Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Response to MG (2) On "Private Judgment"

I get the impression that we will continue to speak past each other and not see eye to eye. You limit my options too much in your first response. Only a or b? Two simple choices are not enough to adequately explain or define the terms. How about a third option: (c) only has the power to do this when its interpretation, is not at odds with Scripture or does not make something essential that is not according to what is clear in Scripture.

What is "Private Judment"?
Maybe clarity on the way I am using “private judgment” is in order. In your questions and other comments you continually make private judgment out to be one’s own authority rather than that of the Church’s so that if the individual decides (or judges) the Church is at odds with Scripture and acts accordingly, he or she is the one with the authority (at least this seems to be the implication) and more explicitly by you, the Church then has no real authority.

Your use of “private judgment” as a technical term indicating the absence of intrinsic Church authority (and the implications you also give) maybe is too misleading of a statement and I am not sure it even is a Protestant technical term (?). In fact, most protestants (a good number who are Reformed and informed) have never heard of the doctrine of “private judgment” though they understand the concept I am putting forward. Maybe an explanation on why you chose to make this a technical term would help.

In my view, private judgment is being used as a tool. If I were to see that the Church practice was at odds with Scripture, I would be using my “private judgment” to make this call. This does not mean I am correct or am not bound by true authority in any way. It is simply one of several tools used in personal decision (something that is not used exclusively by Protestants).

Private Judgment= Sola Me?
Does the act of the individual deciding whether or not a given Church has the correct interpretation (private judgment) mean he or she has now become the authority? I think your example in another post is helpful here. You used the analogy of a parent and child relationship. In your use, there are some commands that should be obeyed simply because the parent said so but also brought up an interesting exception. If the child’s parent begins acting insane, then the child may not have to obey his or her parent since the parent is not acting *as a parent*. This concept carried over to the Church in some sense.

You said: “The cases in which it is legitimate to disregard the normative force of what our parents say are when they are obviously being prevented from acting *as parents*. We can describe these as cases of “insanity”, which means severe malfunction of a person that clearly prevents them from properly using the powers vested in them by nature (such as with our biological parents) or grace (as with our spiritual parents).” Still, CLEAR indications are needed in order to properly judge them to be insane or not.

This statement is remarkable. The child or churchgoer can actually use their private judgment to decide whether or not the significant other is insane or not and by consequence whether or not he or she should obey the parent. Does this mean authority is ultimately located in the child or churchgoer? Does this idea defy either’s “intrinsic” authority?

If it is at all possible one be permitted to judge a parent or church to be insane why can’t one make a judgment call about either not aligning with Scripture? If both Sola Scriptura and Prima Scripture believe Scripture is sufficiently clear, then it seems the individual checking the Church’s claims against the final authority (Scripture) as well as what other Christians in those early years believed, could use the tools of reason and judgment to identify a counterfeit form of Church authority or rightly identify the Church’s interpretation as clearly in error.

You said: “…lets say we recognize who the leaders of the Church are, and virtually all of them get together and pronounce a judgment about what we ought to believe, and there are no signs of insanity. They appeal to earlier Church leaders and point out that the greatest teachers of the Church all agreed with the doctrine they are telling us we’re obligated to believe (call it “x”). From what we can tell, they are functioning in their roles and exercising the powers vested in them by grace. In *this situation*, should we obey them? Does the fact that I can tell with a considerable degree of confidence that “the Church said x is true” serve as a motivating reason to believe that x? I think the instructions about Church obedience in Paul’s epistles should be taken this way, even if we don’t grant the infallibility of the Church.”

Again we see the judgment of the individual come into play. He first recognizes the Church is indeed sane- considers the appeal made by the Church to what always has been believed by the Christian community and decides “yes, they do appear to be functioning in their proper roles and exercising their God-given authority.” This does not seem so unlike the route the Reformers took except they reached a different conclusion. They recognized that the Church was not living in accordance with Scripture or what the Christian community believed at all times. At least, this is what they claim to have done.

In the End...
What does all of this mean for Sola Scriptura? Well, in the context of this discussion, it seems the use of one’s private judgment does not make the person reasoning the authority but rather one using a gift from God. It also reveals what he is measuring the present church up against to be the final authority and the others derivative. In addition MG, at least in your examples it looks like a similar private judgment still abounds. It has been a joy conversing with you and I look forward to your response.


Jomo Johnson said...

I agree with Catz when it is said, "If I were to see that the Church practice was at odds with Scripture, I would be using my “private judgment” to make this call." This was exactly what I was thinking when considering Martin Luther who rebelled against the church with his 95 thesis. When one sees that the local church/ (never universal*1) has gone astray in doctrine or practice, God does grant the light of persay, private interpretation.
Yet...that technical term is somewhat of itself contrary to scripture, for does not 2nd Peter state, "No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation,"? Therefore any true judgment of scripture can only be given by God and will never be contrary to scripture. So is my private judgment is correct, it is really not private, but revealed, and if it has been revealed, it should be consistent with a certain ecclesiastical history, standard, or tradition.

*1 When I inferred that that one should never rebel against the universal church, the term catholic may swiftly come to mind. Was is not the "universal" church that Luther rebelled against. The answer would be no. The catholic church is not and cannot be the "Universal" but it is the Invisible, incorporeal, and undestructible body. There was protestanim before Luther. Was not Christ the first Reformer?

(But what do I know. This is just my first year at Westminster!)

Catz206 said...

Thankx Johnson

Yeah- what one thinks of when the term "private judgment" is used is different from the way the term is being used by some.

Great use of 2nd Peter! I should have included this verse in my post (maybe I'll add it in).

Take care

MG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MG said...

Church Authority, Argument 5: Private Judgment and Authority

In this post, I will argue that their responses are unsatisfactory because they (1) ultimately affirm that private judgment is the final word in doctrine, (2) fail to correctly distinguish “inherent” from “underived”, and (3) falsely charge Catholic Christians with the use of private judgment.

... continue reading here: