Only Infallible Authority We Have – Not Only Authority

David at Pious Fabrications, an Eastern Orthodox blog, has assigned himself an interesting project. He’s going to, well, in his words: “What I’m going to try to do here is to actually look at that individual [church father], their life and writings as a whole, and really, finally answer the question: did he believe in the authority of Scripture alone?” (link to source)

I think it’s important to clarify to David that the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura is not the view that the Scriptures are the only authority, but rather that they are the only infallible authority that we have. That’s an important distinction, because we assign real (albeit subordinate) authority to the elders in the church, as well as persuasive authority to the teachings and explanations of our fellow believers.

I realize that David may sincerely believe that “Protestants” simply “proof-text” from the fathers (he writes: “What I’m going to attempt not to do is just do the inverse of what Protestants do; I’m not going to simply proof-text and quote mine for sentences which support Tradition, although we will look at those in the process.”), but actually the folks he highlights (James White and William Webster) are quite willing to let the fathers be the fathers. If the fathers hold to sola scriptura, great! If not, that’s fine too. We believe that men are fallible, and we recognize that even godly men make mistakes. So we don’t feel compelled to find fathers who are copies of ourselves.

I look forward to David’s exploration of the fathers, but if David has read Holy Scripture: the Ground and Pillar of the Faith, by David King and William Webster, he knows he has a long row to hoe.


12 Responses to “Only Infallible Authority We Have – Not Only Authority”

  1. Rhology Says:

    He hasn't read it, but I've insisted he do so several times.

  2. John Says:

    Amazing Rhology that you advocate reading Webster "several times", but have admitted only reading 1% of the Church Fathers.I'll pose the same question to you TF that I put to R. Why should I care to listen to someone like Webster who attempts to paint Basil as a sola scripturaist, when he was manifestly anything but?The distinction between fallible and infallible sources of authority is irrelevant when Protestants essentially don't accept any authority outside scripture in the area of dogma and interpretation. Yes, they'll read other opinions, but they are not an authority.Since David's exercise is in the area of doctrine and interpretation, it most certainly will be refuting the Protestant position.

  3. Turretinfan Says:

    John:That's an absurd criticism. If someone wants to interact with the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura but refuses to read the arguments set forth by those who advocate sola scriptura, one demonstrates one's simple prejudice.And, frankly, Webster's case regarding Basil is far more convincing than the counter-arguments. But then again, if folks never read Webster's explanations, they have trouble judging the matter.Finally, while there are "Protestants" who don't accept any other authority besides Scripture, Reformed folks do. I've explained this repeatedly in other posts.

  4. natamllc Says:

    I will be so bold and assert, after pasting:::> "….but actually the folks he highlights (James White and William Webster) are quite willing to let the fathers be the fathers. If the fathers hold to sola scriptura, great! If not, that's fine too….".The only reason they do is because the Scriptures do first!The only reason anyone holds to sola scriptura is because that is the Will of God:::>Psa 17:4 With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. Psa 17:5 My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. Psa 17:6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words. When we consider this that Paul admonished, one has to wonder if those Words of the Psalm citation above were weighing upon his mind?Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Quite possibly Paul had this verse in mind as well:::>Psa 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

  5. John Says:

    You accept other authorities in the realm of interpretation TF? Or are you obfuscating again authority with authority in dogma and interpretation?

  6. Turretinfan Says:

    a) Come on, John. You hadn't identified a previous obfuscation.b) Nor is that what's going on here.c) Indeed, this isn't even simple conflation.d) And yes, I meant what I said. Subordinate authorities in the realm of interpretation, which is not neatly divisible from discipline.

  7. John Says:

    "Subordinate authorities in the realm of interpretation"Yes well… no protestant has ever been able explain how this authority system is supposed to work without demoting these "authorities" to mere opinions. You do understand the distinction between an opinion and an authority, right?

  8. Turretinfan Says:

    John:It sounds to me that you simply are unable to handle categories other than "ultimate authority" and "mere opinion."Perhaps that's the fault of the people who have tried to explain the option of subordinate authorities.But let me ask you: do you see that your own bishop (I take from your comments above that you OCA or the like) is an interpreter of Scripture, and that he is an authority in this realm over you. However, if he should start to interpret contrary to the seven ecumenical councils, you'd be required to follow them, not him?If so, do you see how he can be viewed as expressing more than a mere opinion without being an ultimate authority?-TurretinFan

  9. ChaferDTS Says:

    It appears that Eastern Orthodox do not understand what Sola Scriptura teaches in a majority of the time. Eastern Orthodox members are generally unaware of Holy Scripture The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith by King & Webster. I believe that King & Webster should consider maybe adding a volume 4 and maybe a 5 to it which deals with a case againist Eastern Orthodox on this issue. I noticed in recent years that EO is being outspoken againist Sola Scriptura. And a rebuttle should be considered againist them.

  10. Rhology Says:
  11. Rhology Says:

    Hello ChaferDTS,This might interest you.

  12. ChaferDTS Says:


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