Why Not Sola Scriptura?

 

I realized something in the bathtub once. It did not occur to me to shout “Eureka!” and run around the house naked. At least that’s how I remember it. It’s kind of weird because, while the bathtub is a great place to read, it’s a terrible place to underline and highlight, and I think that in those days I must have already begun my habit of doing a lot of underlining and highlighting when reading non-fiction.

Anyway, the point is that I realized something one time while reading Bernard Ramm’s Protestant Biblical Interpretation, and it’s a little weird that I was apparently reading in the bathtub at the time.

What I realized was the answer to a more important puzzle.  I’d been wondering whether Catholicism might be correct.  I still wonder.  But I still haven’t found any good reason–at least not one I can understand–to think so.

The big one is Sola Scriptura.  This is the essential Reformation doctrine.  SS is the idea that the only infallible authority, between the death of the last Apostle (John) and the bodily return of Jesus (still to come), is the written Bible. (The Wikipedia article on SS has its absurdities, but much of it looks solid to me, and the first sentence seems a good definition of SS. Theopedia, I deem, is better.)

In this post I’m going to explain that puzzle, give my answer to the puzzle, and consider what sort of solid arguments could be made for SS.

How Do We Know What Is in the Infallible Canon?

The Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of G-d–that’s pretty basic Christianity there.  But just one baby step beyond that we have the issue of canonicity: Just which books are in the Bible, and isn’t there also an infallible list of those books?

And since I–like everyone else–learned about that list from the church, doesn’t that mean the church must have also been infallible?  At least on this one thing, at least this one time?

This is the main argument I hear for Catholicism.  Seems to make sense–don’t we need some infallible information on canonicity on our way to knowledge of that infallible canon?  How can you believe in the infallibility of the Bible without believing that there’s some infallible information about what’s in the Bible?

Here’s arch-red-pilled-Catholic Tim Gordon making this argument:

For the too-long-didn’t-watch folks, if you click it should go straight to the argument, and, it’s better to watch. But here’s my paraphrase of Gordon anyway:

Since the Bible is infallible, the table of its contents ought also to be infallible; but since we need someone or something to promulgate for us that list of contents, we need an infallible promulgator of it, which is the Church!  Hence SS is wrong, and doesn’t even make any sense!

I’ve heard variations of this argument a few times on Ricochet. For a while in undergrad, I thought it probably worked; it meant that there was something wrong with SS, or at least that it had an exception here—here, in the Church’s ability to declare an infallible canon even if nowhere else, the Church must be infallible.

By Illumination

YARN | Illumination. | Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ...

Reading Ramm, I found the answer. Ramm was talking about the distinction between illumination and inspiration, and I realized this applies to the above question about canonicity.

Let’s start with a simpler version, the sort of thing I was thinking when I read Ramm in the bathtub:

When the church learns what the canon of scripture is–what books really are in the Bible–it’s not being inspired; it’s just being illuminated.  If I’m being inspired, I’m doing something infallible.  If I’m just being illuminated, I’m not doing anything infallible.

And why is that?  Because illumination just means understanding a truth already given.  When the truth from G-d was given, that took some infallibility on the part of the humans through whom G-d gave it.  But when the rest of us understand that truth, we’re just recognizing something infallible that has already been given.

In other words, the church, in recognizing the biblical canon, was not making the biblical canon; it was only recognizing it.

The Inspiration of the Bible Drew the Boundaries of the Bible
File:Paul arrested.jpg

Paul arrested (Wikimedia Commons)

So who did make it? G-d, of course.  The canon of the Bible was made when G-d gave us the Bible.  The inspiration of the Bible is what makes the difference between what’s in the Bible and what’s not.  G-d inspired Paul to write the letter to the Roman Christians, and did not inspire Clement to write this letter, which is a wonderful letter but not part of the Bible.

Look at it this way:

The biblical canon is the collection of books that are actually inspired by G-d.  In this particular argument against SS, we must be talking about one of two things: either the making of that collection, or the recognizing of it.

And if we’re talking about the making of it, then we are definitely talking about infallibility, but the church in recognizing the biblical canon some time later was not making it.  G-d had already made it.

But if we’re talking about the recognizing of it, then we don’t need any infallibility; G-d already made the collection; all we have to do is come along and see what G-d has done.

The main point is simply this: The church, in recognizing the canon, is not making those books infallible. It couldn’t be. They were infallible because they were inspired by G-d; they were infallible ever since they were written, and the church didn’t affect the past to make them so.  The church, in recognizing the canon, is recognizing what G-d has already done.

To make that canon requires infallibility, but the making of the canon was done when the books of the Bible were written in the first place.  To know that the Word of G-d is this book and that book–but not these other books–does not take infallibility.

(In Gordon’s terms, I think there is an infallible list of the Bible’s table of contents. G-d has it, and we can know it. But the table of contents in the front matter of my hard-copy English Standard Version–that’s not infallible.)

But Surely We Must Be Certain That These Are the Right Books!
File:Bible.malmesbury.arp.jpg

A Bible handwritten in Latin, on display in Malmesbury Abbey (Wikimedia Commons)

I think one thought behind the Catholic argument is something like “If it’s important to be certain that what the Bible says is true, then it must be just as important to know which books are in the Bible!”

Well, it would be nice to be sure of everything I believe. But why is it so impossible to have 99.9% odds that some book has a 100% chance of being right?

Keep in mind that we’re not adding a step when we say “The Bible is inspired by G-d” and then say “The Bible is these books!”  My own fallibility is not adding one layer of possible confusion (because I may have labeled the wrong book) on top of a second layer (because I may be confused about some books being infallible in the first place). All I need is the simple step of “These books are inspired by G-d”–one step, and that’s enough.

There is nothing wrong with the idea of a fallible knower knowing some truth which is infallible.

The funny thing is that Protestants and Catholics already agree that this happens, in at least two places.  In Reformation thinking, it happens in these two places:
–when Christians understand something taught in the Bible,
–and when Christians recognize that these books are infallible.

In Catholic thinking, it actually happens in these three places:
–when Christians understand something taught in the Bible,
–when Christians understand something the Roman Catholic Magisterium teaches them,
–and when Christians understand that the Roman Catholic Magisterium is infallible.

And that brings us to another concern I have with this particular argument against SS.

Panorama showing the façade of St. Peter's at the centre with the arms of Bernini's colonnade sweeping out on either side. It is midday and tourists are walking and taking photographs.

Panorama of St. Peter’s Square (Wikimedia Commons)

If We Need an Infallible Church To Tell Us About the Infallible Bible, Who’s Telling Us About the Infallible Church?

This particular argument, as I understand it, insists that we must have an infallible teacher to tell us just what books are in the Bible.  But if we need a second infallible source to tell us about the first one, why not a third?  If we need an infallible Church to tell us that these particular books are infallible, don’t we need an infallible source to tell us that the Church is infallible?

But if we don’t need it for the Church, why do we need it for the Bible?

Of Course We Learn from the Church!

Of course, the Reformation Christian agrees that we need an infallible source to give us the Bible. That would be G-d.

And, of course, the Reformation Christian agrees that we also have an infallible source helping us know that these books are infallible: That’s also G-d.

File:AugsburgConfessionArticle7OftheChurch.jpg

Church visible (Wikimedia Commons)

But when G-d the Holy Spirit helps us know that Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, Isaiah, and John are infallible, He’s just doing what He always does: He’s helping us understand, based on a combination of His own inward testimony and the objective facts, what is true. That’s how He helps us understand the Bible. That’s how He helps us know what books are in the Bible.

And for Heaven’s sake–of course He uses the testimony of the church, both to help us know what books make up the Bible and to help us know what they say!

Maybe the Holy Spirit could teach me everything there is to know directly, but so what?  Why test G-d?  He has ordained means by which we know things, and it is my responsibility to use them. That includes the church.

And maybe the objective evidence is sufficient in and of itself to show which books are in the Bible, but, again, so what?  Who of us is smart enough and logical enough to figure all that out, and does that lofty intellect have enough time to reinvent the wheel?  Pray he writes it down clearly for the rest of us because most mere mortals don’t have the time, although I daresay we could do with a review of what others have figured out.

It is often the part of wisdom simply to re-learn what has already been learned.

What Sort of Arguments Are There for Sola Scriptura?

If all the above is correct, then SS easily survives the most formidable objection against it.

That doesn’t mean it’s true.

Is there some reason to think it’s true–some arguments against the Catholic view?  Here are a few lines of reasoning I’m at least interested in–which is not to say that I can vouch for them.

There’s always the Ockham’s Razor argument, which works for me unless something changes in what I know:

I know of no evidence that there’s any infallibility between the death of John and the bodily return of Jesus outside the written Bible, so there probably isn’t any.

There’s also this important argument which interests me:

1. Infallible authority includes the ability to give G-d’s people the Word of G-d.

2. After the last of the Apostles died, there is no more ability to give G-d’s people the Word of G-d.

3. Therefore, there is no more infallible authority.

The second premise of this argument is the doctrine that the canon of scripture is closed: Since the death of John and until the bodily return of Jesus the Messiah, there is no more verbal revelation from G-d. Nothing controversial here among orthodox Christians!

But the first premise? That‘s controversial.

The first premise could be concluded inductively from the Bible, where infallible authority turns up again and again in prophets, Jesus, and apostles–but in every case accompanies the ability to give us the Word of G-d.

And then there’s the Gotcha! argument pattern:

The teaching of the Magisterium is wrong on justification/Eucharist/Purgatory/whatever.

Therefore, the Magisterium is fallible.

YARN | Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am. | Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) | Video gifs by quotes | 064af899 | 紗

Any little thing would do, just as long as it’s something definitely taught by the Roman Magisterium. (It might even be possible to argue that there is something which is definitely wrong but also has been definitely taught in the Magisterium under the current lousy Pope.)

A Gotcha! argument would need an extra argument or two to show that whatever it is really is wrong and taught by the Magisterium.  So every Gotcha! argument is a whole diet–make that a whole can–of worms.  I’m not sure I want to take all that on.  I’m a cautious guy.

But actually I am kind of interested in this relatively obscure argument that the Magisterium got one wrong:

1. When Proverbs 8 is talking about wisdom, it’s talking about G-d the Son (Jesus).

2. The Septuagint (ancient Greek) reading of Proverbs 8:22 says that wisdom was created by G-d the Father.

3. G-d the Son was fathered by G-d the Father, not created.

4. Therefore, the Septuagint is wrong.

5. The Catholic Magisterium teaches that the Septuagint is never wrong.

6. Therefore, the Catholic Magisterium got one wrong.

But I’m not entirely sure if all the premises are true.

Another thing I’m not so sure of is how to end this post.  I end it here.  Let discussion commence.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
This post was promoted to the Main Feed at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 299 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Great article! Very helpful explanation of infallibility vs. illumination.

    There are more complications to the question of what is canon. For example, there are whole books in the Apocrypha that Protestants and Jews don’t recognize but Catholics and Orthodox do. Then there are parts of books like the sections of Daniel found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text that Protestants and Jews do not recognize but Catholics and Orthodox do.

    In the New Testament there are the shorter and longer endings to Mark. Or the section John 7:53-8:11 about the woman caught in adultery. Some argue that these passages were not written by Mark and John, respectively, but are nonetheless canonical. I disagree.

    I fully support Sola Scriptura and think I agree with all of what you wrote (I would have to digest it more carefully to be certain), but there is a lot more sausage-making behind the scenes due to a few thousand years of scribal transmission than a lot of people would like to admit.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Maybe I’m not cut out for this philosophy and theology stuff. My only thought is, “What was in that bathtub?”

    • #2
  3. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    That the set of books in the Bible is different for Catholics and Protestants, speaks to their being deciders on which books.

    • #3
  4. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine: But when the rest of us understand that truth, we’re just recognizing something infallible that has already been given.

    Saint Augustine: And maybe the objective evidence is sufficient in and of itself to show which books are in the Bible, but, again, so what?  Who of us is smart enough and logical enough to figure all that out, and does that lofty intellect have enough time to reinvent the wheel?

    Saint Augustine:

    There’s always the Ockham’s Razor argument, which works for me unless something changes in what I know:

    I know of no evidence that there’s any infallibility between the death of John and the bodily return of Jesus outside the written Bible, so there probably isn’t any.

    The first quote is where you lost me.  The second is where you found me again.  And the third is that with which I completely agree.

    But there are illusions and even deliberate illusions.  Recognition is fallible.  Something can be clearly recognized as a man pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat.  But recognition of the God-breathed nature of the Bible is not illusion but properly infallible.  And recognition of the Biblical canon cannot — or at least should not — be anything other than infallible, either.  Otherwise we are each adrift at sea.

    I believe in sola scriptura and the infallibility of scripture because: reasons, affirmatively.

    I don’t believe in the infallibility of the congregation of the saints (the church) because: reasons, negatively.

    Each of us must believe (anything) or not based on our own reasoning and reasons.

    • #4
  5. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    Then there are parts of books like the sections of Daniel found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text

    The Septuagint was completed approximately 200 BC.  The Masoretic text was compiled between the 7th and 10th centuries AD.

    • #5
  6. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Maybe I’m not cut out for this philosophy and theology stuff. My only thought is, “What was in that bathtub?”

    Yes, that was an unconscionable bait and switch. 

    • #6
  7. Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Scripture alone has not unified Protestants. Why would infallible text require interpretation? Especially from fallible human beings.

    Translation from Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Latin, to German and any other language at some point uses paraphrase.

    At the very least even Protestants do not recognize the authority of other Protestants to interpret the infallible text of the Bible.

    • #7
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Great article! Very helpful explanation of infallibility vs. illumination.

    There are more complications to the question of what is canon. For example, there are whole books in the Apocrypha that Protestants and Jews don’t recognize but Catholics and Orthodox do. Then there are parts of books like the sections of Daniel found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text that Protestants and Jews do not recognize but Catholics and Orthodox do.

    In the New Testament there are the shorter and longer endings to Mark. Or the section John 7:53-8:11 about the woman caught in adultery. Some argue that these passages were not written by Mark and John, respectively, but are nonetheless canonical. I disagree.

    I fully support Sola Scriptura and think I agree with all of what you wrote (I would have to digest it more carefully to be certain), but there is a lot more sausage-making behind the scenes due to a few thousand years of scribal transmission than a lot of people would like to admit.

    Yeah.

    • #8
  9. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Maybe I’m not cut out for this philosophy and theology stuff. My only thought is, “What was in that bathtub?”

    Well, I was.

    • #9
  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    DonG (CAGW is a Scam) (View Comment):

    That the set of books in the Bible is different for Catholics and Protestants, speaks to their being deciders on which books.

    No, I don’t think there are different sets. There are different sets of books recognized as inspired, and the churches do have to decide what to recognize.  But each book is either inspired or not.

    • #10
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    But recognition of the God-breathed nature of the Bible is not illusion but properly infallible.  And recognition of the Biblical canon cannot — or at least should not — be anything other than infallible, either.  Otherwise we are each adrift at sea.

    I believe in sola scriptura and the infallibility of scripture because: reasons, affirmatively.

    I’m not infallible when I recognize it.

    And is someone–someone besides the Holy Spirit, I mean–infallible in making this recognition? Or some group of people? If so, who exactly?

    Why are we separately adrift without infallibility at that particular step?  We are not separately adrift when we, being fallible, read the infallible Scriptures.

    • #11
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    Then there are parts of books like the sections of Daniel found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text

    The Septuagint was completed approximately 200 BC. The Masoretic text was compiled between the 7th and 10th centuries AD.

    Based, of course, on earlier manuscripts.

    But I understand they weren’t kept!  So . . . the Septuagint itself is technically older.

    • #12
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Why would infallible text require interpretation? Especially from fallible human beings.

    Because that’s how things work–especially when we’re fallible.

    At the very least even Protestants do not recognize the authority of other Protestants to interpret the infallible text of the Bible.

    We don’t recognize their authority as being infallible.

    • #13
  14. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    Then there are parts of books like the sections of Daniel found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text

    The Septuagint was completed approximately 200 BC. The Masoretic text was compiled between the 7th and 10th centuries AD.

    Based, of course, on earlier manuscripts.

    But I understand they weren’t kept! So . . . the Septuagint itself is technically older.

    Fidelity to the original is not entirely, or even mostly, based on which manuscript is older. Comparing families of manuscripts, regardless of the age of the individual manuscripts, to each other can point to which reading is original, or at least closer to the original.

    In the case of the Septuagint vs. the Masoretic: the Septuagint was a translation from Hebrew to Greek in the 3rd century B.C. In some books the Septuagint is more like a paraphrase of the Hebrew. The Greek text of the Septuagint necessarily has a different meaning in places than the base text from which it was translated. The base text that the translators used in 200 B.C. is evidence of what the original was, but it is already a big step away from the original.

    When you compare the Masoretic to the Dead Sea scrolls, which date to about A.D. 70, the incredible quality of the Masoretic text becomes obvious. The Dead Sea scrolls nearly always support the reading of the Masoretic text over that of the Septuagint, even though the earliest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad codex from A.D. 1008 or roughly thirteen centuries later.

    • #14
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Globalitarian Lower Order Misa… (View Comment):

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    Then there are parts of books like the sections of Daniel found in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic text

    The Septuagint was completed approximately 200 BC. The Masoretic text was compiled between the 7th and 10th centuries AD.

    Based, of course, on earlier manuscripts.

    But I understand they weren’t kept! So . . . the Septuagint itself is technically older.

    Fidelity to the original is not entirely, or even mostly, based on which manuscript is older. Comparing families of manuscripts, regardless of the age of the individual manuscripts, to each other can point to which reading is original, or at least closer to the original.

    Indeed.

    In the case of the Septuagint vs. the Masoretic: the Septuagint was a translation from Hebrew to Greek in the 3rd century B.C. In some books the Septuagint is more like a paraphrase of the Hebrew. The Greek text of the Septuagint necessarily has a different meaning in places than the base text from which it was translated. The base text that the translators used in 200 B.C. is evidence of what the original was, but it is already a big step away from the original.

    Sounds about right.

    When you compare the Masoretic to the Dead Sea scrolls, which date to about A.D. 70, the incredible quality of the Masoretic text becomes obvious.

    Indeed.

    The Dead Sea scrolls nearly always support the reading of the Masoretic text over that of the Septuagint, even though the earliest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad codes from A.D. 1008 or roughly thirteen centuries later.

    If you say so. I think I’ve heard otherwise from . . . somewhere or other. If it was my off-Ricochet friend Bob, that was a good intermediary, but I still don’t know where his information came from.  Basically, I know nothing of this.

    • #15
  16. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    The Dead Sea scrolls nearly always support the reading of the Masoretic text over that of the Septuagint, even though the earliest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad codes from A.D. 1008 or roughly thirteen centuries later.

    If you say so. I think I’ve heard otherwise from . . . somewhere or other. If it was my off-Ricochet friend Bob, that was a good intermediary, but I still don’t know where his information came from.  Basically, I know nothing of this.

    I should clarify. The Dead Sea scrolls don’t always support the Masoretic reading. Sometimes they have shown that the Septuagint has an important reading that is likely closer to the original. For example, the Masoretic text stylizes some of the patriarchs’ ages in Genesis 5 (for example, Lamech dying at age 777), but the Septuagint seems to record the actual number (753 years). But generally the Masoretes did incredible work faithfully transmitting the text.

    • #16
  17. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Why would infallible text require interpretation? Especially from fallible human beings.

    Because that’s how things work–especially when we’re fallible.

    At the very least even Protestants do not recognize the authority of other Protestants to interpret the infallible text of the Bible.

    We don’t recognize their authority as being infallible.

    Sola scriptura sure seems like a lousy way to establish Christianity. I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written. And sola scriptura’s adherents can’t seem to agree about much of anything (except for not being Catholic or Orthodox), even regarding matters of salvation: is baptism necessary? Is it regenerative, or only symbolic? What kind of faith saves? Can one lose one’s  salvation? There’s so much disintegration that’s occurred in a mere 500 years that it’s impossible for me to think that this is how Jesus intended to build His Church.

    • #17
  18. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    The Dead Sea scrolls nearly always support the reading of the Masoretic text over that of the Septuagint, even though the earliest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad codes from A.D. 1008 or roughly thirteen centuries later.

    If you say so. I think I’ve heard otherwise from . . . somewhere or other. If it was my off-Ricochet friend Bob, that was a good intermediary, but I still don’t know where his information came from. Basically, I know nothing of this.

    I should clarify. The Dead Sea scrolls don’t always support the Masoretic reading. Sometimes they have shown that the Septuagint has an important reading that is likely closer to the original. For example, the Masoretic text stylizes some of the patriarchs’ ages in Genesis 5 (for example, Lamech dying at age 777), but the Septuagint seems to record the actual number (753 years). But generally the Masoretes did incredible work faithfully transmitting the text.

    I dig, I dig.

    That last sentence matters. I agree with that in any case. And it’s still nice to have the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls!

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Why would infallible text require interpretation? Especially from fallible human beings.

    Because that’s how things work–especially when we’re fallible.

    At the very least even Protestants do not recognize the authority of other Protestants to interpret the infallible text of the Bible.

    We don’t recognize their authority as being infallible.

    Sola scriptura sure seems like a lousy way to establish Christianity. I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    And how is this relevant to something besides the Bible having infallibility?

    And sola scriptura’s adherents can’t seem to agree about much of anything (except for not being Catholic or Orthodox), even regarding matters of salvation: is baptism necessary? Is it regenerative, or only symbolic? What kind of faith saves? Can one lose one’s salvation? There’s so much disintegration that’s occurred in a mere 500 years that it’s impossible for me to think that this is how Jesus intended to build His Church.

    Well, we tend to agree on the theology of the Nicene Creed. Is that enough to start off with?

    • #19
  20. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    Public reading of long passages of scripture at worship services was much more common then than it is now because that was the only way that many people could access it. Also, people memorized lengthy passages of scripture because they couldn’t look it up on their cell phones.

    • #20
  21. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    Public reading of long passages of scripture at worship services was much more common then than it is now because that was the only way that many people could access it. Also, people memorized lengthy passages of scripture because they couldn’t look it up on their cell phones.

    Yes, even as recently as a hundred fifty years ago people were memorizing half-hour and hour long speeches with only one hearing.  And what is more, people were comparing notes and figuring finished transcriptions of them.

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    Public reading of long passages of scripture at worship services was much more common then than it is now because that was the only way that many people could access it. Also, people memorized lengthy passages of scripture because they couldn’t look it up on their cell phones.

    Poor saps, memorizing Scripture instead of just staring at their phones.

    • #22
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):
    I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    Public reading of long passages of scripture at worship services was much more common then than it is now because that was the only way that many people could access it. Also, people memorized lengthy passages of scripture because they couldn’t look it up on their cell phones.

    Yes. Handheld access is not the only kind of access.

    • #23
  24. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    I am fascinated by the inspiration versus illumination distinction. But does not the illumination phenomena argue against a closed canon? The evidence within the published Bible for a closed canon to me seems sparse. I also understand the utility to organized religion of a closed canon, but utility is not truth. 

    • #24
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Rodin (View Comment):

    I am fascinated by the inspiration versus illumination distinction. But does not the illumination phenomena argue against a closed canon?

    Not that I know of, and I don’t see the connection to the next sentences.

    The evidence within the published Bible for a closed canon to me seems sparse. I also understand the utility to organized religion of a closed canon, but utility is not truth.

    But this I understand! Splendid!

    Now the first thing to observe is that the closing of the canon of Scripture is not in dispute between Reformation Christianity and Catholicism. Both are totally on the same page, so . . . no need to worry about it in this particular dispute.

    But this is Ricochet, dang it!  We can talk about anything!

    Right–so what evidence is there for a closed canon?  Well, all the churches that accept the Nicene Creed seem to agree on it, which is good enough evidence for me.

    But you can also reason to it inductively from certain passages in the Bible, which is also good enough evidence for me.  Three passages I can think of: Jude’s “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (ESV); Daniel’s prophecy about prophecy being sealed up in conjunction with the coming of the Messiah; and John’s warning at the end of Revelation about adding to the words of this book.

    (Perhaps we could also include an analysis of what are the criteria for writing Scripture after the Messiah comes–Apostleship, with a little flexibility for their close associates.  But you don’t get to extend that to associates of associates.  A book by someone named Kruger on the topic of canonicity may also be relevant.  It’s a good book.  The Question of Canon, perhaps, was its title.)

    • #25
  26. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    As a Catholic, I’ve understood the Bible to be innerant, that is, without error.

    When we use the word infallible, that word describes the acts or words of a pope or the Magisterium (properly understood of course). Fallible/infallible describe actions. The Bible can’t act. And we never say that a pope is innerant.

    The proper word to use when talking about the truths of the Bible is innerant.

    Of course, when interpreting those texts, one can be fallible.

    Now as far as illumination – I’m not going there, sounds a little bit too New-Agey to me.

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    As a Catholic, I’ve understood the Bible to be innerant, that is, without error.

    Amen.

    When we use the word infallible, that word describes the acts or words of a pope or the Magisterium (properly understood of course). Fallible/infallible describe actions. The Bible can’t act. And we never say that a pope is innerant.

    The proper word to use when talking about the truths of the Bible is innerant.

    I’ve heard that distinction too, but never really understood it.  It makes no sense etymologically.

    And the Bible commands–is that not an action?  And can we even separate the command “Do this” from the statement “You should do this”?

    And all the doctrines taught infallibly by the Magisterium–are they actions?  Statements of theology in the Nicene Creed and the Catechism are not actions.

    Of course, when interpreting those texts, one can be fallible.

    Indeed.

    Now as far as illumination – I’m not going there, sounds a little bit too New-Agey to me.

    Try Augustine for a start.  The classic early account is in De MagistroOn the Teacher. Chapter 4 here introduces it.

    • #27
  28. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    When it comes to the Bible, I’m not sure that I understand what infallible actually means.

    I was reading in a Catholic study Bible yesterday commentary to the effect that certain books of the Bible were written as novellas to impart lessons, but were not to be taken literally. Esther, for example, contradicts what is known about the historical identity of Xerxe’s Queen.

    The book of Job never made any sense to me as a literally true historical fact, but only as an instructive story.  If that’s correct, “infallible” means something other than literally true.

    There are things in the book of Genesis the don’t make sense to be literally true.  Adam had intercourse with Eve and gave birth to Cain and Able. In Genesis 4:17, Cain had intercourse with his wife who bore Enoch. Where did the wife come from?

     

     

     

     

    • #28
  29. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Why would infallible text require interpretation? Especially from fallible human beings.

    Because that’s how things work–especially when we’re fallible.

    At the very least even Protestants do not recognize the authority of other Protestants to interpret the infallible text of the Bible.

    We don’t recognize their authority as being infallible.

    Sola scriptura sure seems like a lousy way to establish Christianity. I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    And how is this relevant to something besides the Bible having infallibility?

    And sola scriptura’s adherents can’t seem to agree about much of anything (except for not being Catholic or Orthodox), even regarding matters of salvation: is baptism necessary? Is it regenerative, or only symbolic? What kind of faith saves? Can one lose one’s salvation? There’s so much disintegration that’s occurred in a mere 500 years that it’s impossible for me to think that this is how Jesus intended to build His Church.

    Well, we tend to agree on the theology of the Nicene Creed. Is that enough to start off with?

    There are many Protestants who do not recognize the Nicene Creed and would not agree with its statements even if they did, as I’m sure you know. 

    • #29
  30. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

     

     

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Why would infallible text require interpretation? Especially from fallible human beings.

    Because that’s how things work–especially when we’re fallible.

    At the very least even Protestants do not recognize the authority of other Protestants to interpret the infallible text of the Bible.

    We don’t recognize their authority as being infallible.

    Sola scriptura sure seems like a lousy way to establish Christianity. I mean, the printing press wasn’t invented for 1,400 years after the apostles began spreading the Gospel. Very, very few people would have had access to the Scriptures, as everything had to be hand-written.

    And how is this relevant to something besides the Bible having infallibility?

     

    I didn’t get to this because I’m short on time. I will hopefully be able to later. But although you say you don’t see much of a difference between infallibility and inerrancy, I do, and I think it’s odd to apply the term “infallibility” to an inanimate object. I will hopefully have time to say more about your “illumination”, especially as it seems that’s what Mormons point to, though I need to read your post again with care to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, as I am short on time and I sort of skimmed your long post.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.