really mean much.  Disagreement amongst the people does not make the Truth any less true, as I'm sure you agree. 

 

 

Quote:
The sola Scriptura position is "Words have meanings, and meanings can be understood; therefore Scripture, being comprised of words, can be understood".

This may be true, but if it was that easy to do, then there would be much more agreement over the meanings of words than there is.   Many people who are much smarter than I am, and have spent much more time studying than I have, do not all come to the same conclusion on much of what is written in the Bible.  This is the basic problem that (for me, anyway) would logically necessitate a source we can trust to settle these disputes.

post #13 of 300

I may be pointing out the obvious, but the next issue I see is that we would have to define what or WHO the church is in order to say who has authority to interpret. 

 

For new comers, if I must have a label, then I am a conservative Protestant type, phooey on labels.

 

My very brief, off the top of my head, definition of the the church is:

 

Any person who believes in the Lord Jesus, that He died and resurrected and forgave us our sins, and that person has accepted Him as their personal Lord and Savior.  Once this has occurred then that person is a member of the body of Christ, the church, the called out ones, the saints.  Off of memory, I think the Greek is ecclesia?? which literally means the called out ones? I take this to mean called out of the world and into Christ.

  No time to look it up

 

In addition, the Holy Spirit flows among ALL the members of the body of Christ, the church, and can grant ANY member wisdom and revelation concerning the divine.  Our check system is the Bible itself and any other believer that cares to 'check us'.  Our elders or leading ones are a major part of that check system.  I am being very brief here.

 

I also believe that the invention of the printing press was timed perfectly so that the Bible could be in every home for every believer to receive daily nourishment in the word, once they learned to read that is.

 

I shutter to think of all the Truths we would be missing out on if this didn't occur. 

post #14 of 300

 

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It makes sense to me that God would set up a capital-C Church to do this for us, one that we can trust to have the protection of the Holy Spirit to guide them.  Not that mistakes will never be made or that there would never be false teachers to correct, but that on the most important issues we can have certainty that they will not lead us astray.  And I believe that it is said so quite specifically in the Bible that He did set up such Church.

By "capital-C Church" do you mean one particular denomination?

 

I believe the Catholic Church is very wrong on a number of very important, fundamental issues, so I can't agree with you there. But we can debate the texts you mention if you want. Where do you get the "capital-C Church" thing from Scripture? Where do you get a promise from God that the capital-C Church will always be correct on the most important issues of doctrine? (Also, you seem to be conceding that mistakes can and possibly are being made - even if these are being made on less important issues of doctrine, isn't that a rather severe problem for the doctrine of Magesterial infallibility? If the individual still has to discern when the Church is right and when it is wrong - including deciding for himself which issues ARE the important ones - then what's the point? Individual interpretation hasn't been eliminated, and you've made a tacit admission that reason can override an official teaching.)

 

 

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This may be true, but if it was that easy to do, then there would be much more agreement over the meanings of words than there is. 

I don't see why. Humanity is prone to intellectual sins and failings - sloppy logic, eisegesis, the twisting of texts to suit their political purposes, and so on. That isn't a fault of the text or indeed of sola Scriptura. Remember my analogy to secular texts - there are plenty of people who disagree on the meaning of Hamlet, but no scholar throws up his hands and says "Blow it all, it's impossible to find out; it's clear we need an infallible interpreter of this text". Why should the Bible be treated any differently? It's not written in "mystical" words - there's nothing magic about its reasoning or expressions. Unless you go in for the Bible Code thing, with hidden meanings derived from numerology and suchlike, there is no reason to believe the meaning of the Bible is inherently or intrinsically unknowable, any more than any other text. (Specifically, any other ancient text, which does complexify how we understand it - but again, there's no reason to think that's an insurmountable problem.)

 

Also, as I said before, Catholic teachings do not result in unity among Catholics. So your objection cuts both ways. (And you'd have to prove that those who make infallible pronouncements in the Catholic Church weren't also prone to the same intellectual sins as Protestants. Some of those can be determined objectively - bad logic - while history certainly gives us clues as to political motives behind the formation of certain doctrines.)

 

 

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Many people who are much smarter than I am, and have spent much more time studying than I have, do not all come to the same conclusion on much of what is written in the Bible. This is the basic problem that (for me, anyway) would logically necessitate a source we can trust to settle these disputes.

Can you explain the logical process by which you come to that conclusion? As I said, it's a conclusion that seems rather specific to the Bible - not one of millions of scholars has reached the conclusion for the necessity of an infallible source of interpretation for secular texts. God didn't set up an infallible Magesterium to interpret the Old Testament - and before you say "Yes, but look how wrong they got it", that was largely due to the rulings of those who claimed a similar authority. Are the words of the New Testament qualitatively different from the words in the Old - or indeed in any other text ever written? If so, how?

 

Look at it like the justice system. The law exists in an authoritative state, comprised of words with meanings that can be understood. That doesn't mean it's easy to understand, but it's possible to understand, particularly by someone with experience reading those kinds of text. Nevertheless, the law can be twisted, different laws appear to conflict with each other from time to time (or must be kept in tension with each other), and it is certain that lawyers often manipulate the law in dishonest ways. Even when it is presented correctly, the jury, being comprised of fallible human beings, may vote against what they know to be the law. It's not a perfect system, and nobody ever claimed it was.

 

Nevertheless, we don't say that the law is functionally useless without infallible interpreters. We don't appoint judges who claim a paranormal ability to interpret the law correctly; a verdict given on insufficient evidence, or one that is found to ignore certain laws or misinterpret them is open to being revoked. There is a hierarchy in the justice system, but it is based (in theory, at any rate) on the higher-ups' track record of delivering good verdicts, and they must still justify their verdicts in a way that is open to public scrutiny. We recognise that the system is good - not perfect, because this isn't a perfect world - open to abuse, certainly - but the best alternative we have at present.

 

That's how I see sola Scriptura. It doesn't guarantee that everyone will interpret the Bible correctly - no system does, whether or not it claims infallibility, because all beliefs are filtered by fallible, sinful human minds. Christ promised false teachers for that very reason. But when Apollos was preaching incorrect doctrine, Priscilla and Aquila explained the Way more fully to him - presumably using Scripture and reason. When Paul railed against the Judaisers, he used Scripture and reason. When Jesus was told He was breaking Jewish law, he countered with Scripture and reason (and indeed, a rebuke to his accusers for not knowing their Scriptures better!). To prove the necessity of an infallible source, you would have to explain why Scripture and reason are theoretically  insufficient for obtaining truth - and pointing out differing opinions doesn't count. If you believe that Scripture is infallible and that the laws of logic are infallible, we have an infallible methodology for interpreting an infallible text. In a vacuum, as it were, it should work; and in real life, the alternative is a system which adds a (claimed) infallible mind, but this would only be an improvement if all the minds which received the information were likewise infallible. Short of us all reaching perfection or individual Divine revelation, I can't think of a system which would guarantee all Christians believed the Bible correctly; and I don't see any Biblical evidence that we should expect such a system anyway.

post #15 of 300
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Also, as I said before, Catholic teachings do not result in unity among Catholics. So your objection cuts both ways. (And you'd have to prove that those who make infallible pronouncements in the Catholic Church weren't also prone to the same intellectual sins as Protestants. Some of those can be determined objectively - bad logic - while history certainly gives us clues as to political motives behind the formation of certain doctrines.)

Ok, people love to cite the statistics of Catholics using birth control to say "look! disunity in the Church!" but I, even as a pretty liberal Catholic, don't see it that way. The Church hasn't willy-nilly changed doctrines. It's not like there were 500 years of saying no birth control and all of a sudden the Church started handing out the pill. I am mentioning this because it's a pretty common example here on these discussions.

I think most examples of Catholics not following Catholic doctrine is actually due to poor catechism. The teachings, with scriptural and logical backing, are there for everyone. If you ask a Catholic why condoms are not acceptable as birth control according to the Church, I would bet that most could not answer the question. That's a failure of religious education and formation....or just willful disobedience, but the vast majority are not making some sort of educated disagreement over the basis for the teachings. They simply don't know or don't understand or don't bother trying to learn.

There is definitely a small group of minority voices who question aspects of Church doctrine, like the very conservative folks who don't accept Vatican II and think there's currently no Pope or the very liberal folks who are advocating for women priests or affirmation for GLBT folks. Within these groups, I would argue you will still find a deep understanding of Church doctrine and practices and many people who fundamentally disagree with the teachings end up leaving. It's not a completely monolithic institution, but you don't get a major Catholic movement to eliminate the Trinity or revoke transubstantiation. Fundamental Catholic doctrines have not changed and probably never will. Thank God. I have seen a lot of Catholic unity from the rural and non-literate parishes in Peru to the socially liberal student parish I attended in the US to the socially conservative traditional parish I was confirmed in...same Mass, same teachings, same liturgical calendar...

ok, continue with the deep theological stuff and I'll go back to lurking smile.gif
post #16 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

That's how I see sola Scriptura. It doesn't guarantee that everyone will interpret the Bible correctly - no system does, whether or not it claims infallibility, because all beliefs are filtered by fallible, sinful human minds. Christ promised false teachers for that very reason. But when Apollos was preaching incorrect doctrine, Priscilla and Aquila explained the Way more fully to him - presumably using Scripture and reason. When Paul railed against the Judaisers, he used Scripture and reason. When Jesus was told He was breaking Jewish law, he countered with Scripture and reason (and indeed, a rebuke to his accusers for not knowing their Scriptures better!). To prove the necessity of an infallible source, you would have to explain why Scripture and reason are theoretically  insufficient for obtaining truth - and pointing out differing opinions doesn't count. If you believe that Scripture is infallible and that the laws of logic are infallible, we have an infallible methodology for interpreting an infallible text. In a vacuum, as it were, it should work; and in real life, the alternative is a system which adds a (claimed) infallible mind, but this would only be an improvement if all the minds which received the information were likewise infallible. Short of us all reaching perfection or individual Divine revelation, I can't think of a system which would guarantee all Christians believed the Bible correctly; and I don't see any Biblical evidence that we should expect such a system anyway.


Do you feel the same way about the EO and the OO?  Personally I think their case is much stronger than the Catholic one.

post #17 of 300

 

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The sola Scriptura position is "Words have meanings, and meanings can be understood; therefore Scripture, being comprised of words, can be understood".

I agree with Purple Sage on this one; this position is just too simplistic. In fact words have multiple meanings. Trying to understand which meaning was intended, particularly for words in letters that were written thousands of years ago to people that shared with the writer knowledge of culture, facts and circumstances that we don't share... I don't think it is always possible. I'm a professional translator and I run into this problem all the time. In my case, fortunately, I can go back the person who produced the document I'm translating and ask for clarification. We can't do that with the Bible.

 

Now I expect you'll say that there is a lot of scholarship about the facts and circumstances of NT book and we can reason it out based on context and hermeneutics, but I disagree. I just ain't enough.

 

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Look at it like the justice system. The law exists in an authoritative state, comprised of words with meanings that can be understood. That doesn't mean it's easy to understand, but it's possible to understand, particularly by someone with experience reading those kinds of text.

Actually, this analogy disproves your point, since the justice system does rely on an ultimate authority to interpret laws i.e. the Supreme Court. When a dispute cannot be resolved by the lower courts it goes to the Supreme Court and their word becomes law.

post #18 of 300

 

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Do you feel the same way about the EO and the OO?  Personally I think their case is much stronger than the Catholic one.

I'm much less familiar with their epistemology. We have some EO MDCers, don't we? I'm hoping some of them will chime in.

 

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I think most examples of Catholics not following Catholic doctrine is actually due to poor catechism. The teachings, with scriptural and logical backing, are there for everyone. If you ask a Catholic why condoms are not acceptable as birth control according to the Church, I would bet that most could not answer the question. That's a failure of religious education and formation....or just willful disobedience, but the vast majority are not making some sort of educated disagreement over the basis for the teachings. They simply don't know or don't understand or don't bother trying to learn.

Sure, and the same could be said for the vast legions of Protestants who don't follow Biblical teachings. My objection is that Catholics tend to regard that as a failure of sola Scriptura, not a moral or educational problem. (I do think the current school system has a HECK of a lot to answer for - and I don't mean teaching evolution or banning prayer in schools, I mean failing to teach kids how to reason logically. If I ever become a fascist dictator, I'll make sure no kid graduates without passing a class in basic logic and another in philosophy. But anyhoo.) So it cuts both ways - either dissent/disagreement has no impact on the validity of Tradition or sola Scriptura, or it applies equally to both systems. One of the commonest Catholic objections to sola Scriptura is that it doesn't result in unity, so it's relevant to the issue.

 

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There is definitely a small group of minority voices who question aspects of Church doctrine, like the very conservative folks who don't accept Vatican II and think there's currently no Pope or the very liberal folks who are advocating for women priests or affirmation for GLBT folks. Within these groups, I would argue you will still find a deep understanding of Church doctrine and practices and many people who fundamentally disagree with the teachings end up leaving. It's not a completely monolithic institution, but you don't get a major Catholic movement to eliminate the Trinity or revoke transubstantiation. Fundamental Catholic doctrines have not changed and probably never will. Thank God. I have seen a lot of Catholic unity from the rural and non-literate parishes in Peru to the socially liberal student parish I attended in the US to the socially conservative traditional parish I was confirmed in...same Mass, same teachings, same liturgical calendar...

 

I don't believe that's true. Go back 800 years and tell a Catholic that you don't have to be Catholic to be saved. Go back 2000 years ago and explain the Church's attitude to Mary to the church fathers. Go back 200 years ago and tell a priest that it's OK to use NFP. Development of doctrine is admitted as a phenomenon by the Catholic Church.

 

I'd also question the real unity that using the same rituals implies. It's a common boast of Catholics that you can go to any Catholic Mass anywhere in the world and it will be the same - or would, back when all the services were in Latin - but that doesn't necessarily reflect a unity in the - here it is - individual interpretation or understanding of those teachings. For instance, Catholics in Spain apparently have an attitude to statues which other Catholics find blasphemous. At first blush, it's people around the world kissing the feet of a statue of Mary, and probably paying lip service to the teachings about latria and dulia and hyperdulia - but the actual practices are quite different.

post #19 of 300

 

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I agree with Purple Sage on this one; this position is just too simplistic. In fact words have multiple meanings. Trying to understand which meaning was intended, particularly for words in letters that were written thousands of years ago to people that shared with the writer knowledge of culture, facts and circumstances that we don't share... I don't think it is always possible. I'm a professional translator and I run into this problem all the time. In my case, fortunately, I can go back the person who produced the document I'm translating and ask for clarification. We can't do that with the Bible.

 

Now I expect you'll say that there is a lot of scholarship about the facts and circumstances of NT book and we can reason it out based on context and hermeneutics, but I disagree. I just ain't enough.

Which words in particular do you find unknowable in the Bible? I can think of one - "parbar" - in the Old Testament, possibly meaning something like "crossroads" - but it's not a word that impacts any doctrinal teaching (nor, indeed, has the Catholic Church bothered to make an infallible pronouncement on its meaning). There are a few words coined in the Bible itself, so without historical precedent - "excruciating", for instance - but I can't think of any offhand that have particularly controversial meanings.

 

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Actually, this analogy disproves your point, since the justice system does rely on an ultimate authority to interpret laws i.e. the Supreme Court. When a dispute cannot be resolved by the lower courts it goes to the Supreme Court and their word becomes law.

That would make it a bad analogy, not disprove my point. :p But even a Supreme Court verdict can be overturned - by the Supreme Court (or by rewriting the Constitution). In other words, the Supreme Court doesn't claim infallibility, and is willing (in theory, at least) to reverse its rulings if they can be shown to be based on poor reasoning or a bad understanding of the law - or presumably bribery and corruption, etc. They are a concession to practicality, to prevent appeals going on forever; but they don't claim to be infallible. By contrast, nobody in Catholic Church is considered able to reverse a previous ex cathedra statement, even if it could in theory be shown to be flawed (the assumption being, of course, that it would never happen).

post #20 of 300

 

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Which words in particular do you find unknowable in the Bible? I can think of one - "parbar" - in the Old Testament, possibly meaning something like "crossroads" - but it's not a word that impacts any doctrinal teaching (nor, indeed, has the Catholic Church bothered to make an infallible pronouncement on its meaning). There are a few words coined in the Bible itself, so without historical precedent - "excruciating", for instance - but I can't think of any offhand that have particularly controversial meanings.

I didn't say any words were unknowable, Smokering. Read my post again. I'm talking about cases where words have multiple known meanings and it is not clear which one was intended by the author. There have been many unresolved debates on this forum surrounding the meaning of certain words and phrases.

 

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That would make it a bad analogy, not disprove my point

Well, no analogy is perfect :). But again I am wondering if I'm just spectacularly bad at expressing myself or if you aren't really trying to understand what I'm saying -  I didn't say that your point is categorically disproven, simply that this particular analogy does not prove your point and in fact illustrates the opposite i.e. that the words used in our laws (written in our own language by people of our own time and culture, so in theory should be an easier nut to crack than scriptures written 2,000 years ago) carry multiple meanings and require a final authority to interpret them. Honestly was surprised to see you use it as an analogy, as I had been thinking of using it myself to prove my point.

Apparently we can't even understand each other's words! lol.gif

 

PS - I did want to tell you though, that I really love your siggie. You clearly have a talent with words...


Edited by Thao - 12/20/10 at 3:27pm
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