Monday, February 2, 2009

The Spoken Traditions

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
- II Thessalonians 2:15

This verse has been used several times in the course of discussions on this blog as a kind of "proof text" showing that there were unwritten Apostolic traditions (i.e. traditions not recorded in the Bible). These authoritative traditions were handed down by word of mouth within the Christian churches. Thus it would seem that even the Bible admits to the falsity of Sola Scriptura, since it admits to the existence of extra-biblical authoritative traditions. But is this really the case? I believe that there are passages elsewhere in II Thess. itself that call this line of reasoning into question.

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
- II Thessalonians 2:5

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
- II Thessalonians 3:10

In both of these verses Paul refers to a teaching that he had already given orally to the Thessalonian church. Yet he finds reason to repeat his teachings in writing. What is the significance of this? Well, for starters, it means that II Thess. 2:15 cannot necessarily be referring to oral traditions that were never written down as Scripture. Moreover, because we have a precedence for Paul repeating important teachings in Scripture, it is not at all unreasonable for the Protestant to assume 2 things, one weak and one strong. The weak assumption being that Paul also wrote down other oral teachings in Scripture, and the stronger assumption being that all oral teachings that were/are necessary to salvation, as well as church piety and practice, were also recorded as Scripture. Note, I have not argued that these verses in II Thess. actually prove this Protestant assumption correct, but they do make it reasonable (especially in light of other passages that deal with the place and purpose of Scripture itself), and they also refute the Catholic/Orthodox argument that the oral teachings Paul refers to must be teachings that are not included in Scripture.

Finally, I should mention that upon examination of II Thess. 2:15 itself, without reference to either 2:5 or 3:10, there is actually no indication given by Paul that when he says, "either by our spoken word or by our letter" he is referring to different teachings. Such a reading must be imposed on the text.

27 comments:

MG said...

David--

It seems to me like you're right, it is not clear from these verses whether or not the traditions by word of mouth were or were not written down in the Scriptures in other places. Good point; I've never found that argument particularly plausible anyway, though (as a way of proving the existence of a distinct oral tradition in addition to the words of Scripture).

David Nilsen said...

Well this is a first. I'll take whatever agreement I can get! :)

David Cox said...

David
I think there is a slight problem with your assertion. You seem to be assuming that by "oral tradition" we mean "extra biblical?" All of sacred tradition is biblical. It seems like you are trying to set up a false dichotomy...an either/or rather than a both/and. It would be incorrect to say that Catholic doctrine is either in scripture or in tradition as opposed to saying that the one illuminates the other.

David Nilsen said...

David,

I have no doubt that you believe Catholic dogma to be Scriptural, but that's not what "extra-biblical" means. It simply means that the tradition is not contained within the Bible itself.

Or perhaps I've completely missed something. Are you suggesting that the Catholic church has no written or oral tradition that is not contained in the Bible? I thought Trent, the Catechism, etc. were all considered infallible tradition?

David Cox said...

David
I am not sure how something can be "Scriptural" yet "not be in the bible itself?" Catholic dogma is nothing more than the Church's infallible interpretation of scripture.

David Nilsen said...

Perhaps an example.

Is the phrase "Taking the morning after pill is a sin" contained in the text of the Bible anywhere? Not that I am aware of. And yet it may in fact be true that taking the morning after pill is sinful (and thus Scriptural, since this truth could potentially be deduced from Scripture).

Likewise, Thomas Aquinas's formulation of transubstantiation using Aristotelian categories is not contained in the text of the Bible. It may very well be Scriptural in the sense that it is a true explanation of the Lord's Supper, but it is nevertheless "extra-biblical."

David Cox said...

I understand your point. However, the very fact that we are even having this discussion proves the need for "extra biblical" interpretation. This brings us back to the original question driving this blog: Who has this authority? Who makes the final decision on what is scriptural and what isn't? The fact that St. Paul records teaching that has already been orally transmitted only proves that the Church needed clarification or encouragement in certain areas. It is much more reasonable to hold the Catholic/Orthodox position that any "extra biblical" teachings that were not explicitly recorded in scripture were left out because there was no need to correct or instruct. There was no dispute to clear up. Any instruction or clarification that came after the time of the apostles would be in the form of a council. If you are suggesting that only things that are explicitly stated in the bible are essential for salvation and everything else is non essential, you reduce scripture to a list of bullet points and impose an extra biblical assumption which destroys your argument before it starts.

In other words, for the first 4 centuries of the church, all doctrine was "extra biblical" proving the need for a teaching authority other than scritpure. We can't compartmentalize truth into essential and non essential categories. All truth is essential because all truth is from God. Truth isn't a thing it is a person.

David Nilsen said...

David,

"If you are suggesting that only things that are explicitly stated in the bible are essential for salvation and everything else is non essential, you reduce scripture to a list of bullet points and impose an extra biblical assumption which destroys your argument before it starts."

I fail to see how anything I have said reduces Scripture to anything. To say that all that is necessary for faith and practice is contained in Scripture says nothing about HOW those truths are contained in Scripture or by what manner we can deduce them. In any case, the Catholic church obviously has no problem with making "bullet points" from Scripture or any of its other traditions (after all, what are confessions and catechisms?).

As to the second charge, both the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture can be deduced naturally from Scripture itself, so I'm not imposing any assumptions not already found in the Bible.

"In other words, for the first 4 centuries of the church, all doctrine was "extra biblical" proving the need for a teaching authority other than scritpure."

Well, by this definition, ALL doctrine is still "extra-biblical." I'm fine with that in one sense, but I'm afraid it proves nothing about any need for an infallible authority.

"We can't compartmentalize truth into essential and non essential categories. All truth is essential because all truth is from God. Truth isn't a thing it is a person."

That's all well and good, but I'm afraid that ALL truth cannot be essential FOR SALVATION (which is the only claim I made), otherwise no one could saved. I certainly don't know every single truth contained in Scripture, let alone every single truth that exists period, but perhaps you know someone who does?

David Cox said...

David
Is all teaching necessary for salvation contained in scripture? I believe so; so do you. The problem is in discerning how much of the teaching is necessary and how much is "non essential." The other problem we are faced with is how one deduces these truths from scripture.

Your statement, "As to the second charge, both the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture can be deduced naturally from Scripture itself, so I'm not imposing any assumptions not already found in the Bible" is very presumptuous. Even if scripture itself claimed to be formally sufficient (which it doesn't) that would prove nothing. I can write a book that claims to be sufficient in matters of faith and morals, but that doesn't mean that it is. In order for one to even accept the Bible as any truth at all requires some sort of "extra biblical tradition." At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that the Church is prior to the Bible. You know, as do I, that the effect can't be greater than it's cause.

David Nilsen said...

David,

"Even if scripture itself claimed to be formally sufficient (which it doesn't) that would prove nothing. I can write a book that claims to be sufficient in matters of faith and morals, but that doesn't mean that it is."

I'm afraid this works both ways. The church claiming to be an infallible authority also proves nothing (since, as you say, I can claim the same thing and it would mean nothing). And it gets even worse when the church attempts to deomonstrate its authority by arguing from Scripture, which as you claim, receives its authority from the church in the first place.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that the Church is prior to the Bible. You know, as do I, that the effect can't be greater than it's cause."

That would only make sense if anyone believed that the church actually GIVES Scripture its authority. But even Catholics (at least the ones I've talked to) admit that the Bible has intrinsic authority because it is the Word of God. The church merely recognized this authority.

In any case, what I have been attempting to point out to you is that every objection you have raised to the Protestant position is equally a problem for you. If my arguments for the sufficiency of Scripture are circular, then so are the arguments for the authority of the church. But if the arguments for the church's authority can be based upon evidence other than the church's own claims, then so can the Bible's. I'm afraid too many Protestants become uncomfortable and anxious about what they perceive to be a lack of certainty in their beliefs and so they end up fleeing to Rome to get their certainty back. But all they end up with is a false hope. They think they can rest at ease because God is finally speaking directly to them (through the church). They've forgotten that God has already spoken to them in His Word.

David Cox said...

David
I understand the point that you are trying to make. I just don't think it quite works the way you would like it to. I don't put my faith in the fact that the Church has infallible teaching authority simply because the Church says so. I would hope that this fact is very clear from the many conversations we have had.

You said, "But if the arguments for the church's authority can be based upon evidence other than the church's own claims, then so can the Bible's." This is the achilles heel of your entire premise. If you accept evidence other than scripture, then you don't really adhere to "Scriputre Alone." It becomes a composite of scripture as well as other resources.

This argument cannot be turned back against me because I have never claimed (nor has any Catholic) to belive in anything "alone."

It seems like your best defense is to try and turn the argument back to me. I am still waiting for someone to explain how one can believe that the Bible is the Word of God without saying things like "it can be naturally deduced" or "it is inherently true."

David Nilsen said...

David,

Good. I'm glad you understand the point I'm trying to make, now all I have to do is defend it (rather than having to explain it over and over).

One problem is that you're still using "sola scriptura" incorrectly. SS does not mean that I can only know things that are contained in Scripture. It simply means that only Scripture is the infallible Word of God and therefore only Scripture has the authority to regulate faith and practice. But this truth is not a truth of faith and practice simpliciter, it is a truth that must be deduced before even arriving at the question of "what is proper Christian faith and practice?"

In any case, I CAN apply the term "alone" to your beliefs, it would simply be "Scripture AND church AND tradition ALONE." Seriously, this is important. You may not claim to have only one source of authority, but as long as you have a finite number of sources, it is those sources ALONE and no others that are your guide for faith and practice. And as you have already said, you do not believe in these authorities because they themselves say so. So by your own logic this would be the same problem for you as it is for the advocate of SS.

Now, I obviously don't think that this is a problem for either of us. What you are missing is a very important distinction, between the MINISTERIAL and MAGESTERIAL uses of reason. I must use my fallible human reason to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is the only infallible authority for faith and practice, just as you must use your fallible reason to determine that the church, the bible, etc. are infallible authorities. But that does not place reason above the church or the bible, reason is merely the instrument by which all human beings must apprehend truth and determine what is or is not authoritative.

David Cox said...

David
Agreed...we are on equal ground in that we both use fallible reason to reach our conclusions. (I think we have been here before.) Catholics do believe that scripture is sufficient when it comes to faith and morals. The difference is that we believe that it is materially sufficient while you believe that it is formally sufficient. By the way, I have never defined SS to mean that one can only know what is contained in scripture. I understand that those who believe in SS believe that scripture alone is the infallible Word of God. But if this is true, does that mean that the "infallible Word of God" didn't exist until after scripture was penned? Are you suggesting that the Apostles weren't preaching the Word of God? Again, you seem to be looking at the Word of God as a thing; a book. The word of God is Jesus Christ and he is truly present to us in the Written Word as well as the Eucharist. Jesus didn't leave us a Bible; he left us a Church. If you take the Written Word of God out of the context of the Church, you do reduce Christianity to a religion of a book rather than a real encounter with the living Christ.

You are going to have to explain to me what you mean by Magesterial vs. Ministerial reason.

David Nilsen said...

David,

Good. So can I assume that you have conceded all your previous arguments? I'm glad we're making progress on this front.

The question, which I'm sure you know, is where God's Word is NOW. No one disagrees that God spoke through prophets and Apostles in the past, but they were the foundation, and that foundation was/is preserved for us in the written words of Scripture. I also do not disagree that the church meets the risen Christ in the Lord's Supper, so I would not reduce Christianity to the "religion of a book" (in least not in the pejorative sense that you mean it).

The difference is between allowing reason to be the final authority vs. reason merely being an instrument. But as you have already conceded this point it isn't crucial to go into much more detail.

David Cox said...

I am not sure exactly what I am conceding. I have never intended to argue that we were on different grounds when it comes to the use of our fallible reason. This is a point that I thought we spent most of the summer discussing. I thought your original post was making the argument that there is a possibility that all oral traditions necessary for salvation were also recorded in scripture. So maybe I should back up and ask this question: When you say "recorded in scripture" do you mean explicilty or implicitly? I assumed you meant explicitly. If that is a bad assumption, then I apologize.

I agree that a very important question is "where is the Word of God now?" Is He found in Scripture alone? Is he found in the sacraments? Is he found in sacred tradition? Is he actually in the tabernacle? Is he truly present to us in the Eucharist?

You said that you believe that we encounter the risen Christ in the "Lord's Supper." In what sense do you encounter the risen Christ? Is it a spiritual encounter? Is it physical? Or is it both?

David Nilsen said...

It's possible that I misunderstood where you were going, but thus far you have been giving arguments such as that I am contradicting sola scriptura, or that I cannot differentiate between essential and non-essential teachings without the infallible church to tell me which is which (or even that there is no such distinction). I responded to each one of these charges and then you moved on to a different argument without responding to my response, so I assumed that you had conceded these points.

"When you say "recorded in scripture" do you mean explicilty or implicitly? I assumed you meant explicitly. If that is a bad assumption, then I apologize."

I believe that all truths which are necessary for salvation (i.e. those truths that a person would need to know and profess faith in, in order to be saved) are stated explicitly in Scripture. An example would be "Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross to pay for my sins." However, I also believe that many truths can be deduced implicitly from Scripture (an example might be the Didache's position on abortion. The Bible does not explicitly condemn abortion anywhere, but it is everywhere implied. This is also a good example of what we were discussing at the beginning. I would call the Didache "extra-biblical" for the simple reason that it is not the Bible and does not ultimately carry the same authority as the Bible. But that doesn't necessarily imply that what it says is not "biblical.")

I believe in Calvin's doctrine of the "real presence." Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist, so much so that Calvin could easily speak of eating his flesh and drinking his blood in just as strong of language as the earlier church fathers used. But the elements themselves do not transform. Rather, Christ's human attributes are mystically transferred to us via the power of the Holy Spirit.

David Cox said...

I think that we were talking passed each other again. So are we agreed that we must both depend on "extra biblical" resources? If you are willing to accept extra biblical resources, what keeps you from accepting the authority of the Catholic Church? After all, it would be much easier to deduce from scripture that the Church has authority (guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, of course) than the individual. If you say that it is because the Church has teachings that are unbiblical, I would ask you to demonstrate for me one church teaching that can't be explicitly or implicitly deduced from scripture.

Your description of the Real Presence is awfully close to that of transubstantiation. Maybe that is a discussion for another thread. But maybe not, because the question at hand is: Where is the Word of God now?

David Nilsen said...

"If you are willing to accept extra biblical resources, what keeps you from accepting the authority of the Catholic Church?"

I think you've captured the difference well with your word choices. I accept extra-biblical "resources" but I do not ascribe any authority to them. I would even accept the "church" and "tradition" (pre-Reformation) as resources to aid in interpreting the Bible, but I ascribe infallible authority to neither. The Bible alone possesses the infallible authority.

So again, my use of reason to interpret the Bible does not mean that I am ascribing any inherent authority to myself or any individual. The external authority is the Bible. My use of reason as a necessary tool to apprehend any truths does not mean that I am using an extra-biblical authority.

And yes, I would say that the Catholic church is wrong on many points. 3 big ones would be: The Papacy, the rejection of Predestination (or unconditional election) in salvation, and the rejection of justification by faith alone through grace alone by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone.

Calvin's doctrine of the Eucharist is not transubstantiation because he denied that the elements themselves transformed into anything other than bread and wine, or that they were in any way special in and of themselves. They were simply visible signs. But unlike the Zwinglians, Calvin believed that the visible signs represented a true spiritual reality, they were not merely for our remembrance.

David Cox said...

I guess I am having a tough time understanding why you would ascribe infallible authority to the Bible but not to the Church that gave it to you.

So if we agree that the bible has inherent authority but have no way to be sure on certain difficult doctrines, what good is that? For example, you and I will read John 6 and arrive at two different conclusions. This is essential for salvation because Jesus says that unless one eats his flesh, he has no life in him. Either the Eucharist is Jesus or it isn't. If it is, that poses a problem for you because you do not discern the body and blood in the way that it is intended. If it isn't, then I commit blasphemy. So who is right? We can have a philosophical discussion on whether or not the essense of something can change while the accidents remain the same, but that is still a discussion based on fallible reason. Doesn't there ultimately have to be an authority guided by the Holy Spirit to formally define this doctrine? We can't both be right...can we?

If you are right, then I need to become a Calvinist. If I am right, then you need to be Catholic.

David Nilsen said...

"I guess I am having a tough time understanding why you would ascribe infallible authority to the Bible but not to the Church that gave it to you."

Because I have no reason to think that the church has such authority. It's that simple. Nor do I see any evidence that the church at the time considered itself to be giving the Bible its authority. Rather, they seem to have merely been recognizing the inherent authority that the Bible already possessed, as I do.

As to the rest of your comments, I agree completely with your assessment. One of us is right and one of us is wrong. But what I assume you are implying is that we need to have an infallible authority other than the Bible to tell us what is right. But in all of our discussions thus far you have still not given me any reason to think that. I am quite certain that the Bible teaches Predestination, that the Pope is not Christ's unique representative on earth, that we are fully justified by Christ's imputed righteousness alone, etc. I believe that the whole of Scripture is clear on these matters and that careful exegesis and sound reasoning will bear that out.

Be careful when you say that we "have no way to be sure on certain difficult doctrines." All I mean is that we cannot honestly say that we have 100% infallible certainty, because we are fallible humans and there is always some possibility, no matter how slight, that we could be wrong in our reasoning. But that does NOT mean that I cannot have so much certainty that I am warranted in fully trusting in my beliefs. Faith is best understood as trust, after all.

David Cox said...

David
I think you explained yourself very well. So how does this work out for the average person (especially the average person 500 years ago)? If these doctrines that are necessary for salvation must, at times, be found through careful exegesis, what happens to the illiterate or those who don't have access to the resources? Do they just not have the ability to know these things? How could scripture alone be the means for someone to learn about the gospel if they had no access to scripture? As I write this, I have access to multiple resources. I can look at 8 different bible translations at once, switch to an interlinear to check the Greek or Hebrew, find every instance when that word in a particular tense is used, etc. Many of these resources didn't exist 20 years ago and none of them existed 1000 years ago. So how could God's plan be for the Bible to be the only authoritative source of divine revelation when the overwhelming majority wouldn't be able to access it? To me, that is a pretty sound reason to reject Sola Scriptura.

David Nilsen said...

Well, that would actually be a very bad reason to reject SS, for the simple reason that it does not show SS to be false. The best such considerations can do is make us scratch our heads and say, "Hmm, I wonder why God chose to do things this way?"

But you're also using a bit of hyperbole and taking what I said to a bit more of an extreme that I did. I never said that everyone needed to be able to do good exegesis of every passage of Scripture in order to be saved. I also never said that people couldn't come to faith without ever having read a Bible themselves. Here are my two premises:

(1) The Bible alone contains authoritative content that can regulate Christian faith and practice.

(2) The gospel message, which is all that is truly necessary for salvation, is clear in Scripture and not difficult to interpret.

Now, based on these 2 beliefs, I argue that we do not need an infallible church to tell us what the Bible says in order to be saved. But that doesn't mean that people can't hear the gospel message apart from the Bible, believe it, and be saved. Do you see the distinction?

I do not believe, as some radical Protestants in the Anabaptist tradition do, that the whole Medieval period of the church was bad and corrupt. I believe that there are just as many good theologians in the Medieval period as there are in the Patristic period (and frankly, Rome is just as selective when it comes to the ideas of Medieval thinkers as Protestant are). In fact, the Protestant theories of the Atonement and Predestination come largely from the Medieval period. That said, I do NOT believe that no one heard or taught the true gospel for 1000 years until Martin Luther came along. Many people, even if they were illiterate or had no access to Greek or Hebrew, still heard the pure and simple Gospel message and trusted in Jesus Christ to save them. Did they believe many errors? Sure, but so do many Protestants today.

David Cox said...

If I were to look at this from your point of view, I would agree that my last comment would be a bad reason to reject SS. The problem is that I don't think that you have given a good reason NOT to reject it. You are a very reasonable person, but it seems that you are using your good reason to justify an already held position rather than use the good reason to come to the conclusion in the first place. (I hope that comes across in a charitable way.)

I definitely didn't intend to say that one couldn't be saved without ever reading the bible. I do believe that the bible was intended to be read in the context of the Mass. It comes to life when read against the backdrop of the heavenly liturgy. Taking the bible out of the liturgy is like reading the menu without having the meal. You speak of essential doctrines which does, in a way, boil down scripture to bullet points. If there are only a few essential doctrines, then what is the point of the rest of scripture? What is the point of forming an opinion on predestination if I am either predestined or I am not? It is out of my hands either way. I agree that the Catholic church has had no problem with boiling things down in the form of creeds and catechisms. That is necessary because the average person can't make sense out of a lot of passages. You say that essential doctrines are "easy to interpret" but I have already shown that to be false with the example of John 6. The written word is very difficult to interpret at times. You and I would have a much easier time of this if we were able to talk this out. (which by the way if you are ever in Tulare County, lunch is on me.)

I do see the distinction in your point about the bible containing all that is necessary for salvation, but one can still be saved apart from reading about it. But, according to your premise, someone had to read it if the gospel was entrusted to the book and not the Church. Someone had to do the scholarly work, the exegesis and hermeneutics. Who is in charge of that?

Here are some reasons I believe that there is an infallible teaching authority that has been passed down from one generation to another:
1. Without it people are left to their own interpretation which causes chaos.
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.)
3. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the authors of scripture can also keep those entrusted to teach it from error.
4. The apostles held an office as evidenced by Judas being replaced.
5. The apostles set up a church with heirarchy and succession.
6. The Church set up by the apostles cannot teach error because as soon as it stops teaching truth, it ceases being the church that Jesus founded.
7. There is no reason to believe that the authority given to the apostles didn't pass down from one generation to the next. Scripture definitely doesn't say so.

These are all "reasonable" arguments. Where is the reasonable argument that all essential doctrines are in scripture alone? Where are the reasonable arguments that Jesus didn't intend for the apostolic authority to be handed down? Where are the arguments against development of doctrine?

David Nilsen said...

"The problem is that I don't think that you have given a good reason NOT to reject it."

No, I haven't, and I'm well aware of that. All I have been doing in this discussion is attempting to clarify what I believe and to respond to objections you have raised. So far, neither of us has actually made any arguments for our respective positions (your 7 points included, which I'll get to in a moment).

"I do believe that the bible was intended to be read in the context of the Mass."

I also believe that Word and Sacrament (baptism and the Eucharist) are inseparably intertwined and meant to be dispensed in the context of the life of the church. So it isn't as simple as a debate between whether to treat the Bible as a living word in the life of the church or as a dead textbook, as you seem to be implying. You and I simply have different definitions of "life of the church" and "Eucharist."

"You speak of essential doctrines which does, in a way, boil down scripture to bullet points."

Either you believe that a person must know and believe every single point of doctrine that the Catholic church has ever taught in order to be saved, or you do not. If you don't, then you must also be "bullet pointing" the Bible. But since you already agreed that there's nothing wrong with creeds and catechisms, I'm not sure what your objection is here.

"If there are only a few essential doctrines, then what is the point of the rest of scripture?"

Just because I don't need to know for sure exactly how Predestination works in order to be saved, that doesn't mean I shouldn't TRY to figure it out. It is still truth, and we are still obliged seek out the truth of God wherever it is found. I could ask you the same question about any number of Catholic teachings. Unless every single point is necessary for salvation, why does the church still teach it?

"These are all "reasonable" arguments."

Now, actually, your points 1-7 are not actually arguments. They are assumptions or premises that need to be argued for. For example, point 7 simply asserts that there is no reason to believe that the Apostle's authority was not handed down. That's not an argument, because an argument would require support. Now I happen to think that when the Apostle's are called the "foundation" of the church by Paul, that is pretty good Biblical evidence that their office is unique. That would be just one piece of evidence in favor of my argument.

Some of your points I agree with, which may be evidence that you still don't understand my position fully. For example, I believe that there are offices in the church (Elder and Deacon) and that those offices carry authority that lay Christians ought to submit to. However, I believe that their authority is not intrinsic, but that it comes from the Word of God.

"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).

As for the part of about succession, again, that needs to be argued for.

David Cox said...

Many of the 7 points I brought up, I have argued for in our previous discussions. If we need to re hash these, so be it. We should probably be clear on what the ground rules are when it comes to making argument. I am sure this is my fault as I don't have the philosophy background you do. I have assumed that your original post was the beginnning of your argument in favor of SS due to the fact that the point of the blog is to hash out where authority lies. I have further assumed that what you consider a "clarification", was actually support for your original assumption that all necessary doctrine has been recorded in scripture.

I would be willing to concede that all necessary doctrine is contained in scripture. The problem is in deciding how that doctrine is decided and/or agreed upon. Who has the authority to claim "heresy?"

David Nilsen said...

I don't mean to be difficult (it's possible I've simply forgotten), but I don't really remember you ever having given arguments for your 7 points. Specifically 2, 3, and 5. I'd really like to hear your response to the questions I asked with regards to those 3 points.

"I would be willing to concede that all necessary doctrine is contained in scripture. The problem is in deciding how that doctrine is decided and/or agreed upon. Who has the authority to claim "heresy?" "

My response here is the same as before. I do not believe that the Biblical arguments can support the Catholic doctrines of the Church and the Papacy. Since we both agree that the Word of God is an authority, and (given my last statement) there are no other viable contenders for sharing or adding to that authority, it is safe to conclude that the Bible alone is our authority.

Nate has just posted a full-length post defending SS. He combines many of the various arguments that we have brought up in the past and puts them together into a single case. You should read it, and then we can discuss the merits of his arguments (specifically the Biblical ones).

http://reasonfromscripture.blogspot.com/2009/02/sola-scriptura.html

If you want, you can just post your response here in our current dicussion (there have already been a few people commenting on the original post, so it might get crowded). Or maybe I'll ask Nate to post it here too.

David Nilsen said...

Ok, I re-posted Nate's argument on this blog, so you and I can interact with Nate's biblical arguments here.

http://bywhoseauthority.blogspot.com/2009/02/biblical-argument-for-sola-scriptura.html