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The Bible, The Church, Tradition, Authority, and the Canon - Page 2

post #21 of 300

 

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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.

How is that different from "unknowable", if you're implying that it is impossible to determine the author's meaning (as opposed to simply difficult)?

 

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There have been many such debates on this forum surrounding the meaning of certain words and phrases.

Sure, but that's only a problem if you believe the opposing contributions to such debates were of equal intellectual legitimacy, and representative of all the extant scholarship on the topic, and so on.

 

Actually, I just remembered a few more words whose meanings we don't know in the Bible - mostly botanical terms and the like. But they don't tend to impact on doctrine. "And the key to religion is holy [word that could mean either "charity" or "warfare"]" - potentially problematic, if no other verses in the Bible clarify its likely meaning. "And the breastplate of the priest was decorated with jasper and onyx and [word that presumably means some kind of gemstone]" - not such a problem, unless there's good reason to believe the word means "holy images of Ba'al" or something.

 

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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 proves the opposite i.e. that even laws written in our own language by people of our own time and culture carry multiple meanings and require a final arbiter to interpret them. So I was surprised to see you use it.

But in my previous post I pointed out how the "final arbiter" is not analogous to the Catholic Magesterium. Even the highest arbiter has the ability to overturn its previous decisions, which is an admission that its decisions are not infallible simply because they're the Supreme Court, but rely on their knowledge and logical application of the law to be true and thus authoritative. And in theory, any old yokel could point out to a Supreme Court judge that a ruling was based on a misinterpretation, and that judge could get the ruling overturned. So it's not that bad an analogy for sola Scriptura, although it wasn't really where I was going with it.


Edited by Smokering - 12/20/10 at 3:39pm
post #22 of 300

Smokering, I don't have time to get into this as much as I'd like but I'd like to briefly say a couple of things.

 

 

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

Yes I do, but I'm not sure which one yet!  orngtongue.gif 

 


I'm not sure which part of your posts to quote next....so I'll just say what's on my mind.

 

I find the concept of an infallible Church (which would have to be more than just the sum of so many fallible minds) much more plausible than saying there is no way to infallibly interpret Scripture or define doctrine.  Why?  Because that is not something I think God would do - give us no means of assurance that we're on the right path other than only our own "fallible, sinful human minds."  Not that people won't decide to reject such assurance in favor of using their own minds - people do that all the time.  But I know enough about myself that I can't depend on my own mind to find my way.  And I think that God wouldn't leave me or anyone else hanging like that because I believe that He wants all of us to find Him and spend eternity with Him.  So that leads me to think that there is a mystical Body of Christ, the Church, that holds the key, and I think that it is a visible Church with defined infallible doctrines.

 

And that's all I've got right now.  lol.gif

post #23 of 300

I'm in a hurry too, but it seems you're creating a false dichotomy - either "infallibility" or "absolutely no idea". I don't see why the latter is the consequence of not having infallibility, especially if you grant that Scripture (the source) and logical laws (the methodology) are both infallible. We accept that we can learn other things reasonably accurately without the benefit of infallibility (things about the physical world, things contained in books we've read, and so on), so why not things contained in the Bible? Again, you need to prove that Biblical knowledge is qualitatively different to all other knowledge.

 

Further, if you doubt your own intelligence to that extent, an infallible Magesterium can't really help you. You still have to interpret its teachings with your "fallible, sinful human mind", and there's no guarantee you'll get it right. So it seems you have an unsolvable epistemic problem. But infallible knowledge seems an unreasonably high benchmark anyway: on what basis do you think it's necessary?

post #24 of 300
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Originally Posted by Thao View Post

 

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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.

In fact - speaking from the perspective of my own church - the problem is more basic than multiple or confused meanings. The NT was written not only by the early Church, but to and for the Church members. The Epistles, in particular, were epistles after all (letters) to people who were already Christian: the epistle to the Church at Rome, to the Church at Corinth, etc.

If we were to come across a series of letters from, for example, a man to his son, the words might be perfectly clear, but there would be a lot we could make no sense of. They would be full of comments like, "Remember what I told you last week at the barbecue," and "Don't forget about your brother's special event," and "The last report card was certainly a change from the previous one." The son himself, on the other hand, would understand the letters easily. 

The NT is full of references like this, a few direct, but many indirect. Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself. 

 

 

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Originally Posted by Shami View Post

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.

 


The idea of the invisible Church, as opposed to the more clearly defined membership of the Church is another major division between Protestant and RC/EO theology. For us, the Ecclesia has fairly clear, visible boundaries, just as in OT times it was clear who was an Israelite and who was not. 

The uncomfortable aspect of this doctrine is that there must, therefore, be people who identify themselves as Christian yet are not members of the Church. This idea existed in the earliest days of Christianity, when opposing doctrines were already circulating, and Christians were warned to treat anyone who taught an alternate Gospel as "anathema." (Galatians 1:8-9) In fact, the Gospel account of Christ speaking to the Samaritan woman could be taken as an example of the same belief.  The Samaritans had doctrines which differed from those of the Hebrews only slightly, by modern "fellowship" standards, yet the woman at the well was not told "we believe basically the same thing, no big deal." Because of their alterations in worship, the Samaritans were outside the Ecclesia, and she was told not only that she was mistaken, but "you do not know what you worship." 

post #25 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

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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.


You can't use the idea that Tradition must be consistent with Scripture as an argument for the use of Scripture along.  If you break it down, you are saying something quite different than what the non-Protestants are saying.

 

You are saying this as far as I can tell.:

Everything that is correct is consistent with Scripture.

Therefore to any tradition that is inconsistent with Scripture is incorrect.

 

What the Church is saying is that Tradition and Scripture are two equally authoritative parts of revelation, and therefore they are consistent.  Just like the gospels and the Epistles and Revelation are all authoritative parts of the NT, and therefore are consistent.  But would you say that one can look at what is written in the Gospels, and if it doesn't seem to square with the Epistles we can dispense with them, they must be wrong?  Of course not!

 

It is only when you have all the information that you are going to be able to look at it and see how it fits together.  And sometimes it may in fact be difficult (we see people trying to dismiss Paul as incompatible with Christ all the time.) 

 

Perhaps a clearer way to describe it is to dispense with the separation of Scripture, as if it was something different than Tradition.  Rather, Scripture is just one part of Tradition, along with the practices of the Church like the Eucharist and the liturgy, or art, or hymns, or the writings of the Fathers, or even the stories of saints.  All of these things are part of the teaching of the Church.  They exist not to interpret Scripture for us - yes, they do that.  But their purpose is to give us the full truth of Christ and help us to unite ourselves to him in the Church.

post #26 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

Actually, I just remembered a few more words whose meanings we don't know in the Bible - mostly botanical terms and the like. But they don't tend to impact on doctrine. "And the key to religion is holy [word that could mean either "charity" or "warfare"]" - potentially problematic, if no other verses in the Bible clarify its likely meaning. "And the breastplate of the priest was decorated with jasper and onyx and [word that presumably means some kind of gemstone]" - not such a problem, unless there's good reason to believe the word means "holy images of Ba'al" or something.

 


It isn't that we don't know the meaning of the words, really.  I'm sure you've looked in a serious dictionary used for translation before - the Oxford English if not a foreign language one.  The way they are compiled is they look through all the examples of people using a given word and they tell you all the things that it seems to mean as used by the different author.  Often they give individual authors' uses, and how it is paired with other words and language structures, and in different periods.  And you make your best guess.  But all of this assumes that the compilers actually kind of know what all those other people were really trying to get at, and that your author was trying to get at the same kind of thing.  Which is pretty dicey when you are talking about people that are trying to use language to describe totally new ideas, and who were stretching the language they had to its limits to describe them.(and it is still possible your compilers could be wrong.)

 

It's really the same problem we have when trying to understand modern writers, an English text of this kind, but worse.  Think of the difficulties one has reading Heidegger, or even Hobbes.  Add to that a worldview that is very different, and takes things for granted that we don't even consider, and you have a difficult proposition indeed.


Edited by Bluegoat - 12/20/10 at 6:47pm
post #27 of 300

 

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In fact - speaking from the perspective of my own church - the problem is more basic than multiple or confused meanings. The NT was written not only by the early Church, but to and for the Church members. The Epistles, in particular, were epistles after all (letters) to people who were already Christian: the epistle to the Church at Rome, to the Church at Corinth, etc.

If we were to come across a series of letters from, for example, a man to his son, the words might be perfectly clear, but there would be a lot we could make no sense of. They would be full of comments like, "Remember what I told you last week at the barbecue," and "Don't forget about your brother's special event," and "The last report card was certainly a change from the previous one." The son himself, on the other hand, would understand the letters easily. 

The NT is full of references like this, a few direct, but many indirect. Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself.

Which doctrines do you find unclear in this manner? There are plenty of instances where Paul sends greetings to people, or refers to a dispute in a local church, where we can't be quite sure what he's getting at; but a), those things don't really impact doctrine and b), I don't believe the Catholic Church has made infallible pronouncements on such things in any case. I'm trying to think of more serious issues that come up, and the only one I can think of is the reference to baptism for the dead - but again, has the Catholic Church infallibly interpreted this for us? If not, then you have the same problem as Protestants do; if so, and the Church followed its usual practice of describing the reasoning process behind it, then Protestants can either agree with them or not based on how Scriptural and logical their argument is - just as they would with any other teacher.

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Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself.

Presumably they learned such things from the oral teachings of the apostles - which, as I've already said, is no problem for sola Scriptura advocates. They certainly didn't get it all right, though - many of the NT letters were written to address issues of doctrine, practice and morals. Presuming an infallible church is absolutely not necessary for explaining a flawed but functioning early church.

 

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It is only when you have all the information that you are going to be able to look at it and see how it fits together.  And sometimes it may in fact be difficult (we see people trying to dismiss Paul as incompatible with Christ all the time.)

(Sorry, snipped your quote for the sake of shortness) Yes, I realise Catholics view Scripture and Tradition as parts of the whole, but my problem is that it is not merely difficult, but logically impossible, to reconcile them. There are Catholic doctrines which I simply consider to be demonstrably at odds with Scripture, and I can't reconcile them without viewing Scripture in a way that goes against the plain meaning of the text, hermeneutical principles and in some cases logic itself. Yes, some people try to prove Paul's teachings contradicted Christ's, but I have yet to see an argument that convinced me it was the case. I see many that convince me that Catholic interpretations of Scripture are wrong.

 

So I would need, to say the least, a VERY compelling reason to believe that Tradition is necessary for understanding Scripture. And so far all I've received are attacks on sola Scriptura which undercut Catholicism as well, and would seem to doom us to utter ignorance about everything.

 

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It isn't that we don't know the meaning of the words, really.  I'm sure you've looked in a serious dictionary used for translation before - the Oxford English if not a foreign language one.  The way they are compiled is they look through all the examples of people using a given word and they tell you all the things that it seems to mean as used by the different author.  Often they give individual authors' uses, and how it is paired with other words and language structures, and in different periods.  And you make your best guess.  But all of this assumes that the compilers actually kind of know what all those other people were really trying to get at, and that your author was trying to get at the same kind of thing.  Which is pretty dicey when you are talking about people that are trying to use language to describe totally new ideas, and who were stretching the language they had to its limits to describe them.(and it is still possible your compilers could be wrong.)

An objection that cuts right back at Catholic theologians, who use those very "best guesses" and hermeneutical principles and so on to justify their teachings. They don't say "Forget the Greek, God came to me in a vision and said X means Y". Not to mention Catholics who follow Catholic teachings that were written several hundred years ago - in a different language and culture. This argument also ignores the fact that the Bible repeats and explains many of its core doctrines, and is largely written in very simple language.

 

 


Edited by Smokering - 12/20/10 at 8:05pm
post #28 of 300

Quote from Mamabadger:

 

"The NT is full of references like this, a few direct, but many indirect. Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself."

 

My view is that none of the programmed, scripted, services make any sense according to NT scripture.   I believe that the reason that there aren't very clear ways to 'hold' a service is because it wasn't supposed to be so programmed.  In the beginning it was simple.  The Lord asked them to remember Him by taking the cup and the bread every week. He said that He would lead the praises to the Father.  Now what we see in both rcc, eo, protestant gatherings is a huge manufactured production.  Paul encouraged the church to do this:  speaking to one another with hymns, psalms, spiritual songs.  Paul also said that prophesying builds the church.  There wasn't any ordaining clergy because there was no clergy laity system.  It wasn't so complicated.  Keeping prescribed fasts?  They did fast and pray, but it was due to a need and not an arbitrary, fast on this day until that day.  I am speaking of the NT, not OT.

 

Examine the cases in the NT.  How did Saul get saved and become Paul.  What happened at his conversion?  It was simple.  He believed in the Lord. Therefore, he became a member of the body of Christ.  No one ordained him, he didn't take classes, and wear special clothing so that he would stand out.  He did all that as a Jew, but not as a Christian.   It's not in the NT because it wasn't meant to develop into what it is now.  And just so you know, I feel the same about the ways of the Protestant gatherings.  And what about the Ethiopian who saw water and said, what prevents me from being baptized?  This supports Mark 16:16 believe and be baptized.  The early church was simple in their worship and focused on Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  All the Tradition (rcc, eo, protestant) is not in the NT and why is that?  If it was so important then why didn't the Lord make sure it got in there?

 

To be part of the invisible church, or the universal church, all one has to do is receive the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Tradition (protestant, eo, and rcc) requires a person to jump through hoops, take this class, prove yourself, prove you will be a good religious person, etc.  Some places won't let you get baptized unless you have had a class.  That is so unscriptural.  Not to mention the potential stumbling block it places in front of a new believer, who just wants to go on, but instead must be proven to be worthy.  All the disciples had to do was receive the Holy Spriit (John 22).  The Lord asked Peter to feed my sheep, shepherd my sheep...not make sure all the sheep have had classes in order to be worthy to be in the C-hurch.

 

The cases in the scripture do not match what Tradition teaches.  I think it is a reasonable requirement that Tradition should match scripture and when it doesn't, which is the better source?

Quote from Mamabadger:

"The idea of the invisible Church, as opposed to the more clearly defined membership of the Church is another major division between Protestant and RC/EO theology. For us, the Ecclesia has fairly clear, visible boundaries, just as in OT times it was clear who was an Israelite and who was not. 

The uncomfortable aspect of this doctrine is that there must, therefore, be people who identify themselves as Christian yet are not members of the Church. This idea existed in the earliest days of Christianity, when opposing doctrines were already circulating, and Christians were warned to treat anyone who taught an alternate Gospel as "anathema." (Galatians 1:8-9) In fact, the Gospel account of Christ speaking to the Samaritan woman could be taken as an example of the same belief.  The Samaritans had doctrines which differed from those of the Hebrews only slightly, by modern "fellowship" standards, yet the woman at the well was not told "we believe basically the same thing, no big deal." Because of their alterations in worship, the Samaritans were outside the Ecclesia, and she was told not only that she was mistaken, but "you do not know what you worship."

 

I have a completely different view of the same passage.  My comments in blue, the scripture in black.

This whole passage is the Gospel to this woman.  First, He goes to the well and speaks to her in public. He offers her the living water, which is Himself.  He's not offended to take water from her.  He is Jesus, who reclines with the sinners and tax collectors.  Then He tells her of  her sinfulness because she needs to confess that she has had five husbands and now she is with one who isn't her husband, which she does confess.  Since He is God, He already knows her sinful condition.   Then He tells her to worship in spirit and truthfulness, not on a mountain or in Jerusalem, because the Father seeks true worshippers.

Here is a history footnote:

" Samaria was the leading region of the northern kingdom of Israel and was the site of its capital (1 Kings 16:24, 29). Around 700 B.C., the Assyrians captured Samaria and brought people from Babylon and other heathen countries to the cities of Samaria (2 Kings 17:6, 24). From that time the Samaritans became a people of mixed heathen and Jewish blood. History tells us that they had the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses) and worshipped God according to that part of the Old Testament. But they were never recognized by the Jews as being part of the Jewish people."

 

  She was saying why would you, a Jew, have anything to do with me, a Samaritan.  It didn't have to do with Christian doctrines.  The Lord hadn't gone to the cross yet.  He was still on earth ministering to people, which is what He did to her.  He ministered to her.  He offered her the living water, which was Himself.

 

Then the part about worship:

 

20 1aOur fathers worshipped bin this mountain, yet you say that cin Jerusalem is the place where men must worship.

21 Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, aan hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  

 

  Jesus letting her know that you won't need to worship in a particular place in order to worship properly.  This was a requirement of the Jews, and seems to be a requirement of rcc, eo.

 

22 aYou worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is of the Jews.

 

She was considered a heathen because of where she was from and Jesus let her know that she does not know what she is worshipping. He was saving her from it by telling her that.

 

23 But aan hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshippers will worship the Father bin spirit and truthfulness, for the Father also seeks such to worship Him.

 

Here, this is KEY,  the true worshippers will worship in spirit and truthfulness, not necessarily on a mountain or in Jerusalem, but IN spirit. 

 

24 1God is 2Spirit, and those who 3worship Him must worship ain 4spirit and 5truthfulness.

 

Just in case we didn't catch it the first time, He repeats that  we must worship in spirit and truthfulness, which is in contrast to on a mountain or in Jerusalem.

This also means that as long as I am worshipping in spirit and truthfulness then my worship counts  and I am not to be considered as 'anathema'  according to the NT scripture. Again, it does not match Tradition.  In addition, the Samaritan woman didn't need to take any classes, just believe and confess in the Lord Jesus, and voila!  You are now a member of the body of Christ, the church.

post #29 of 300

 

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How is that different from "unknowable", if you're implying that it is impossible to determine the author's meaning (as opposed to simply difficult)?

Well, you keep giving examples of words where the meaning is not known, and that's not remotely what I'm talking about. So I guess I don't know what you mean by "unknowable". lol.gif I'm talking about the many passages where the meanings of the individual words are known, but when you put them together they could be understood in several different ways. The phrase "saved through childbearing" in 1 Timothy 2:15 is an example. And yes, I do think that there are equally intellectually valid arguments for different interpretations of that phrase. The only way you could definitely know what was meant by it would be to go back and ask the author - which we can't do.

 

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But in my previous post I pointed out how the "final arbiter" is not analogous to the Catholic Magesterium. Even the highest arbiter has the ability to overturn its previous decisions, which is an admission that its decisions are not infallible simply because they're the Supreme Court, but rely on their knowledge and logical application of the law to be true and thus authoritative.

Sure, but since I don't believe in and wasn't arguing for the infallibility of the Catholic Magesterium, I didn't think I needed to respond to that. Your original point was that words have meanings and people can reliably discern those meanings through the application of logic, and you gave the example of our justice system. My point is that words have meanings and people can often discern those meanings through the application of logic, but not always, and this illustrated by the fact that we have to have a Supreme Court in our justice system. Once the Supreme Court issues a decision it becomes the law of the land, whether you agree with it or not. Not because they are necessarily right - as you point out, they may come back later and change their decision - but simply because there is a recognition that some issues of interpretation cannot be definitely resolved with logic and so for the sake of order we just need to come down on one side or the other and call it good.

 

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And so far all I've received are attacks on sola Scriptura which undercut Catholicism as well, and would seem to doom us to utter ignorance about everything.

No, not utter ignorance, just a humble recognition that we still see through a glass darkly.


Edited by Thao - 12/21/10 at 10:00am
post #30 of 300

 

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In fact - speaking from the perspective of my own church - the problem is more basic than multiple or confused meanings. The NT was written not only by the early Church, but to and for the Church members. The Epistles, in particular, were epistles after all (letters) to people who were already Christian: the epistle to the Church at Rome, to the Church at Corinth, etc.

Mamabadger, I agree! I often find that the hardest documents to translate are personal letters, because they are not expository in nature. They assume the knowledge shared by the reader and writer, but unfortunately not usually provided to the translator.

 

Just off the top of my head, I think an example where this sort of lack of context affects interpretation of a Biblical passage is the injunction for women to not speak in church in 1 Corinthians 14. The core issue with that passage - whether it was an injunction only to that particular church because of some sort of disorderly behavior among the women there, or an injunction to all women of all time - depends entirely on what the situation was at the Corinthian church at the time. I'm sure the people of the Corinthian church understood Paul's intent perfectly but we can spend weeks on a thread debating it and never arrive at a definitive conclusion orngtongue.gif


Edited by Thao - 12/21/10 at 10:16am
post #31 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

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Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

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In fact - speaking from the perspective of my own church - the problem is more basic than multiple or confused meanings. The NT was written not only by the early Church, but to and for the Church members. The Epistles, in particular, were epistles after all (letters) to people who were already Christian: the epistle to the Church at Rome, to the Church at Corinth, etc.

If we were to come across a series of letters from, for example, a man to his son, the words might be perfectly clear, but there would be a lot we could make no sense of. They would be full of comments like, "Remember what I told you last week at the barbecue," and "Don't forget about your brother's special event," and "The last report card was certainly a change from the previous one." The son himself, on the other hand, would understand the letters easily. 

The NT is full of references like this, a few direct, but many indirect. Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself.

Which doctrines do you find unclear in this manner? There are plenty of instances where Paul sends greetings to people, or refers to a dispute in a local church, where we can't be quite sure what he's getting at; but a), those things don't really impact doctrine and b), I don't believe the Catholic Church has made infallible pronouncements on such things in any case. I'm trying to think of more serious issues that come up, and the only one I can think of is the reference to baptism for the dead - but again, has the Catholic Church infallibly interpreted this for us? If not, then you have the same problem as Protestants do; if so, and the Church followed its usual practice of describing the reasoning process behind it, then Protestants can either agree with them or not based on how Scriptural and logical their argument is - just as they would with any other teacher.

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Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself.

Presumably they learned such things from the oral teachings of the apostles - which, as I've already said, is no problem for sola Scriptura advocates. They certainly didn't get it all right, though - many of the NT letters were written to address issues of doctrine, practice and morals. Presuming an infallible church is absolutely not necessary for explaining a flawed but functioning early church.

 

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It is only when you have all the information that you are going to be able to look at it and see how it fits together.  And sometimes it may in fact be difficult (we see people trying to dismiss Paul as incompatible with Christ all the time.)

(Sorry, snipped your quote for the sake of shortness) Yes, I realise Catholics view Scripture and Tradition as parts of the whole, but my problem is that it is not merely difficult, but logically impossible, to reconcile them. There are Catholic doctrines which I simply consider to be demonstrably at odds with Scripture, and I can't reconcile them without viewing Scripture in a way that goes against the plain meaning of the text, hermeneutical principles and in some cases logic itself. Yes, some people try to prove Paul's teachings contradicted Christ's, but I have yet to see an argument that convinced me it was the case. I see many that convince me that Catholic interpretations of Scripture are wrong.

 

So I would need, to say the least, a VERY compelling reason to believe that Tradition is necessary for understanding Scripture. And so far all I've received are attacks on sola Scriptura which undercut Catholicism as well, and would seem to doom us to utter ignorance about everything.

 

But the argument isn't really that Tradition is required for understanding Scripture (although that is true).  The argument is that Tradition is the deposit of faith that was left to the Apostles - that is what the Church believed in the first years, it is what was universally taught in every document we have.  It's the base line.  It's really a Scripture alone approach that needs to account for itself, being a Reformation invention, and undeniably new.  That would mean not only showing that the Catholic Church had erred in significant ways, but also the EO and possibly the OO.  (And one would have to abandon one's SS lens in order to judge this with any fairness.)
 

As for dooming with utter ignorance - that may be.  I think one could actually make a fairly good argument that modern liberal Christianity is the inevitable logical result of a ss approach.  If higher textual criticism is going to end up as the fundamental tool for understanding Scripture, you are not going to end up with much surety of any kind.

 

As far as unclear doctrines?!  How about infant baptism, or the Eucharist?  If they are indeed what traditionally has been understood, denying them would be pretty serious - it would be denying the physical means God gives us to help us achieve union with him.

post #32 of 300
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shami View Post

Quote from Mamabadger:

 

"The NT is full of references like this, a few direct, but many indirect. Start with the existence of an epistle "to the church at ______." When the epistle was written, there was already a church in place. It was already holding services, apparently on the first day of the week, providing Eucharist to its members, keeping prescribed fasts, baptizing, ordaining clergy as needed. Where did this local church learn the correct way to do all these things, and more? Not from Scripture; it contains no such information. The content of the NT only makes real sense in the context of the Church itself."

 

My view is that none of the programmed, scripted, services make any sense according to NT scripture.   I believe that the reason that there aren't very clear ways to 'hold' a service is because it wasn't supposed to be so programmed.  In the beginning it was simple.  The Lord asked them to remember Him by taking the cup and the bread every week. He said that He would lead the praises to the Father.  Now what we see in both rcc, eo, protestant gatherings is a huge manufactured production.  Paul encouraged the church to do this:  speaking to one another with hymns, psalms, spiritual songs.  Paul also said that prophesying builds the church.  There wasn't any ordaining clergy because there was no clergy laity system.  It wasn't so complicated.  Keeping prescribed fasts?  They did fast and pray, but it was due to a need and not an arbitrary, fast on this day until that day.  I am speaking of the NT, not OT.

 

Examine the cases in the NT.  How did Saul get saved and become Paul.  What happened at his conversion?  It was simple.  He believed in the Lord. Therefore, he became a member of the body of Christ.  No one ordained him, he didn't take classes, and wear special clothing so that he would stand out.  He did all that as a Jew, but not as a Christian.   It's not in the NT because it wasn't meant to develop into what it is now.  And just so you know, I feel the same about the ways of the Protestant gatherings.  And what about the Ethiopian who saw water and said, what prevents me from being baptized?  This supports Mark 16:16 believe and be baptized.  The early church was simple in their worship and focused on Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  All the Tradition (rcc, eo, protestant) is not in the NT and why is that?  If it was so important then why didn't the Lord make sure it got in there?

 

To be part of the invisible church, or the universal church, all one has to do is receive the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Tradition (protestant, eo, and rcc) requires a person to jump through hoops, take this class, prove yourself, prove you will be a good religious person, etc.  Some places won't let you get baptized unless you have had a class.  That is so unscriptural.  Not to mention the potential stumbling block it places in front of a new believer, who just wants to go on, but instead must be proven to be worthy.  All the disciples had to do was receive the Holy Spriit (John 22).  The Lord asked Peter to feed my sheep, shepherd my sheep...not make sure all the sheep have had classes in order to be worthy to be in the C-hurch.

 

The cases in the scripture do not match what Tradition teaches.  I think it is a reasonable requirement that Tradition should match scripture and when it doesn't, which is the better source?

What is your basis for saying there was no liturgy in the Early Church? 

 

It would be odd to expect to find it explained in the Epistles, since the congregations were already doing it, and that was not the purpose of the letters.  Reading the letters and the gospels was part of the liturgy.  If you are saying that because the NT does not really describe liturgy there can't really be any need for it, you are begging the question - assuming that only what is in scripture is correct - which is the question you are trying to answer. 
 

post #33 of 300

 

Quote:
Well, you keep giving examples of words where the meaning is not known, and that's not remotely what I'm talking about. So I guess I don't know what you mean by "unknowable". lol.gifI'm talking about the many passages where the meanings of the individual words are known, but when you put them together they could be understood in several different ways. The phrase "saved through childbearing" in 1 Timothy 2:15 is an example. And yes, I do think that there are equally intellectually valid arguments for different interpretations of that phrase. The only way you could definitely know what was meant by it would be to go back and ask the author - which we can't do.

Eh, I think 1 Timothy 2:15's an easy one. It can't mean "saved BY childbearing", because that would contradict great chunks of Scripture which declare that salvation is by grace through faith; therefore it must mean "saved from death in childbirth". I wonder if Catholicism has infallibly declared the meaning of the phrase?

 

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Not because they are necessarily right - as you point out, they may come back later and change their decision - but simply because there is a recognition that some issues of interpretation cannot be definitely resolved with logic and so for the sake of order we just need to come down on one side or the other and call it good.

Yes, but again, that's not analogous to the Catholic Magesterium, so I don't think it affects the sola Scriptura analogy. There are practical running-the-country reasons why courts need a final authority, or the system would get clogged up with never-ending appeals. Theological debate isn't as expensive. :p I don't see a reason, in a church not tied to the State, why a theological issue necessarily needs to be resolved by a certain period of time. There are probably some things we still won't know when Christ returns, and that's OK.

 

Quote:
But the argument isn't really that Tradition is required for understanding Scripture (although that is true).  The argument is that Tradition is the deposit of faith that was left to the Apostles - that is what the Church believed in the first years, it is what was universally taught in every document we have.  It's the base line.  It's really a Scripture alone approach that needs to account for itself, being a Reformation invention, and undeniably new.  That would mean not only showing that the Catholic Church had erred in significant ways, but also the EO and possibly the OO.  (And one would have to abandon one's SS lens in order to judge this with any fairness.)

What kind of "lens" do you feel would be appropriate for such an examination? Surely the only way to see a church had erred with Tradition would be to compare that Tradition - the theology under question - to the Scriptures - which everyone believes are infallible - using logic and reason. I guess you could also examine Church doctrine for internal consistency, but a theology can be internally consistent and still full of error, so it wouldn't really help.

 

Also, I've never quite grasped this "deposit of faith" thing. I know Catholics don't claim that all modern Catholic doctrines were taught in the early church - they do believe in the development of doctrine. So what exactly was the "deposit of faith", and how was it passed down? There hasn't been an unbroken line of succession from Pope to Pope, and it's not like the previous Pope meets with the future one before his death and whispers the secrets of St Peter into his ear. They don't claim personal divine revelation either, as far as I know. And the pronouncements made by the Magesterium seem to follow "secular" principles of scholarship, for the most part (except for the occasional appeal to mystery when doctrines are logically inconsistent). So how exactly does the deposit of faith thing work? Is the concept derived from Scripture at all; and if not, where did it come from?

 

My view on the early church is that, given that the Scriptures came out of the early church, principles that were universally taught would have been reflected in the text. As I simply cannot reconcile Scriptural views on, say, free will with Catholic views (as I believe it to be philosophically impossible as well as taught against in Scripture), I can't believe that it was being taught - that Paul would orally be on the side of free will, but as a writer be on the side of predestination. So I just can't believe "universally taught" - not in the very early, when-the-Scriptures-were-being-writtten period, at least.

 

It's also rather a telling statement that you find SS suspicious because it's relatively recent. Doesn't that mean you're unfairly viewing it through your Tradition "lens"? There are plenty of Catholic doctrines that have been developed since 1600.

 

Quote:
 As for dooming with utter ignorance - that may be.  I think one could actually make a fairly good argument that modern liberal Christianity is the inevitable logical result of a ss approach.  If higher textual criticism is going to end up as the fundamental tool for understanding Scripture, you are not going to end up with much surety of any kind.

Higher textual criticism does not equal sola Scriptura. And Tradition hasn't prevented a heck of a lot of Catholics and Anglicans from becoming liberal.

 

Quote:
As far as unclear doctrines?!  How about infant baptism, or the Eucharist?  If they are indeed what traditionally has been understood, denying them would be pretty serious - it would be denying the physical means God gives us to help us achieve union with him.

Yes, but I don't think they're unclear. :p I've debated them before in RS.

post #34 of 300
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

I'm in a hurry too, but it seems you're creating a false dichotomy - either "infallibility" or "absolutely no idea". I don't see why the latter is the consequence of not having infallibility, especially if you grant that Scripture (the source) and logical laws (the methodology) are both infallible. We accept that we can learn other things reasonably accurately without the benefit of infallibility (things about the physical world, things contained in books we've read, and so on), so why not things contained in the Bible? Again, you need to prove that Biblical knowledge is qualitatively different to all other knowledge.

 

Further, if you doubt your own intelligence to that extent, an infallible Magesterium can't really help you. You still have to interpret its teachings with your "fallible, sinful human mind", and there's no guarantee you'll get it right. So it seems you have an unsolvable epistemic problem. But infallible knowledge seems an unreasonably high benchmark anyway: on what basis do you think it's necessary?



What I need to see is proof that Scripture plus logic are all we need to learn what we need to know.  If they are, then you have a point, but I'm contending that there's something missing from the equation.  And I'm with Bluegoat on this - the burden of proof is on the SS advocates because before the Reformation no one argued that Scripture was sufficient all by itself. 

 

 

Quote:
My view on the early church is that, given that the Scriptures came out of the early church, principles that were universally taught would have been reflected in the text. As I simply cannot reconcile Scriptural views on, say, free will with Catholic views (as I believe it to be philosophically impossible as well as taught against in Scripture), I can't believe that it was being taught - that Paul would orally be on the side of free will, but as a writer be on the side of predestination. So I just can't believe "universally taught" - not in the very early, when-the-Scriptures-were-being-writtten period, at least.

 

This is a good example.  I can't reconcile Calvinism with what I know about God.  When I read Catholic commentaries (I'd read EO as well, but I can't find any free ones online) on the verses that Calvinists use to argue for predestination, the explanations make sense.  IMO, Calvinism takes the Scriptures out of their proper place in the entire "deposit of faith" and changes their meaning entirely.  I'm certain you disagree.  orngtongue.gif

post #35 of 300
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shami View Post

 

My view is that none of the programmed, scripted, services make any sense according to NT scripture.   I believe that the reason that there aren't very clear ways to 'hold' a service is because it wasn't supposed to be so programmed.  In the beginning it was simple.  The Lord asked them to remember Him by taking the cup and the bread every week. He said that He would lead the praises to the Father.  Now what we see in both rcc, eo, protestant gatherings is a huge manufactured production.  Paul encouraged the church to do this:  speaking to one another with hymns, psalms, spiritual songs.  Paul also said that prophesying builds the church.  There wasn't any ordaining clergy because there was no clergy laity system.  It wasn't so complicated.  Keeping prescribed fasts?  They did fast and pray, but it was due to a need and not an arbitrary, fast on this day until that day.  I am speaking of the NT, not OT.

 


I do not see much basis for assuming that things were "so simple" in the early days of the Church, if by simple you mean no formal liturgics. The earliest non-Scriptural Christian writings refer to baptism being followed by the blessing with holy oil, similar to the OT anointing with myrrh "according to the ancient rite" as Tertullian wrote, and to the use of an altar. There were certainly bishops, presbyters, and deacons; this is mentioned not only in the NT, where they are described as being ordained, but in most early Christian writings. Ignatius of Antioch, who was taught directly by the apostles, wrote at length about the need to respect bishops and other clergy. They very likely did wear "special clothing" as the priests of the OT did. Fasting was done, as early as the first century, on Wednesdays and Fridays, as the early document known as the Didache mentions. 

 

The idea of random, unplanned prayers as the standard is unlikely, and I think it is merely applying Protestant assumptions about worship where they may not apply. The first generation Christians were Jews who were coming from a tradition of formal, precise, ritualistic services in the Temple, which were kept very strictly and considered sacred in themselves, and which included a priesthood. By 300 AD, there are extensive written records of similarly formal liturgics in the Church. Church fathers (especially John Chrysostomos) acted to standardize these services still further, as slight differences were seen between one local church and another, which was found to be unacceptable. Yet supposedly, between Pentecost and 250 or so years later, the Church first abruptly veered into an unfamiliar kind of informal, unstructured prayer, then veered back again into formal ritual, somehow arriving at the fourth century with an established Liturgy practiced in similar form throughout the Christian world? 

post #36 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

Quote:
But the argument isn't really that Tradition is required for understanding Scripture (although that is true).  The argument is that Tradition is the deposit of faith that was left to the Apostles - that is what the Church believed in the first years, it is what was universally taught in every document we have.  It's the base line.  It's really a Scripture alone approach that needs to account for itself, being a Reformation invention, and undeniably new.  That would mean not only showing that the Catholic Church had erred in significant ways, but also the EO and possibly the OO.  (And one would have to abandon one's SS lens in order to judge this with any fairness.)

What kind of "lens" do you feel would be appropriate for such an examination? Surely the only way to see a church had erred with Tradition would be to compare that Tradition - the theology under question - to the Scriptures - which everyone believes are infallible - using logic and reason. I guess you could also examine Church doctrine for internal consistency, but a theology can be internally consistent and still full of error, so it wouldn't really help.

 

 

Also, I've never quite grasped this "deposit of faith" thing. I know Catholics don't claim that all modern Catholic doctrines were taught in the early church - they do believe in the development of doctrine. So what exactly was the "deposit of faith", and how was it passed down? There hasn't been an unbroken line of succession from Pope to Pope, and it's not like the previous Pope meets with the future one before his death and whispers the secrets of St Peter into his ear. They don't claim personal divine revelation either, as far as I know. And the pronouncements made by the Magesterium seem to follow "secular" principles of scholarship, for the most part (except for the occasional appeal to mystery when doctrines are logically inconsistent). So how exactly does the deposit of faith thing work? Is the concept derived from Scripture at all; and if not, where did it come from?

 

My view on the early church is that, given that the Scriptures came out of the early church, principles that were universally taught would have been reflected in the text. As I simply cannot reconcile Scriptural views on, say, free will with Catholic views (as I believe it to be philosophically impossible as well as taught against in Scripture), I can't believe that it was being taught - that Paul would orally be on the side of free will, but as a writer be on the side of predestination. So I just can't believe "universally taught" - not in the very early, when-the-Scriptures-were-being-writtten period, at least.

 

It's also rather a telling statement that you find SS suspicious because it's relatively recent. Doesn't that mean you're unfairly viewing it through your Tradition "lens"? There are plenty of Catholic doctrines that have been developed since 1600.

 

 

Higher textual criticism does not equal sola Scriptura. And Tradition hasn't prevented a heck of a lot of Catholics and Anglicans from becoming liberal.

 

Quote:
As far as unclear doctrines?!  How about infant baptism, or the Eucharist?  If they are indeed what traditionally has been understood, denying them would be pretty serious - it would be denying the physical means God gives us to help us achieve union with him.

Yes, but I don't think they're unclear. :p I've debated them before in RS.


I will just say again that I hate this stupid new format - it won't let me cut and paste stuff around.  Grrr.Cuss.gif

 

What kind of lens would be appropriate?  The same kind I suppose that one uses when deciding if Scripture is indeed true.  I think you are wrong to say that going back to Scripture that everyone agrees on would be an option, since many people rely on Scripture as a result or accepting claims about the nature of the Church.  Really, accepting the Church because one trusts Scripture seems quite odd, since it is both temporally and logically and really in every other -arry second to the Church.  If the Church is a fraud, then so is Scripture.  So I guess I would say, how did you come to the conclusion that Scripture was reliable?

 

The deposit of faith - the truths that Christ left the the Church, specifically to the Apostles.  What the EO call Tradition - "what has been always and everywhere taught and believed by the Church".  Catholics do believe in development of doctrine, though they will tell you clearly that this is not the development of anything new.  It is rather a deeper understanding, or perhaps new way of explaining, or just further explication, of the same truth that was present in the beginning.  It isn't anything to do with Popes whispering it to each other, and it isn't secret information.  It isn't even just what Popes say, it is what is found written by theologians, by the saints, in Scripture and so forth.  I think they would say the role of the Pope - his special chrism, is to pronounce on the question of what constitutes the deposit of faith as needed.  But it would never be something that he had just made up, or that wasn't seen in Catholic thought before that.

 

Now, the east understands it differently.  They do not believe in development of doctrine in the same way the Catholics do.  They are generally pretty strict about only further explicating things when absolutely necessary - generally in the face of heresy.  They also don't have a single leader who can say - this is the way to go, what we all need to believe, now believe it.  Bishops have a certain authority and leadership role, and patriarchs too.  But to have any new way to explain things everyone, including the laity, have to agree. (So the laity have been known to run Bishops out of town, or in the case of the Bishops decision to reunite with the West in the council of Florence, they would have nothing to do with it and it couldn't move ahead.)  So it is pretty hard to make changes in a system where everyone has to agree, and it tends to be radically conservative.  If you look at their theological models, they tend to stick to and emphasize the earliest ones.

 

As far as secular principles of scholarship - I suppose.  I mean, that is what theologians consider when making arguments, but the arguments are always within the context of the deposit of faith.  For the purposes of making decisions within the Church you are not going top see them making decisions outside of that (or they will claim That anyway.)  You will see a lot of academic freedom, especially in the west, within Catholic scholarship, because the feeling is that is healthy, and there is nothing to fear from free scholarship.  And of course materials directed at non-Catholic or non-Orthodox are going to argue from the ground of the people they are trying to dialog with.

 

I don't think my saying that SS is recent is viewing it through a lens of Tradition.  There is no historical, secular evidence that it existed in the Early Church.  Maybe that is not quite what you mean?  In any case, Catholics would say that any doctrines that appear after 1600 were present in some form before that.  In the east I don't know if you would actually find anything that fits that description.

 

I didn't say that higher criticism was SS.  I said you could make a good argument that ss faced with higher criticism leads to liberal Christianity.    However, it was more of an aside - I don't think it's important to the discussion.

 

I understand that you don't think that ideas like infant baptism are unclear.  That isn't the point.  I don't think they are unclear either, which is the point, because I disagree with your conclusions.  And the same can be said for some people that we all agree have some pretty impressive minds.  These are not small items, like whether women should wear hats in church.  These are fundamentals on how we are to interact with God, what he commands us to do, and how we have access to Grace.  If the Eucharist really is what the Apostolic Churches claim (along with Lutherans and a few others), than your view is a really serious problem.  If using images in Church really is idolatry, or leads to it, that is a pretty serious problem.  If God has really offered salvation to everyone, saying that he hasn't is a monumental heresy.  So to say that as Christians using just Scripture, as long as we are honest and intellectually rigorous we can come to pretty close agreement on all of the really important stuff seems just plainly untrue.

 

post #37 of 300
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post

This is a good example.  I can't reconcile Calvinism with what I know about God.  When I read Catholic commentaries (I'd read EO as well, but I can't find any free ones online) on the verses that Calvinists use to argue for predestination, the explanations make sense.  IMO, Calvinism takes the Scriptures out of their proper place in the entire "deposit of faith" and changes their meaning entirely.  I'm certain you disagree.  orngtongue.gif



 

Here is some stuff addressed to Protestants and Calvinists from the Orthodox.  I've only just looked through it so I don't really know how good it is.


Edited by Bluegoat - 12/21/10 at 6:44pm
post #38 of 300

 

Quote:
Eh, I think 1 Timothy 2:15's an easy one. It can't mean "saved BY childbearing", because that would contradict great chunks of Scripture which declare that salvation is by grace through faith; therefore it must mean "saved from death in childbirth".

There are other possibilities besides just those two interpretations.

 

Quote:
Yes, but again, that's not analogous to the Catholic Magesterium, so I don't think it affects the sola Scriptura analogy.

You keep arguing against a position I don't hold, Smokering. Sola Scriptura, as you have described it, believes that it is possible to correctly interpret any passage of the Bible with proper of application of logic. I'm saying that is incorrect. If you are going to debate my posts, please debate the position I actually hold.

 

post #39 of 300
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post

This is a good example.  I can't reconcile Calvinism with what I know about God.  When I read Catholic commentaries (I'd read EO as well, but I can't find any free ones online) on the verses that Calvinists use to argue for predestination, the explanations make sense.  IMO, Calvinism takes the Scriptures out of their proper place in the entire "deposit of faith" and changes their meaning entirely.  I'm certain you disagree.  orngtongue.gif



Here is some stuff addressed to Protestants and Calvinists from the Orthodox.  I've only just looked through it so I don't really know how good it is.


that link goes to a myspace page. do you have the correct one?
post #40 of 300
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by la mamita View Post


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post





 

Here is some stuff addressed to Protestants and Calvinists from the Orthodox.  I've only just looked through it so I don't really know how good it is.



that link goes to a myspace page. do you have the correct one?


Oops! Sorry!  That's what I get for having two conversations at once.

 

Here is the correct one - I'll fix the original link if it will let me too.

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