Archive for January, 2010

Temporary Forgiveness? – Responding to Dr. Robert Rayburn

January 31, 2010

Dr. Robert Rayburn (PCA pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, WA) wrote:

Justification – whatever else it is – is the forgiveness of sins. It is perfectly obvious that there is such a thing as temporary forgiveness because the Bible says there is (cf. Num. 14:20 with 1 Cor. 10:5; Ezekiel 16:1-14; Matthew 18:32-34; etc.). Whether we are entirely satisfied with Dr. Leithart’s effort to incorporate this biblical material into the larger picture of the way of divine grace, the fact is, temporary forgiveness is a biblical datum.

(source)(brought to my attention here)

Dr. Rayburn’s statement that it is “perfectly obvious” that there is such a thing as temporary forgiveness in Scripture does not seem to be well supported. He provides four passages to support his claim.

1) Numbers 14:20-21
And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

It is hard to see how Dr. Rayburn thinks that this verse evidences temporary forgiveness. In context, the punishment that God was threatening was a pestilence, disinheritance and re-formation of the people from the loins of Moses:

Numbers 14:11-12
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

God did not execute this judgment on the people. Instead, in answer to Moses’ prayer, God imposed a lesser judgment on them:

Numbers 14:22-24
Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: but my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.

Since Dr. Rayburn doesn’t provide an argument (just an assertion), it is unclear why Dr. Rayburn thinks that Numbers 14 evidences “temporary forgiveness,” but if there is any sense in which it does, that sense is far from obvious.

2) 1 Corinthians 10:5
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

This seems to be a similar reference to the reference above. However, in 1 Corinthians 10, we are given some specific examples of what provoked God’s judgment:

a) Worshiping God with an image (the golden calf) (vs. 7)
b) Committing fornication (the Moabite’s influence as counseled by Balaam) (vs. 8)
c) Complaining about the manna (vs. 9)
d) Murmering against Moses (for example, Korah’s rebellion) (vs. 10)

There again is no obvious “temporary forgiveness” in this passage.

3) Ezekiel 16:1-14

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, And say,

Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem;

Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, “Live;” yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, “Live.”

I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.

Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee,

saith the Lord GOD,

and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.

I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.

And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee,

saith the Lord GOD.

This part of the passage doesn’t directly deal with forgiveness at all. The passage goes on to explain that Jerusalem was basically like a wife who was extremely unfaithful (the text, though it uses some euphamisms, is pretty explicit), and that consequently God was going to bring judgments upon her. However, the passage concludes that God will use those judgments to turn her back and finally:

Ezekiel 16:61-63
Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.

That part at the end really sounds rather permanent, but again – since Dr. Rayburn has provided assertion rather than argument – it is practically impossible to figure out why he thinks that temporary forgiveness is in view.

4) Matthew 18:32-34
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

This parable is the one place where an argument for “temporary forgiveness” might at first seem to find support. This understanding, however, is drawn from trying to draw a lesson from an aspect of the parable that is not the principal point of the parable.

Matthew Poole elaborates:

All these verses (except the last) are but a parable, which (as I before showed) is a similitude brought from the usual actions of men, and made use of to open or apply some spiritual doctrine. The main scope, or the proposition of truth, which our Saviour designs to open or press, is that which is first and principally to be considered and intended; and that, as I before showed, is to be known, either by the particular explication given by our Saviour, or by what went immediately before, or followeth immediately after. The scope of this parable is plainly expressed, ver. 35, So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Nor is it obscurely hinted to us in what went before, where our Saviour was instructing Peter in the great duty of forgiving men their trespasses. This being agreed, as we use to say, that similitudes run not on four feet, so we are not to expect that all the actions of men, mentioned in the parable, should be answered by some correspondent actions of God: as similitudes always halt, so never more than when by them God’s actions are expressed and represented to us. The main points which this parable instructeth us in are, 1. That it is our duty, especially theirs who have received forgiveness from God, to forgive their brethren. 2. That if they do not, they may justly question whether God hath forgiven them, and expect the same severity from him which they show unto their brethren. These being the main things for instruction in which this parable is brought, and which we ought chiefly to eye as the things taught us by this parable, nothing hindereth but that it may also instruct us in some other things, though we cannot raise a proposition of truth from every branch of the parable, and some things be put in according to the passions and usual dealings of men, which possibly are in them unrighteous actions, and may follow from their ungoverned passions, which will by no means agree to the pure and holy nature of God.

When Poole thinks about the unrighteous actions of men, he means the same thing that Calvin means.

Calvin puts it this way:

31. When his fellow-servants saw what was done. Though we ought not to search for mystery in these words—because they contain nothing but what nature teaches, and what we learn by daily experience—we ought to know that the men who live among us will be so many witnesses against us before God; for it is impossible but that cruelty shall excite in them displeasure and hatred, more especially, since every man is afraid that what he sees done to others will fall upon his own head. As to the clause which immediately follows, it is foolish to inquire how God punishes those sins which he has already forgiven; for the simple meaning is this: though he offers mercy to all, yet severe creditors, from whom no forgiveness can be obtained, are unworthy of enjoying it.

Thus, the appropriate understanding to draw from the initial pardon is the offer of pardon – namely the general offer of the gospel.

John Gill explains it this way:

till he should pay all that was due unto him; which being so vast a sum, and he but a servant, could never be done: but inasmuch as this man was fully and freely pardoned before, how comes it to pass, that full payment of debt is yet insisted on? It is certain, that sin, once pardoned by God, he never punishes for it; for pardon with him is of all sin; he forgives all trespasses, though ever so many, and remits the whole debt, be it ever so large; which act of his grace will never be revoked: it is one of his gifts which are without repentance; it proceeds upon, and comes through a plenary satisfaction for sin made by his own Son, and therefore it would be unjust to punish for it: by this act, sin is covered out of sight; it is blotted out, and entirely done away, and that for ever. Hence some think this man had only the offer of a pardon, and not that itself; but it is not an offer of pardon, that Christ, by his blood, has procured, and is exalted to give, but that itself; and this man had his debt, his whole debt forgiven him: others think, that this was a church forgiveness, who looked upon him, judged him, and received him as one forgiven; but for his cruel usage of a fellow member, delivered him to the tormentors, passed censures on him, and excommunicated him, till he should give full satisfaction, which is more likely: others, this forgiveness was only in his own apprehensions: he presumed, and hoped he was forgiven, when he was not; but then his crime could not have been so aggravated as is: rather, this forgiveness is to be understood of averting calamities and judgments, likely to fall for his iniquities, which is sometimes the sense of this phrase: [see 1 Kings 8:34] and so his being delivered to the tormentors may mean, his being distressed with an accusing guilty conscience, an harassing, vexing devil, many misfortunes of life, and temporal calamities. Though after all, this is not strictly to be applied to any particular case or person, but the scope of the parable is to be attended to; which is to enforce mutual forgiveness among men, from having received full and free pardon at the hands of God; and that without the former, there is little reason to expect the latter, as appears from what follows.

Later in the same letter, Rayburn writes:

[T]here is obviously a sense in which forgiveness may be temporary, holiness temporary, a family relationship with God temporary, “life” itself temporary, even the love of God temporary (Deut. 7:7-11; Hos. 11:1). … Where, pray tell, do the Standards “reject any form of `theoretical’ or temporary justification”? Do the Standards teach us to deny that the Lord pardoned Israel in the wilderness notwithstanding that she perished in her sins or to deny that he himself says that he washed Israel and made her clean (Ezek. 16:4,9)?

We’ll pass over Dr. Rayburn’s further assertions regarding Deuteronomy and Hosea. As to the Lord’s pardon of Israel in the wilderness, the Lord kept his word and did not wipe out Israel with a pestilence in favor of Moses. They did die in the wilderness, but there was no revocation of the pardon given them, as shown above.

Similarly, while there was mention of Israel (Jerusalem, actually) being washed and made clean – this is (a) within a larger analogy relating to the birth of Jerusalem, (b) relates to Jerusalem being set apart as a nation, and (c) is something that the passage itself and Paul’s epistles confirm is not something that has been destroyed, even if God is presently provoking Jerusalem to jealousy.

-TurretinFan

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 22/35

January 31, 2010

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for “Bible Christians” (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 22/35. I’m trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

22) Why do Protestant scholars recognize the early Church councils at Hippo and Carthage as the first instances in which the New Testament canon was officially ratified, but ignore the fact that those same councils ratified the Old Testament canon used by the Catholic Church today but abandoned by Protestants at the Reformation?

Simple Answer(s):

They don’t ignore the treatment of the Old Testament canon by those councils.

Important Qualification(s):

1) Hippo and Carthage actually had two different Old Testament canons.

2) Until the time of Trent there was not a single view about the canon of the Old Testament. During Luther’s lifetime, Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church affirmed the shorter canon that was promoted by Jerome and has been maintained by the “Protestant” churches.

3) Athanasius’ 39th festal letter, which came before the councils of Hippo and Carthage is generally viewed as the first official complete list of the New Testament canon (it comes decades before the councils of Hippo and Carthage). Steve Ray conveniently ignores this letter, as well as the fact that it affirms that the number of Old Testament books is 22 (as per the Hebrew grouping) and identifies books that more closely correspond to the Hebrew/”Protestant” canon than to the canon adopted by Trent. In fact, Athanasius explicitly rejected as “Scripture” some books that Trent included.

– TurretinFan

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 21/35

January 30, 2010

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for “Bible Christians” (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 21/35. I’m trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

21) Who in the Church had the authority to determine which books belonged in the New Testament canon and to make this decision binding on all Christians? If nobody has this authority, then can I remove or add books to the canon on my own authority?

Simple Answer(s):

1) Everyone and no one.

2) Yes and no.

Important Qualification(s):

1) As usual, it depends what Steve Ray means. If he means who has the ability to assess whether something is the Word of God, the answer is that all believers have the ability. If Steve Ray means to ask whether that ability is placed infallibly in a single person, the answer is no one.

2) And likewise, yes, anyone can believe or not a particular book, but whether or not someone believes that a book is the Word of God does not change the objective fact of whether that book is the word of God.

3) More to the point, the canon of Scripture is an objective fact. Whether a book is inspired or not is something that we recognize – not something that we “decide” in the sense of exerting an authority over the books themselves. We recognize that by faith, through various instrumentalities – such as history, providence, and the inward moving of the Holy Spirit.

– TurretinFan

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 20/35

January 29, 2010

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for “Bible Christians” (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 20/35. I’m trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

20) How did the early Church evangelize and overthrow the Roman Empire, survive and prosper almost 350 years, without knowing for sure which books belong in the canon of Scripture?

Simple Answer(s):

Same as they do now, they used the books that they believed were the Word of God!

Important Qualification(s):

1) There was no allegedly infallible proclamation of the canon until Trent came along after the Reformation was already well established.

2) Folks were confidently stating that certain books were Scripture before even the local councils of Hippo and Carthage to which Steve Ray is obliquely referring were held.

3) We accept the Scriptures on faith (same as they did before anyone had the nerve to try to claim to be able to say infallibly which books are in and out of the canon) – not on certainty that is rooted in faith in a church.

4) And the earliest Christian writers do demonstrate that the Scriptures are exactly what they used to evangelize. Thus, for example Ignatius (died between about A.D. 98 and 117) quoted from Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians when he himself wrote to that church.

– TurretinFan

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 19/35

January 28, 2010

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for “Bible Christians” (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 19/35. I’m trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

19) Protestants usually claim that they all agree “on the important things.” Who is able to decide authoritatively what is important in the Christian faith and what is not?

Simple Answer(s):

Everyone, no one, and Scripture.

Important Qualification(s):

1) Which answer to use depends, of course, on the sense of “decide authoritatively.”

2) Scripture is the authoritative standard for such a question.

3) Everyone who is a believer is competent to read and understand Scripture and to seek out an answer to the question of which are the important things.

4) No one is infallible.

– TurretinFan

Response to Rev. Paul T. McCain regarding Smalcald Articles

January 27, 2010

Rev. Paul T. McCain (a Lutheran [LCMS] pastor) wrote:

Don’t misunderstand. Luther is perfectly clear elsewhere that he does not deny that Roman Christians are still Christians; the question is whether the Roman Pontiff is the voice of the Church and whether the curia and bishops submissive to him are the voice of the Church.

(source)

I have to wonder whether he and I read the same Smalcald Articles. In my copy we find this comment:

O Lord Jesus Christ, do Thou Thyself convoke a Council, and deliver Thy servants by Thy glorious advent! The Pope and his adherents are done for; they will have none of Thee. Do Thou, then, help us, who are poor and needy, who sigh to Thee, and beseech Thee earnestly, according to the grace which Thou hast given us, through Thy Holy Ghost, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Father, blessed forever. Amen.

– Smalcald Articles, Preface, 15 (emphasis mine)

And this:

Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, [Is. 53:5]. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.

– Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 1, 5

And this:

For all his bulls and books are extant, in which he roars like a lion (as the angel in Rev. 12 depicts him, [crying out] that no Christian can be saved unless he obeys him and is subject to him in all things that he wishes, that he says, and that he does. All of which amounts to nothing less than saying: Although you believe in Christ, and have in Him [alone] everything that is necessary to salvation, yet it is nothing and all in vain unless you regard [have and worship] me as your god, and be subject and obedient to me. And yet it is manifest that the holy Church has been without the Pope for at least more than five hundred years, and that even to the present day the churches of the Greeks and of many other languages neither have been nor are yet under the Pope. Besides, as often remarked, it is a human figment which is not commanded, and is unnecessary and useless; for the holy Christian [or catholic] Church can exist very well without such a head, and it would certainly have remained better [purer, and its career would have been more prosperous] if such a head had not been raised up by the devil.

– Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 4, 4-5

And likewise:

This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking to exalt himself above all that is called God as Paul says, 2 Thess. 2:4. Even the Turks or the Tartars, great enemies of Christians as they are, do not do this, but they allow whoever wishes to believe in Christ, and take bodily tribute and obedience from Christians.

The Pope, however, prohibits this faith, saying that to be saved a person must obey him. This we are unwilling to do, even though on this account we must die in God’s name. This all proceeds from the fact that the Pope has wished to be called the supreme head of the Christian Church by divine right. Accordingly he had to make himself equal and superior to Christ, and had to cause himself to be proclaimed the head and then the lord of the Church, and finally of the whole world, and simply God on earth, until he has dared to issue commands even to the angels in heaven. And when we distinguish the Pope’s teaching from, or measure and hold it against, Holy Scripture, it is found [it appears plainly] that the Pope’s teaching, where it is best, has been taken from the imperial and heathen law, and treats of political matters and decisions or rights, as the Decretals show; furthermore, it teaches of ceremonies concerning churches, garments, food, persons and [similar] puerile, theatrical and comical things without measure, but in all these things nothing at all of Christ, faith, and the commandments of God. Lastly, it is nothing else than the devil himself, because above and against God he urges [and disseminates] his [papal] falsehoods concerning masses, purgatory, the monastic life, one’s own works and [fictitious] divine worship (for this is the very Papacy [upon each of which the Papacy is altogether founded and is standing]), and condemns, murders and tortures all Christians who do not exalt and honor these abominations [of the Pope] above all things. Therefore, just as little as we can worship the devil himself as Lord and God, we can endure his apostle, the Pope, or Antichrist, in his rule as head or lord. For to lie and to kill, and to destroy body and soul eternally, that is wherein his papal government really consists, as I have very clearly shown in many books.

– Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 4, 10-14

(source for Smalcald Articles)

Obviously, Luther didn’t refer (in the Smalcald Articles) to Romanism as paganism, but he certainly doesn’t seem to have treated the adherents of the papacy as though they were justified in the sight of God. In fact, in the first quotation above he seems to indicate that by adhering to the pope (“the very Antichrist” in one of the later quotations) they have failed to adhere to Christ, and consequently are “done for” and about to face the wrath of God at the glorious advent (second coming) of Christ. I’m not sure Rev. McCain’s picture is totally accurate when he describes the “first evangelicals'” (his characterization based on the usage of the term) response to Rome’s claims:

What is the Church? Is Rome the Church? Ought we to listen to the Pope when he speaks as Bishop of Rome because there is some unique promise attached to his office? Smalcald Articles III, Article XII is joyously clear:

“We do not agree with them that they are the Church.” (Accent, should be on the Church) “They are not the Church. Nor will we listen to those things that, under the name of the Church, they command or forbid.”

As we’ve seen above, their claims were considerably more well-defined than simply stating that Rome is not the church.

-TurretinFan

The real Francis Turretin on: Inerrancy

January 27, 2010

εξο της παρεμβολης (exotesparemboles) has an interesting post in which he demonstrates from the real Francis Turretin’s writings that the doctrine of Inerrancy is not a 20th century development (link to post).

Enjoy!

-TurretinFan

Scott Windsor Index

January 27, 2010

This is an index post. Accordingly, the date stamp should not be taken as being really representative of the actual time/date that the post was either created or last edited. Scott Windsor is a Roman Catholic apologist who runs, as far as I know, the “American Catholic Truth Society” and CathApol.

Sola Scriptura Discussion (Starring Steve Hays and Featuring Francis Beckwith)

1. (Francis Beckwith) Sola Scriptura and the canon of Scripture: a philosophical reflection

2. (TurretinFan) Beckwith’s Bait and Switch

3. (Steve Hays) Is sola Scriptura self-refuting?

4. (Scott Windsor) Is Sola Scriptura self-refuting?

5. (Steve Hays) (a) The supreme judge of all religious controversies & (b) Principles of Sola Scriptura

6. (Scott Windsor) Sola Scriptura Answering Steve Hays

7. (TurretinFan) Response to Scott Windsor (regarding Steve Hays and Sola Scriptura)

8. (Scott Windsor) Response to TurretinFan on Sola Scriptura

9. (TurretinFan) Second Response to Scott Windsor

10. (Steve Hays) Rube Goldberg prooftexting

11. (Scott Windsor) Non-Rube Goldberg Response

12. (Scott Windsor) QA with TurretinFan

(As far as I know, no further response is planned by TurretinFan or Steve Hays.)

Unloading 35 Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 18/35

January 27, 2010

Steve Ray has a list of 35 loaded Questions for “Bible Christians” (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). This is number 18/35. I’m trying to provide the answers in a common format, for easy reference.

18) Since each Protestant must admit that his or her interpretation is fallible, how can any Protestant in good conscience call anything heresy or bind another Christian to a particular belief?

Simple Answer(s):

By appealing to the authority of Scripture.

Important Qualification(s):

1) Everyone (not just “Protestants”) has to admit that his interpretation is fallible. You don’t become infallible by joining Rome.

2) When we say that something is heresy, we are not saying that we are infallible. Roman Catholics aren’t claiming that when they call something heresy, neither are we.

3) The Roman Catholics judge heresy by the standard of their church’s teachings – we use Scripture. Our standard is better than theirs, but the basic principle involved is the same.

– TurretinFan

Second Response to Scott Windsor

January 26, 2010

Scott has posted a response (link to response) to my prior post (link to post).

1) Definition of Sola Scriptura

Scott Windsor denies that there is any standard definition of Sola Scriptura. Then, he claims: “The problem we have is that TF didn’t provide us with the ‘standard definition,’ and left us to assume.” How that could possibly be “the problem,” is beyond me, but I’ll be happy to help Scott identify a standard definition. Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is one standard definition of Sola Scriptura. The first paragraph of that chapter reads:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

(source)

2) Historical Aspect vs. Doctrinal Aspect of Sola Scriptura

Although Scott doesn’t specifically state whether he understands and/or accepts the distinction, he nevertheless responds:

TF seems to be unaware of my argument that Scripture itself points us to another infallible source! The bishops! Matthew 18:18 shows us Jesus giving infallible authority to the bishops as a group – that whatsoever the bind or loose on Earth is bound or loosed in Heaven. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus gives this same authority to Peter alone (and noting this was two chapters earlier, Peter received this authority not only alone, but in primacy).

This is an interesting argument for two reasons: (1) the power of binding and loosing is understood in Roman Catholicism in reference to the supposed power of the confessional – not to the interpretation of Scripture and (2) there is no mention of infallibility in those passages, nor does Rome claim infallibility in matters of discipline (with respect to which the Confessional relates).

As evidence of the Roman Catholic view of Matthew 18:18, I provide the following catechism items.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) item 1444:

In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”

(source)

CCC 553:

Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

(source)

3) The “You are no better than us” Issue

I had tried to explain to Scott that the “you are no better than us” argument is one that undermines the validity of a criticism (in this case his criticism of us is not a significant criticism because he doesn’t offer us an alternative to which the criticism wouldn’t apply). He doesn’t seem to get it. I’m not sure how I can explain it more clearly. Perhaps a second example would help: If an Anglican were to criticize the Roman Catholics for having an hierarchical episcopate, it would be legitimate for a Roman Catholic to point out that Anglicans themselves have that approach. In this example, the criticism is right (the Roman system is hierarchical) – it’s just not significant as a criticism in an Anglican-Roman dialog, because the Anglicans also have a hierarchical system.

4) Canon in Flux?

After complaining that he hadn’t suggested that there were many debates over the canon, Scott seems to express confusion about my comment that the canon itself is not in flux. The reason for Scott’s seeming confusion appears to be his continual conflation of the canon and the recognition of the canon. The canon itself is simply an objective reality: such and such a number of books were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The recognition of the canon is what varies: sometimes a person or group fails to recognize one or more books that are part of the canon or thinks they have recognized a canonical book when (in fact) it is not a book that the Holy Spirit inspired.

5) Infallible Knowledge of the Canon

Scott also appears not to have understood the fifth section. In the fifth section we had tried to help Scott understand the difference between the Scripture (which is an infallible rule of faith) and us the readers of Scripture (we are fallible men). Scott seems to have trouble following this distinction.

Scott actually goes so far as to write:

So TF is conceding, apparently for both White and himself, that Scripture does not contain infallible knowledge of the canon of Scripture. That satisfies my point! The canon itself cannot be infallibly known to Protestants for their “sole infallible source” does not, by TF’s admission here contain “infallible knowledge of the canon of Scripture.”

(emphasis his)

This comment from Scott is misleading. What we indicated is that we don’t claim an infallible knowledge. However, Scripture itself is infallible. Infallibility is a property of divine revelation, not of the human listener. Whatever Scripture reveals it reveals infallibly – however, whatever we know, we necessarily know fallibly. That is because the Scriptures are infallible, but we are fallible.

6) Canon Closure vs. Canon Recognition

I had indicated that Scott is confused regarding the distinction between canon closure and canon recognition. Indeed he writes:

Here TF again accuses me of confusion, where I have none. He also misstates the closure of the canon as being when the last writer wrote the last book when that is not true!

Scott’s wrong. That is exactly when the canon closed. When the Spirit stopped inspiring, the canon closed. The distinction between canon closure and canon recognition has been pointed out repeatedly to Scott (both by me and Steve) and yet Scott argues, as support for a later canon closure date:

The canon process took centuries to “close.” Books by St. Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, etc. were included in several “canons” in the Early Church, yet were excluded when the canon process finally ended in the late 4th century. Then this closed canon was made de fide by the Council of Trent in the 16th century to end the discussion once and for all since protestors against the Faith had brought it up again.

This discussion from Scott, however, relates to canon recognition, not canon closure. Trent arguably closed the door on recognition of additional books or non-recognition of books in its list, but the canon itself (the objective fact of inspiration) has been exactly the same from the time of inspiration.

7) KJV 1611 and the Apocrypha

Scott seems to think that the fact that the 1611 KJV contained marginal notes including cross-references to the Apocrypha and cross-references from the Apocrypha to the canonical Scriptures is somehow significant. Why he thinks this is completely mystifying. After all, the KJV was published in light of the 1572 Thirty-Nine Articles, which stated:

And the other bookes, (as Hierome sayth) the Churche doth reade for example of lyfe and instruction of maners: but yet doth it not applie them to establishe any doctnne.Such are these followyng.

The third booke of Esdras. The fourth booke of Esdras. The booke of Tobias. The booke of ludith. The rest of the booke of Hester. The booke of Wisdome. lesus the sonne of Sirach. Baruch, the prophet. Song of the .3. Children. The stone of Susanna. Of Bel and the Dragon. The prayer of Manasses. The .1. booke of Machab. The .2. booke of Macha.

(source)

Likewise, the Scottish Confession of 1560 stated in Chapter 18:

And such kirks we, the inhabitants of the realm of Scotland, professors of Christ Jesus, confess ourselves to have in our cities, towns, and places reformed; for the doctrine taught in our kirks is contained in the written word of God: to wit, in the books of the New and Old Testaments: in those books, we mean, which of the ancient have been reputed canonical, in the which we affirm that all things necessary to be believed for the salvation of mankind are sufficiently expressed.

(source)

The Irish Articles of 1615 (while obviously post-dating the 1611 KJV) still express the contemporary sentiment among the churches that were behind the KJV and its translation/publication (from the section, Of the Holy Scripture and the three Creeds.):

3. The other Books commonly called Apocryphal did not proceed from such inspiration and therefore are not of sufficient authority to establish any point of doctrine; but the Church doth read them as Books containing many worthy things for example of life and instruction of manners.

Such are these following:

· The third book of Esdras.

· The fourth book of Esdras.

· The book of Tobias.

· The book of Judith.

· Additions to the book of Esther.

· The book of Wisdom.

· The book of Jesus, the Son of Sirach, called Ecclesiasticus.

· Baruch, with the Epistle of Jeremiah.

· The song of the three Children.

· Susanna.

· Bel and the Dragon.

· The prayer of Manasses.

· The First book of Maccabees.

· The Second book of Maccabees.

(source)

It’s puzzling that Scott would think that any reader would be unaware of this context, and yet if they were aware of that context, the cross-references would seem totally irrelevant to the discussion.

Questions

Scott posed the following questions:

Now, how about the significant points from my response to Mr. Hays? Agree or disagree?

1) The teaching of satis scriptura is NOT sola scriptura.

2) Sola scriptura is not taught in Scripture. Some Protestants will admit to this fact, will Mr. Hays or TurretinFan do so?

3) Nowhere in Scripture will we find the listing (canon) of what should comprise the Canon of Sacred Scripture.

4) Interpretation of an implicit teaching in Scripture is still extra scriptura.

5) Steve resorted to the invalid argumentum ad hominem several times (and I appreciate the fact that TurrentinFan did not).

6) Steve seemed to confuse the Pentateuch with the Canon of the Old Testament, and I quote: “So from the time Moses wrote the Pentateuch until the Council of Trent in the 16C, the Jews were without a canon of Scripture.” The Pentateuch refers ONLY to the first 5 books of Moses, also known as the Torah.

7) Scripture remains a PART OF Catholic Tradition. No matter how much Steve or TF would like to remove that from OUR Sacred Tradition, they cannot.

There were other points, but these should suffice for now and I would like to know how both Steve and TurretinFan responds to them with a simple (Agree) or (Disagree) before going into an explanation of why they agree or disagree.

I tend to avoid answering loaded questions with a simple answer. It creates confusion for the reader.

As to item (1): “The teaching of satis scriptura is NOT sola scriptura”

I don’t agree. Sola Scriptura reduces to Satis Scriptura.

As to item (2): “Sola scriptura is not taught in Scripture.”

I don’t agree. Sola Scriptura is taught in Scripture.

As to item (3): “Nowhere in Scripture will we find the listing (canon) of what should comprise the Canon of Sacred Scripture.”

The listing as such is derivable, given that we have the books in hand. However, the listing as such is not. I guess that is a “disagree” as well, since I wouldn’t use Scott’s wording.

As to item (4): “Interpretation of an implicit teaching in Scripture is still extra scriptura.”

I don’t agree – at least, I don’t agree if “implicit” includes things that are properly derived from Scripture but simply aren’t explicit in Scripture. It’s not completely clear what Scott views as “implicit.”

As to item (5): “Steve resorted to the invalid argumentum ad hominem several times (and I appreciate the fact that TurrentinFan did not).”

I’ll leave that one for Steve to answer.

As to item (6): “Steve seemed to confuse the Pentateuch with the Canon of the Old Testament … .”

I disagree. The Canon of the Old Testament began with (the first book of) the Pentateuch and continued to expand as the Spirit inspired more and more books. It closed with the penning of the last book of the Old Testament. (Note that I am referring to the closing of the canon not the recognition of the canon.)

As to item (7): “Scripture remains a PART OF Catholic Tradition.”

I disagree. It is (for Rome) made void through human tradition, just as it was for the Jews.

I hope those answers help Scott.

-TurretinFan


%d bloggers like this: