SCRIPTURE and AUTHORITY

Many a Roman Catholic friend of mine has, when confronted with a portion of Scripture which seems to militate against a particular Roman doctrine, recurred to the argument that the individual can never be sure what Scripture is saying without an authoritative interpreter. I invariably come back with the question, “Well, how can the same individual know for sure what the authoritative interpreter is saying?” I frankly don’t buy the contention that the writings of the holy apostles are so inchoate as to be inscrutable to ordinary human reason; however, to suggest on top of that the Roman magisterial interpretations (conciliar and papal) of these ostensibly inchoate passages of Scripture are less inscrutable is a bridge even farther, and, in my opinion, absurd. The same epistemological and hermeneutical problem that afflicts the individual in the first scenario is in no way eliminated by interpolating the “authoritative interpretation” in the latter. It is merely transferred, and in many ways it is worsened. This isn’t to say that all of Scripture is self-evident, or that its content doesn’t need to be taught — as though it could be absorbed by spiritual osmosis — or that there’s no tradition of exegesis. It’s just saying that within the Roman paradigm the certainty-chimera continues to gambol and frolic several yards ahead of the hounds, still no closer to being captured. Actually, quite a bit farther away, if you think about it, considering how voluminous and complex Rome’s preachments have been and continue to be.

It’s also interesting to note that the supposedly novel Reformation teaching of Scripture as sole rule and norm for faith and practice has plenty of adherents among the Church Fathers — or, rather, I should say, it seems to me that from what they’re saying, they thought that that the Scriptures were pretty perspicuous. Below is a smattering of Patristic quotations which evince this overall opinion.

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St. Irenaeus of Lyons (+ca.195):

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. (Against Heresies, 3:1.1, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 414.)

St. Athanasius (c.296-373):

The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth. (Against the Heathen, I:3, quoted in Carl A. Volz, Faith and Practice in the Early Church [Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983], p. 147.)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c.310-386):

For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures. (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983 reprint], Second Series, Vol. VII, p. 23.)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-395):

[W]e are not entitled to such license, namely, of affirming whatever we please. For we make Sacred Scripture the rule and the norm of every doctrine. Upon that we are obliged to fix our eyes, and we approve only whatever can be brought into harmony with the intent of these writings. (On the Soul and the Resurrection, quoted in Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971], p. 50.) 

Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (On the Holy Trinity, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. V, p. 327.)

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430):

Let them show their church if they can, not by the speeches and mumblings of the Africans, not by the councils of their bishops, not by the writings of any of their champions, not by fraudulent signs and wonders, because we have been prepared and made cautious also against these things by the Word of the Lord; but [let them show their church] by a command of the Law, by the predictions of the prophets, by songs from the Psalms, by the words of the Shepherd Himself, by the preaching and labors of the evangelists; that is, by all the canonical authorities of the sacred books. (On the Unity of the Church, 16, quoted in Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part I [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971], p. 159.)

What more can I teach you, than what we read in the Apostle? For Holy Scripture sets a rule to our teaching, that we dare not “be wise more than it behooves to be wise,” but be wise, as he says, “unto soberness, according as unto each God has allotted the measure of faith.” (On the Good of Widowhood, 2, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. III, p. 442. The quotation is from Romans 12:3.)

St. John Chrysostom (c.347-407):

Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts. For how is it not absurd that in respect to money, indeed, we do not trust to others, but refer to [our own] calculation; but in calculating upon [theological] facts we are lightly drawn aside by the notions of others; and that too, though we possess an exact balance, and square and rule for all things, the declaration of the divine laws? Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things; and having learned what are the true riches, let us pursue after them that we may obtain also the eternal good things… (Homily 13 on 2 Corinthians, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. XII, p. 346.)

Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast. (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, in The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 96, p. 118.)

They say that we are to understand the things concerning Paradise not as they are written but in a different way. But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg and entreat that we close our eyes to all things and follow the canon of Holy Scripture exactly. (Homily 13 on Genesis.)

There comes a heathen and says, “I wish to become a Christian, but I know not whom to join: there is much fighting and faction among you, much confusion: which doctrine am I to choose?” How shall we answer him? “Each of you” (says he) “asserts, ‘I speak the truth.'” No doubt: this is in our favor. For if we told you to be persuaded by arguments, you might well be perplexed: but if we bid you believe the Scriptures, and these are simple and true, the decision is easy for you. If any agree with the Scriptures, he is the Christian; if any fight against them, he is far from this rule. (Homily 33 on the Acts of the Apostles [in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1, 11:210-11; PG 60.243-44])

St. Basil the Great (c.329-379):

They are charging me with innovation, and base their charge on my confession of three hypostases [persons], and blame me for asserting one Goodness, one Power, one Godhead. In this they are not wide of the truth, for I do so assert. Their complaint is that their custom does not accept this, and that Scripture does not agree. What is my reply? I do not consider it fair that the custom which obtains among them should be regarded as a law and rule of orthodoxy. If custom is to be taken in proof of what is right, then it is certainly competent for me to put forward on my side the custom which obtains here. If they reject this, we are clearly not bound to follow them. Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the Word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. (Letter 189 [to Eustathius the physician], 3, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. VIII, p. 229.)

What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if “all that is not of faith is sin” as the Apostle says, and “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin. (The Morals, in The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9, p. 204.)

We are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of the Scripture. (On the Holy Spirit, 7:16.)

St. John of Damascus (c.675-c.749):

It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments. (On the Orthodox Faith, I:2, in The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 37.)

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So it looks like none of the quotations here articulate the Roman view of the opacity of Scripture sans authoritative interpreter. On the contrary, the perspicuity of Scripture is assumed and explicitly stated.

That’s really all I wanted to post. More can be said, certainly, but that will have to wait for the jib-jab in the comments, if any is forthcoming.

+VDMA

trentdemarest

60 Comments

  1. You left out Saint Thomas! See Gilby’s “St Thomas Aquinas: Theological Texts” OUP 1955:

    “The effective authority of Holy Scripture originates from God, who ‘found out all the way of knowledge and gave it to Jacob his servant and to Israel his beloved.’ ‘Which, having begun to be declared by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard “him. His authority is to be infallibly believed, because he is truth itself – ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ possessed of the plenitude of knowledge – ‘O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!’ and armed with might – ‘the word of God is living and effectual and more piercing than any two-edged sword'” (Principium fratris Thomae de Aquino quando incepit Parisiis ut Baccalaureus Biblicus, de Commendatione et Partitione Sacrae Scripturae).

    “Theology invokes great thinkers on matters where they are received authorities: thus St. Paul at Athens quoted Aratus, ‘in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain of your own poets have said, For we also are his offspring.’ [Acts 17:28] Theology treats them as sources of external evidence for its arguments. Its proper and indispensable court of appeal is to the authority of the canonical Scriptures. The writings of the Fathers of the Church are also proper sources, yet their authority is not final. Faith rests on divine revelation made through the prophets and apostles and set down in the canonical Scriptures, not on revelations, if there be any, made to other holy teachers” (Summa Theologica, Ia i. 8, ad 2).

    • Thanks for this, Edward. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what’s the quotation from Aquinas and what’s not. Can you email me a cleaned up, clearly demarcated version at some point? I’ll be happy to add it to the compendium and clean it up in your comment, as well.

      • Both quotations are entirely Saint Thomas, except for what is in parentheses. I put the biblical quotations in inverted commas, since I couldn’t figure out how to italicize! Apologies!

      • I would point your attention particularly to the last sentence of the second quotation!

        • “Faith rests on divine revelation made through the prophets and apostles and set down in the canonical Scriptures, not on revelations, if there be any, made to other holy teachers” — yeah, that’s pretty clear.

  2. Trent,
    I think you’re attacking a straw man. Every denomination has Scripture that they either seem to ignore or interpret in a way divergent from other faiths. The Catholics, I would argue, don’t even have MORE of these than other denominations. Rather, Catholics are sadly less well-informed about the Scriptures (because they don’t read them, a fact I will readily and sadly confess) and are more surprised when they hear an apparent contradiction, also known as a paradox. Some examples of ignored or hard to explain scripture is everything from John saying sinners can’t be Christians in his first letter, to “call no man father,” to “no one is good but your Father in Heaven,” to Onan’s sin in the OT, to “this is my body,” to countless others. But Basil’s quotation in this post is a perfect example. He is saying, find the doctrine (not something he assumes is in Scripture) that most coherently gels with Scripture. But, there are things we need to define, and we’re going to use extra-scriptural words and concepts and logic, but whoever comes down on the side of Scripture wins. No theologian worth his salt in the history of the Church, heretical or otherwise, has ever NOT backed up his work with copious Scripture. Are you annoyed the the Councils don’t quote enough Scripture? Are you annoyed that St. Thomas doesn’t quote enough scripture? Are you annoyed that the Church was trying to answer questions that were asked of her, and didn’t use enough Scripture? I’m not sure what you’re saying, but clearly everyone, at the highest levels of theology has always used Scripture to defend their beliefs. And every creed has struggled with certain passages that don’t seem to jive as well with their most highlighted doctrines. But, Catholics have a way out, because it was the authority of the Church that preceded Scripture and authenticated the Canon. Thus, we only all GO to Scripture in the first place because the Church told us where we needed to go. The only thing that Catholics claim that Protestants do not is one authoritative understanding of the Word as it applies to doctrine (obviously, there are the four ways of reading scripture, so I’m not saying every passage has only one meaning). Every Church has to have a system for ratifying/authenticating doctrine, and you just seem to chafe under ours because it’s a man in a hat. Why is that any better or worse than a synod of elders, or a couple of well-esteemed seminaries, or a man and his Bible?

    The bigger questions still remain. When talking in Christian circles, its all fine and good to assume the authority of the Bible. But I’m much more interested in how we convert those outside the Church (in every sense) so that more people see their errors and are washed in the Blood. I understand if this is a means for you to explore the question personally for yourself, I just don’t appreciate Roman straw men, which show up more frequently than any other kind of straw men in your arguments.

    • I’m confused, Tom. I’m not annoyed by Councils’ lack of Scripture…do they lack Scripture? My reading has been elsewhere as of late. I will say that there’s nothing magic about a Church council. Like the pope, they can err. I don’t know why you brought that up. I happen to love St. Thomas, actually. From what I know of him and his work, he probably would have demurred strongly from the sort of Catholicism espoused by Leo X. That is a topic for another day. Do look at Edward’s comment, though, as he’s got a brilliant quotation from the Angelic Doctor about the sufficiency of Scripture.

      “But, Catholics have a way out, because it was the authority of the Church that preceded Scripture and authenticated the Canon.”

      What authority of the Church? You assume something about the Office of the Keys that you do not prove, i.e., you are assuming that the authority given to the Apostles to bind and loose refers the the making of doctrinal pronouncements. As a Roman Catholic, you’re also operating from the assumption that Peter’s unique status as chief of the Apostles was a unique, i.e., qualitatively different, office which passed to his successors. I don’t share that view, obviously. I don’t mean to be plucky and abrupt, but I’d actually really like your thoughts on that matter not here, but on the previous post on the blog, where that’s been the topic of discussion for almost three weeks now.

      So simply saying that “the authority of the Church” preceded and authenticated the canon begs the question massively. You would first have to prove that the Church has ever had the authority (i.e., has an injunction from Christ, an office) to do more than preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. Then, well…then I’m not sure what you’d have to do.

      The Church did not define the canon. It couldn’t exclude the Gospel of John from the canon if it wanted to, nor could it include the Gospel of Thomas. Why? Because St. John did in fact write the Gospel which bears his name. It’s a well-corroborated historical fact. By the same token, St. Thomas did not write the gospel which bears his name. It’s pseudepigraphic gnostic bosh. (Finally! I can use the word pseudepigrapha on my blog.) St. Mark and St. Luke, though not written by apostles, nonetheless accord with the firsthand accounts of St. Matthew and St. John. You are of course aware of the distinction between the homologoumena and antilegomena — the apostolic authorship of some books has never been as well-corroborated as that of others. This distinction is simply noted…by both Carthage in 265 and Nicaea in 312? I’d have to check. Anyway, I’m not aware of any doctrine which finds its sole support amongst the antilegomena. Are you?

      “Thus, we only all GO to Scripture in the first place because the Church told us where we needed to go. The only thing that Catholics claim that Protestants do not is one authoritative understanding of the Word as it applies to doctrine (obviously, there are the four ways of reading scripture, so I’m not saying every passage has only one meaning).”

      Well, that may be true. But Lutherans also have one authoritative understanding of the Word as it applies to doctrine. It’s comprised by the Lutheran Confessions, which do not claim to be self-authenticating (sic iubeo, sic volo) as does the Roman Magisterium, but ask to be compared to the Scriptures. Rome refused to do this from the outset of the Conservative Reformation, insisting that Luther and those of like mind simply stop teaching what they were teaching, because Rome had decreed that it was false.

    • “Every Church has to have a system for ratifying/authenticating doctrine, and you just seem to chafe under ours because it’s a man in a hat. Why is that any better or worse than a synod of elders, or a couple of well-esteemed seminaries, or a man and his Bible?”

      Tom, I am sorry to have given offense. Please hear me out, though.

      I certainly do not chafe under the Roman system of ratifying/authenticating doctrine because it’s a man in a hat. I don’t chafe under it at all, to be perfectly honest — I am not under the Roman system at all! I am not under law, but under grace, as the Apostle says in the sixth chapter of Romans. Thanks be to God! I do, however, object to it, because it’s a perversion of the Office of the Keys, which, to remind you, is the ONE divine office established by Our Lord. Asking why the papacy is any better or worse than anything else seems to me to be the wrong question.

      “The bigger questions still remain. When talking in Christian circles, its all fine and good to assume the authority of the Bible. But I’m much more interested in how we convert those outside the Church (in every sense) so that more people see their errors and are washed in the Blood.”

      Tom, to me there is no bigger question than how the sinner is justified before God. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, that the message which the Church preaches to the heathen is Christ and Him crucified and that trust in the mercy of God on account of that sacrifice is preached as the only means by which they will be saved. Justification sola fide is thus the doctrina stantis et cadentis ecclesiae. To proclaim anything else to the unconverted is to proclaim a false Gospel. By the same token, Rome’s rejection of this doctrine is not “small potatoes” that can be lightly set aside. Frankly, Tom, the things that you say here and the things that I have heard you say in the past truly resonate with me — yes, we pray that all would repent and are washed in the Blood! But even here we are brought back to brass tacks. What is repentance? Is it the same as penance, or is it contrition? Does this distinction matter? Does repentance entail supererogatory works? And does baptism simply remove the stain and contagion of original sin only, but leave all other sins thenceforth committed to be expunged through the confessional, otherwise to remain bound to the soul of the sinner?

      These are non-trivial questions which, if left unanswered and unresolved, make glib slogans out of phrases like “washed in the Blood” and “convert those outside the Church.” Convert them to what?

      “I understand if this is a means for you to explore the question personally for yourself, I just don’t appreciate Roman straw men, which show up more frequently than any other kind of straw men in your arguments.”

      Again, I apologize, my friend. I still don’t see how I’ve created a Roman straw man. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to help me see exactly which part of my writing sets one forth.

  3. Tom, there is one major problem with your argument, and that is an error of fact. You say, “But, Catholics have a way out, because it was the authority of the Church that preceded Scripture and authenticated the Canon.”

    But it is clear (from Scripture, no less, which regardless of origin and authentication we all accept) that the early Church had Scripture before any gospel or epistle was written: what we now call the Old Testament. If the constant references of St. Paul and others to learning Scripture, depending on Scripture, referencing the fulfillment of scriptural prophecies, and so forth was not enough, we have the accounts of Christ’s exposition of the prophets on the road to Emmaus; and less important but still indicative, Phillip’s preaching from Isaiah to the Ethiopian.

    True, this observation does not fully explain the New Testament. It is of course a question worth asking how the Jewish scriptures were established, and also a fascinating and important study to see what the Church’s view has been towards the establishing of new documents as Scripture. But the Church has had authoritative Scripture from before its existence.

  4. Trent, I know what you mean about the “certainty-chimera,” and well-put. I think the authentic Catholic epistemology has found a home in much pop-apologetic only after having undergone quite the eviscerating metamorphosis. Holy Scripture is, as the Nyssan says, an umpire. When it does deal out clear-cut, down-to-earth, inescapably perspicacious sentence on matters of Faith or morals, there you go: run with it. You don’t need the Church to explain the lion’s share of the meaning-for-most-people of: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” You don’t need the Church to define the Resurrection of Christ as an article of Faith. You don’t need to wait for a conciliar doom to call Our Lady “Blessed among women.” Nor have you need of Trent to recognize that “a man is not justified by faith alone.” The authentic sense of Scripture is a court of final appeal, but… authentic sense, aye there’s the rub, in so many instances. I mean, just to throw one out that I remember went into one of my old acquaintance’s “Rapture Notebook”: “for the woman will be saved by childbearing.” (For me it’s easy, but where do *you* glean the authentic sense from that? After all, St. Paul is laying out a soteriological criterion, and when the stakes are eternity, the interpretation of this verse becomes quite a crux for mankind’s better half.)

    I neither can nor care to situate each proof-text you put forth, but I think it bears simply recognizing that dogmatic pronouncements bear, pedagogically, a very different stamp from the concatenated logia of Holy Scripture. Scripture is the treasury of paradox and mystery, whereas, when heretics make headway, the Church’s guardians must perform the tragic and still-then-unromantic task of formulating, of fixing on a pin (to quote one I am not rathely wont to). The words of Holy Scripture belong to a higher sphere than that of the infallible pronouncements of Trent, for in the first instance the Holy Ghost dictates whereas in the latter case He but staves off error (that said, this work is no inglorious one, and I have felt its power. The state of accentuated denudation in which so many doctrinal canona come to us fronts us with a marked contrast to the sheer rhetorical glory of the Scriptures. But we need both, and without the former, you really are left with the Evangelical and his Bible. And you know that. At least I do – because I still remember the stark bewilderment I couldn’t help but feel in the face of so much Scripture so fiercely militating against my quondam house-of-cards regula fidei ; and because now I can so acutely perceive the difference between that kind of helpless befuddlement and my current reactions to the (comparatively negligible) ambiguities of various magisterial productions. These mental states are worlds apart, and the world I’m in now, thank God, nests securely in the zone I think cosmologists call the Goldilocks.

  5. I had written a long response but it’s been the victim of my inexperience with blogging (and probably not the last).

    I think fatimacrusader1917 covered part of what I meant to say, but I’d like to chime in and correct the misrepresentation of Aquinas at the beginning of the comments section and elsewhere on the blog. The first excerpt doesn’t prove anything about Aquinas except his uncontroversial enthusiasm for Holy Scripture. In the context of the second excerpt, Aquinas discusses the relationship of theology to philosophy. That theological arguments must be justified with respect to Scripture does not imply that Scripture is the exclusive regula fidei or that infallible interpretation is impossible.

    • Hey albertianoblate! Good to…um…see you again? I hear you’re married — that’s wonderful! Tell me, can I use your real name?

      Of course nothing is “proven” through quoting Aquinas (here on this post, and elsewhere on the blog). Then again, you prove nothing either! Which is OK. We all have day jobs. I think. And proving things is hard!

      You write:

      That theological arguments must be justified with respect to Scripture does not imply that Scripture is the exclusive regula fidei or that infallible interpretation is impossible.

      It doesn’t imply that? What ought to regulate the Faith if not the deposit of the apostolic teaching? Simple questions, I know, but a good place to start.

      I don’t know what you mean when you refer to Aquinas’s “uncontroversial enthusiasm for Holy Scripture.” What is there to be enthusiastic about? Are there some theologians of note that weren’t enthusiastic about Holy Scripture? If so, why should I care about what they have to say?

      No further questions for now.

      • Trent et al,

        i’d like to get back to my main point which follows somewhat from this caveat that aureliusaugutine made. i asked the clarifying question: “was the intent of this post to provide support for sola scriptura via the church fathers?”

        to which this was the reply: “Yes, it was. I accept aureliusaugustine’s caveat clarifying the Lutheran position with respect to the Fathers, their place in the Lutheran taxa, etc.

        Clarifying questions in return: do you think that all non-Roman Christians in the West have the same view of sola scriptura? If so, can you summarize your understanding of what that view is? I want to make sure that we’re working with a common definition of terms.”

        I’m going to ask that we step back and take a look at my first comment. in it i essentially said you quoted the fathers out of context because you are quoting their support for Sola Scriptura but not from locations where they actually talk about Scripture and how it’s derived. I did this explicitly with St. Cyril whose Jerusalem Catecheses you first quoted. would you agree that the quote you gave comes from a section on defending the doctrine of the Holy Spirit which is in a broader section on defending 10 doctrines? (note sola scriptura is not listed as one doctrine) Then would you also agree that the quote I provided comes later down in the same broad section defending 10 doctrines but actually talks about the Divine Scriptures?

        • “For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.”

          I know that context is important, but its importance needs to drawn out. Please tell me how context bears on what St. Cyril is saying here. Particularly this: “For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” How can any amount of contextualization change the thrust of that sentence? I call shenanigans, Cary. You seem to practicing Patristic deconstructionism.

          Can you briefly tell me how Scripture is “derived”?

          • If you are looking for what St. Cyril actually said about where we get Scripture why not quote a few paragraphs down where he actually talks about this? I’m trying to clarify. do you agree or disagree with my two previous questions?

            certainly St. Cyril would use Scripture to back other assertions but he would still have to address the question at hand here which is: what is Scripture and where does it come from?

          • Lemme see…

            “Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings: for why do you, who know not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble yourself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters…Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes” (source). Is this the one? If not, please furnish the relevant quotation for me.

            “Then would you also agree that the quote I provided comes later down in the same broad section defending 10 doctrines but actually talks about the Divine Scriptures?” Yes. I see nothing disagreeable about the above quotation, nor do I see what particular bearing it has on the other portion of the same lecture that I quoted. Please draw it out for me, and, if possible, answer these questions in the process:

            1. Are you suggesting that the books of Scripture wouldn’t be Scripture if the Church hadn’t declared them to be?

            2. Are you suggesting that the whole Church was in abeyance to the bishop of Rome at this time (i.e., Council of Carthage in 265, Council of Nicaea I in 312)?

            “Was the intent of this post to provide support for sola scriptura via the church fathers?” Yes.

          • And this one:

            “Would you agree that the quote you gave comes from a section on defending the doctrine of the Holy Spirit which is in a broader section on defending 10 doctrines?” I mean, yes. But let’s keep in mind what St. Cyril says:

            “For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures…” Translation: you have to shore up dogma with Scripture. If you can’t, there’s not power on earth that can make it dogma.

            “…nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures.” This seems pretty self-evident, even if the specific “these things” in this particular instance is the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

            “For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” “This salvation we believe,” i.e., not just the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The whole shebang, the whole kit’n’kaboodle, depends on demonstration from the Holy Scriptures. That’s a very handy delimiter of what’s most important. I would think that this would be relief for most people!

  6. Sorry to come in on this late but I do believe that many of the quotes you have just listed in this post are without context or full reading. In fact the one from St. Cyril is from the IV Catechetical Lecture, which fortunately I have been reading as a result of the Divine Office of Readings (thank to Mother Church), and is taken from the section on the Holy Spirit however, following further down is a whole section on Holy Scripture in which Cyril says:

    “Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings : for why do you, who know not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble yourself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters…Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes.” (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310104.htm)

    We can all cherry pick verses and quotes till the cows come home but that’s not gonna help. Particularly if we are debating based upon what the Church Fathers taught and what the Early Church truly believed. You can not do this especially when it comes to the Eucharist but that’s all I had and I hope it’s a help.

    In Christ
    Cary

    • also St. John of Damascus has a section on Holy Scripture in the same exposition, Book IV, Chapter 17: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/33044.htm

      or st. basil’s on the Holy Spirit, chapter 27, verse 66: “66. Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church.” (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3203.htm)

      need we keep going?

      • Yeah, we do need to keep going.

        First of all, why do you accept this teaching of St. Basil? Not saying I don’t; I just want to know why you do.

        For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?

        Yeah, we make the sign of the cross, too. It’s a laudable, good, and pious custom. But it’s an adiaphoron. Yes, it was traditioned. No, it was not bound, nor would St. Basil nor any other Christian bishop or priest have suggested that one who made not the sign of the cross was not a Christian. And if the good Cappadocian did make such an utterance elsewhere, a) I’d love to see it, and b) he’d be dead wrong.

        What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.

        All good things; all adiaphora. What’s your point, Cary? Where is the part where he sets forth new credenda? See above.

        Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learned the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.

        Who’s St. Basil arguing against? Well, certainly not Lutherans, but you apparently don’t know that. He seems to be arguing against the impiousness of the Roman Novus Ordo and other weapons of mass destruction. If you’d ever been to a Lutheran baptism (and I won’t claim they’re all the same — we have our liturgical shenanigans, too), you’d see us bless the water, the chrism, and the catechumen. You’d see anointing with oil, an exorcism, and “baptizing thrice.” But are you going to argue that this is all of the essence of baptism?

        So, I’m asking you, Cary: how does anyone know what is part of the “tradition of the apostles”? Wouldn’t you say that there are grades? St. John says that if all of the works and signs of Our Resurrected Lord were recorded, the world would not be able to contain all of the books. But then he goes on to say, “But THESE THINGS are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” So John was being selective. Why? Because some things weren’t as important. Because blessing the oil is good, but it isn’t as important as the Trinitarian formula. I certainly believe in the tradition of the apostles. What they traditioned is what I believe. So make the argument for me that the oral tradition is “just as” important, if that is indeed what you claim St. Basil is saying.

      • my point is that you can’t in one breath claim a quote from St. Basil or anyone else as authoritavely deliniating your position and then turn around and ignore what else they had to say, particularly on the same or closely related subjects. Your diatribe doesn’t change a thing, nor does using big words like adiophora. And as to the last portion your right some things are more/less crucial to the faith but again if we are talking about how we find what God’s truth is then I think we are in fact refering to things which are essential and you are claiming (with purported support by Church Fathers) that the only essential is Scripture and (depending on your flavor of Lutheranism) the Confessions which seemingly (in your view) flow from Scripture. I begged to differ with your charachterizing the Father’s as agreeing with your view based on “proof-texts”

    • Hello Cary.

      Thanks for commenting. Good to have you on board.

      I’ll be blunt: I don’t see your point. Obviously I’m quoting and not reproducing entire pieces, and I’m surely not hiding that. Nor am I claiming that the Church Fathers unanimously support Lutheran conclusions — they don’t! Incidentally, they don’t unanimously support Romanist conclusions, either, and that’s why you have the pope! I’m not cherry-picking, either. I’d happily include the portion of St. Cyril’s catechetical lectures in the list, for it in no way militates against anything that I or my Lutheran forbears believe.

      “Mother Church” bids me read similarly, my friend. Roman Catholics love to say “the Church” and “Mother Church” in such a way as to refer to all Christians under the bishop of Rome, but you’ll find on this blog that you need to be more precise. The questions which you rhetorically beg through the gerrymandering use of such language are sussed out elsewhere on this blog.

      Just going to put this out there:

      I’m frankly astonished that Paul Dunlap says that I’m the first Lutheran he’s ever met. I’m going to generalize from that, and hope to be proven wrong (and know that I am wrong in certain instances: I went to college with the other interlocutors in this feed so far), but it seems like the Roman Catholics on the masthead don’t really know much about Lutherans. I mean, you know the Romanist strawman of the Lutheran Church. You know what you heard about “Lutherans and other Protestants” in RCIA or CCD. But since the emendation from the magisterium “not to debate with heretics” perdures, however blunted and sweetened, to the present day, it seems that most Roman Catholics don’t wish to make serious inquiry into the Lutheran Confessions for any reason. Indeed, many do not know what these are. I don’t imagine you do? Which is weird to me: if Roman Catholic doctrine is true, surely it would withstand the best criticisms that have been made of it. We might quibble whether the Easter Orthodox Church are the closest “separated brethren” of Rome (as John Paul II thought) or whether the Lutherans are (as Benedict XVI thinks), but the point stands: this discussion already seems like it’s going to suffer from the weight of Roman know-nothingism.

      • I’ll ignore the ad hominem of Roman know-nothingism and say that my point is that you took quotes out of context to support your point of view. In particular you said: “It’s also interesting to note that the supposedly novel Reformation teaching of Scripture as sole rule and norm for faith and practice has plenty of adherents among the Church Fathers — or, rather, I should say, it seems to me that from what they’re saying, they thought that that the Scriptures were pretty perspicuous.”

        my point was to say that plenty of these individuals quotes are in fact taken out of context. In fact you can find similar such lists spread about the web, just search them, you’ll find many all over lutheran sites as patristic versions of “proof-texts” of Lutheran positions. Only just like as is done with Scripture, it is normally out of context. Thus, to prove what I was saying i pointed out that St. Cyril’s quote is in fact taken from one context and that when he does (in the same work) talk specifically on Scripture he in fact does delliniate the important role of the Church in providing us with Scripture…that’s all. I’m neither claiming you are right or wrong, I am pointing out that proof-texts of Scripture or the Church Fathers wont fly.

        does that help? i dont think it was intended malice or anything but i do think it is prudent and neccesary that when we quote scripture or others who we think we support our opinions that we first examine a) the context and b) what else they said on the subject.

        cary

        • Not an ad hom. Have you ever read any of the Lutheran Confessions? I would like to know. Give me a yeah or nay on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, the Smalcald Articles, the Formula of Concord (Epitome and Solid Declaration). In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve read the CCC, about a billion papal encyclicals, and the canons and decrees of the Church of Rome’s Councils. I go to an RC mass every Sunday evening after attending a Lutheran mass in the morning. I just want to know if you fit the bill that Paul candidly admitted to in his inaugural post: “I don’t know Lutherans.” It’s somewhat ancillary to the discussion we’re having at present, but I am certainly curious. And you don’t have to answer my question, obviously; it’s just going to affect the shape of the debate.

          • It’s worth distinguishing full disclosure from exhibitionism. “Roman know-nothingness,” e-psychoanalysis (you’re probably one of those Romans who . . .) and patronizing tone are gratuitous and unpersuasive. If the debate proceeds like this, I’m inclined to follow Keaton’s suggestion and change the channel.

          • Evan,

            I’m sorry to have given offense. Really not trying to poison the well; just pointing out something which has been well-substantiated on this blog so far.

            If my allegation of “Roman know-nothingism” is unfair, then I would like to know how. What I am observing, here as elsewhere, is that Roman Catholics do not familiarize themselves/are not familiar with the Lutheran Confessions. That’s not e-psychoanalysis. It’s just analysis. Perhaps I should have kept such surprise to myself. But I’m not going to lie, Evan, I do find it frustrating. I thank Cary, whom I do not even know, for bearing with me and candidly stating that he’s not familiar with confessional Lutheranism.

            But this is the point: “Confessional Lutheranism” is redundant. It’s like saying “Papal Roman Catholicism.” Sem. Heschmeyer betrays the errant thinking I describe by quoting Martin Luther (who, like most people, can be quoted against himself throughout the course of his life) as though the Blessed Doctor is the source of Lutheran doctrine. Alas, he cannot altogether be blamed: the name Lutheran is terrible, and inapt, for the Lutheran Church has no necessary abeyance to the teachings of Martin Luther, but to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and its expositions, which we would put on a par with the ecumenical creeds. Although it’s a private opinion of his, I think it’s worth noting that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has a very high view of the Confessio Augustana:

            In 1976, Joseph Ratzinger—then still a professor—suggested “it might be possible to interpret [the Augsburg Confession (CA)—i.e., the primary Lutheran confession] under the laws of the empire as a catholic confession.” He continued: “Efforts are underway to achieve a Catholic recognition of the CA or, more correctly, a recognition of the CA as catholic, and thereby to establish the catholicity of the churches of the CA, which makes possible a corporate union while the differences remain.” (From First Things, “Roman Catholics and Confessional Lutherans Explore Deeper Ties“)

            I identify as a Catholic, because I’m part of the one Church of Christ and I adhere to the universal faith which comes to us from the apostles. I’m a “Confessional Catholic”; I am not a Roman Catholic. In fact, I think that “Papal Catholic” is an oxymoron — and I do not say this to offend, but to describe. Insofar as the Roman Church is under the papacy, its catholicity is diminished. The Lutherans did not abandon the Church Catholic; they defended it from Roman error — obviously you disagree; let’s not debate that in this particular comment feed. I’m really just trying to clarify the disagreement. The Lutheran Confessions reject the papacy; the papacy has historically rejected the Lutheran Confessions. So we have one group claiming to be the “real Catholics” and another group also claiming to be the “real Catholics”…

            AND this is the part where we write another post. You, Evan. Let’s move it to another post. Look at Tom Cox’s quadpartite (pretentiousness of this word is admitted) division of topics in this comment, and see if perhaps one of those will provide a good initial springboard for your thoughts. Or just write something else.

            I’ll try to watch my tone — sorry about that. Please forgive me.

          • Re: your points about greater appreciation for how Lutherans understand themselves–that’s why I’m here. Without prejudice for what I suspect you know or don’t know about Roman Catholicism, I take up the conversation with an honest interest in Lutheranism affected by my study of the Ratzinger/Benedict emphasis you mentioned, in addition to his several audiences with Lutheran theologians during his pontificate. Ut unum sint, brother.

            If Confessional Lutheran is redundant, and I think I understand your reasons for believing that, what would you prefer that I use as a shorthand for you and yours?

          • Duly noted, brother. And appreciated. Really, the appellation “Lutheran” works just find as shorthand. I mainly just wanted to make note of the irksomeness of the term. In any case, it is a term that has historical meaning, and I accept that. I mean, I did name the blog, so I can’t complain too much 🙂

          • St. Augustine, for what it’s worth, would recognize some damning freight in your “irk[ed]” reaction to the appellation Lutheran.

            “For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual, men attain in this life…–not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations…so does her authority…the succession of priests…[a]nd so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; ***** so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. ***** Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church…Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church… For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church…for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear proof of the apostleship of Manichaeus is found in the gospel, I will believe the Catholics rather than you.”

            – Against the Epistle of Manichaeus, 4:5 – 5:6

            I thought this bore quotation because I find it so authentically representative of how Catholics – and, apropos to the content of the quote, everyone else seems to know exactly what is meant by that term, pace some other comments taking issue with this terminology – or at least how Catholics who care to do so momenticize their epistemological process.

          • Sorry, Ray, but the prose in your last paragraph is either somewhat opaque or perhaps I’m somewhat stupid. Could you give me some Hemingway prose with nouns and verbs? 😉 I’d like to understand what you’re saying better.

          • My bad:

            The quote was worth quoting because it breaks down what and how Catholics believe, and everyone knows which folk are Catholics, just like the quote says.

      • i’ve read bits and pieces of each but by no means would I be even able to recall much of it. and your right we’d do well to know the opposing ground a little better. problem is there are so many to get to know, how do you choose? and i don’t mean that snarkily I mean it honestly. I’m a young dad with young kids who is working and trying to share the Good News with students…time is valuable. My primary vocation comes first. As i shared in my intro, i know enough to know that if you are right…well I dont need “a church” and this whole discussion is for naught. Not to mention that then the Lord would have paid the dearest price only for us to have been left without anyway to find the fullness of His Truth. And that’s from my perspective and I understand that you dont agree with those statements

        • Cary,

          First off, I commend you for attending to your primary vocation. God bless you for taking that seriously.

          Secondly, there’s no need to “pick your flavor”: this blog is called “Roman Catholicism vs. Confessional Lutheranism.” It’s been picked! This is not the place to belabor points like the following:

          I know enough to know that if you are right…well I dont need “a church” and this whole discussion is for naught.

          No, if we’re right, that’s not the case. Sorry. Just need to clear that up right now.

          Per your other comments, I think it might be best if we took this discussion to other posts. If you wouldn’t mind reading “The Church” first, and “About That Chair and That Hat” second, I think that we might be able to have a more productive dialogue.

          Sorry for the brusque introduction. I really am glad to have you onboard. Goodnight.

          • I understand your first point what I was saying us that in my studies so far I have not focused energy on confessional Lutheranism in particular.

            Maybe it would help if I ask a clarifying question: was the intent of this post to provide support for sola scriptura via the church fathers?

          • i’ll repeat, maybe this got missed: Maybe it would help if I ask a clarifying question: was the intent of this post to provide support for sola scriptura via the church fathers?

          • Yes, it was. I accept aureliusaugustine’s caveat clarifying the Lutheran position with respect to the Fathers, their place in the Lutheran taxa, etc.

            Clarifying questions in return: do you think that all non-Roman Christians in the West have the same view of sola scriptura? If so, can you summarize your understanding of what that view is? I want to make sure that we’re working with a common definition of terms.

          • paul,

            i’d have to say your returning a bit of like for like in your last sentence at least. Not that it’s not undeserved but that’s not what we’re called to. and not to chastise personally but to correct as a brother in love.

            Trent, i also agree with paul.

          • no trent, it’s rather obvious that sola scriptura is different across the different sects and that alone should be enough to give you pause 1) because we haven’t even gotten to interpreting what is and isn’t essential or what scripture says 2) such a claim isn’t in scripture.

            beyond that my original comment on this post was to point out what aurelius augustine did much more succinctly below in 1). In addition i’d add that even his 2) is generous as many of these quotations are not in the context of talking about scripture and how it was recieved (what authority designated it) but rather in the context of making arguments for or against some other doctrine. When you search out, as I showed with at least St. Cyril and St. Basil, what they said with the context being, how do we know what is Scripture, youll see they point to an authority.

            and yes by the way “roman know-nothingness” is in fact ad hominem. its an argument against the person not against the stated facts or logic.

            additionally, ill say that i’m not a theological expert or one of history. most of my discussion will generally be broad and around one central question: says who? because to me if you can’t answer that with a clear: here’s who and here’s how we know for sure then Christ’s promise to grant us truth is broken and this is all a useless exercise in theology and argumentation. all of which is far worse for each of us than just praying for each other. i’m not saying i wont engage or learn what you believe, i’d like to, but my question will prob end in well that’s intersting, says who?

            finally, it seems that you like to write novels with big words at times. i would appreciate smaller more compact statments without the posturing of using such technical language.

          • The mere use of the phrase “Roman know-nothingism” is not an ad hominem. It would be an ad hominem if called you or another particular person a Roman ignoramus. I was describing an observed tendency, i.e., the fact that the Roman Catholics who have thus far contributed (with a few exceptions) do not know the Lutheran Confessions. It is also, admittedly, somewhat rhetorical. This matters. I was careful not to generalize, but to ask questions, questions such as “Are you familiar with the Lutheran Confessions?” and “Are you aware that the Lutheran Confessions, and not the personal theological writings of Martin Luther, comprise the doctrine of the Lutheran Church, however ironic that may be, considering the moniker we have?” Granted, I never actually wrote the latter, but it’s a summary epitome of several comments I’ve made in the last, oh, forty-eight hours.

            All that said, my invention and use of the term “Roman know-nothingism” was hardly above reproach, however logically defensible I think it might be. It was not edifying, as evidenced by the fact that it clearly offended you and Paul (and perhaps others, as well). It was not in the spirit that I desired, and it caused a distraction from more substantive dialogue. I apologize. I will attempt to follow the lead of my more irenic cousin. It’s a good thing that he is the one who will be pastoring souls, and not I.

            It is an unfortunate defect in my character that I love to fight. To adapt Aristotle’s wisdom, I stray from courage not towards cowardice, but temerity. In all likelihood, though, temerity and cowardice participate in each other.

            The honest intention behind my original poor choice of words remains, however, and I pray that you understand that a theological argument cannot take place before the loci of conflicting doctrines are recognized and known. Perhaps this is easier said than done — evidently, as that is part of the debate thus far…

            As for my tendency to write novels, use big technical words, and posture…I don’t know what to say.

            Pax Christi

          • The following snippet comes from a defense of Sola Scriptura written by an Anglican priest, Rev. Fr. James Kiefer:

            OBJECTION: The doctrine of Sola Scriptura contradicts itself. For if the doctrine is true, then it ought itself to be stated in Holy Scripture. But in fact it is not.

            REPLY: We are offered an argument of the following form:

            (1) Sola Scriptura = “All true propositions are stated in Holy Scripture.”
            (2) Sola Scriptura is not stated in Holy Scripture.
            (3) Therefore, Sola Scriptura is not a true proposition.

            But in fact, the argument should be of the form:

            (1) Sola Scriptura = “All truths necessary to salvation are stated in Holy Scripture.”
            (2) Sola Scriptura is not stated in Holy Scripture.
            (3) Therefore, Sola Scriptura is not a truth necessary to salvation.

            And to this conclusion I, for one, have no objection. I cheerfully look forward to seeing many of my Roman Catholic friends in Heaven, despite their regrettable error in holding certain propositions to be true, and their still more regrettable error in holding them to be essential parts of the Catholic faith.

            I love British people. They’re so polite. That’s why I really wish Ed Naumann would join this blog…

          • Cary,
            You write, ‘When you search out, as I showed with at least St. Cyril and St. Basil, what they said with the context being, how do we know what is Scripture, youll see they point to an authority.’

            It is true that we receive the Bible through tradition. But it does not follow from the fact that the Church initially collected and canonized the Holy Books, that its authority is higher, or even coordinate. Pythagoras discovered the theorem, but that did not give him any special prerogatives over others when it came to using it.

          • aureliusaugustine
            / April 12, 2013

            Cary,
            You write, ‘When you search out, as I showed with at least St. Cyril and St. Basil, what they said with the context being, how do we know what is Scripture, youll see they point to an authority.’

            It is true that we receive the Bible through tradition. But it does not follow from the fact that the Church initially collected and canonized the Holy Books, that its authority is higher, or even coordinate. Pythagoras discovered the theorem, but that did not give him any special prerogatives over others when it came to using it.

            It does give him (pythagoras) a perogative when they use it improperly or when they misunderstand it. It certainly gives him a right to do that.

            as i see it, your giving the Church (RCC) here a lot of credit for having correctly identified the *right* books and then to properly protect them. How did this occur? was the Holy Spirit working through them? why should anyone have listened to the early church? did the apostles pass on the authority they had been given perhaps? (sorry if this comes off as cheeky, i dont mean it that way, i do mean it to be rhetorical)

            btw you are right, the Church is subject to Holy Scripture (hence why she can not contradict it) but the Church is also subject to the Tradition (by which most of Scripture came) including that of the teaching of the whole church. This also ties into the problem with, to me, trent’s pithily quoted refutation of sola scriptura because scripture does not explicitly state which things (in sum total) are neccesary for salvation nor does it account for the fact that scripture came from a larger set of tradition which includes important things about how to understand scripture (see the Eucharist). And so it’s clear we need a wider set of authority to designate to us what is and isn’t needed. So we should actually substitute in the second outline scripture for tradition.

            cary

      • trent to your argument he later states this as an objection:
        “OBJECTION: The proposition Sola Scriptura contradicts church history, in that it was not possible for the earliest Christians to consult the New Testament, since it had not yet been written.
        REPLY: The earliest Christians had the Apostles with them. The Apostles wrote down the revelation, so that it might be available when they were gone. ”

        This may well have been true with parts of the Scriptures and during the Apostolic age but it fails to consider much of history or of the spread and collection of (particularly the epistles) over the years. After the apostolic age there were still serious questions about many books, both included now and not included, for nearly a hundred years. Though wikipedia is not nearly an authoritative source it gives us enough information (and citations) to understand this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon

        So one can not just disregard this objection by saying the “earliest Chrisitans” had the Apostles with them without some history. Indeed the earliest Christians had the Apostles AND/OR their succesors to whom their authority had been passed…

        cary

      • Cary,

        You write: It does give him (pythagoras) a perogative when they use it improperly or when they misunderstand it. It certainly gives him a right to do that.

        Pythagoras personally has no special rights here, nor would his descendents, if we knew who they were, nor would his academy, if it had somehow maintained continuous existence since his day. Joe Schmo can correct misuse of the Pythagorean theorem, and he does so every day in Geometry classes across the world. All that is required is that he understand the math properly. Likewise, the people who claim to be apostolically-succeeded from the bishops who were presiding over the Church in the days of canon formation have no special hermeneutical powers, no monopoly on Scripture. Once the Church says, “This is God’s own Word,” it gives up any power it ever had over the document in question.

        as i see it, your giving the Church (RCC) here a lot of credit for having correctly identified the *right* books and then to properly protect them.

        Not the RCC. The CC. Rome didn’t have that much to do with it.

        How did this occur? was the Holy Spirit working through them?

        Undoubtedly.

        why should anyone have listened to the early church?

        You seem to be imagining that there was some institution called “the early Church,” which Christians were supposed to listen to, but no, the institution was coalescing at the same time the canon was. Early Christians were the early Church. By the time we have something like an institutional canon, the work of selection had already been done. The bishops and local councils that articulated lists were basically ratifying the outcomes of very widespread and decentralized (hence convincingly catholic) process.

        did the apostles pass on the authority they had been given perhaps?

        They passed on their pastoral authority, yes, but not the uniquely Apostolic authority that enabled them to write Scripture. There were no second-generation Apostles.

        btw you are right, the Church is subject to Holy Scripture (hence why she can not contradict it) but the Church is also subject to the Tradition (by which most of Scripture came) including that of the teaching of the whole church.

        You see, the problem is, tradition is a process that doesn’t end. Canon-formation does, but not theologizing. And as layer builds on layer, the odds increase that ill-founded ideas will begin to be passed down along with the good stuff. And once it gets passed down a few times, it becomes tradition, no matter whether it’s true or not. And as a matter of historical record, this tradition did eventually contradict Scripture, in some pretty gross ways. That’s why the Reformation happened.

        This also ties into the problem with, to me, trent’s pithily quoted refutation of sola scriptura because scripture does not explicitly state which things (in sum total) are neccesary for salvation

        It most certainly does!

        nor does it account for the fact that scripture came from a larger set of tradition which includes important things about how to understand scripture (see the Eucharist).

        Of course. The history of the Church and especially of biblical interpretation must always be accounted for, but it doesn’t have the prescriptive authority that Scripture itself has. And out of curiosity, what does Tradition tell us about the Eucharist that Scripture doesn’t?

        • So say a writer writes a poem. He designates it as his work, and later someone massively misconstrues what it was meant to say. Does the writer have a proper right to correct or clarify what is being stated in the poem?

      • Cary,

        If the later interpretation is demonstrably wrong, anyone can correct it by reference to the original, not just the author. And that’s good, because neither one of us is claiming that the authors are still around to be consulted.

  7. Hey Trent, feel free to use my real name. Married with one on the way, thanks be to God. I hope all’s well with you.

    I think you might’ve misunderstood me.

    I meant that the first quote has no bearing on your particular point and doesn’t belong in the list that you compiled, since the RCC does not dispute the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture. As for the second, he is discussing how theology relates to its first principles, the articles of faith, not the ways that these might be expounded upon or defended. Look to Secunda Secundae Partis for that.

    I wasn’t suggesting that ipse dixit arguments from Aquinas would persuade anyone (that’d make things too easy 😉 ), just that the above quotations don’t prove that he belongs in your list.

  8. Hey Trent, just wanted to give a quick reminder that you invited me to this board under the premise that it was for “charitable argument between Roman Catholics and Confessional Lutherans.” I invite you to keep that spirit. You said you needed Catholics, I extended the invite, but I didn’t invite my friends here to be ridiculed and heckled. And we shouldn’t be expected to go through your entire reading list. We’re pretty smart people. If you want to turn this into a “who’s read more Lutheran material” contest, then I’m happy to let you have it.

    As to my statement, I’ll repeat that, to my knowledge, you’re the only Lutheran I’ve ever met. I live a pretty simple life, Trent. When I was a kid, I went to school. Now that I’m an adult, I go to work, I go to Church, I go to the gym, I go out to socialize. If I don’t meet any Lutherans in those places, then my life turns out to be Lutheran-free. That there aren’t more of you in the world seems like more your problem than mine.

    Regards,
    Paul

    • Hello Paul,

      Noting that the Roman Catholics on the masthead (with notable exceptions) evidently do not know much about Lutheran doctrine is not ridiculing or heckling. I did not give you a “reading list”; I delineated what the sources of Lutheran doctrine are. Therefore it would behoove you and anyone else involved in this forum to actually know what Lutherans believe, even if only for the purpose of avoiding committing errors of fact and relevance. You are free to take offense at this; it is, however, true. I’ve already had to disabuse some of the RC contributors of some mistaken notions about the Lutheran Church.

      I suppose that I could let the irony of your statements speak for itself, but saying “that’s right — I called it a sacrament. Deal with it” exhibits a weirdly bellicose tone. Do recall that I congratulated you. You needn’t take offense at my surprise that I’m the only Lutheran you’ve ever met. I remain surprised; you needn’t remain offended unless you wish to. You act as though I said “disgusted” not “surprised.” And then there’s this gem: “That there aren’t more of you in the world seems like more your problem than mine.” Hmmm. If you’d like to make a majoritarian argument, then please feel free to do so; however, this doesn’t seem to have been your intent.

      I apologize for offending you and your friends. Your reminder to keep the spirit of charitable argument is well-taken.

  9. Trent,

    You make two claims for this list of Patristic quotations. The second is much stronger than the first.

    1) It’s going too far to say that the Fathers considered Scripture to be the “sole rule and norm for faith and practice.” Your own quotations in the comments thread from St. Basil of Caesarea (On the Holy Spirit) witness to the fact that when it came to practice, the Church routinely did things because they had been received from tradition. We Lutherans do too, as you point out, but we do so with a great deal more freedom, or at least a much greater awareness of the freedom we have in liturgical matters. And if that’s the section I think it is, Basil is offering all those examples of liturgical tradition as a defense for arguing the divinity of the Holy Spirit on the basis of the Trinitarian invocations in the liturgy. Of course this is a secondary argument; the arguments from Scripture were more important. But he’s definitely appealing to tradition as a second rule.

    Nor is that different from what we do when we Lutherans appeal to the Nicene Creed against, say, a Mormon. We don’t believe Scripture is the sole rule, but rather the original and sole infallible rule, the one that informs and governs the others. Since it occupies this place as the ultimate font of doctrine, above the other rules, you could argue for the language “sole rule,” but in practice we’re no more likely to take issue with the Creed than we are with the book of Romans. So I think the language “sole rule and norm for faith and practice” is wrong when it comes to Patristic practice and confusing, at least, when it comes to doctrine.

    2) You are on firm ground, though, when you conclude, “none of the quotations here articulate the Roman view of the opacity of Scripture sans authoritative interpreter. On the contrary, the perspicuity of Scripture is assumed and explicitly stated.” The Fathers always argued first from Scripture, and assumed that they could prove doctrine from it. I’ve never run across a Patristic author who said, “Who knows what this verse means? It’s a good thing we have an infallible magisterium.”

    • Trent et al,

      i’d like to get back to my main point which follows somewhat from this caveat that aureliusaugutine made. i asked the clarifying question: “was the intent of this post to provide support for sola scriptura via the church fathers?”

      to which this was the reply: “Yes, it was. I accept aureliusaugustine’s caveat clarifying the Lutheran position with respect to the Fathers, their place in the Lutheran taxa, etc.

      Clarifying questions in return: do you think that all non-Roman Christians in the West have the same view of sola scriptura? If so, can you summarize your understanding of what that view is? I want to make sure that we’re working with a common definition of terms.”

      I’m going to ask that we step back and take a look at my first comment. in it i essentially said you quoted the fathers out of context because you are quoting their support for Sola Scriptura but not from locations where they actually talk about Scripture and how it’s derived. I did this explicitly with St. Cyril whose Jerusalem Catecheses you first quoted. would you agree that the quote you gave comes from a section on defending the doctrine of the Holy Spirit which is in a broader section on defending 10 doctrines? (note sola scriptura is not listed as one doctrine) Then would you also agree that the quote I provided comes later down in the same broad section defending 10 doctrines but actually talks about the Divine Scriptures?

      • Hi Cary,

        I think the answer to your first question is most emphatically “No.” I’ve written a blog post on my own site a while back comparing the Lutheran view with the Reformed (Calvinist) view. If you like, you can peruse that here.

        Lutherans, if I’ve written something there that needs to be corrected, please do so.

        • I’m confused the answer is No to this question: “would you agree that the quote you gave comes from a section on defending the doctrine of the Holy Spirit which is in a broader section on defending 10 doctrines?”

          cary

          • Hi Cary,

            No, I wasn’t responding to that. I was responding to your first question, viz. “do you think that all non-Roman Christians in the West have the same view of sola scriptura?”

            Hope that clarifies my answer.

          • Sorry about that Cary. Serves me right for jumping into the middle of the conversation without understanding fully which side was asking the questions.

          • no serves me right for not being clear. i have a common problem of jumbling my thoughts when i write them down and i’m not sure my post was as clear as it could have been!

        • it sounds like your responding to this: “do you think that all non-Roman Christians in the West have the same view of sola scriptura?”

          which is a question trent asked me (and i answered) above.

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