Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Biblical Argument For Sola Scriptura

(This article was originally posted by Nate Taylor at Reason From Scripture).

Often times Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists object to the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura on the grounds that it is not found in scripture. That is, they argue that this is a self-refuting proposition because the phrase “scripture alone” is itself not in scripture. In this blog post I plan to give a correct definition of Sola Scriptura that avoids these misunderstandings and then I intend on giving Biblical arguments for this definition of Sola Scriptura.


This is what Sola Scriptura means According to Protestant Reformed scholar Dr. W. Robert Godfrey:

“The Protestant position, and my position, is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.”

We can see by this definition that there is no contradiction here because the Bible clearly teaches this proposition in 1 Timothy 3:16:

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This verse teaches the sufficiency of scripture for faith and practice. It also seems implicit within this text that if scripture can by itself equip every person for every good action then it seems that we would have to individually understand it. This is not the only text that teaches Sola Scriptura, there are two other texts that I believe imply this doctrine.

1 Corinthians 4:6 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Paul is teaching that the Corinthians not ought to be judgmental and puff themselves with arrogant pride rather they are to be submissive to what is written and not to go beyond it. If this holds true when Paul is saying this to a church in the first century when the Holy Apostles were alive, then how much more should we follow this principle when there is no more living apostles? This is what Reformed Theologian Michael Horton has argued in his class lectures. If Paul is arguing not to go beyond what is written then it is clear that Scripture is necessary for all things pertaining to our salvation, practicing our faith and he is also presupposing in this that we can understand what is written in Holy Scripture.

Acts 17:11 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

In this text, Luke is saying that it was a noble thing that the individual believers were themselves examining the scripture to see if what Paul the Apostle had been saying was true. This shows that it is a noble task to even check the scriptures even against a Holy Apostle. If that was true then, then it would be true today when there are no more Apostles. This shows that individual believer can sufficiently understand and interpret the things in scripture because Luke says this is a noble task if they were getting everything wrong by their individual interpretations then it certainly would not be noble.

Conclusion:

Therefore, I believe to have shown two things from this post: 1) The definition of Sola Scriptura is coherent contra Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologist and 2) this definition is biblical derived.

Works Cited:

http://www.the-highway.com/Sola_Scriptura_Godfrey.html

38 comments:

David Cox said...

David

I'll start with my objections:

2 Timothy 3: 16, 17 doesn't really say anything about the sufficiency of scripture. It merely states that all scripture is profitable. That would be like me saying that all of my real estate investments are profitable and you concluding that all of my profits come from real estate.

When Paul tells the Church at Corinth not to go beyond what is written, we have to look at who the audience is. Is it the Church or is it the individual? I am not going to assert that it is an either/or situation, but a both/and. Sure, the individual must take Paul's words to heart, but the primary objective of Paul's letter(s) is pastoral. His primary audience is the Church as evidenced by the first few verses of the book. So I would conclude that Paul is instructing the Church leaders not to go beyond what is written. I don't see how that does any harm to the argument for an infallible authoritative church. If anything, the fact that Paul addresses his letter to the Church strengthens my belief in the authority of the Church. He is entrusting his teaching to the leaders.

The noble Jews who tested the scriptures to see if these things were so did so for what reason? Could it be because this gospel was so different from what they had been taught? Could it be because they were looking to see if this “new” testament was actually concealed in the old as St. Augustine teaches us? Of course they had to test the scriptures because they hadn’t heard this before. They could reject it if they found it contrary to Holy Scripture. Again, this doesn’t hurt the argument for Church authority because the dogma of the Catholic Church is nothing more than the Church’s interpretation of scripture. There is nothing in Church dogma that contradicts scripture and the converse is true as well.

Argument for infallible Church authority from Scripture:
Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
We have already agreed that Jesus established the Church on the authority of the Apostles in general and Peter specifically. You would have me believe that this authority ended when the last apostle drew his last breath. However, Jesus says that he will fulfill his promises to the “close of the age.”
Matthew 16:18, 19: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 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."
Is Jesus talking about the sanctity of each individual believer or doctrine? Peter made a proclamation of doctrine when he said that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and Jesus responds in turn. The doctrine of the Church will be protected from the powers of death. If the Catholic Church is not this Church and she has been proclaiming doctrine that isn’t of Christ, then the gates of Hell would surely have prevailed by now.
The keys that Jesus gives Peter are the same keys that the king gave to his prime minister. This prime minister had the authority of the king while the king was away. It is interesting to note that when the king returned, it was referred to as the Parousia. The keys of the Davidic kingdom were passed down, so we can conclude that the same keys given to Peter are held by Pope Benedict XVI.
John 14, 15, and 16 (I’ll spare you the entire quote). Here Christ makes many statements that imply infallibility: "I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you forever. The spirit of truth . . . he shall abide with you, and shall be in you" John 14: 16, 17 "But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you" "But when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. (John 16:13). Jesus renews these promises in Acts 1:8.
The guarantee of the Holy Spirit is not temporary; it is “forever.” It is interesting that Jesus tells the Apostles that the Holy Spirit will abide with you forever. Who is “you?” Is he not speaking of the Church that he founded on the Rock?
I Timothy 3:14-15: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” Paul explicitly states that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth-- not scripture alone, but the church.
Acts 15:28 “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” Corporate infallibility is evidenced in the Apostles decree at the Council of Jerusalem.
Teaching authority was nothing new to the Jews. Matt. 23: 1-3: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”
This corporate infallibility had nothing to do with the individuals but the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If the infallibility is independent of the individual, then it must be dependent on the office. For the Jews, the office is the seat of Moses. For the Church, the office is that of the Apostles generally; the seat of Peter specifically. The office is one that was to be passed down as evidenced by Moses’ seat being filled in the OT and Judas being replaced in the NT. Therefore, we can conclude that each of the Apostles was eventually replaced and continue to have their teaching authority guaranteed by the Holy Spirit until “the end of the age.”

I can also make an argument from the Fathers, but for the sake of space, I will limit the argument to scripture.

David Nilsen said...

"That would be like me saying that all of my real estate investments are profitable and you concluding that all of my profits come from real estate."

You're leaving out the rest of the verse. Paul says that Scripture is profitable for thoroughly equipping the Christian to accomplish every good work. As Nate said in a response to the other post, that is essentially what the Protestant means when he says "Christian piety and practice."

"If anything, the fact that Paul addresses his letter to the Church strengthens my belief in the authority of the Church. He is entrusting his teaching to the leaders."

I see no reason to think that Paul is addressing the leaders of the church rather than the whole church. And in fact, the way he makes his case would suggest that he is addressing this specific exhortation to the average lay person as well as the elders. He says "even Apollos and I do this, to set an example for you."

"Again, this doesn’t hurt the argument for Church authority because the dogma of the Catholic Church is nothing more than the Church’s interpretation of scripture. There is nothing in Church dogma that contradicts scripture and the converse is true as well."

This misses the point. It wouldn't be a problem for the Catholic church if Catholic dogma was biblical, but that begs the question. I would argue that it's not. But this isn't the issue being addressed here anyway. The point is not why the Bereans searched the Scriptures, but the fact that the author of Acts explicitly praises them and calls them noble for doing so. Perhaps I should simply ask, do you think that it is a virtue for an individual to search the Bible and decide for himself whether what the Catholic church teaches is true?

Given the length and breadth of this discussion already, I think it best that we focus on critiquing the arguments for SS before moving on to consider arguments for church authority.

David Cox said...

"You're leaving out the rest of the verse. Paul says that Scripture is profitable for thoroughly equipping the Christian to accomplish every good work. As Nate said in a response to the other post, that is essentially what the Protestant means when he says "Christian piety and practice." "

I don't think I am missing the point at all. The verse does nothing to state that scripture alone is means by which a man can be thoroughly equipped to do every good work. I agree that scripture equips man for every good work. The quesiton is whether scriputre is formally sufficient or materially sufficient. The verse does nothing for your argument in favor of formal sufficiency.

"This misses the point. It wouldn't be a problem for the Catholic church if Catholic dogma was biblical, but that begs the question. I would argue that it's not. But this isn't the issue being addressed here anyway. The point is not why the Bereans searched the Scriptures, but the fact that the author of Acts explicitly praises them and calls them noble for doing so."

I think I addressed this in the part you didn't quote.

"Perhaps I should simply ask, do you think that it is a virtue for an individual to search the Bible and decide for himself whether what the Catholic church teaches is true?"

Sure. I believe that one must base their decisions on faith and reason. However, if one comes to what they think is a contradiction, one must check to see why the Church teaches what it does.

Keep in mind that the canon was ratified by the Church. Why would the Church accept books that contradicted her teaching?
Let me ask you something: Is it possible, in your mind, that the teaching of the Catholic Church may be spot on and that you have mis interpreted all this time?

David Cox said...

Oh, and waiting to address my church infallibility argument is fine by me.

David Nilsen said...

First, let me restate the definition of SS that is currently under examination:

"all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand."

Now, notice something very important about this definition. It does not make the claim that that there are (or can be) no other sources of authoritative revelation. It does not claim, in other words, that there is no authoritative oral tradition kept in tact by the Catholic church. What it claims is that no such tradition is necessary. The Bible alone is necessary, and IF some authoritative interpretation of the Bible existed, it would NOT be necessary.

So my rejection of the Catholic Church's teaching would not be based on the principle of SS itself, but on the fact that I believe Catholic teaching to contradict the Bible (thus showing that it cannot be authoritative). Does that make sense?

"I agree that scripture equips man for every good work."

But do you agree that every individual should have the right to privately interpret the Bible? This is the sticking the point. Implicit in this verse and 1 Cor 4, and explicit in Acts 17, is the principle that every individual believer ought to read and interpret the Bible for himself.

"Sure. I believe that one must base their decisions on faith and reason. However, if one comes to what they think is a contradiction, one must check to see why the Church teaches what it does."

Sure, but this all seems to be based on the individual's right to interpret and understand the Bible (and the church's teachings) for himself. So again, do you agree with this? If so, that is not a traditional Catholic teaching and it seems that you are adopting a uniquely "Protestant" methodology to try to arrive at Catholic dogma.

"Keep in mind that the canon was ratified by the Church. Why would the Church accept books that contradicted her teaching? "

The short answer is that the Church did not always teach everything that Rome teaches today, and also that many Roman dogmas are justified by appeal to the Apocryphal books. But this is a separate and somewhat speculative issue, so I'd prefer to stay on our more narrow focus for now.

David Cox said...

With the verses that have been quoted, the best you can do is express the importance of scripture. In no way do these verses even imply that "all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand." All you have demonstrated is the following:

1. Scripture is profitable and equips man for all good works. You can't be saying that salvation is a "good work" are you?

2. We should not go beyond what is written in scripture. Agreed. The Church doesn't do that either.

3. We should test things against scripture. The Bereans were not Christians so why should they trust the authority of the Apostles? Is there any record of the Bereans testing the words of those who sat in the seat of Moses against scripture. I would think not because Jesus tells the Jews to follow their teaching. The Bereans were considered noble for testing things against scripture...are they "ordinary believers?" It doesn't seem so.

I fail to see how these three citations support this definition of SS.

Is my methodology Protestant? Of course it is, I am not a cradle Catholic. I used to be protestant. At the time, that was the only methodology I had. Now as I begin to understand what the Church actually teaches, what the early church believed and gain a better understanding of scripture, it only strengthens my belief that the Whole of Divine Revelation is in the Church.

As for your last statement, it is so speculative, you probably should have left it out. (How do you know that the Church hasn't always taught what it does today? Certain dogmas had no need to be defined because there was no controversy.)

David Nilsen said...

David,

You did not answer my question. Do you believe that every individual believer not only has the right to read and attempt to interpret Scripture himself but that he ought to?

And as a follow-up to that, do you believe that every individual has the ability to interpret Scripture without the aid of a Magesterium or Councils?

"1. Scripture is profitable and equips man for all good works. You can't be saying that salvation is a "good work" are you?"

We're not talking about salvation, we're talking about the piety and practice of the church post-regeneration. And yes, that would be my definition of "every good work."

"2. We should not go beyond what is written in scripture. Agreed. The Church doesn't do that either."

Again, the point is that if we are not to go beyond the written Scriptures, then the authoritative tradition of the church (even if it IS infallible and everything you claim it to be) is not strictly necessary for salvation, piety and practice. Do you grant this as well?

"3. We should test things against scripture. The Bereans were not Christians so why should they trust the authority of the Apostles? Is there any record of the Bereans testing the words of those who sat in the seat of Moses against scripture. I would think not because Jesus tells the Jews to follow their teaching. The Bereans were considered noble for testing things against scripture...are they "ordinary believers?" It doesn't seem so."

See my first question above. I need to know your answer to that before any more headway can be made with this verse. I will say, however, that I see no reason to think that the Bereans were NOT "ordinary believers" in the sense that they were probably regenerate.

And in any case, are you suggesting that ONLY non-Christians should check the church's teachings against Scripture and then once they're in they have to stop?

"As for your last statement, it is so speculative, you probably should have left it out. (How do you know that the Church hasn't always taught what it does today? Certain dogmas had no need to be defined because there was no controversy.)"

When I said "speculative" I was referring to your original question, since you were essentially asking me to figure out the motivations of the people responsible for setting the canon, which I can't possible know. But there is nothing speculative about the fact that the early church did not hold to the Papacy the way Rome does today, and the "they didn't need to talk about it because it wasn't controversial" argument doesn't work, since the Fathers wrote about many things that weren't really controversial (they had catechetical schools as well). But as I say, this is off-topic and we'll never get anywhere if we follow too many tangents.

David Cox said...

"You did not answer my question. Do you believe that every individual believer not only has the right to read and attempt to interpret Scripture himself but that he ought to?"

Yes.

"And as a follow-up to that, do you believe that every individual has the ability to interpret Scripture without the aid of a Magesterium or Councils?"

Yes and no. Some things are plain, as you have said. Some aren't. For those that aren't we need the aid of a teaching authority. Having the Magisterium to guide biblical studies is like having the laws of physics and math guide an experiment. There are many things that the Church hasn't spoken on. For example, Pope Benedicts book "Jesus of Nazareth" is not an ex cathedra teaching. It is Joseph Ratzinger's personal search for the face of Jesus Christ. Are his conclusions plausible? Absolutely, you will be hard pressed to find a finer biblical theologian/scholar in our lifetime.

"We're not talking about salvation, we're talking about the piety and practice of the church post-regeneration. And yes, that would be my definition of "every good work." "

Yes we are talking about salvation! Your definition of SS demands it.


"Again, the point is that if we are not to go beyond the written Scriptures, then the authoritative tradition of the church (even if it IS infallible and everything you claim it to be) is not strictly necessary for salvation, piety and practice. Do you grant this as well?"

Are you asking me if one can be saved outside of the Church? If so, the answer is yes.

Let me turn the questions to you now. You have stated that you rely on "extra biblical" resources. Why would you need these resources if the bible is such an easy thing to interpret in the areas of faith and morals? If these things are so "clear" so that the "ordinary believer can find it there and understand", then why are there so many different denominations? Why have there been so many splits over important doctrinal issues?

David Cox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Nilsen said...

"Yes and no. Some things are plain, as you have said. Some aren't."

Which things are plain? Are all the things that are necessary for a person to believe in order to be saved plain? If not, what would be a few examples of some doctrines that are necessary for salvation that are not clear in Scripture?

"Yes we are talking about salvation! Your definition of SS demands it."

The definition of SS says that all doctrines necessary for salvation are clear and contained in the Bible, yes. But right now the only argument that I am making from 2 Timothy 3 is that it teaches that Scripture is sufficient for regulating Christian piety and practice. And it is that point that you have yet to respond to.

"You have stated that you rely on "extra biblical" resources. Why would you need these resources if the bible is such an easy thing to interpret in the areas of faith and morals?"

I'm not sure what you're referring to. I have said that I must use my reason as a tool and that I do not totally reject all tradition as a helpful guide for interpreting the Bible (mostly the unclear passages), but I have not said that any extra-biblical resources are necessary to interpret the Bible.

David Cox said...

"Which things are plain? Are all the things that are necessary for a person to believe in order to be saved plain? If not, what would be a few examples of some doctrines that are necessary for salvation that are not clear in Scripture?"

"Thou shalt not kill" is pretty plain. I would say that regenerative baptism is plainly stated and necessary for salvation. However, you may disagree that salvation is necessary which leads me to ask: Is it really clear? Jesus saying that unless one eats his body, he has no life in him is pretty clear. But there is still disagreement on whether or not Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. When deciding on whether or not baptism is necessary or whether or not Jesus is truly present (body, blood, soul and divinity) we have to go to the early church to see how they believed (tradition).

What is your definition of those doctrines that are necessary for salvation?

"The definition of SS says that all doctrines necessary for salvation are clear and contained in the Bible, yes. But right now the only argument that I am making from 2 Timothy 3 is that it teaches that Scripture is sufficient for regulating Christian piety and practice. And it is that point that you have yet to respond to."

Materially sufficient, yes. Formally sufficient, no.

"I'm not sure what you're referring to. I have said that I must use my reason as a tool and that I do not totally reject all tradition as a helpful guide for interpreting the Bible (mostly the unclear passages), but I have not said that any extra-biblical resources are necessary to interpret the Bible."

If they aren't necessary, then what makes them helpful? If a passage is unclear, what makes it clear? If your reason can't do it what can?

David Nilsen said...

Let's just go with all those doctrines that you would say are necessary for salvation (regenerative baptism, etc). Do you think that all those doctrines are clear enough in Scripture that an individual could understand them simply by reading the Bible, without an authoritative interpretation?

"Materially sufficient, yes. Formally sufficient, no."

Would you explain, in as much detail as you can, what exactly you mean by this distinction?

"If they aren't necessary, then what makes them helpful? If a passage is unclear, what makes it clear? If your reason can't do it what can?"

My statements are getting confused, I think. What I mean is that all those passages that are clear do not require any extra aid to be understood by the average person. As you say, "thou shalt not kill" is pretty clear, and doesn't require any outside source to be interpreted correctly. But simply because something is not necessary, that doesn't mean it can't be helpful. Surely you would agree. You don't need someone to do your taxes for you, but it would be helpful if someone did. And of course you would still want to check to make sure that that person did your taxes correctly. In the same way, I'm only suggesting that looking at the history of theology and exegesis can be a good starting point for someone, and that in many cases it is better to favor older interpretations of the Bible over newer ones. Creeds are a perfect example. The creeds accurately summarize what is taught in the Bible, and so are a helpful guide. But that doesn't mean that one couldn't understand what the Bible says and come to believe all 12 points of the Apostles' Creed by simply reading the NT, without ever having seen the Apostles' Creed itself. Does that make sense?

David Cox said...

"Do you think that all those doctrines are clear enough in Scripture that an individual could understand them simply by reading the Bible, without an authoritative interpretation?"

Yes. However, there needs to be a final authority when there is a dispute. Scripture doesn't interpret itself as evidenced by the disagreement on things like baptism.

"Would you explain, in as much detail as you can, what exactly you mean by this distinction?"

Let's suppose you want to build a brick house and you have a pile of bricks large enough to build it. This would be material sufficiency. Now in order to build the house you need a trowel and mortar. The bricks would be the scriptures, the mortar is sacred tradition and the trowel is the magisterium. When you put them all together you actually get a house.

That is how I see scripture. The information is there, it just needs to be put together correctly in order to see the entire picture. The magisterium doesn't use any material other than the bricks of scripture held together with the mortar of tradition in order to build the Household of God.

I do understand what you mean when you say that something can be useful without being necessary. However, that doesn't help us when it comes to things like baptism because if it truly is necessary for salvation, there are many "reasonable" people who have it all wrong.

MG said...

David--

You wrote that:

"But do you agree that every individual should have the right to privately interpret the Bible? This is the sticking the point. Implicit in this verse and 1 Cor 4, and explicit in Acts 17, is the principle that every individual believer ought to read and interpret the Bible for himself."

Who is the man of God in 2 Timothy 3:16?

David Nilsen said...

David C,

"The information is there, it just needs to be put together correctly in order to see the entire picture."

Now I'm slightly confused. You have said that all teachings necessary for salvation are clear in Scripture, that each individual has the right to interpret Scripture for himself, and that, at least when it comes to the clear teachings, those individuals are perfectly capable of correctly interpreting what the Bible says. So it what sense does the information "need" to be put together by the magesterium? Are you referring only to the unclear parts of Scripture?

"I do understand what you mean when you say that something can be useful without being necessary. However, that doesn't help us when it comes to things like baptism because if it truly is necessary for salvation, there are many "reasonable" people who have it all wrong."

Actually, I would say that baptism is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Baptists (and other similar denominations) claim not to use any traditions but the Bible. But I believe that our doctrine of baptism ought to be informed by tradition in this case. The correct doctrine of baptism can be argued just fine from the Bible alone, but I think that an appeal to church history helps to make the case for infant baptism almost totally conclusive. Thus it is not necessary, but very helpful.

David Nilsen said...

MG,

Every Christian.

David Cox said...

David
I just went through some of your previous comment and I think I am clear as to where you are going. If you are asking me if an individual has the ability to search the scriptures himself and deduce correct doctrine, then the answer is yes. I suppose in this case, an infallible teaching authority is not technically "necessary."

The definition of SS we are working from is very specific. I am still not sure how one can arrive at this definition from Scripture and/or tradition.

When I say that the Church is necessary, I don't mean that without the church, I cannot know truth. However, the fullness of divine revelation has been entrusted to the Church. Jesus left us with a Church, not a Bible. The Bible came out of the Church, not vice versa.

Where the Church becomes absolutely necessary is in explicitly defining dogma. Without the final authority, there will never be the unity that Christ wants. There is one Faith, one Baptism, one Body, etc. Without the authority of the Church, there would never have been heresy condemned. The heretics used (and still do use) scripture as well.

So the question we now have to answer is this: Did Jesus intend for Christians to interpret scripture privately or did he entrust the Church with infallible teaching authority?

MG said...

David--

You wrote:

"Every Christian."

This seems questionable. Why think that?

David Nilsen said...

MG,

Given what appears to be the general purpose of the letter and the context of the verse I see no reason to think that it isn't. What reason do you have for thinking that it is "questionable"?

MG said...

David--

You wrote:

"Given what appears to be the general purpose of the letter and the context of the verse I see no reason to think that it isn't. What reason do you have for thinking that it is "questionable"?"

1. Who, in the context of the letter as a whole and the preceding and proceeding sections that this statement is a part of, do you think this statement is being applied to? It seems to me like Timothy is the recipient of the letter, the one receiving instruction, and given verse 14 and the subsequent instructions, the only plausible referent in context.

2. Given the way the phrase "man of God" is used in every instance in both Testaments, there seems to be an enormous presumption in favor of the man of God not being a layperson. "Man of God" always means either a prophet, a priest, or a king in the OT. It never means a layperson. Etymology is not always determinative of meaning, but there's no reason to think that contemporary use of "man of God" would change its meaning from the OT background (and many Protestant arguments for interpretations of specific words in the NT depend on the OT entirely, because the contemporary contextual evidence would render them bunk if accepted).

3. The only other use of "man of God" in the entire New Testament applies the title to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11) who has Apostolic authority by ordination from Paul.

If Timothy is the referent of "man of God", how can this be a verse that teaches that laymen have the power to interpret the Bible on their own apart from the authority of the Church? Do you think Timothy was a layman?

Catz206 said...

Hey MG,

Howz that canon argument coming along? Anyway, I hope the following will be helpful to this discussion:

David N: "Given what appears to be the general purpose of the letter and the context of the verse I see no reason to think that it isn't. What reason do you have for thinking that it is "questionable"?"

Your Counter points and responses:
1.…“It seems to me like Timothy is the recipient of the letter, the one receiving instruction, and given verse 14 and the subsequent instructions, the only plausible referent in context.”

1)These letters were made to be circulated (one major reason we have the letter now) and read out loud. 2) vv. 1-7 are general vv.8-9 are specific examples of the general in the last days vv.10-11 talk about Timothy specifically in contrast. Vv.12-13 speak of ALL men. Vv. 14-15 speak of Timothy from childhood gaining wisdom leading to salvation from the Scriptures. Vv. 16-17 is generalized as “the man” is spoken of instead of “you” found in all of the other specific instances. To say Timothy is “the only plausible referent in context” is mistaken.

“Given the way the phrase "man of God" is used in every instance in both Testaments, there seems to be an enormous presumption in favor of the man of God not being a layperson.”

Word studies only go so far. Context is the most key.

“"Man of God" always means either a prophet, a priest, or a king in the OT. It never means a layperson.”

The OT looked ahead to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the layperson. What may have before only applied to a select few are more widely spread in the NT. Take your priest example. There is now a concept of the priesthood of all believers (access having access to God). This can be seen in 1 Peter 2:4-10. Our priesthood and standing before God is based on the ultimate mediator and high priest (we had shadows in the OT) Jesus Christ. In sum: your examples that used to be limited in the OT may now be extended in the NT.

“The only other use of "man of God" in the entire New Testament applies the title to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11) who has Apostolic authority by ordination from Paul.”

I don’t know that this is a formal title. If it is, this may help your case (though not complete in itself). Still, you will still have to contend with the effects of the Spirit being poured out onto all believers.

Catz206 said...

"Vv. 16-17 is generalized as “the man” is spoken of instead of “you” found in all of the other specific instances."

*Within this letter*

MG said...

Catz—

You wrote:

“Howz that canon argument coming along?

Its going to take a lot longer than I thought.

You wrote:

“1)These letters were made to be circulated (one major reason we have the letter now) and read out loud. 2) vv. 1-7 are general vv.8-9 are specific examples of the general in the last days vv.10-11 talk about Timothy specifically in contrast. Vv.12-13 speak of ALL men. Vv. 14-15 speak of Timothy from childhood gaining wisdom leading to salvation from the Scriptures. Vv. 16-17 is generalized as “the man” is spoken of instead of “you” found in all of the other specific instances. To say Timothy is “the only plausible referent in context” is mistaken.”

What do you mean 1-7 are general? How is this contrasted with verses 10-11? Having a general topic of conversation is different from directly addressing a general audience.

The same can be said about 12-13. They are not statements directly to all men, even if they make statements about all men.

It seems like the verses immediately following apply 16-17 to Timothy. The doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction abilities that the man of God has are assumed to be predicated of Timothy. He is instructed to preach (which involves doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction). He is to convince, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching (again, sounds like doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction are being applied to Timothy). Timothy is told to watch out for the false teachers that they will produce, in contrast to his teaching ministry, which again implies a distinction of teacher-learner. Paul commands watchfulness (summarizing the section) and says that Timothy must endure afflictions, and do the work of an evangelist, fulfilling his ministry. Like the reference to contrasting teachers, this emphasizes Timothy's unique ministry—he is distinguished from the people at large as an evangelist. This hearkens back to his ordination by Paul, and his Apostolic authority—concepts introduced in the earlier letter, and earlier in this letter.

You wrote:

“Word studies only go so far. Context is the most key.”

Sure, but if a phrase is always used in one way, this seems to create a significant burden of proof to show that context positively overrides the normal use of a phrase. It seems we need positive evidence from within the text to think that this phrase is more likely to mean something different than it does *in every other case* if we are to accept that it has a very different meaning. Are there any reasons to think “man of God” more plausibly means something very different here?

You wrote:

“The OT looked ahead to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the layperson. What may have before only applied to a select few are more widely spread in the NT. Take your priest example. There is now a concept of the priesthood of all believers (access having access to God). This can be seen in 1 Peter 2:4-10. Our priesthood and standing before God is based on the ultimate mediator and high priest (we had shadows in the OT) Jesus Christ. In sum: your examples that used to be limited in the OT may now be extended in the NT.”

True, the OT anticipates the reception of the Holy Spirit by laity. But this doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit is not poured out in different ways upon different people in the NT, of course. Not all are prophets in the NT, right? And Timothy seems to have a more prophet/elder type role than the layperson. This goes back to the unique spiritual gifts of the Apostolate, including the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-23) which were transmitted to Timothy.

Also, there was a priesthood of all believers in the Old Testament. So the fact that there is one in the New Testament does not imply that we should expect the range of phrases like “man of God” to change. Nor does it in any way imply that there is no ministerial priesthood in the New Testament.

You wrote:

“I don’t know that this is a formal title. If it is, this may help your case (though not complete in itself). Still, you will still have to contend with the effects of the Spirit being poured out onto all believers.”

It seems most plausible that this in fact is a formal title, given its use everywhere else, and its connection with a role that is specifically applied to Timothy in connection with his ministry as “evangelist”. So I still think that the exegetical argument given has significant weight—at least as much weight as the average exegetical argument given by a Protestant scholar.

David Nilsen said...

David C,

Well, at this point I'm not sure what to say. You have essentially granted that the definition of SS given in this post is true, which is at odds with the official teaching of the Catholic church. However I know several Catholics who personally hold to SS in the sense under discussion, but who still maintain the authority of the Roman Magesterium as you do. That being the case, the only place we can really go from here is to show that Scripture either confirms or denies that the Roman Magesterium is in fact an authoritative body.

To that end, I'd be very interested to hear your responses to the questions I asked you in our last discussion thread, before we moved here. https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2109883109617013273&postID=631039885253787955

Thanks!

Catz206 said...

I will clarify my words and Nilson will finish this up.

The contrast is between those who are not men of God and Timothy who is. However, it is wrong to limit godliness to Timothy. Vv. 12-13 has broader implications "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." Interestingly, v.5 says of the wicked people that they have "a form of godliness" but deny its power. From context it would seem that those living godly lives could rightly be called godly men.

After the repeated contrast (sharp differences) in v.12 btw everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus and those deceiving and being deceiced (general and not specific to Timothy), Timothy is encouraged to continue in what he has learned from the Scriptures in infancy and then and the purpose of the Scriptures are given. In sum: The context does not only confine you to Timothy. It seems as though you assume he has a function that is still yet to be seen.

"Having a general topic of conversation is different from directly addressing a general audience."

see my first point.

"The same can be said about 12-13. They are not statements directly to all men, even if they make statements about all men."

All men who wish to lead godly lives (not specific to Timothy). Also, take it with v.5 where the wicked people have a form of godliness but deny its power. Again, it seems you are opporating on preconceived notions of how Timothy functioned that Protestants might disagree with.

"It seems like the verses immediately following apply 16-17 to Timothy."

I believe Nilson arrives at his conclusion (and I agree) from a proper generalization of the principle evident within this text (as has been discussed in part) and elsewhere. If I were to apply your application rigidly, I might not be able to apply anything in the epistles or other various books beyond the specific ancient audience they were addressed to.

anyway, I'll let you two work it out now

David Cox said...

David
Can you explain to me how anything I have said contradicts the teaching of the Church?

I would be glad to answer any questions that you have asked, but would you mind re-stating them? I checked the previous thread and I don't see any questions that I left unanswered.

David Nilsen said...

David C,

From the end of our last discussion:

"2. There is biblical precedence for submitting to the teaching authority. (Jesus tells the Jews to follow the teaching of those who sit in the seat of Moses.)"

Now this is closer to an actual argument. Would you flush this out? What passage specifically are you citing? How do you think it relates to the church?

"3. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the authors of scripture can also keep those entrusted to teach it from error."

Surely He CAN, but what reason have you to think that He DOES?

"5. The apostles set up a church with heirarchy and succession."

Hierarchy, yes, but not an "episcopal" form. It seems perfectly clear that Paul uses "bishop" and "elder" interchangeably, and the "One Bishop" system did not develop until well into the 2nd century (primarily as a response to growing heresy).

MG said...

Catz—

You wrote:

“The contrast is between those who are not men of God and Timothy who is. However, it is wrong to limit godliness to Timothy. Vv. 12-13 has broader implications "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." Interestingly, v.5 says of the wicked people that they have "a form of godliness" but deny its power. From context it would seem that those living godly lives could rightly be called godly men.”

I don't see any contrast between “not men of God” and Timothy. I see a contrast between “ungodly men” (the impious) and “godly men” (the pious). But the question is can a pious man be called “man of God”? Given the universal use of this word elsewhere, as a title for people with special divine commission to ministry, there is a presumption in favor of saying that 3:16-17 applies to people to whom this title can be given. The title “man of God” does not just mean “pious person” in any other context, and there is no overriding reason to think it means anything different here. The proceeding context also implies that it is being applied to Timothy as a leader, distinctly from laity. And given the background information about Timothy's ordination and Apostolic authority, it makes sense that the title man of God would be applied to him as distinct from laity, for there is a conceptual link between Old Testament understandings of ministry and those ordained to have Apostolic authority.

You wrote:

“The context does not only confine you to Timothy. It seems as though you assume he has a function that is still yet to be seen.”

Is Timothy a layman? Does he have any abilities that a layman doesn't have?

You wrote:

“All men who wish to lead godly lives (not specific to Timothy). Also, take it with v.5 where the wicked people have a form of godliness but deny its power. Again, it seems you are opporating on preconceived notions of how Timothy functioned that Protestants might disagree with. “

I don't see any evidence that the statements in 3:1-13 are *addressed directly* to all men who want to live godly lives. What you have given seems to only be evidence that they are applicable to them. Paul is talking to Timothy, and Timothy may apply these statements to others and use Paul's descriptions of them in a sermon for instance; but Paul is not in any way obvously talking to people other than Timothy.

You wrote:

“I believe Nilson arrives at his conclusion (and I agree) from a proper generalization of the principle evident within this text (as has been discussed in part) and elsewhere. If I were to apply your application rigidly, I might not be able to apply anything in the epistles or other various books beyond the specific ancient audience they were addressed to.”

It seems like the proper way to apply the text is to Church leaders. Only if “man of God” can be plausibly taken to apply to laity should we generalize 3:16-17 to laity.

The most obvious leaders to apply it to would be people who share Timothy's role or office. It would only follow that this can't be applied today if there is no one around today who can serve the role of a Timothy in the Church.

Is there anyone around today that can have the role and powers of Timothy?

MG said...

David--

you wrote:

"Hierarchy, yes, but not an "episcopal" form. It seems perfectly clear that Paul uses "bishop" and "elder" interchangeably, and the "One Bishop" system did not develop until well into the 2nd century (primarily as a response to growing heresy)."

If what you are saying is true, then every presbyteros is an episcopos in New Testament terminology. But this is false, because there are some people that cannot be ranked as episcopos in Scripture but can be called presbyteros.

Why think that the monarchical episcopate developed late like you claim? It seems to me that all early Christian sources that talk about the tiers of ministry teach that there are *3* of them.

David Nilsen said...

MG,

"I don't see any contrast between “not men of God” and Timothy."

Well, in verse 9 he's talking about the ungodly men, and then in verse 10 he says, "You, however..." That seems like a pretty clear contrast between them and Timothy.

Now, I'm actually willing to grant the possibility that "Man of God" is meant to refer specifically to Timothy in his office. But I don't think that defeats the case being made in the original post.

For starters, when Paul says that the Scriptures "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" is he implying that only people holding an office like Timothy's can become wise and be saved by reading the Scriptures?

Secondly, your response to Allison about the priesthood of all believers doesn't work in a Protestant framework, as we would reject your understanding of that priesthood.

Thirdly, Protestants would also have a different understanding of what a church office (such as elder) entails, so there's no sense for us in which an elder in the church is equipped to understand or interpret the Bible in a way that the average person is not.

David Cox said...

David
I think I answered your questions in my first comment in this thread. Here it is:

Argument for infallible Church authority from Scripture:
Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
We have already agreed that Jesus established the Church on the authority of the Apostles in general and Peter specifically. You would have me believe that this authority ended when the last apostle drew his last breath. However, Jesus says that he will fulfill his promises to the “close of the age.”
Matthew 16:18, 19: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 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."
Is Jesus talking about the sanctity of each individual believer or doctrine? Peter made a proclamation of doctrine when he said that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and Jesus responds in turn. The doctrine of the Church will be protected from the powers of death. If the Catholic Church is not this Church and she has been proclaiming doctrine that isn’t of Christ, then the gates of Hell would surely have prevailed by now.
The keys that Jesus gives Peter are the same keys that the king gave to his prime minister. This prime minister had the authority of the king while the king was away. It is interesting to note that when the king returned, it was referred to as the Parousia. The keys of the Davidic kingdom were passed down, so we can conclude that the same keys given to Peter are held by Pope Benedict XVI.
John 14, 15, and 16 (I’ll spare you the entire quote). Here Christ makes many statements that imply infallibility: "I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you forever. The spirit of truth . . . he shall abide with you, and shall be in you" John 14: 16, 17 "But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you" "But when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. (John 16:13). Jesus renews these promises in Acts 1:8.
The guarantee of the Holy Spirit is not temporary; it is “forever.” It is interesting that Jesus tells the Apostles that the Holy Spirit will abide with you forever. Who is “you?” Is he not speaking of the Church that he founded on the Rock?
I Timothy 3:14-15: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” Paul explicitly states that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth-- not scripture alone, but the church.
Acts 15:28 “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” Corporate infallibility is evidenced in the Apostles decree at the Council of Jerusalem.
Teaching authority was nothing new to the Jews. Matt. 23: 1-3: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”
This corporate infallibility had nothing to do with the individuals but the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If the infallibility is independent of the individual, then it must be dependent on the office. For the Jews, the office is the seat of Moses. For the Church, the office is that of the Apostles generally; the seat of Peter specifically. The office is one that was to be passed down as evidenced by Moses’ seat being filled in the OT and Judas being replaced in the NT. Therefore, we can conclude that each of the Apostles was eventually replaced and continue to have their teaching authority guaranteed by the Holy Spirit until “the end of the age.”

I would still like you to explain how I have contradicted Church teaching.

MG said...

David--

You wrote:

“Well, in verse 9 he's talking about the ungodly men, and then in verse 10 he says, "You, however..." That seems like a pretty clear contrast between them and Timothy.”

He doesn’t say “not men of God” or “those that are not men of God”; he says “the ungodly”, which seems like a different concept. We need evidence that “godly” (=pious) and “man of God” are the same thing if we are going to see a contrast between “ungodly” and “man of God”. It seems like you would have to appeal to the *use* of the words “godly” and “ungodly” in other passages to determine its meaning here, and this would bring in considerations about usage of terms which would seem to lend support to the idea that the usage of “man of God” elsewhere should be determinative of its meaning here.

Also, “godly” is not the equivalent of “man of God” in 1 Timothy 6:11. Piety and being “a man of God” are not the same, which again seems to support my understanding of the use of the title “man of God”.

You wrote:

“Now, I'm actually willing to grant the possibility that "Man of God" is meant to refer specifically to Timothy in his office. But I don't think that defeats the case being made in the original post.”

Even if it doesn’t defeat the case (which I think it does; see below for a defense against your objections) it does seem to undercut it, right? If its equally plausible to say that Timothy and people who occupy his office are the unique referents of “Man of God” as to say that the title refers to any Christian, then doesn’t that seem to undercut the positive claim “I have argued that this verse applies to all Christians”? Granted I wouldn’t have a positive argument from this verse that persuades you; but that’s better than there being an argument against my view.

You wrote:

“For starters, when Paul says that the Scriptures "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" is he implying that only people holding an office like Timothy's can become wise and be saved by reading the Scriptures?”

Even if Timothy is the only person to whom this applies in the context, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that in some sense the Scriptures make laity wise to salvation. If there is evidence that this is true of laity, then it seems the point is moot.

Notice that he says “from your youth”. He’s talking about Timothy’s pre-man of God days, before his ordination, in verse 15. Saying “back when you were a tike you learned the Scriptures that saved you and made you wise” implies “back when you were a layman”. So verse 15 is not relevant to assessing the question of whether or not the skills *in verse 16* can be applied to laity, because the situations in verse 15 and verses 16-17 are different. After all, pre and post ordination are strongly disanalogous.

Its important also to consider what is being predicated of the man of God in relation to Scripture. Its not salvation per se (at least not as Protestants understand it), but rather doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. These preaching abilities are not equivalent to salvation in Protestantism which is by faith alone—not by doctrinal ability, skill in reproving, skill in correcting, or skill in teaching others in how to be righteous. So even if the Scriptures can make laity wise unto salvation (which is taught elsewhere in some sense), does this mean that laity have the power to reprove and correct etc.? We would need some kind of positive evidence for this. But its hard to see where we would find evidence that laity ever rebuked or enforced correction on each other, etc.—much less on Apostles or presbyter-bishops or deacons.

So Paul is saying that from Timothy’s youth his contact with Scripture has helped him to become wise unto salvation. So when Timothy was a layman in his youth, hearing Scripture (or perhaps reading it if he was really lucky—but this seems questionable) helped make him wise unto salvation. But this is surely before Timothy became a man of God. The charge that Paul lays in the next chapter to Timothy specifically as Evangelist, the universal use of the title “man of God”, and the fact that Paul is predicating abilities other than just salvation in the last two verses of chapter 3, seems to fit best with saying that verses 16 and 17 are applicable to Timothy uniquely, unless there’s overriding reason to think these abilities can be applied to laity. It seems like these verses are affirming exactly what Catholic Christians want to say: laity can benefit from Scripture unto wisdom and salvation, but clergy have the skills of doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness.

You wrote:

“Secondly, your response to Allison about the priesthood of all believers doesn't work in a Protestant framework, as we would reject your understanding of that priesthood.”

What do you mean? I was pointing out that there was a priesthood of all believers in the OT (when there was clearly a ministerial priesthood, and “man of God” applied to folks like prophets and kings), so the fact that there is a universal priesthood in the NT doesn’t imply that we should expect there to be a change in who the title “man of God” can be applied to; nor does the fact that there is a priesthood of all believers in the NT imply the nonexistence of a ministerial priesthood in the NT. What about this argument depends on assuming the falsity of a Protestant framework?

You wrote:

“Thirdly, Protestants would also have a different understanding of what a church office (such as elder) entails, so there's no sense for us in which an elder in the church is equipped to understand or interpret the Bible in a way that the average person is not.”

What relevant differences mitigate the force of my argument?

Might these verses be an argument that non-laity are better-equipped?

Also, I am not assuming the continuation of a tri-fold ministry after the Apostolic age; nor am I assuming Apostolic succession. All I am assuming is that Timothy is not a layman, and that seems clearly true.

David Nilsen said...

MG,

"He’s talking about Timothy’s pre-man of God days, before his ordination, in verse 15. Saying “back when you were a tike you learned the Scriptures that saved you and made you wise” implies “back when you were a layman”."

Actually no, he says that Timothy had been acquainted with the Scriptures from his youth (implying that he is still acquainted with them NOW) and then goes on to say OF THE SCRIPTURES that they are able (in the here and now) to make him wise unto salvation. So there's no temporal distinction between what the Scriptures are said to be able to do for Timothy in verse 15 and what they are said to be able to do for him in verse 16.

Building on that, then, it seems that what is said in verse 16 is meant as a kind of detailed elaboration of what is said at the end of verse 15. The Scriptures "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." How and why? Because they are God-breathed and good for teaching, correcting, etc. So I see no reason why verse 15 should be universally applied in principle but not 16.

Moreover, I would simply ask you: Do you believe that a lay person can teach other lay people from the Scriptures? Do you believe that a lay person can correct or rebuke his brother?

Tell me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that you would say yes. However, I assume you would qualify that answer by pointing out that when the lay person teaches or rebukes other lay people he does not have the same intrinsic authority as do bishops and councils.

But a Protestant would reject any distinction in intrinsic authority between laity and those in church office. So whatever is said to be true of the Bible's intrinsic usefulness for teaching, correcting, etc., for an elder in the church would be equally true (qua the Bible) for a lay person (of course I would agree that the Bible clearly teaches that some are gifted to teach and others aren't, but that says nothing about anyone's intrinsic ability to understand the Bible and employ it in daily life).

MG said...

David—

You wrote:

“Actually no, he says that Timothy had been acquainted with the Scriptures from his youth (implying that he is still acquainted with them NOW) and then goes on to say OF THE SCRIPTURES that they are able (in the here and now) to make him wise unto salvation. So there's no temporal distinction between what the Scriptures are said to be able to do for Timothy in verse 15 and what they are said to be able to do for him in verse 16.

Building on that, then, it seems that what is said in verse 16 is meant as a kind of detailed elaboration of what is said at the end of verse 15. The Scriptures "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." How and why? Because they are God-breathed and good for teaching, correcting, etc. So I see no reason why verse 15 should be universally applied in principle but not 16.”

Do you think that Timothy still needed salvation at the time Paul was writing to him? If not, why does he say “able to make you wise unto salvation”? Is he not applying this to Timothy’s past, even if it is put in present tense?

And would you say that “teaching, correcting, etc.” were something that Timothy was able to do when he was a child? Surely that isn’t what God was helping him to do from his youth. If not, then it seems you would agree that these verses have some degree of temporal distinction in mind.

Also, this still doesn’t take into account the other considerations I brought up:

The salvation described in verse 15 doesn’t seem to be elaborated in verse 16. Rather, verse 15 seems to have a different kind of content that is presupposed by verse 16 (you have to be wise unto salvation in order to teach, etc.) and elaborated in the next chapter.

Even if Timothy as a unique Man of God is the only person to whom this applies in the context, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that in some sense the Scriptures make laity wise to salvation. If there is evidence that this is true of laity, then it seems the point is moot. But there’s no evidence that has been presented thus far that passages which clearly talk about laity ever predicate the kinds of things of laity that are predicated of Timothy.

The “Man of God” is different from a “godly man”. So there's no reason to think that any of the wide-scoped "godly man" stuff earlier in the chapter implies that "Man of God" has a wider scope of application than Timothy (and whoever else is a Man of God). Thus there’s no reason to think that the phrase “Man of God” is anything other than a title applied only to Timothy here.

You wrote:

“Moreover, I would simply ask you: Do you believe that a lay person can teach other lay people from the Scriptures? Do you believe that a lay person can correct or rebuke his brother?

Tell me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that you would say yes. However, I assume you would qualify that answer by pointing out that when the lay person teaches or rebukes other lay people he does not have the same intrinsic authority as do bishops and councils.”

Properly speaking, only clergy and councils teach. What laity do is analogous to it, and you can use the same word if you want. But it would technically be more accurate to say that laity can (1) repeat what’s been said, and (2) argue about how to interpret it. That's not the same sense in which Jesus was a teacher.

You wrote:

“But a Protestant would reject any distinction in intrinsic authority between laity and those in church office. So whatever is said to be true of the Bible's intrinsic usefulness for teaching, correcting, etc., for an elder in the church would be equally true (qua the Bible) for a lay person (of course I would agree that the Bible clearly teaches that some are gifted to teach and others aren't, but that says nothing about anyone's intrinsic ability to understand the Bible and employ it in daily life).”

Can’t the same be said of an atheist? It seems he or she has those abilities in some sense too. There has to be something more that Paul is getting at than the ability to regurgitate what the Bible is saying, or to draw doctrinal inferences from it in an accurate manner.

Also, it would be interesting to see how you would engage with my arguments that the Church is intrinsically authoritative back in my post “Accuracy, Authority, and the Visibility of the Church”.

David Nilsen said...

MG,

It may be that you're trying to make this passage too much about Timothy when I think the main focus is on Scripture itself. Do the Scriptures cease to be capable of making people wise unto salvation simply because Timothy is now saved? Of course not.

"And would you say that “teaching, correcting, etc.” were something that Timothy was able to do when he was a child? Surely that isn’t what God was helping him to do from his youth. If not, then it seems you would agree that these verses have some degree of temporal distinction in mind."

My point is that there is no focus on Timothy's past in this passage in the first place. Paul is talking about Scripture as it is in the present. The fact that Timothy knew the Scriptures from his youth doesn't seem to have any bearing on their ability to make people wise unto salvation, their usefulness for teaching and correcting, etc.

"Rather, verse 15 seems to have a different kind of content that is presupposed by verse 16 (you have to be wise unto salvation in order to teach, etc.) and elaborated in the next chapter."

Again, the focus of the passage is Scripture, not Timothy. Nowhere is it implied, that I can see, that Paul is saying "you have to be wise unto salvation in order to teach." These are two different statements about the inherent qualities of Scripture, not the qualities of any people.

"Even if Timothy as a unique Man of God is the only person to whom this applies in the context, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that in some sense the Scriptures make laity wise to salvation. If there is evidence that this is true of laity, then it seems the point is moot. But there’s no evidence that has been presented thus far that passages which clearly talk about laity ever predicate the kinds of things of laity that are predicated of Timothy."

Well, (a) if we have reason from other parts in Scripture to believe that verse 15 should apply to all believers, then I see no reason why verse 16 shouldn't as well, given what I've been saying about the close connection between these verses and that the focus is on the inherent qualities of Scripture and not the qualifications of certain people. (b) I think Matthew 18 establishes that the laity are called to correct and reprove erring brothers before the matter is brought to any official church authorities.

"So there's no reason to think that any of the wide-scoped "godly man" stuff earlier in the chapter implies that "Man of God" has a wider scope of application than Timothy (and whoever else is a Man of God)."

I don't think I made this argument.

"But it would technically be more accurate to say that laity can (1) repeat what’s been said, and (2) argue about how to interpret it. That's not the same sense in which Jesus was a teacher."

If you're implying that what Jesus and the Apostles did is the same as what all elders (including Timothy) do, then I would reject that.

"Can’t the same be said of an atheist? It seems he or she has those abilities in some sense too. There has to be something more that Paul is getting at than the ability to regurgitate what the Bible is saying, or to draw doctrinal inferences from it in an accurate manner."

Well, no, that would not be true of an atheist because on Reformed theology unbelievers suppress the truth of God and so an atheist could not teach properly from Scripture. But regardless, no, I don't see that Paul is saying anything other "explain (or exsposit) the text", minimally at least.

I'll take a look at your post soon.

MG said...

David--

You wrote:

“It may be that you're trying to make this passage too much about Timothy when I think the main focus is on Scripture itself. Do the Scriptures cease to be capable of making people wise unto salvation simply because Timothy is now saved? Of course not.”

Doesn't it seem that the passage is focused on the man of God? The Scriptures exist to nourish the man of God. Hence “All Scripture is inspired... so that the Man of God...”, implying a purpose for Scripture.

Further, everything that is predicated of Scripture is predicated of it in relation to the Man of God. It is profitable. But all of the profitable things predicated of it are abilities to effect whats really important: things for the sake of the man of God. The Man of God gets to do various things from Scripture, “doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness.” So it looks like these verses are focused on a person, and the references to Scripture explain how it benefits him.

You wrote:

“My point is that there is no focus on Timothy's past in this passage in the first place. Paul is talking about Scripture as it is in the present. The fact that Timothy knew the Scriptures from his youth doesn't seem to have any bearing on their ability to make people wise unto salvation, their usefulness for teaching and correcting, etc.”

Granted it doesn't imply they are not able to make people wise unto salvation now. But Paul definitely mentions Timothy's past, and surely he is thinking of Timothy's salvation experience when he says “able to make you wise unto salvation”, right? So it makes sense that this verse is more concerned with Timothy's past.

You wrote:

“Again, the focus of the passage is Scripture, not Timothy. Nowhere is it implied, that I can see, that Paul is saying "you have to be wise unto salvation in order to teach." These are two different statements about the inherent qualities of Scripture, not the qualities of any people.”

Given that the content of these two verses is very different, and that the second set of qualities is applied to Timothy as man of God, doesn't this seem to favor the idea that it is the Man of God who is having these various abilities attributed to him?

You wrote:

“Well, (a) if we have reason from other parts in Scripture to believe that verse 15 should apply to all believers, then I see no reason why verse 16 shouldn't as well, given what I've been saying about the close connection between these verses and that the focus is on the inherent qualities of Scripture and not the qualifications of certain people. (b) I think Matthew 18 establishes that the laity are called to correct and reprove erring brothers before the matter is brought to any official church authorities.”

(a) Given how different you have admitted verse 15's statements about Scripture are from verse 16's, shouldn't we be cautious about this? This should be even more forceful if my points above are conceded about the focus being on the Man of God.

(b) I don't see the language of reproof in Matthew 18. And it seems to lend itself to the idea that Apostles are the ones who really do the reproving (and perhaps people that receive authority from them?). The church was surely ruled over by Apostles at that time. Further, the power to bind and loose is explicitly bestowed on the Apostles in John 20. So implicit in this passage is the idea of the Apostles exercising binding and loosing authority. And so to “tell it unto the Church” means to tell the Apostles about it. Really it looks like Matthew 18 would imply that its the hierarchs that do the reprooving.

Even conceding both of your points for the sake of argument, why think laity can teach?

You wrote:

“I don't think I made this argument.”

What about when you said this:

“Well, in verse 9 he's talking about the ungodly men, and then in verse 10 he says, "You, however..." That seems like a pretty clear contrast between them and Timothy.”

That's what I was referring to.

You wrote:

“If you're implying that what Jesus and the Apostles did is the same as what all elders (including Timothy) do, then I would reject that.”

No, not exactly the same. But in some sense, teachers recapitulate Christ's life as a teacher. They teach as imitators of the Teacher. Jesus taught with authority, and so I think we would expect those that imitate his being a teacher to teach with authority (just like the fact that Jesus is the model deacon and the model bishop). Regardless of what I'm saying about Jesus, I certainly don't think that the sense in which laity can “teach” is the same as the sense that Scripture means when it says that elders can teach.

You wrote:

“Well, no, that would not be true of an atheist because on Reformed theology unbelievers suppress the truth of God and so an atheist could not teach properly from Scripture. But regardless, no, I don't see that Paul is saying anything other "explain (or exsposit) the text", minimally at least.”

I don't see why an atheist couldn't restate what a text says, or explain and exposit a biblical text by using exegetical arguments.

David Nilsen said...

Of course Timothy is not totally absent as a subject in these verses, but that's my point. Paul says "the Scriptures exist to do such-and-such for the Man of God." But he's not saying "the man of God needs to be such-and-such in order to do things with the Scriptures."

Yes, it is showing how Scripture benefits Timothy, which as I said, is an elaboration of how the Scriptures are able to make one wise unto salvation. So again, the point is not simply "here is what the Man of God (but no one else!) may do with the Scriptures." Rather Paul is saying "remember how you learned the Scriptures from your youth, they can make you wise unto salvation, and they can do so in this way..." The implication is of course that they have already made Timothy wise and lead to his conversion, but (a) salvation has a broader meaning and doesn't simply mean "conversion." Timothy still has to run the race to the end, and that's what Scripture is helpful for. (b) Even as an elder in the church who knows the Scriptures well, Timothy can still grow in wisdom. So again, there's no major focus on Timothy's youth here, all the emphasis is in the present. And the focus is on Scripture, and because the letter is addressed to Timothy, of course he is mentioned specifically as the recipient of its benefits.

(a) I don't think the content of verse 15 is all that different from 16, one is an elaboration of the other.

(b) Correction is definitely there, and I don't see how you can confront someone and tell them that they are in sin without in some sense reproving them. Moreover, if a lay person were to confront an erring brother with Scripture, there would even seem to be some very loose sense in which they could be said to be teaching their brother.

You had said, in response to Catz, "I don't see any contrast between “not men of God” and Timothy." I was pointing out that Paul clearly does make such a contrast. Whether or not that implies that any "godly man" can do what Paul says Timothy does in vv. 15-16, I don't know, nor am I pursuing that line of argument.

"Regardless of what I'm saying about Jesus, I certainly don't think that the sense in which laity can “teach” is the same as the sense that Scripture means when it says that elders can teach."

Right, this is what Protestants deny, which is why I'm saying that your objections to this passage as teaching SS are founded upon assumptions about authority that we reject.

Of course an Atheist can re-state the text, but reading is not teaching. And yes, in particular instances I'm sure particular non-Christian people could correctly argue for the correct interpretation of different Biblical passages. But I'm not sure where you're going with this. Dr. Reynolds always used to say that if his interpretation of a passage of the NT didn't seem implausible to his agnostic, Jewish Greek professor (who had no theological axe to grind), then it was probably a good one. So there's a sense in which considering the input of non-Christian teachers, if they're experts in the relevant fields, would be useful. But again, I'm not sure what the relevance of this is.

Catz206 said...

Quick note:

It is interesting that at the end of Paul's letter the plural personal pronoun "you" is used. Might this also imply a broader application of content?