Response to James White on the Communion of Saints

Introductory Considerations

It should be made clear that the discussion we are having has been brief on both sides.  His initial post was not intended by him to be an extensive critique or challenge to the communion of saints; as he mentioned, he has debated this doctrine and tackled it more fully in those venues.  Likewise, my response to his brief blog post was also brief and was to clarify what the communion of saints is and is not, and he conceded that his comments were “meant to use irony with a dash of sarcasm” rather than accurately portray the Catholic doctrine.

Further, his direct response to my post, though more extensive, was still relatively brief, as this post will be; he pointed me to listen to certain debates he has done which covered this issue, and I in turn will also point Mr. White to certain posts I have made which more fully challenge positions he takes as he tries to refute that this doctrine is true.

What is the Communion of Saints?

The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices. The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:2 — Greek Text).

My Responses

Protestant Apologist James White
Protestant Apologist James White

Mr White:
In an article titled “More Heat But No Light from James White,” a Roman Catholic (former atheist) named “Devman” (might the URL indicate his name is Devin Rose?) commented on this single paragraph.

Yes, my name is Devin Rose; when I first created the blog, I chose the user name “Devman” which was a nickname some people used for me back in the day, and I never bothered to change it, so it shows up as the author of the posts.

Mr. White in his post then embedded a video of some (presumably Catholic) church where they were having a procession with a statue of a saint held up on a platform but then they lost control of the platform and it tilted, knocking the statue onto the floor and breaking it.  The congregation of course was dismayed.  It was funny to watch and certainly makes Catholics look silly, but it does not help us know whether the communion of saints is true or not.

Mr. White continues:
In today’s culture you are not allowed to speak the simple truth about this kind of activity: it is idolatry, plain and simple, and no amount of truth-twisting and word-smithing is going to change that.

I can see how it would appear idolatrous to Mr. White, carrying a statue of a saint around in a procession. However, processing a statue into a church is only idolatrous if the people themselves are worshiping the statue or the saint represented by the statue as if it or he were God. Catholic doctrine rejects the worship of any being but God, so if a Catholic were worshiping the saint (or even worse, a statue), then they are acting against the Church’s teaching.  But instead what Catholics do is honor or venerate the saints, and statues are made to draw our minds and hearts to the saint’s life and both how God worked in them to show forth His glory and love and how they accepted God’s grace to become the saint He wanted them to be.  Mr. White’s claim of idolatry here is just an indirect way of begging the question.

My Evangelical friend John went to Mass one time to see what Catholics do at church, and he saw someone kneeling before a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  In John’s mind, you only kneel when you are praying to or worshiping God, so he assumed that this woman was worshiping Mary.  However, I explained to him that she was only asking for Mary to pray for her; the act of kneeling itself can be done for veneration and honor and not just worship, though the common piety of Protestants holds kneeling for worship alone (generally).

So, the only way Mr. White could know this was idolatry would be if he knew the innermost disposition of the hearts of the people in the video, which he does not.  The question of whether it is right to venerate a saint in such a way is one of the questions under discussion here, so it cannot simply be begged in such a way.  (I again acknowledge here that Mr. White is replying briefly and that he has discussed these matters elsewhere as he points out.)

Raphael's "Disputation of the Blessed Sacrament"
Raphael's "Disputation of the Blessed Sacrament"

Mr. White:
In any case, before responding to his actual claims, I would like to thank him for setting himself apart from Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples, Mark Shea, Steve Ray, and the whole host of lesser-known Roman Catholic apologists by referring to me as a “Refomed Baptist Protestant apologist.” Unlike the large majority of his compatriots, Devman has chosen the high road, skipping past the mind-numbing cavil of “anti-Catholic.” In fact, in an earlier post he actually suggested people compare Shea’s book with mine, Scripture Alone! Congratulations are in order.

I was happily surprised by Mr. White’s congenial comment on this blog and by his respectful tone on his blog post responding to me.  I hope that, whatever further correspondence we have, it can be done in a mutually respectful way.

Mr. White:
Quoting me: “We ask a saint in Heaven to pray for us, and by God’s Providence and facilitation, they can hear us and respond by praying to our Father. It is not much different than asking a fellow Christian to pray for you.”

Oh, but it most definitely is different, and that is the whole point. The common Roman Catholic assertion that praying (note the word, it is important) to saints is “not much different than” asking a fellow Christian to pray for us is simply fallacious. I am not “praying” to my fellow Christian. Prayer is an act of worship. Roman Catholic practice has robbed prayer of its exalted position (by allowing it to saints, angels, and in particular, to Mary), and we have successfully debated this topic in the past.

It is true that, colloquially, Catholics say that they “pray to saints”, which immediately sets off alarm bells in the minds of Protestants, but the clearer way of saying it is that, as I mentioned, we “ask the saints to pray for us”.  Hinging an argument on the colloquial phrasing that Catholics often use as a shorthand way of saying the more precise phrase makes for a weak argument.

Mr. White’s basis for this argument is on his definition of the word “pray”, that he says is “an act of worship”.  But “pray” can mean other things, for example and more simply, “to entreat or implore”.  “Pray tell me what you think of this matter.”  Read a Jane Austen book and watch for the word pray–it usually doesn’t mean praying to God or to someone else to worship them.  So, even with the colloquial usage of “praying to a saint”, it is well within the accepted definitions of the word and it usage for hundreds of years in the English language to mean “entreating a saint” for help (which he or she can only obtain by asking God to act).

Mr. White:
There is this little problem of the fact that just announcing the idea of the “communion of saints” does not amount to a valid way around the fact that there is a fundamental separation between those who are alive in this world, and those who are alive in the next. The “communion” part is due to our union with Christ, not due to some kind of ease of communication! You simply do not find the saints on earth communicating with the saints in heaven (and no, my Roman Catholic friends, having the prayers of the saints in bowls in apocalyptic language does not provide you a foundation for such a concept). So, you can try to gloss over the fundamental problems with such a non-apostolic practice by mere analogy to my asking a fellow believer to pray for me will not do.

The root of this objection resides in the nature of Christians’ communion with each other through Christ and what communication Christ makes possible between them (in particular those who have died and those who are alive).

God has made our bodies and made the air such that living persons can talk to each other and pray for one another.  He further decides to hear those prayers and actually (if it is His will) do something about them.  Does God allow something similar with saints who have died?  Can we ask them to pray for us?  That is the question under discussion, but I think Mr. White would agree that God could make possible our communication with those saints in Heaven with Him–it would not be difficult for him, no more so than making the air and our vocal cords.  What closer union can we have with someone than through our common union with Christ?  And if we have such a close union, it is reasonable that we can communicate with each other through that union.

Mr. White claims that the practice is non-apostolic, but his basis for that assertion is what he sees as an absence in the Bible of an explicit approval of the practice.  There are many apostolic practices (for instance, the Mass) which are not explicitly spelled out out in the Bible, which is why today there are many Protestant churches which have diverged widely from any liturgy or altar or even the giving out of communion.  But if we look at the early history of the Church, we can often see more clearly what practices were apostolic, and the Mass is right there.  The Bible contains imprecise allusions to it (“the breaking of the bread”) but nowhere explicitly says “This is how the weekly Christian liturgy is to be conducted: Step 1…”

Mr. White:
Quoting me: “It is not “magical” when you pray for me and God hears and answers by giving me grace–it is wonderful and amazing and beautiful, but it is not some kind of conjuring; rather, it is how God has created the world and us and made it possible for us to be in communion with one another.”

So, does this mean that Devman is offering the following answer to my question? That when person X prays to saint Y for me, that saint Y then prays to God and God is then convinced to give grace to person X?

I am beginning to like being called the Devman. 🙂

Yes that is the answer I am giving.  This is how it works when my friend prays for me or I ask him to pray for you; people (with God in Heaven or here on Earth) can pray to God and He graciously answers.

Is this grace that God would not have given otherwise? And what does this grace do? Does it help person X convert me? Is that the idea?

Whether God decides to give grace in answer to one or two or two hundred peoples’ prayers is part of the mystery of God’s will–sometimes He answers the prayer in the way we hope for and sometimes He doesn’t.  The grace of God could, for instance, open up your heart and mind to errors you have in your faith, or it might show you some fault which grieves our Lord, etc.  As Mr. White knows, God’s grace can do any good thing.

Mr. White:
Biblical dots. Thus the infallible Church creates her dogmas? Not clear hermeneutical conclusions based upon careful handling of the text, but “biblical dots”?

As White prefaced his own comments with the word “brief”, I also mentioned at the beginning of this post that my response to him was brief.  I brought up these two Biblical examples to counter White’s reference to a few Biblical examples–support can be found for and against the communion of saints in the Bible depending upon which tradition or interpretation one chooses.

My expression of course was just an expression; the Catholic Church’s teaching on the communion of saints is built upon solid theological and historical support, the surface of which we are barely scratching here in our brief interchanges.

The Transfiguration
The Transfiguration

Mr. White:
Of course the saints in heaven are alive. No one has said otherwise. But where is the evidence that Christians are to pray to them? Sure there are lots of emotional stories, but how about some biblical evidence? And notice the equivocation of terms, “death does not end communication (or communion) between them and God and living persons.” Where is there any communication inherent in recognizing that the saints are alive in God’s presence? Are we seriously to believe that the unique, one-of-a-kind event of the Transfiguration itself is a meaningful foundation for communication with those who have passed from this life? Do I really need to point out that there is actually no example of communication between the apostles and Moses and Elijah, that it is limited to Jesus, and hence would not, even if it was pressed far out of its meaningful context, support such a concept?

Communication and communion are related terms.

It is a stingy god (and not a loving Father) who would isolate those whom have given their lives for Him from everyone else once they died and joined Him in Heaven.  Angels are in Heaven, too, and yet can influence people and events here on Earth.  How?  Shouldn’t they, too, be isolated from any communication or communion with people on Earth?  Obviously not.  God makes it possible for His angels (and allows the fallen angels) to interact with us.  His angels protect us from spiritual and physical harm, and as Mary spoke to the Archangel Gabriel, we can ask our angels to help us.

Similarly, the souls of the just who have died and met God and whom He has saved, are alive (as Mr. White concedes), and so there is good reason to believe that they, too, full of love for God and for all of His children, can pray for us.  There is no Biblical proof text for this, but there is no Biblical proof text for many true doctrines, otherwise we wouldn’t have the sad schisms from Christ’s Church that we do and the continuing fractures of Protestant churches over differences in interpretation of the Bible.

As for the Transfiguration, on what basis does Mr. White exclude it from consideration?  How does Mr. White know that we cannot draw theological conclusions from this event?

Mr. White demonstrates here a problem with sola Scriptura: He personally decides on his own authority to dismiss reasonable implications about the communion of saints from the appearance of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration based on, what?  Based on his own personal interpretation of a passage which must be made to fit his particular filter: the Protestant tradition that there can be no communion of saints.

What if we used his same idea on, say, Acts 15 and the Council of Jerusalem?  Future Ecumenical Councils are based on this Biblical precedent, including ones he accepts the decisions of like the first one at Nicaea in 325 AD (where Jesus and the Father were declared to be one in being, refuting the Arians).  But if White’s theories are applied to Acts 15, then it is a unique, one-of-a-kind event and cannot be used as the foundation for the Church to hold similar authoritative Councils, therefore all future Councils held by Christ’s Church can be declared null and void on the basis of (his erroneous personal interpretation of) Scripture.

Many years ago I listened to a tape by Scott Hahn where he connected the “cloud” that brought Moses and Elijah with the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1, which refers to the litany of Old Testament heroes called out for their faith in Hebrews 11.  That is another Biblical connection, and calls to my mind an Evangelical friend from college, who was instrumental in my coming to know Christ for the first time, and who is the pastor of a Reformed Baptist church near Houston, and was given a painting describing this exact thing for his future ministry!  This is the painting:

A Pastor surrounded by a cloud of witnesses
Oh no! Why is that Protestant pastor surrounded by the Communion of Saints?! Oh wait, it's okay, it's just the Cloud if Witnesses from Hebrews. Whew, that was close!

This painting looks eerily like a representation of the communion of saints to me!  Yet it was considered an appropriate, Biblically-based gift for a future Reformed Baptist pastor.

(For the sake of argument, I have been leaving out any references within the Biblical books of Maccabees and Tobit since I assume that Mr. White rejects them as canonical.)

Mr. White:
Seventh century? Who has ever denied that by the seventh century all sorts of unbiblical traditions were as popular as popcorn? What I had written was, “but it is still striking to ponder how far from the mindset of the inspired writers modern Roman Catholicism truly is.” I had used as my example…what? An example from modern Roman Catholicism. So why change the subject of what I was addressing?

Mr. White implied with his statement that the communion of saints was an invention of “modern Roman Catholicism”, and so my example was relevant, pointing out that it was held even by a church weakly influenced by Rome as early as the 7th century, a time long before anyone’s definition of “modern”, so his implication of this being a recent invention is refuted.

I find his first statement more interesting, however.  He believes that by the 7th century all sorts of unbiblical traditions were prevalent.  He implies by this statement that the Church’s teachings had become corrupted by the 7th century.  When did, in his opinion, corruption enter the Church’s teachings and on what basis does he make the claim (besides an ad hoc basis)?  Was it in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th centuries?  Which one?  He has apparently not read my blog page posing this question to fellow Christians, and I would ask that he read that blog page and take the time to try to answer the questions I pose there and refute the arguments I make.

The Apostle's Creed
The Apostle's Creed

Finally, this reference to my (Reformed Protestant) friend’s post about this 7th century practice was just one that I had seen recently and should not be inferred to be the first historical reference by any stretch, but merely a convenient one.  I have not even mentioned the Apostle’s Creed, which speaks of the communion of saints (all Catholics who pray the Rosary know this of course).

Mr. White:
Yes, avoid that guy! It looks like that memo went out a few years ago to all the Roman Catholic apologists. They would like to tell you that is because I’m such a mean, terrible, horrible, nasty person: but that would require that you not actually watch any of the nearly three dozen debates we have done over the years with Roman Catholic apologists. Oh, but wait, here’s one: let’s see who the mean “polemical” apologist is here:

I would invite Devman to examine all five debates I have done with Mitch Pacwa and then defend this words in light of the reality of the record.

I have been pleasantly surprised by Mr. White’s interactions with me in this interchange.  (I also retracted the statement that he is referring to here.)

I have listened to or read multiple debates that Mr. White has held with Catholic apologists.  I cannot find the 5 with Fr. Pacwa that he mentioned, however, except for one he mentions about the priesthood which there was a clip of, but I am not sure if that is one of the ones he means; two others he said were not extant, but I don’t know if those are included in the 5 he mentioned or not.  If Mr. White could direct me to where I could download those debates or read them, I am willing to do so.

Conclusion

The communion of saints is what I would call a “leaf” issue in ecumenical discussions, in contrast with the root issue of authority, which all of these leaf issues inevitably lead back to.  It is even secondary to sola Scriptura and the canon of Scripture, but it is still worthwhile to explore.

Mr. White is a professional Protestant apologist, and I am a lay Catholic who works as a professional Software Engineer.  I mention this to explain that I understand if Mr. White does not want to re-hash similar points with me which he has discussed with professional Catholic apologists.  I don’t think he should be expected to, nor am I necessarily expected to purchase multiple books and tapes from his online store, listen to every debate, and then provide an exhaustive reply covering Scriptural and historical arguments.  We can interact with each other with what we each have said in these interchanges and offer food for thought to readers on both sides.

End note on the history of the Protestants’ differing objections to this doctrine (from the Catholic Encyclopedia):

The cause of the perversion by Protestants of the traditional concept of communion of saints is not to be found in the alleged lack of Scriptural and early Christian evidence in favour of that concept; well-informed Protestant writers have long since ceased to press that argument. Nor is there any force in the oft-repeated argument that the Catholic dogma detracts from Christ’s mediatorship, for it is plain, as St. Thomas had already shown (Suppl., 72:2, ad 1), that the ministerial mediatorship of the saints does not detract from, but only enhances, the magisterial mediatorship of Christ.

Some writers have traced that perversion to the Protestant concept of the Church as an aggregation of souls and a multitude of units bound together by a community of faith and pursuit and by the ties of Christian sympathy, but in no way organized or interdependent as members of the same body. This explanation is defective because the Protestant concept of the Church is a fact parallel to, but in no way causative of, their view of the communion of saints.

The true cause must be found elsewhere. As early as 1519, Luther, the better to defend his condemned theses on the papacy, used the clause of the Creed to show that the communion of saints, and not the papacy, was the Church: “non ut aligui somniant, credo ecclesiam esse praelatum . . . sed . . . communionem sanctorum”. This was simply playing on the words of the Symbol. At that time Luther still held the traditional communion of saints, little dreaming that he would one day give it up. But he did give it up when he formulated his theory on justification.

The substitution of the Protestant motto, “Christ for all and each one for himself”. In place of the old axiom of Hugh of St. Victor, “Singula sint omnium et omina singulorum” (each for all and all for each–P.L., CLXXV. 416), is a logical outcome of their concept of justification; not an interior renovation of the soul, nor a veritable regeneration from a common Father, the second Adam, nor yet an incorporation with Christ, the head of the mystical body, but an essentially individualistic act of fiducial faith. In such a theology there is obviously no room for that reciprocal action of the saints, that corporate circulation of spiritual blessings through the members of the same family, that domesticity and saintly citizenship which lies at the very core of the Catholic communion of saints. Justification and the communion of saints go hand in hand. The efforts which are being made towards reviving in Protestantism the old and still cherished dogma of the communion of saints must remain futile unless the true doctrine of justification be also restored. (emphasis mine)

51 thoughts on “Response to James White on the Communion of Saints”

  1. Thanks Devman

    I was glad to be able to read your response. You were fair to Dr. White. But to be fair to the subject, a few things I feel are not addressed. It would be important to establish that the ‘job’ of the deceased saints in heaven is to take intercessory prayer requests to God, who is Himself omnipresent. It can safely be disregarded otherwise. It can be argued further that in His omnipresence, if He was indeed the only one hearing the prayers, that it might anger Him that you are not praying TO him, but to another who will then pray to him.
    The idolatrous aspect can be ignored, but not escaped. Why not ‘play it safe’?. The Apostles did not teach that you can reach them with your prayers when they are gone- so lets not do it. Lets not build statues of them, light candles to them, and ask them for anything. The omnipresent and omniscient one is God. He hates idolatry, and merely saying, ‘I am not idolizing the statue’, I’m praying for intercession to the person the statue (or painting) symbolizes is exactly the problem. You expect that the saint will do something for you, hence you pray to the saint. You said ‘It is a stingy god (and not a loving Father) who would isolate those whom have given their lives for Him from everyone else once they died and joined Him in Heaven.’ That is a claim about the invisible realm, one we cannot see. You are telling God, in effect, that He would not be loving to keep me from communing with saints. Again, the Question is- is God not omnipresent? And if He is there to commune with directly, do you need the saints for that purpose?

    Jeremiah 23:23-24
    23 “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord,
    “And not a God far off?
    24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places
    So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
    “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.

    Thanks Devman, Gods blessings to you.

  2. Hi Garret,

    Regarding The idolatrous aspect can be ignored, but not escaped. Why not ‘play it safe’?. The Apostles did not teach that you can reach them with your prayers when they are gone- so lets not do it.

    Ah, but just what all did the Apostles teach? They taught what Christ taught them, and do we know all that He taught them? “Sure,” you would say, “it is in the Bible” but I would respond by repeating the words of St. John the Apostle that Jesus said and did many other things which are not recorded, and if they were all written down, the entire world should not be able to contain all of the books!

    This is the crux of it. Where or in what places is found the revelation from God, the deposit of Faith? We both agree that it is contained in the the Sacred Scriptures, but I also argue that it is contained in Sacred Tradition, the teachings of the Apostles from all that Christ taught them that was by no means forgotten by the next generation of disciples nor afterward, for, like the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit was guarding the deposit of the Faith and it was therefore faithfully transmitted in its fullness.

    But your argument here can be responded to on its own terms of sola Scriptura, too. Why not play it safe since the Apostles never said anything (explicitly recorded in the Bible) for or against asking a saint to pray for you? By that principle, we would be in trouble on a great many questions of the Faith and of morals, for the Apostles never said anything for or against whether Christ had two natures or one or two wills or one or whether the Holy Spirit was one in being with the Son and/or with the Father or whether abortion is ever permissible or whether contraception is moral or immoral or which of their letters were inspired and so should be part of the Bible and so on.

    How do we know which side “to play it safe” on for each of these issues when the Apostles were silent and arguments from different interpretations of indirectly related passages of the Bible can be made for both sides?

    You wrote that Again, the Question is- is God not omnipresent? And if He is there to commune with directly, do you need the saints for that purpose?

    You present a false dichotomy, for God can both be omnipresent and he can desire that Christians pray for one another, Christian saints both here on earth and in Heaven with Him, for all are alive to Him. If he wants you and me to pray for each other here (and that does not contradict His omniscience nor omnipresence), then why not saints who are even closer to Him now that they have gone to receive their reward and dwell with Him in Heaven?

    Christ calls us “brothers” and makes His Father to be our Father, and we do not cease to become brothers when we die and our souls fly to dwell with Him, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies; rather, we remain brothers in the family of God, a family that is the Church and has members militantly fighting against evil here on Earth, members being purified in Purgatory, and members sharing in the triumphant glory of God in Heaven.

    If you as a father are asked by your son for money to purchase a gift for your daughter, and you give him the money, and he gives it right back to you and asks you to purchase the gift, and you do and then give it to your daughter as coming from both you and your son, is that an evil thing? No, but rather you are pleased with your son’s generosity and love for his sister, and pleased that he would ask for a good gift, and like a good father you answer by providing both the money and the means for your son to show his love for his sister.

    You as the father have no need of your son to buy something for his sister; you have the means and the knowledge to buy her the gift yourself and to give it to her if she were to make her request for it known to you without any entreaty from your son; even the money comes from you, and yet, though you have no “need” for your sons entreaty, you are pleased that he should ask you to give this gift to his sister. God is called our Father for a reason–He is the Father of a family who love each other and so request of Him good things for each other.

    I have to go to bed! Have a great night.

  3. Thank you for your valuable time here, I do appreciate your thorough answers, and taking the time to do this.

    I fear that I have undersold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura to you. I have reread what I had previously on the subject, and need to expand on it here. On Kevin’s blog I responded with more on that issue, but let me copy very important definitional perspectives from James White-

    “The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fidei, the infallible rule of faith for the Church…

    2. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture,and in no other source. This is not to say that the necessary beliefs of the faith could not be summarized in shorter form. However, there is no necessary belief, doctrine, or dogma absolutely required of a person for entrance into the kingdom of heaven that is not found in the revelation of God in the pages of Scripture.
    3. That which is not found in Scripture-either directly or by necessary implication- is not binding upon the Christian”

    You see, SS does not require that ALL of what the apostles taught can be known or is represented by the Scripture, only the things necessary.

    Why not play it safe since the Apostles never said anything (explicitly recorded in the Bible) for or against asking a saint to pray for you?

    Because that is not ‘safe’ given the nature of the God of the Bible- it is full blown idolatry in appearance at the very least. God provides for us and knows the very number of hairs on our heads. It is Him we ask, He provides. Your last paragraphs sound beautiful. However, human analogies of the rather severe and serious, all HOLY God of the Bible, always fall short. He is the potter, and we are the clay. We are sinful, and by His grace we are saved. Read Isaiah to get a sense of His hatred for idols. Read the first four of the ten Commandments for that matter (Ex 20) I would fear the mere appearance of this. He is holy. I cannot assume that we can communicate to the living saints in heaven, as far as I am concerned, that has not been revealed.

    whether the Holy Spirit was one in being with the Son and/or with the Father
    Easily disproven in Romans chapter 8. Verse 9- the Spirit of God dwells in you- also called the Spirit of Christ. Verses 11 kills all doubt! The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you! The Being who raised Jesus from the dead- His Spirit dwells in you. Being and Spirit are one in the Biblical worldview, accross the board. His personhood is established- He is helper, teacher, Spirit of Jesus, descended from the Father onto the Son (probably the best Trinitarian imagery. We have the Spirit of God in us, for those who believe.

    Anyway, getting tired here- notice the general point that you made about all of the problems that we face in this world are answered through wisdom gained in the Scriptures, principles, insights. Sola Scriptura allows for this, it is Biblical, for a man of God to gain wisdom from Scripture- of course 2 Tim 3:16-17 (sorry its my duty as a Protestant). The Scriptures are not expected to resolve everything, we are left here to wrestle with the rest, using those principles..
    Thank you and God bless!

  4. Hi Garret,

    Thank you for your response.

    Regarding whether the Holy Spirit was one in being with the Son and/or with the Father
    Easily disproven in Romans chapter 8. Verse 9- the Spirit of God dwells in you- also called the Spirit of Christ. Verses 11 kills all doubt! The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you! The Being who raised Jesus from the dead- His Spirit dwells in you. Being and Spirit are one in the Biblical worldview, accross the board. His personhood is established…

    It seems so clear to you from just reading a few verses–you would have been a handy guy to have around in the Church from around 325 AD through the 400s (especially during the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople) so you could so easily set everyone straight on the many heretical ideas about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity which arose during this time period.

    (For the many heretical challenges to the Trinity and the Holy Spirit, see the Catholic Encyclopedia article: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07409a.htm).

    What I am getting at is that you are borrowing from the Tradition of the Church here without realizing it. Yes, certainly if the Scriptures are correctly understood, they support these doctrines, but these doctrines were not yet dogmatically defined in the Church, and the bishops of the Church struggled and fought to defend the truth and clarify it against the false teachings which were proposed at the time (often by other Church leaders: deacons, priests, and bishops). It was anything but easy, anything but straightforward and clear, especially in refuting intelligent men like Arius who could quote you back five other verses which would seem to support his belief. For us who have had the benefit of 1700 years of clear teaching on this issue (at least from the Catholic Church; some Protestant communities have gone off the rails into modalism and unitarianism), the truth seems obvious.

    The truth is that both you and I are standing on the shoulders of giants, men and women raised up by God to defend the truth from heresy throughout every century since Christ came 2,000 years ago. God always defended His Church from these heresies and did not let her become corrupted by accepting any of them as truth. We stand on the shoulders of the giants at the Council of Nicaea and of Constantinople and because of them can confidently declare the truth of the Trinity which the Devil attacked from every side and through every means he could.

    Catholics agree that the Scriptures are sufficient but only materially so, not formally sufficient as sola Scriptura claims. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 doesn’t seem nuanced enough to distinguish between these two different types of sufficiency, so both Protestants and Catholics point to it as supporting their position on it.

    Throughout the centuries, God led the bishops of His Church to call these Ecumenical (and other) Councils to discern and defend His truth, and they made use of both the Sacred Scriptures and of Sacred Tradition to do so, especially necessary since men like Arius quoted from the Scriptures, too. They made dogmatic declarations when necessary and were protected from error by the Holy Spirit.

    The doctrine of the communion of saints is as ancient as the Church herself, and many of the early Fathers attest to it, even before the canon was defined and even before these Trinitarian doctrines were defined. If you want to reject it as an invention, I would challenge you then by saying that you are implicitly declaring that the Church fell into serious error in her teachings very early on in her history (2nd or 3rd century). If that is the case then why accept the 27 books of the New Testament canon, the very ones by which you base your defense of the Holy Spirit dogmas, which were discerned at this same time by the same men? Even accepting the Muratorian fragment does not help in this case (and I would argue, why accept a 7th or 8th century manuscript that allegedly attests to a late 2nd century writing, since there were errors already in the 2nd century much less in the 7th or 8th which could have further added errors to the supposed original?)

    Okay, I have to go. Great discussion!

  5. Thanks! Yes, I agree, great discussion.

    What I am getting at is that you are borrowing from the Tradition of the Church here without realizing it.

    I am fully aware of that fact, actually. I don’t think so much of myself that I am deluded into thinking that I just see it, without a lot of reading and study. I am young enough in Christ to remember the days that I could not give anyone a working definition of the Gospel in any sense! Jesus was a swear word, not my Lord, not all that long ago! Thanks to Him for His mercy on me (and all of you).

    If you want to reject itRE:Communion of Saints as an invention, I would challenge you then by saying that you are implicitly declaring that the Church fell into serious error in her teachings very early on in her history (2nd or 3rd century). If that is the case then why accept the 27 books of the New Testament canon, the very ones by which you base your defense of the Holy Spirit dogmas, which were discerned at this same time by the same men?

    That the Church fell into many heresies in the first centuries is beyond dispute. Whole churches and regions were taken over by heresies such as Arianism. Many Bishops of your Church were Arian, and there were Gnostics and modalists too. We protestants love Church history and many study it vigorously, considering it part of our history too. The RCC seems to have no problem with their councils resolving and putting to rest heresies, even though some took centuries and buckets of blood to resolve. But are you implying that Protestants should reject the settled general definitions of Christian orthodoxy by virtue of the fact that we are not part of the RCC body? I don’t know why we cannot be selective in our faith. It seems every time I dialog with Roman Catholics, I have to accept all or none. Accept all of our traditions, or if you don’t, then pinpoint the exact microsecond in history that it popped into existence. Its not enough for some reason for the Protestant to say ‘it is not Biblical’. No, you have to know what every church father taught and believed, and this will somehow make you reject your Bible as the regula fidei, and come home to Rome. How? I don’t know what y’all expect from that.
    Truth is not determined by the age of the doctrine, for one thing. This includes all truth claims, including those in the Bible. If Communion of saints is early, fine. It is not Biblical, and those who hold to SS will not engage in it, and will discourage others from doing it. If it popped up 10 minutes after St. John died, it won’t make it true or false. I’ll bite though, it is interesting history, and I would like to know who taught it and when, as in the earliest examples and what they believed it was actually achieving.

    Gotta run,
    Thank you, and God bless.

  6. Hi Garret,

    That the Church fell into many heresies in the first centuries is beyond dispute. Whole churches and regions were taken over by heresies such as Arianism. Many Bishops of your Church were Arian, and there were Gnostics and modalists too.

    I would challenge this statement by saying that it is beyond dispute that many men proposed heresies in the Church (and outside of her) but that the Church, through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, correctly identified them as heresies; thus, the Church did not “fall” into many heresies. The Church has always taught the truth, by God’s grace.

    Now then, it is also true that many of these heresies gained a foothold in regions large and small and persisted like parasites for decades or even centuries. The Arian heresy was one of them, and many bishops did subscribe to it, even after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD when Arius and his ideas were condemned as heretical (though almost all of the bishops supporting him at that Council, once all of his ideas were read, denounced him and his ideas as heretical).

    However, the Church’s teaching from Nicaea was that the Father and the Son are consubstantial–one in being–and that has been the unchanging teaching ever since. It was of course a true statement of the faith before the Church explicitly defined it at Nicaea, but it had not been challenged until Arius and so there was no need to define it.

    So the Church never fell into any heresies. To believe that she did would contradict Christ’s promises to her (“the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” and “the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth” and Paul’s “the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth”). To say that she fell into heresy would also be agreeing with the Mormons who claim that the Church fell into heresy at the death of the last Apostle and so began the “Great Apostasy” (that then allegedly lasted for 1700 years until the 1820s when God reestablished the Church through Joseph Smith).

    We protestants love Church history and many study it vigorously, considering it part of our history too. The RCC seems to have no problem with their councils resolving and putting to rest heresies, even though some took centuries and buckets of blood to resolve.

    I agree that the Church’s history is part of your history–I am glad to hear that you recognize that.

    If “buckets of blood” were shed in this part of the Church’s history (and certainly there were from the blood of the martyrs to the blood of the Christians persecuted by the Arians), then that blood, too, is part of your history.

    But are you implying that Protestants should reject the settled general definitions of Christian orthodoxy by virtue of the fact that we are not part of the RCC body? I don’t know why we cannot be selective in our faith. It seems every time I dialog with Roman Catholics, I have to accept all or none. Accept all of our traditions, or if you don’t, then pinpoint the exact microsecond in history that it popped into existence. Its not enough for some reason for the Protestant to say ‘it is not Biblical’.

    We have come to the heart of the matter.

    No, it is not enough for you to say “it is not Biblical”, and using your statements, I will demonstrate why:

    Why can’t you be “selective” in your faith? Well, you as a Protestant cannot pick and choose such truths as the canon of Scripture because you believe in the Bible alone, sola Scriptura, but you just admitted that the books that make up the Bible are part of the “settled general definitions of Christian orthodoxy”. And ay, there’s the rub, for you just said that off the Bible alone we know what is true and false, yet then you say the very books that make up the Bible come from something outside the Bible, something part of the “settled general definitions of Christian orthodoxy”.

    Boiled down:

    1. You previously stated that “Christian orthodoxy” is found from the Bible alone.

    2. But here you say that we know which books make up that Bible from “Christian orthodoxy”: A perfectly circular (and therefore invalid) argument.

    Here is the link to your first statement: http://journeytorome.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/the-distance-between-catholics-and-protestants/#comment-277

    and an excerpt:

    “The Bible, I hold to Sola Scriptura. I can’t believe you asked me after all this time what I think the authority for determining Christian orthodoxy is…..sigh.”

    And so your desire to be “selective in your faith” is really a desire to pick and choose which truths from Sacred Tradition that you will accept, as seen by your acceptance of the canon of (NT) Scripture made using the Tradition of the Catholic Church–the Church of course couldn’t use “the Bible” to know which books make up the Bible.

    You call it “Christian orthodoxy” but by your own words, Christian orthodoxy comes from “the Bible alone”, sola Scriptura, so in reality this (crucial) part of “Christian orthodoxy’ must come from outside the Bible, and thus the doctrine of sola Scriptura is proven false.

    If Communion of saints is early, fine. It is not Biblical, and those who hold to SS will not engage in it, and will discourage others from doing it. If it popped up 10 minutes after St. John died, it won’t make it true or false. I’ll bite though, it is interesting history, and I would like to know who taught it and when, as in the earliest examples and what they believed it was actually achieving.

    The Communion of Saints almost seems like a tangential point now, because if you accept sacred Tradition with regard to the canon of Scripture, why not accept it with regard to the Communion of Saints?

    For Biblical passages that support the Communion of Saints as well as the early Fathers and other early Christian witnesses that spoke of it, see this article: http://www.catholic.com/library/Intercession_of_the_Saints.asp

    Even ignoring the Shepherd of Hermas, Clement of Alexandria and Origen speak about it in the early 200s.

  7. Hi Devin!

    If I was circular, that is one thing, but again, I will demonstrate that your definition of Sola Scriptura is found wanting.

    Why can’t you be “selective” in your faith? Well, you as a Protestant cannot pick and choose such truths as the canon of Scripture because you believe in the Bible alone, sola Scriptura, but you just admitted that the books that make up the Bible are part of the “settled general definitions of Christian orthodoxy”.

    So you are saying I can’t use the truths of the Bible, and accept them unless I accept church tradition, all of it? I cannot decide that the teachings of Guatama Buddha are false? ONCE AGAIN- Sola Scriptura allows for the formation of the canon to have actually occured. Past tense. No new canon needed. To hold to Sola Scriptura does not mean that we have to believe everything that the the early Church Fathers did- they didn’t write the documents themselves, for one thing. We accept the canon, I don’t know why you can’t accept that we accept the canon and reject some traditions. Why is it, that to you, sola Scriptura has no legitimate canon to refer to? Do you tell a diver that he didn’t invent the aqaulung, therefore he can’t dive?

    for you just said that off the Bible alone we know what is true and false, yet then you say the very books that make up the Bible come from something outside the Bible, something part of the “settled general definitions of Christian orthodoxy”.

    Do you see how your objection does not allow for the creation of the canon? Oral tradition led up to the writing of the Epistles/gospels. I see part of my problem was that I assumed you were familiar with Sola Scriptura. This last sequence shows that you aren’t. Back to the books we go.

    from James White again-

    1. sola scriptura is not a claim that the bible contains all knowledge.

    2. Sola scriptura is not a claim that the Bible is an exhaustive catalog of all religious knowledge.

    My summary of his paragraph-{A doctrine does not have to be exhaustive, it has to be sufficient. The Bible testifies to this, in that there are many things Jesus said and did that are not recorded. John 21:25}

    3. Sola scriptura is not a denial of the authority of the Church to teach God’s truth. 1 Tim 3:15 calls the Church the pillar and support of the truth. …A pillar holds something else up, and in this case it is the truth of God. The Church, as the body of Christ, presents and upholds the truth, but she remains subservient to it….She listens obediently and intently to the words of her Lord Jesus Christ, and those words are found in Scripture.

    1. You previously stated that “Christian orthodoxy” is found from the Bible alone.

    Yes. Before it was written it was oral. I did not cover that aspect before, this is true.

    2. But here you say that we know which books make up that Bible from “Christian orthodoxy”: A perfectly circular (and therefore invalid) argument.

    No. The canon has been established, we accept the canon of NT Scriptures. Before that it was orally taught and passed down for some decades. Upon that basis of established canon, we can establish orthodox Christianity. We could have established it then orally too, from the Apostles and those they trained. You are not allowing me the basic privilege that you give yourself- of having a developed canon of Scriptures, for some reason.

    You call it “Christian orthodoxy” but by your own words, Christian orthodoxy comes from “the Bible alone”, sola Scriptura, so in reality this (crucial) part of “Christian orthodoxy’ must come from outside the Bible, and thus the doctrine of sola Scriptura is proven false.

    A little too excited here about your ‘refutation’ of a straw man. Before there was a NT canon, it had to exist orally, before it existed orally, it existed as it unfolded in time. Time has to be allowed for the development of the canon. Of course, I can talk of the Bible now, and I am speaking of the here and now. Perhaps it was me who was unclear, I can believe that.

    We have good reasons for the placing our faith in the canon- including testimony from early Church Fathers that the canonical books are Apostolic. It is not necessary to believe everything that the Church Fathers believed in order to accept that they have correctly and wisely chosen the canon. I doubt that you yourself believe everything that every church father did anyway, you would be a mess of contradictory beliefs if you did.

    Hey! Check out the James White shows on Catholicism, they are one hour each, and very informative on our topics here. They are titled “Ten Questions for a potential convert to RC” enjoy!

    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3434

    Thanks, and God bless!

  8. Howdy Devin-
    Before you respond, something that might not have been made clear enough in my response, that I want to make clear.

    You charged Sola Scriptura as being false thusly –

    in reality this (crucial) part of “Christian orthodoxy’ must come from outside the Bible, and thus the doctrine of sola Scriptura is proven false.

    The canon of scripture is a separate issue from Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is a reference to a body of Scripture, which body has been defined prior to the doctrine. All the considerations of the formation of the canon address the canon itself. Sola Scriptura refers to the established canon after the fact.

    Also, I narrowed down the link from my last post to one particular moment I would have you listen to which is directly relevant to our discussion.

    http://sharpens.blogspot.com/2007/09/dr-james-r-white-ten-questions-for.html

    Go to the dialog between a caller, Claire, and Dr. White- start 18:14 end 29:21

    Thanks and God bless!

  9. (Note: Garret, I formulated this response to your comment #11–having read your comment #13, I think that the points I make here still stand. If you disagree, please respond to this comment using reasons or logic from your comment #13; I will also attempt to listen to that part of the dialog, though I also summarize what I know to be Mr. White’s beliefs here in any event.)

    Garret,

    To remind us a little of the background: In comment #9, you conceded that you selectively accept certain truths from sacred Tradition but not others.

    James White would have answered differently, for he knows he must avoid conceding that point. See his debate with Patrick Madrid on sola Scriptura where Madrid catches him doing the same thing, selectively choosing from Tradition, which White then denies. (http://vintage.aomin.org/SANTRAN.html)

    First, White says that: “The Scriptures are…self-authenticating”, that is, they can be known “as a function of themselves” by reading them because they are “theopneustos” (God-breathed), and so we do not need a Church Council nor Tradition to discern which ones they are. He echoes John Calvin in this regard (see this article http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/).

    Now follow closely this exchange in the debate where Mr. White is answering Mr. Madrid’s question as to how White knows that the Book of Thomas the Contender is not inspired:

    White: “Well, first of all it is contradictory to that which is theopneustos. And since it is contradictory to that which is theopneustos and inconsistent therewith—it is not testified historically—I do not know of any Christians who ever accepted it. And it is contradictory to that which we have, I don’t accept it as Scripture.”

    Madrid: “As well you shouldn’t, Mr. White, as well you shouldn’t. I found it interesting though that part of your appeal was to tradition. That nasty word again. You said it was not testified to by other Christians. It was not historically regarded as Scripture. Here again Mr. White is engaging in filching Catholic tradition but not admitting that he’s actually taking it. He’s using it, but he won’t admit it. That’s what going on here.

    He says “I believe Scripture is inspired, it’s the only infallible authority.” Well how do you know that infallibly? Well because the Scripture. Well where does the Scripture tell you that? Well it doesn’t. So he just has to go around in circles and he won’t admit that he’s appealing to the tradition of the church. The fact is he has those 27 books in his Bible because the Catholic Church said those were canonical.”

    Mr. White gives two answers as to how he knows that the Book of Thomas is not inspired:

    1. It is not “God-breathed” and thus not inspired because it contradicts other books which are inspired.
    2. It was not historically regarded by the early Christians (the leaders of Christ’s Church) as inspired.

    Madrid jumps on his second argument, and rightfully so, because he unintentionally conceded what you are conceding above, that he relies on the historical witness of Christians in the Church to know what is God-breathed and what is not. White cannot concede this and so when he gets to respond to this charge, he just denies it even though he had an instant ago admitted it without meaning to.

    The first argument White makes is the one that he would encourage you to make rather than the concession that you stated above and that slipped out of him in his second answer.

    His first argument is invalid however, because all he says is that Thomas contradicts “inspired Scripture”, but the very question being asked is “What, exactly, is and is not inspired Scripture?”. Thomas may very well be inspired Scripture, and if it is, then it certainly doesn’t contradict inspired Scripture. Evidence must be given of it not being inspired Scripture by an appeal to “something” that has the guidance and authority to discern which books God inspired and which He did not. That something must be outside of “inspired Scripture” because we are trying to figure out what is inspired in the first place!

    The only way his argument works is if the Scriptures truly are self-authenticating, and the only way they could be is if, when a Christian reads a book that God did inspire, he gets a powerful and unmistakable feeling/intuition/physical sensation that he knows is from God and when he reads a book that God did not inspire he doesn’t get that same feeling or gets an opposite negative feeling of badness.

    But the fact is that no Christian collects every book from the 1st century (let’s say somehow we know God would only inspire Scripture in the 1st century), sits down, picks up the first book, prays for God to tell him whether it is inspired or not, then reads it and waits for the feeling. If he gets it, he puts it to his right to be bound up later in his Bible, and if he doesn’t get it, he puts it to his left to be burned or thrown away or put on his bookshelf as something interesting and maybe even helpful, but definitely not inspired and thus not to be added to his Bible. No Christian does this! Because this is not the way that God provided for us to know which books He inspired and which He did not. Rather, He built His Church and gave her His authority, inspired the Apostles to write the Scriptures, then guided His Church later (over the next 3 centuries) to discern which books and letters were inspired and which were not.

    But if the Scriptures are self-authenticating you would expect every single Christian to be reading all these books so he could confirm for himself whether or not they were the inspired ones. The words would literally leap off the page and hit him in the face to tell him “I’m inspired!”, but as we all know, they don’t.

    So White’s first argument doesn’t wash. However, I point out again that you made a different argument than he did. You said, “why can’t I selectively choose” which things from Tradition to accept and which to reject? Mr. White knows too well that his arguments crumble if he accepts anything from Tradition (especially the canon of Scripture which forms the Scriptura part of sola Scriptura), so even though he did concede this accidentally, he later denied it.

    You wrote If I was circular, that is one thing, but again, I will demonstrate that your definition of Sola Scriptura is found wanting….We accept the canon, I don’t know why you can’t accept that we accept the canon and reject some traditions. Why is it, that to you, sola Scriptura has no legitimate canon to refer to?

    The argument I pulled from your own statements was circular (Christian orthodoxy is known from the Bible, and we know what books belong in the Bible from Christian orthodoxy), but in reality the second usage of “Christian orthodoxy”, the one that you say tells us which books were inspired, means “from the Church’s decisions in the first three centuries, where they used Tradition to discern the inspired books”. You say that you can accept the truth of the canon from Tradition without accepting everything that Tradition teaches, but sola Scriptura falls by this concession (accepting revelation outside of Scripture); you must instead assert something like what Mr. White does in his first argument above, that the inspired books somehow tell us in and of themselves whether they are inspired or not, without the help of any Tradition or revelation outside of themselves.

    With regard to sola Scriptura, I am asking you, “which books make up the “Scriptura” part and how do you know they are inspired?”. However you answer that question must also, of course, not violate the definition of sola Scriptura. The clarifications that you have made to what sola Scriptura is do not make your circular argument any less circular nor do they somehow transform your concession to accepting some parts of Tradition to a different argument entirely (like Mr. White’s “self-authenticating” assertion).

    Do you see how your objection does not allow for the creation of the canon? Oral tradition led up to the writing of the Epistles/gospels. I see part of my problem was that I assumed you were familiar with Sola Scriptura. This last sequence shows that you aren’t. Back to the books we go….

    3. Sola scriptura is not a denial of the authority of the Church to teach God’s truth. 1 Tim 3:15 calls the Church the pillar and support of the truth. …A pillar holds something else up, and in this case it is the truth of God. The Church, as the body of Christ, presents and upholds the truth, but she remains subservient to it….She listens obediently and intently to the words of her Lord Jesus Christ, and those words are found in Scripture.

    Tangential question: Which “Church” is this “pillar and support of the truth”?

    My objection is that _sola Scriptura_ does not allow for the creation of the canon, and you proved that objection was true because your circular argument of how we know the canon (but then broke the circularlity by conceding that you accept it from Tradition, which makes your position even less tenable, as I will continue to demonstrate).

    The Catholic Church also teaches that the Church is the servant of the truth, not its master, so there is no disagreement there. Yes, she also listens obediently and intently to the words of her Lord Jesus Christ, and yes, those words are found in Scripture BUT they are also found, as you mentioned yourself, in the “oral tradition”, some of which was recorded in the Epistles/gospels, and others of which, as the Scriptures themselves say were not written down but which were passed down from the Apostles to their disciples and so on (which is why the Apostle Paul makes the distinction to his disciples in Thessalonica to hold fast to the truths he told him, whether by word of mouth or by letter: “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” — 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

    No. The canon has been established, we accept the canon of NT Scriptures. Before that it was orally taught and passed down for some decades. Upon that basis of established canon, we can establish orthodox Christianity. We could have established it then orally too, from the Apostles and those they trained. You are not allowing me the basic privilege that you give yourself- of having a developed canon of Scriptures, for some reason.

    It is not enough for you to say, “the canon has been established” because that is the exact question I was asking: How do you know the canon? By what principle do you accept this part of Tradition but not another part? If Tradition can err, as you claim it did with the Communion of Saints, then you have no basis for accepting as accurate the Tradition of the canon of Scripture. And without a basis for knowing which books are inspired and which are not, you have no ground to stand on to argue against other parts of Tradition based on those Scriptures. Your legs have been cut out from underneath you by your own concession. Based on your logic, the particular selection of 27 NT books which you accept from Tradition as inspired and look to as the ultimate, infallble guide, could be an erroneous list! They could all be uninspired; or half of them could be; or all but one; or there could be five other books that were inspired but which were wrongly rejected by the erroneous Tradition.

    More questions for you to answer (or just to ponder) regarding the statement that “the canon had been established”:
    When was the canon established?
    Who were the men that discerned which books belonged in the canon?
    How did they decide on the canon?
    How do you know that the NT canon ultimately decided upon was correct and the many other which differed from it over the first 3 centuries were incorrect?

    A little too excited here about your ‘refutation’ of a straw man. Before there was a NT canon, it had to exist orally, before it existed orally, it existed as it unfolded in time. Time has to be allowed for the development of the canon. Of course, I can talk of the Bible now, and I am speaking of the here and now.

    Perhaps I was not clear in my previous comment; so given my alternative explanations of how your argument falls apart, especially in the preceding paragraph, please explain what the straw man is by answering the questions I pose to you there and rebutting my arguments.

    Your statements about “time” bring up a related question I would pose to you (leaving aside the canon question), how was the Church supposed to function and men know the truth before the books of the Bible were even written?

    From “Where We Got the Bible”: http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/protestantism/wbible.htm#CHAPTER%20III

    “Only five out of the twelve wrote down anything at all that has been preserved to us; and of that, not a line was penned till at least 10 years after the death of Christ, for Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 A.D., and the first of the New Testament books was not written till about 45 A.D. You see what follows? The Church and the Faith existed before the Bible; that seems an elementary and simple fact which no one can deny or ever has denied. Thousands of people became Christians through the work of the Apostles and missionaries of Christ in various lands, and believed the whole truth of God as we believe it now, and became saints, before ever they saw or read, or could possibly see or read, a single sentence of inspired Scripture of the New Testament, for the simple reason that such Scripture did not then exist.”

    It is pretty hard, no matter how you define sola Scriptura, to say that the Bible is the ultimate authority when the NT books of the Bible had not even been written yet!

    We certainly both agree that the Apostles and their disciples were Christ’s witnesses throughout the world, and that they spread the Gospel orally and eventually via letters, some of which were discerned to have been inspired by God and after hundreds of years definitively collected into the NT of the Bible we have today. But how that discernment happened and how we know that they discerned the inspired books without error are the questions I have asked you.

    We have good reasons for the placing our faith in the canon- including testimony from early Church Fathers that the canonical books are Apostolic. It is not necessary to believe everything that the Church Fathers believed in order to accept that they have correctly and wisely chosen the canon. I doubt that you yourself believe everything that every church father did anyway, you would be a mess of contradictory beliefs if you did.

    You are correct that I do not believe everything that every Church Father said–the promise that Christ made to His Apostles that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth was a promise to them as the leaders His Church and not a promise that every single thing they ever said in their lives (or their disciples said) would be true. However, this presents no problem for me, since I believe that Christ gave His Church the gift of indefectibility (http://principiumunitatis.blogspot.com/2008/11/indefectibility-of-church.html), and one of the consequences of that gift is that God guides His Church into all truth and protects Her from error in her teachings on the Faith. Therefore, when the Church declared what she had discerned to be the canon of Scripture, I have faith in Christ that He guided her into the truth of this decision.

    However, you do not believe the same thing (see for example your rejection of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints), so for you, the fact is that the leaders of the Church during those centuries (including the Church Fathers you speak of here) made the decision about the canon, BUT those Fathers, as you pointed out, were prone to error and made errors! Check out that page again about the early saints and Fathers who spoke about the Communion of Saints: (http://www.catholic.com/library/Intercession_of_the_Saints.asp).

    So, on what basis do you believe that the Fathers, who (to you) had serious errors in their theology, somehow didn’t make errors in discerning the canon of Scripture? After all, many of those Fathers also held that the seven deuterocanonical books were inspired as well! Was including the deuterocanon a “wise and correct” decision of the Fathers?

    Garret, thank you for this ongoing discussion. I realize we are both getting pretty intense about it, so I want to tell you that I appreciate your honesty and respect in this correspondence. I am not knowingly trying to mischaracterize your beliefs (including sola Scriptura) but doing my best to accurately demonstrate how some of your fundamental doctrines cannot stand.

  10. Garret,

    Having listened to that portion of the dialog you mentioned in #13, my questions and refutations in #14 stand. I didn’t hear anything that answered or responded to them, so please respond to my previous comment as you are able.

    Thanks!

  11. Devin
    Thank you for responding. There is a lot to this issue. I am going to pull from the back and forth that Dr. Beckwith and Dr. White engaged in, hopefully this will help. It seems Dr. White wrote a book on the subject of SS which I don’t have. the link to the referenced article is here

    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2174

    and now to some of the issues you raised.

    I will read through the link on the SS debate later, it looks interesting. On to your comments

    On SS and the appeal to early Church authority versus the concept of theopnuestos alone- The only way his argument works is if the Scriptures truly are self-authenticating

    Let me get this straight. You, Devin would not have agreed with everything the early Church Fathers taught- yet only you, and other Catholics, can appreciate that the testimonies said Fathers appealed to as to the authenticity of the epistles and Gospels- That being that they were written by the Apostles and their direct followers- would in any way make them authoritative. In other words- people (Church Fathers) testified as to the Apostolic origin of the writings, and this is to have no bearing or influence as to whether we think that they have anything significant to say about the claims of Christ that we should pay attention to? The Apostolic writings are to be ignored because we don’t accept modern Roman Catholicism and cannot then understand their import. That does not work Devin. It is logical to see the writings as inspired based on TESTIMONY of early followers as well as the nature and claims of the writings themselves and how they speak to the truth revealed to us inside ourselves. read some gnostic gospels, they are very different in nature, and clearly not inspired of God.

    James White on the subject form the above link-
    At one point during the radio program I asked Mr. Matatics the following question.

    How did the faithful Jewish person know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture fifty years before the coming of Christ?

    He was completely stunned by the question. For those Roman Catholics who argue that the authority of the Church is necessary for the establishment of the canon of Scripture, rather than seeing Scripture as an artifact of revelation (a point I made in _Scripture Alone_, pp. 102-109), the question poses what I think is a truly unsolvable puzzle

    See the article to the potential responses. Notice that the appeal to the authenticity of the books of the canon by the Fathers is only ONE aspect of determinig the truths of the Scriptures. You interpret that Dr. White had to change his mind, make a different appeal to get at the truth of the matter, when there are different approaches available. But a quote I find interesting is here, a few lines down.

    The fact is, the question points out that the demand to have an infallible authority define the canon is anachronistic at best, and, in the case of Rome’s claims, unworkable in light of the fact that the first *dogmatic* and hence *infallible* definition is that of Trent, leaving us with the untenable idea that no one could truly use Scripture until after the time of the Reformation. I leave aside here all the most interesting facts concerning how even Popes rejected the final conclusions of Trent (Pope Gregory the Great rejecting Maccabees, for example). Those who have studied these issues in depth, from both sides, well know the facts of the matter.

    So is it true that the canon became dogma only after the Reformation? Before that what was its status? It was closed, but not locked into a Church Dogma until Trent, Wikipedia has an article on that.

    Rather, He built His Church and gave her His authority, inspired the Apostles to write the Scriptures, then guided His Church later (over the next 3 centuries) to discern which books and letters were inspired and which were not.

    And I cannot use that list because…..why? Because I don’t believe everything they say, and that is a requirement, that we all believe all of their religious ceremonies as they did. You don’t! Why can you use the canon? They didn’t believe in transubstantiation, the Bodily Assumption of Mary and many other Dogmas etc, did they?

    Mr. White knows too well that his arguments crumble if he accepts anything from Tradition (especially the canon of Scripture which forms the Scriptura part of sola Scriptura), so even though he did concede this accidentally, he later denied it.

    That statement is false. He uses both aspects of the argument today.

    The clarifications that you have made to what sola Scriptura is do not make your circular argument any less circular nor do they somehow transform your concession to accepting some parts of Tradition to a different argument entirely (like Mr. White’s “self-authenticating” assertion).

    As a lay apologist, I did not do the ground work of properly laying out the definitions, all the aspects of SS. Rather, I reacted to your assertions, and identified, after the fact your basic misunderstandings of it. Any circularity was due to my explanations offered in the face of our discussion, and my infamous scatter brain. The legitimacy of the argumentation is there to be seen by all.

    How do you know the canon?

    I will write a blog post on it as I have time, and will let you respond there- sound good?

    It is pretty hard, no matter how you define sola Scriptura, to say that the Bible is the ultimate authority when the NT books of the Bible had not even been written yet!

    No sir, it is not hard at all. You see, you can’t hold to a Scripture that does not exist, that is plain logic. I don’t have a 2019 Silver Jaguar in my garage, nor could I.

    So, on what basis do you believe that the Fathers, who (to you) had serious errors in their theology, somehow didn’t make errors in discerning the canon of Scripture?

    First, you have a problem of your own, in that you assume that your churches definitions of terms and ceremonies did not change over time, they did not evolve. How can you know that you hold their theology without looking accurately and objectively at early church history?

    Here are some problems from the article linked above

    I would like to ask anyone who claims that the Roman Catholic Church, as it exists today, has existed for nearly 2000 years, to explain something to me. When the Council of Nicea convened, around 318 (by one count) bishops attended. Could a Roman Catholic representative point me to a single bishop at Nicea who believed what you believe de fide? That is, was there a single bishop in attendance who believed, for example, in transubstantiation? Purgatory, as defined by Rome today? Indulgences? The thesaurus meritorum? Immaculate Conception? Bodily Assumption? Papal Infallibility? If these things have been defined de fide, are we to believe that the gospel has “changed” since that time, if, in fact, these things were not defined as part of the gospel at that time?

    the practice of indulgences is recognized by all to be secondary to, and derivative from, the concept of the thesaurus meritorum, the treasury of merit. This concept has been traced in its development primarily to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, giving rise then to the practice of the selling of indulgences and the funding of the building of St. Peter’s in Rome. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “The development of this doctrine in explicit form was the work of the great Schoolmen, notably Alexander of Hales (Summa, IV, Q. xxiii, m. 3, n. 6), Albertus Magnus (In IV Sent., dist. xx, art. 16), and St. Thomas (In IV Sent., dist. xx, q. i, art. 3, sol. 1).” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07783a.htm). Add to this reality the fact that the very concept of purgatory itself was a late development, with only portions of the later doctrine being found as late as Gregory the Great (who gave the greatest impetus to its development, but still did not hold to the de fide doctrine of the fifteenth century). If the foundational elements had not as yet taken recognizable form at these late dates, upon what basis, then, can one meaningfully read into an early fourth century document such concepts?

    Canon 6 Council of Nicea

    Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.

    If, in fact, it was the “ancient custom” for the Bishop of Rome to be viewed as the supreme head of the faithful, I have to wonder why Nicea said it was the ancient custom for the Bishop of Alexandria to have the headship over his own jurisdiction, just as Rome had jurisdiction in Italy?

    Can you see Augustine representing the majority of early writers in rejecting the very foundations of modern Papal claims, not only in his view of Matthew 16, the Cathedra Petri, etc., but in his rejection of Zosimus’ claims to authority in the matter of Pelagius, and accept what it meant concerning the views he held at the time? Or do you have to find a way “around” these facts because Rome tells you otherwise? Can you accept that without forged documents such as the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals that the entire foundation of Papal authority as it developed in history would be altered beyond recognition? Does it mean something to you that your new ultimate epistemological authority in matters of faith and morals hangs in mid-air, its historical claims having collapsed long ago?

    The fact is, Modern Roman Catholic Church contradicts and collides with the ancient version of herself. You are by no means justified in saying that you believe in the same way as your ancient counterparts and Church Fathers.

    Thank you Devin, God bless

  12. I beg one more finese to add to the above, for clarification.
    The canon has theological import, and a historical aspect as well. One can apply the historical, AND theological reasons to accept the canon of the NT. For instance. The canon should be Apostolic in origin. Why? Because we want to go to the source itself. That is not strictly a theological reason, is it? How can we know they are Apostolic? The testimony to that fact from the early Church Fathers. You see, THAT claim right there is a historical claim, having nothing to do with theology. It does not affect the issue if Athanatius believed doctrine X. No, he can believe doctrine X, and make accurate historical claims about ancient writings and their origins. We can cross check and compare, and know the writings they refer to because they frequently quote from them. This is an academic exercise that does not depend on the beliefs of the academic to be a success. This is why the RC claim (that we can’t reject some traditions ‘arbitrarily’ and accept others) is so bizarre to anyone who recognizes that the historical aspect is an important part of determining the canon. The councils were concerned about that issue.

    Thanks, God bless, and good night!
    Garret

  13. Garret,

    I am formulating a response, but I need to ask you one clarifying question about your view of the canon of Scripture first:

    Do you believe that the (NT) canon is:

    1. “A fallible collection of infallible books? ”
    — or —
    2. Inerrant?

    The first is RC Sproul’s famous statement on the canon, which is certainly not believed by many (even most?) Protestants.

    The second–that the canon is inerrant–is believed by many Protestants and the Catholic Church.

    Knowing your answer to this question will significantly impact my response.

  14. Hi Devin-
    I will go with The second–that the canon is inerrant–is believed by many Protestants and the Catholic Church.
    and see what you have!
    Thank you-
    Garret

  15. Garret,

    Given that you believe the canon to be inerrant, I am going to demonstrate how your arguments contradict each other.

    First some definitions:

    * Sola Scriptura teaches that:
    a. the Church does not speak infallibly in its traditions, but only in Scripture.
    b. There are no deficiencies in Scripture that need to be filled with by tradition.
    c. “The New Testament which was the ‘inscripturisation” of the apostolic proclamation, together with the ‘older Scriptures,’ was the source of revelation and the authoritative doctrinal norm….Yet neither the Church nor the regula fidei were considered second sources of revelation…”
    d. So we see that sola Scriptura holds that there is no public revelation outside of the sacred Scriptures.

    * An “inerrant” canon of Scripture means that every single book chosen to be in the canon was inspired by God, and that there are no other books that God inspired which were omitted from the canon. (In our discussion, we are focusing on the NT canon since we both agree on that one.)

    Now, here is your problem:
    1. You believe in sola Scriptura.
    2. You also believe you can selectively accept the canon of Scripture from Tradition.
    3. You believe that this canon is inerrant.
    4. But you stated that your basis for knowing the canon was the historical testimony of the bishops of the Church
    5. But the historical testimony, which produced various differing canons over the first 300 years of Christianity, is not a basis for knowing that the final canon chosen was inerrant.
    a. Supporting point: You also believe that the Church “fell into many heresies in the early centuries” (like the Communion of Saints and Purgatory), so the Church 1) was clearly not protected by God from error in her teachings and 2) a historical testimony about a doctrine does not mean it is true–it could be seriously false as you think the above two teachings are.
    6. Therefore, your beliefs in sola Scriptura and that you can selectively know truths from Tradition (e.g. that the canon is inerrant) are self-contradictory.

    Given my demonstration of the contradictions in your statements, please explain then how you know that the canon is inerrant.

    Footnotes:

    In the definitions section:
    a. and b. are from Wikipedia, c. is from Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura

    You also said that you knew the canon from:
    4b. the internal witness of the books to your spirit
    4c. what they say about themselves

    In 4b. you are appealing to bosom-burning, which is no basis for claiming the canon is inerrant (Muslims’ bosoms burn to with the Koran, and Mormons’ bosoms burn as well for the Book of Mormon.)
    In 4c., you are appealing to the claims made by the Biblical books about themselves, but other books excluded from the canon and deemed non-inspired claim apostolic authorship and others like Hebrews that we did accept do not claim any apostolic authorship. In any event, c. does not give us a basis for knowing the canon is inerrant.

    A good article by Mark Shea explaining sacred Tradition (and how the Scriptures are part of it): http://www.mark-shea.com/tradition.html

    Excerpt: “Sacred Tradition is handed down “both by word of mouth and by letter.” In Scripture, as today, “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, II, 10) so that the Bible is part, not the whole, of the apostolic paradosis.”

    For more in-depth explanations of why bosom-burning and historical consensus cannot give us the basis for knowing that the canon is inerrant, see these comments on Called to Communion:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1243
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1250
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1252
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1258
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1266
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1270
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1271
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1272
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1274
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/calvin-on-self-authentication/#comment-1318

    I did not respond to several statements and questions you made in comment #16 because I don’t want us to get sidetracked until we resolve this issue, which is the crucial part of the discussion.

  16. Hi Garret,

    I don’t know why it ate your reply–it might have thought it was too long. Sorry about that.

    Here is the reposting of it from your blog.

    ——

    Hi Devin,

    You took my word inspired in #16 and turned it into inerrancy. Inspired can be errant. Wiki ‘inspiration of scripture’. Anyway, you said-

    1 through 4 are valid propositions based on my arguments above, though they are incomplete. Number 5 is not something I never claimed established inerrancy. You mentioned inerrancy, and asked my position on it. You DID NOT ask me how inerrancy is established. Therefore your arbitrary foisting of inerrancy into the list has no basis. When did I say inerrancy is a product of historical testimony? I only mentioned the word inerrant. Historical testimony helps to sift through the ‘junk’ and provides justification that the canonical books are Apostolic in origin #17 and 16 above. Inerrancy of the canon is a claim about the canon, that uses different and unique criterion to establish it.
    Inerrancy would be a product of God and God alone, due to the fallibility of men. Hence the appeal to theopnuestos 2 Tim 3:16-17, and deductive reasoning to lead to that conclusion via that route. Other Biblical examples, including Jesus use of Scripture and high regard therin, help add to the CASE for inerrancy. Inerrancy is another doctrine that is HIGHLY NUANCED, so warning before boldly treading on her, without careful defining of her borders, lest the old straw man pay a visit.

    regarding 4c. It is perfectly legitimate for a book(s) to make claims about themselves, its done all the time. If they ascribe to themselves some measure of authority, which of course the OT and NT do, then evidence pro or con can be taken into account. Rest assured Jesus held high regard for Scripture- ‘not a jot or tittle shall pass away’ ring a bell? That is a claim within the Gospels, and we should take that seriously if we are believers.

    Regarding 4b. Romans 8, the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are adopted sons. With the Holy Spirit comes discernment. On a less spiritual level- Read the Gnostic gospels for free online. They are very different in flavor, and easily marked out as false and not ‘canon worthy’.

    Thanks man,
    Having fun!
    God bless you,
    Garret

  17. Garret,

    In my original question I did ask:

    Please explain then how you know that the canon is inerrant.

    In your reply you said:

    Inerrancy would be a product of God and God alone, due to the fallibility of men. Hence the appeal to theopnuestos 2 Tim 3:16-17, and deductive reasoning to lead to that conclusion via that route

    Is this this basis you are using for how you know the canon is inerrant? Your statements above are not clear to me; please elaborate on what this basis is that you are describing for you how can know the canon is inerrant.

    I would also encourage you to listen to these portions of James White’s debates where he admits that he does not know the canon is inerrant (at 4:00 into the video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJskrQq3dXM&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpatrickmadrid.blogspot.com%2F&feature=player_embedded

    Looking forward to your reply.

  18. Hi Devin!
    Thank you. I need to clarify one of my own sentences above. The original sentence was-

    Number 5 is not something I never claimed established inerrancy.

    I want to correct it to

    Number 5 is not something that I would ever claim establishes inerrancy.

    I went ahead and changed that sentence on my post.

    I love the drama of the youtube audio, the pictures, I could do without! Debates can be exciting. There was a large amount of misunderstanding about the doctrine on part of the audience, so I’m not surprised at the reaction. It must have been very annoying to Dr. White, no doubt!

    None of those objections are mysterious to me. I said before that sola scriptura allows FOR the formation of the canon to actually occur, then why would it PRECEED the canon? When it was oral, why would they be able to hold to a doctrine that refers to written Scripture? Do you really believe Mr. Matatics has his finger on something deep? he would be implying the impossible, unless you are refering to the OT, I suppose. Like I said, how can I own and drive a 2019 Silver Jag?

    At 4:00 where you directed me, Matatics appealed to ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, as though that is a necessity for accepting the doctrine. Where is absolute certainty a necessity for believing ANY doctrine or ANY thing for that matter? Can’t we be reasonably certain? In fact, aren’t we reasonably certain about our doctrines, Catholic and non, using a cumulative case built upon multiple factors to reach that conclusion? Shock of shock here- we might be mistaken, sola scriptura might be false. That does not mean there are compelling reasons for thinking that it is false, or that the reasons offered against it are sufficient to cause such doubt, that it is found to be UNreasonable.

    Dr. Whites’ much maligned pen argument was addressed in full by him, I looked briefly for it but couldn’t find it. Anyway the point being that to accept one set of documents as inerrant and inspired Scripture, doesn’t mean that there are no others out there, nor is it necessary to prove that there aren’t. This is logical, and no big deal need be made of it. SS refers to one set of documents, not all in the world. This comes into play below, actually.

    On Matatics aggressive questioning about 2 Tim 3:16-17. My transcription

    Matatics- “Does that verse teach scripture alone in the use of those words?”
    White- “That’s the only rule of faith that’s given to us, yes.”

    moderator: You are not answering the question Mr White.

    White-“If you want the word only, no, its not there. (cue audience victorious applause and gathering of torches) Just like it does not say the Book of Mormon, that’s right.

    My response. To which I please request a reply per below-

    The two verses in question refer ONLY to scripture and its capabilities, though the word ONLY is not there. AND? What does this mean? The word ‘only’ is not there, such that tradition is not disallowed (but it would be the fallacy of ‘argument from silence’ to include tradition where it is not mentioned), but those verses are not about tradition. the verses are focused on Scripture, and said Scriptures capabilities. Hence, Dr. White mentions the Book of Mormon, which is another thing that passage does not disallow. In fact, that passage does not disallow a whole host of things on the negative side. On the Positive side, that is, what the verses do address, it is ONLY about Scripture. this is not controversial. This is not reading into the text, it is merely observing what the text says, and, does not say.

    I will continue our dialog, and answer you question on how I know Scripture is inerrant when you show me the decency of telling me if my above paragraph is reasonable and sufficient. If it is not, explain why it is not.
    Thanks, and God bless!
    Garret

  19. Hi Garret,

    I am not trying to dodge any questions that you are asking, but I have been trying to make sure you provide an answer to the question of how you know the canon is inerrant. You said you would reply if I answered your question, so I will do so.

    Firstly, however, please understand that by linking to that video of clips from James White’s debates, I was not making any statements about the debates themselves or any other points raised in them other than Mr. White’s admission that his Bible’s table of contents (the canon) is not inerrant.

    In other words, from what Mr. White said in the debate, he holds R.C. Sproul’s view that the canon is a “fallible set of infallible books”. If you disagree, please link to a place where Mr. White says he believes that the canon is inerrant and how he knows that.

    If Mr. White does not claim an inerrant canon, then his belief differs from yours, which you should take into consideration when trying to use his arguments.

    As to your paragraph at the end concerning 2 Timothy 3:16,17, I don’t disagree with anything you say there, though, so I agree that it is “reasonable”, however, I don’t know what you mean by asking if your paragraph is “sufficient”. Sufficient for what?

    You wrote I said before that sola scriptura allows FOR the formation of the canon to actually occur, then why would it PRECEED the canon?

    And the question I am asking you is on what basis you believe that this formation process led to an inerrant canon?

    I didn’t say that sola Scriptura preceded the canon but rather that it explicitly excludes other public revelation outside of itself, but the “table of contents” of the Bible (the canon) is something outside of the Scriptures themselves, so, as Patrick Madrid states:

    “The canon of the New Testament must be decided infallibly; otherwise there’d be no way to know for sure
    if the books in it really are inspired. The canon must be binding, or else folks would be free to have their own customized canons containing those books they take a fancy to and lacking the ones they don’t. And the canon must be part of divine revelation; if it’s not, it’s merely a tradition of men, and White would be left in the intolerable position of championing a canon of purely human origin.” (emphasis mine)

    Please read those statements carefully, especially the bolded sentence.

    Do you see that, for sola Scriptura to work, the canon itself must be part of divine revelation? But if that is the case, then it is divine revelation outside of the Scriptures, which violates sola Scriptura. Are you trying to argue that the principles of sola Scriptura only kick in once the canon is “determined”? If that is the case, then we have other problems to deal with, not the least of which is knowing when exactly the canon was “determined”.

    You wrote At 4:00 where you directed me, Matatics appealed to ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, as though that is a necessity for accepting the doctrine. Where is absolute certainty a necessity for believing ANY doctrine or ANY thing for that matter? Can’t we be reasonably certain? In fact, aren’t we reasonably certain about our doctrines, Catholic and non, using a cumulative case built upon multiple factors to reach that conclusion? Shock of shock here- we might be mistaken, sola scriptura might be false. That does not mean there are compelling reasons for thinking that it is false, or that the reasons offered against it are sufficient to cause such doubt, that it is found to be UNreasonable.

    If Mr. White thought that Mr. Matatics was appealing to some “absolute certainty” the way you are defining it here, he would have objected as you did that we don’t have that kind of “absolute certainty” about anything. I think that you are confusing two different senses of the concept of “falsifiability” here. Please listen to this Called to Communion podcast on faith and reason: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/episode-4-faith-reason/

    I believe that Mr. White here is instead admitting that he holds Sproul’s belief that the canon is a fallible collection of books, in other words, that we do not have a basis for knowing that the canon is inerrant. As I mentioned previously, if you disagree, reply with the statement from Mr. White saying otherwise.

    You wrote Anyway the point being that to accept one set of documents as inerrant and inspired Scripture, doesn’t mean that there are no others out there, nor is it necessary to prove that there aren’t. This is logical, and no big deal need be made of it. SS refers to one set of documents, not all in the world.

    Ah, but since you said that the canon, the “set” of documents itself, was inerrant, that does indeed mean that there are no others out there that are inspired, and it also means that no uninspired ones were erroneously included in that “set”. That is what it means for the table of contents of the Bible to be “inerrant”: It means that that list of X number of inspired books has no errors in it, either of omission or commission.

  20. Hi Devin- I will tackle this in two parts, the first half first.

    Roman Catholics like to proclaim that the debates that Dr. White has done with them were badly lost by Dr. White. This experience right here is very illuminating to me, as I can see why you think he lost. You don’t understand what has happened, or what has been claimed. I am sorry Devin, but you have misunderstood the import of the argument. Please allow me to explain, and I will admit, I might be the one who misunderstands- lets see.

    Mr. White’s admission that his Bible’s table of contents (the canon) is not inerrant.

    There is no such admission, lets see what the dialog achieved. Transcript of the portion from me- c 350

    1 Matatics-“Is there anywhere in the Bible itself, an inspired ‘table of contents’?”
    2 White- “No, there is not”
    3 Matatics-“In your Bible, your Bible, there is a table of contents, is there not?”
    4 White- “yes”
    5 Matatics- “Is that table of contents theopnuestos?
    6 White-“No”
    7 Matatics- And therefore, according to your own logic, you cannot be infallibly SURE that that table of contents is absolutely trustworthy, yes or no?
    8 White-“No I can have just as much assurance as you have that it is trustworthy.”
    9 Matatics-“Thank you, But you admit therefore that, that in itself is not infallible.”
    10 White-“No, of course not.”

    NOWHERE in there was an admission that the canon of Scripture is not infallible.
    #1 is asking if the Bible itself provides a list of its books within itself that are infallible, that the believer can refer to, so as to know which books are canonical, inspired, infallible. Reminder- a ‘table of contents’ is the list of chapters or books at the beginning of a book, IT IS NOT THE BOOKS THEMSELVES.

    #3-6 Is showing that the table of contents in the Bible is not itself inspired or inerrant. It is a list of books that are declared canon by men, with out ‘God breathed’ inspiration. This is not problematic, despite your quoted claim. I will explain next time.

    7 and 8 addresses what was in my post above, that is this- Matatics, for some reason, thinks that it is important to establish with absolute certainty or as he puts it there ‘infallibly sure’, that the canon is infallible. In 8, Dr. White says no, reasonable assurance, just like Matatics can have. And, for that matter, like I pointed out in my last post.

    Note that #7 is not a question about the canon, but about James White, and his assurance. James White cannot be ‘infallibly sure’. This does not say that the canon cannot be infallible, it addresses whether we can KNOW whether it is infallible. Whether James White knows. Infallibility of the canon is SEPARATE from infallibility of our knowledge.

    Now, #9 must be a reference to number 8, that is, that the knowledge of assurance that we have an accurate canonical list of contents is not infallible. Listen to it again, you will see that this makes no sense to take the ‘that’ in number 9 and make it into James Whites admission of the canon of Scripture not being infallible. First of all, they are talking about a list of books that make up the canon, not the canon itself!

    More later,
    and God bless,
    Garret

  21. #2

    You wrote I said before that sola scriptura allows FOR the formation of the canon to actually occur, then why would it PRECEED the canon?

    And the question I am asking you is on what basis you believe that this formation process led to an inerrant canon?

    As I said above- Inerrancy would be a product of God and God alone, due to the fallibility of men. God, in my worldview, guides history, and would ensure that the canon was secure and right. See my post on Soveriegnty of God for many examples of guidance, both subtle, and non. Then there is a historical aspect that can be appreciated as to the lineage of the canon. Its origin being Apostolic, gives confidence that it is potentially inspired, and potentially inerrant.

    Now, if we are to understand each other, this next section needs to be understood, please! This is in regards to knowledge, and authority claims. In particular, the basis of establishing authority claims in FAITH and trust. I think this is the key point here. We are in the exact same boat, but with different authority figures.

    I didn’t say that sola Scriptura preceded the canon but rather that it explicitly excludes other public revelation outside of itself, but the “table of contents” of the Bible (the canon) is something outside of the Scriptures themselves, so, as Patrick Madrid states:

    “The canon of the New Testament must be decided infallibly; otherwise there’d be no way to know for sure if the books in it really are inspired.

    Again, the ‘know for sure’ language can be safely dismissed, as it is NOT a necessity above beyond a reasonable doubt. Right here, Patrick Madrid digs a hole for himself that he can only get out of with theological appeals of his own. Above, in #27, I cut off my transcript before Matatics asked the following- “Mr. White, do you agree that the Catholic claims that he has an INFALLIBLE knowledge of the kind that’s in the Bible, because the Church has infallibly declared that?”
    (Here is the part I need you to see.) That is an authority claim. Sola Scriptura is likewise an authority claim. Fallible men choose one or the other authority. The vary basis of ascribing value to an authority claim is grounded in fallible men, who could be mistaken. One or both authorities could be wrong. The choice is based on emotions, and hopefully reason, but most hopefully by God himself. You have no more grounding in your RC claim than a SS person does. Period!

    The canon must be binding, or else folks would be free to have their own customized canons containing those books they take a fancy to and lacking the ones they don’t.

    Fallen men will do that anyway.

    And the canon must be part of divine revelation; if it’s not, it’s merely a tradition of men

    Not disputed.

    and White would be left in the intolerable position of championing a canon of purely human origin.” (emphasis mine)

    And the RC position is merely assumed? The RCC proclaims itself an unbroken chain in history back to Christ, proclaims itself infallible, and this is known how, exactly?

    Do you see that, for sola Scriptura to work, the canon itself must be part of divine revelation?

    No, not at all. The list of books can be determined by godly men just fine, if God willed it!

    But if that is the case, then it is divine revelation outside of the Scriptures, which violates sola Scriptura.

    The divine revelation can be written inside, OR God can work in other ways. God can work through men, can He not? You see, I can see that what is spoken can be written down later, and then used as an authority in matters of faith. This is not a mystery. Men took the OT as corrective authority prior to the NT, and when the NT was written, they used the same principle with the NT.

    Are you trying to argue that the principles of sola Scriptura only kick in once the canon is “determined”?

    Great question! No, Jesus constantly appealed to Scripture (the Scripture that existed) to correct the religious authorities, who He held accountable to it, above and beyond their human traditions, which violated it. Paul agrees that Scripture is useful in that way in 2 Tim 3, the Catholic Church used the Scriptures for correction too! The principles are there and PRECEED the text of the NT.

    If that is the case, then we have other problems to deal with, not the least of which is knowing when exactly the canon was “determined”.

    I doubt that I will have problems with any of it, actually. Maybe I’m just dumb.

    If Mr. White thought that Mr. Matatics was appealing to some “absolute certainty” the way you are defining it here, he would have objected as you did that we don’t have that kind of “absolute certainty” about anything.

    He did, see Reply 27 transcription numbers 7 and 8.

    Ah, but since you said that the canon, the “set” of documents itself, was inerrant, that does indeed mean that there are no others out there that are inspired,

    Non sequitor. Because a set of documents is inerrant, it does not follow that there are no other inspired documents. Also, inspired and inerrant are different.

    and it also means that no uninspired ones were erroneously included in that “set”.

    true.

    That is what it means for the table of contents of the Bible to be “inerrant”: It means that that list of X number of inspired books has no errors in it, either of omission or commission.

    Thank you,
    Garret

  22. Devin, Is my syllogism accurate here?

    The list of books in the canon are not in the canon.

    A group therefore that says the canon is the sole infallible rule of faith cannot claim the canon can be infallibly known because it does not explicitly state that itself, as an assemblage, is infallible.

    Therefore the canon is subject to fallibility, and cannot be infallible.

    That’s how I take the above objection. For one thing, it is inappropriate, for a group of people who believe in the Triune God of the Bible to keep Him out of the process of preserving His word. That was, afterall, a direct promise of Christ (Mt 5:18) It is appropriate for us to appeal to His work, and His purpose.

    Reasonable certainty applies as my answer as well. The Magisterium is subject to the same fallibility, and has proven it over the past 2000 years.

    Thanks, God bless,
    Garret
    PS I am taking a break for a bit, try Sunday night or Monday- have a great weekend!

  23. Devin
    The RC Sproul quote from you-

    “fallible set of infallible books”

    From his organizations statement of faith (Ligonier Mins)

    We believe that the Bible, in its entirety, is divine revelation, and we submit to the authority of Holy Scripture, acknowledging it to be inerrantly inspired by God and carrying the full weight of His authority.

    From James White, in his book, “the Roman Catholic Controversy” Chapter 5

    The Scriptures provide an infallible rule of faith, one that cannot err, one not affected by personal whims, social trends, or any other outside force.

    From James Whites websight, AOMin.org

    We believe the Bible to be the written revelation of God, complete and sufficient in all respects. We believe the Scriptures to be “God-breathed” and therefore fully authoritative in and of themselves; they rely for their authority upon no church, council, or creed, but are authoritative simply because they are the Word of God. The Scriptures, as they embody the very speaking of God, partake of His authority, His power.

    God bless you Devin, and family!

  24. Garret,

    Roman Catholics like to proclaim that the debates that Dr. White has done with them were badly lost by Dr. White. This experience right here is very illuminating to me, as I can see why you think he lost. You don’t understand what has happened, or what has been claimed. I am sorry Devin, but you have misunderstood the import of the argument. Please allow me to explain, and I will admit, I might be the one who misunderstands- lets see….First of all, they are talking about a list of books that make up the canon, not the canon itself!

    I did not claim that Mr. White lost the debate, nor do I claim that. I tried to emphasize that I was not concerned with their debate except for what (it seemed to me that) Mr. White conceded, and even that I am not all that interested in (it is indirectly related to our discussion but not a critical matter). I didn’t listen to the debate in full. On balance, it seems from my reading that Mr. White claims to have won most or all of the debates he has engaged in–I am not interested in people winning or losing a debate on either side, Protestant or Catholic, but rather our mutual pursuit and discovery of the fullness of the truth, that we might be brothers in Christ in full communion with each other.

    Regarding your last statement (about the list of books and the canon) and the syllogism you make later, you have a fundamental misunderstanding here that I will point out in a moment when I get to your syllogism statement. This misunderstanding has most likely been creating confusion in our discussion, so I want to make sure we both understand it aright.

    As I said above- Inerrancy would be a product of God and God alone, due to the fallibility of men. God, in my worldview, guides history, and would ensure that the canon was secure and right. See my post on Soveriegnty of God for many examples of guidance, both subtle, and non. Then there is a historical aspect that can be appreciated as to the lineage of the canon. Its origin being Apostolic, gives confidence that it is potentially inspired, and potentially inerrant.

    I can generally agree with your statements here, for of course I believe that God both led the men (who led the Church) to choose the books which he had previously led men (inspired them) to write. If you believe that God could inspire (fallible) men to write books which are inerrant, then it is possible to believe that he led (fallible) men in the Church to discern the inspired list of books inerrantly. However, your statements end up causing you problems, as I will demonstrate.

    God, in my worldview, guides history, and would ensure that the canon was secure and right.

    Yet if we here broaden our scope to speak of the full canon, both Old and New Testaments, we see that the Catholic Church back in the 300s definitively discerned 73 books in the full canon, and for the next 1200 years that was the canon used by all Christians. However, you believe that the Reformers (just 450 years ago) correctly removed 7 books from that 73 book canon such that the canon should have had 66 books. Therefore, back in the 300s the Catholic Church made an error in including 7 books which you think are not inspired.

    So, evaluating your claims with respect to history, God did not ensure that the canon was secure and right until the 1500s(!); for 1500 years before that he allowed His Church and all of His children to suffer under grievous error of believing 7 books were God-breathed which were not. If I ask you what your evidence is for the authenticity of your (66-book) canon, you can only appeal to incredibly fallible and untrustworthy means (historical critical method etc.) or something entirely subjective like bosom burning.

    Secondly, Catholics certainly allow for God’s involvement. That’s precisely why we reject the idea that Luther or Calvin could re-work the canon. We believe that God worked through the Church. If I said “only Matthew and Jude are inspired,” how will you contradict me? I will respond: “But you can’t take God out of the process. God could have infallibly guided me to choose these books.” This is just as implausible as what you are proposing.

    Again, the ‘know for sure’ language can be safely dismissed, as it is NOT a necessity above beyond a reasonable doubt

    I would say that all of Christianity believing in a different canon than you now believe, and doing so for the greater part of Christianity’s existence, makes for a reasonable doubt that your canon is accurate.

    (Here is the part I need you to see.) That is an authority claim. Sola Scriptura is likewise an authority claim. Fallible men choose one or the other authority. The vary basis of ascribing value to an authority claim is grounded in fallible men, who could be mistaken. One or both authorities could be wrong. The choice is based on emotions, and hopefully reason, but most hopefully by God himself. You have no more grounding in your RC claim than a SS person does. Period!

    If your conclusion here were true, then it would mean that we also have “no more grounding” in our respective claims than a Mormon does who makes “an authority claim” that God visited Joseph Smith in the 1820s and gave him a new revelation with the Book of Mormon. We would have no more grounding than a Muslim who believes that Muhammad is Allah’s prophet. After all, we are all fallible men.

    Yes of course we could each or all be wrong because we are men, but it does not follow that we can have no more certainty as to which of these positions is true as one of these other men. We can. Basing a decision 1) on emotion does not ensure us of our decision being true to any degree, 2) on reason, however, is exactly what we need to evaluate in each of the above claims, and 3) on God Himself, certainly we must have faith, as you said, that He ensured the canon was chosen accurately, but how do we know which canon is right–does He work by burning our bosoms? that leads back to 1), emotion, which doesn’t work. No, God must work in a way for us to know with certainty that He has indeed guided the selection of the canon, which makes your position unworkable given the historical facts I mentioned earlier.

    And the RC position is merely assumed? The RCC proclaims itself an unbroken chain in history back to Christ, proclaims itself infallible, and this is known how, exactly?

    I can certainly present the Catholic claims more fully at some point (I have been expressing them sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly in this discussion thus far), but at this point let us stay on the specific topic.

    Okay, now onto this part:

    Devin, Is my syllogism accurate here? The list of books in the canon are not in the canon.

    No, your syllogism is not accurate because in this first statement you have a basic misunderstanding of the terms. A canon is a list; that’s what it means. “The list is not in the list” doesn’t make sense. Neither does what you say here. If you have been operating under this misunderstanding thus far, it is not surprising we have been having some problems.

    You continued:

    A group therefore that says the canon is the sole infallible rule of faith cannot claim the canon can be infallibly known because it does not explicitly state that itself, as an assemblage, is infallible. Therefore the canon is subject to fallibility, and cannot be infallible. That’s how I take the above objection. For one thing, it is inappropriate, for a group of people who believe in the Triune God of the Bible to keep Him out of the process of preserving His word. That was, afterall, a direct promise of Christ (Mt 5:18) It is appropriate for us to appeal to His work, and His purpose.Reasonable certainty applies as my answer as well. The Magisterium is subject to the same fallibility, and has proven it over the past 2000 years.

    As I demonstrated earlier in this comment, Catholics most certainly believe that the Triune God was directly involved in guiding the bishops of His Church to infallibly select the canon of Scripture, that is, the list of books which He had inspired and which He wanted to be in the Bible.

    Further, I showed you that your certainty was not reasonable at all given the facts of history and your other beliefs which deny God working infallibly through the Church in other teachings.

    Here’s a better syllogism:

    1. Certainty cannot rest on doubt. A decision cannot be more trustworthy than the deciding principle. You cannot trust the action more than the agent.

    2. The Church is the agent who defined the canon.

    3. You cannot have more trust in the canon than you have in the Church.

    4. Protestants do not trust the Church with infallible certainty.

    5. Therefore Protestants cannot trust the canon with infallible certainty.

    In a previous comment you stated that you believe that the canon is inerrant, but this syllogism demonstrates that you do not have infallible certainty in that. Sproul recognized this truth and thus admitted it in his famous saying.

    (One clarifying point: You keep referring to the canon as infallible. This causes some confusion. The canon cannot possibly be infallible. Only agents or processes can be. This is why we say that the canon is inerrant or not, rather than infallible. Sproul also misuses the words in his statement, so your confusion is understandable, but we should keep this in mind when speaking so we do not add more confusion.)

    If you think that God worked infallibly through the Church in only this one instant, namely in deciding the canon, then you need to offer the following:

    1. The principle by which to know that it was only through the Reformers that God worked infallibly in selecting the canon. I.e. why He didn’t allow the majority of Christians living now or who ever lived to be privy to the correct canon.

    2. The principle by which to know that it was only on this issue that God worked infallibly through the Church. Why doesn’t He work infallibly through the Church on every issue?

    (Final note on your last comment #30: This comment may have also been demonstrating your misunderstanding of what the canon is. The quotation you give from Sproul’s ministry’s page is referring to the “infallible books” in his statement, that is, that the Bible is inerrant; he is not referring to the collection of books, which he calls “fallible”. Your quotes from James White are in the same way referring to the inerrancy of the Bible (that is, the contents of the books themselves), not the list of the Biblical books.)

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Devin

  25. Hi Devin,…………….Pt 1

    Wow, we like to tell each other we misunderstand, geez! If I ‘have a fundamental misunderstanding” I’m not seeing it yet so I beg to differ.

    RC and Protestant Bibles are distinct in the Old testament ONLY, which of course begs the question- WHY would that be?

    Look up DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deuterocanonical_books

    Here is the definition from answers.com-

    Of, relating to, or being a second canon, especially that consisting of sections of the Old and New Testaments not included in the original Roman Catholic canon but accepted by theologians in 1548 at the Council of Trent.

    So when you claim the below-

    Yet if we here broaden our scope to speak of the full canon, both Old and New Testaments, we see that the Catholic Church back in the 300s definitively discerned 73 books in the full canon, and for the next 1200 years that was the canon used by all Christians. However, you believe that the Reformers (just 450 years ago) correctly removed 7 books from that 73 book canon such that the canon should have had 66 books. Therefore, back in the 300s the Catholic Church made an error in including 7 books which you think are not inspired.

    You need to realize that the choice is not arbitrary, the distinction was always there, and known as a matter of comparison to the Hebrew canon. In regards to the OT, we keep to the Hebrew Bible. Do you think this was an arbitrary decision, made with no thought, rhyme or reason?

    So, evaluating your claims with respect to history, God did not ensure that the canon was secure and right until the 1500s(!);

    False. And for one thing, saving knowledge of Jesus Christ was there to be gained from the canon that was present, whether corrupt or not. This is the ultimate purpose of the Bible.

    If I ask you what your evidence is for the authenticity of your (66-book) canon, you can only appeal to incredibly fallible and untrustworthy means (historical critical method etc.) or something entirely subjective like bosom burning.

    You appeal to ‘incredibly fallible and untrustworthy means’ here Devin, all the time and yet, I am supposed to believe you! You make assertion after assertion about history, faith, appeals to logic, etc. So don’t pretend these things are not viable means of gaining understanding, and gaining reliable knowledge! You use those things yourself! Like I pointed out above, YOU ARE IN THE SAME BOAT.

    Secondly, Catholics certainly allow for God’s involvement. That’s precisely why we reject the idea that Luther or Calvin could re-work the canon.

    The Hebrews would point out that we restored the OT canon in Christianity. See the wiki article.

    If I said “only Matthew and Jude are inspired,” how will you contradict me? I will respond: “But you can’t take God out of the process. God could have infallibly guided me to choose these books.” This is just as implausible as what you are proposing.

    To which I would immediately ask ‘Why do you claim that?’ and guess what, I would expect good reasons. If good reasons were not there, I could feel safe in rejecting that claim. I never said that the appeal to God is the only legitimate means to gaining such knowledge, rather it works in concert with other means, such as logic, debate, etc.

    I would say that all of Christianity believing in a different canon than you now believe, and doing so for the greater part of Christianity’s existence, makes for a reasonable doubt that your canon is accurate.

    Not all of Christianity. Did every pope and bishop agree with every book in the canon, even since Trent? Some of these were disputed from long ago, finally locked in at Trent! I would reply you are overreaching with your claim, I have demonstrated a historical basis for dis-inclusion, and can provide more evidence!

    I said-

    The choice is based on emotions, and hopefully reason, but most hopefully by God himself. You have no more grounding in your RC claim than a SS person does. Period!

    To which you responded-

    If your conclusion here were true, then it would mean that we also have “no more grounding” in our respective claims than a Mormon does who makes “an authority claim” that God visited Joseph Smith in the 1820s and gave him a new revelation with the Book of Mormon. We would have no more grounding than a Muslim who believes that Muhammad is Allah’s prophet. After all, we are all fallible men.

    You IGNORED the list of three items, and for that matter, the overall tenor of the sum total of ALL of my argumentation with you! I listed emotions, reason, and God. Your answer ignored reason. I have no good compelling reasons for accepting those other religions, and I have good reasons for rejecting them!

    Pt 2 forthcoming,
    God bless!
    Garret

  26. Hi Devin
    Please ignore MY last paragraph, as I failed to notice that you did address them individually, sorry. The is the second retyping, I lost my first reponse #2, Yikes!

    No, your syllogism is not accurate because in this first statement you have a basic misunderstanding of the terms. A canon is a list; that’s what it means. “The list is not in the list” doesn’t make sense. Neither does what you say here. If you have been operating under this misunderstanding thus far, it is not surprising we have been having some problems.

    The ‘list in the list’ is a reference to the White/Matatics debate. He faulted the ability of White to infallibly know that the canon is inerrant because a ‘table of contents’ is not itself in the text of any of the books in the canon. It does not testify to itself inerrantly.

    I’m going to go to an annoyingly basic level here, to drive home this point. The list of books are not identical to the books themselves, obviously. The word Matthew in the table of contents ( which is defined as a list of books and/or chapters, wiki ‘table of contents’) does not impart the information in the book of Matthew, therefore, they are NOT identical. In other words, go to the table of contents and read the word Matthew. You did not just read the Gospel of Matthew, you read the word Matthew in a list.

    Further, I showed you that your certainty was not reasonable at all given the facts of history and your other beliefs which deny God working infallibly through the Church in other teachings.

    Ha!

    Here’s a better syllogism:

    1. Certainty cannot rest on doubt. A decision cannot be more trustworthy than the deciding principle. You cannot trust the action more than the agent.

    The agency of creation of the books in the canon is God Himself, not the Church. God is the agent, they are God breathed, not Church-breathed. The books that comprise the canon, via the agency of God, were organized by the Church. From the Greater handed down to to the lesser.

    2. The Church is the agent who defined the canon.

    Yes, not ‘created’ the canon. Another way to put it- the Church organized the books into a canon. BUT ‘Agency of creation’ is greater than ‘agency of organization of the created’. Gods revealed will within His created books that comprise the canon must of necessity overrule the will of the organizers of said books, where the issues are addressed. Creator (agent) is greater than the organizers.

    3. You cannot have more trust in the canon than you have in the Church.

    Because the creation of the canon was by God, and God is greater than the Church, this cannot be true IF His revealed will makes it known that the canonical books are to be used to correct the Church- it does. One verse that I have thrown at you, 2 Tim. 3:16-17. You don’t allow that to happen in your syllogism, therefore, your syllogism is in error.

    4. Protestants do not trust the Church with infallible certainty.

    Trust God with that certainty! Look at Church history- you would be brave to trust the Church with your eyes closed, and to treat them as infallible. If they drift from the revealed will of God, you need to know that! God created the Scriptures partly for that very means.

    5. Therefore Protestants cannot trust the canon with infallible certainty.

    Infallible certainty is an artificial and untenable requirement in this matter. Also, the connection of 4 and 5 is ANOTHER non sequitor. It does not follow that because we don’t infallibly trust the Church, that we cannot infallibly trust the canon. What if a special revelation came to you alone, that created that infallible trust?

    I’m gonna be brief now, more if needed per your request.

    1. The principle by which to know that it was only through the Reformers that God worked infallibly in selecting the canon. I.e. why He didn’t allow the majority of Christians living now or who ever lived to be privy to the correct canon.

    The canon was pared down, not expanded upon. All of the info was there already to be read. I could understand your objection if books were added TO the canon! This answer should be sufficient. The correct canon is not a necessity for salvation technically, saving knowledge is- the thief on the cross, millions of saved Christians in history who couldn’t read and know the canon…

    2. The principle by which to know that it was only on this issue that God worked infallibly through the Church. Why doesn’t He work infallibly through the Church on every issue?

    I don’t know, I’m not God. i don’t know that that was the only issue that he worked infallibly through the Church, as I am not infallible, with infallible knowledge. Then again, infallible knowledge as a ability for fallen humans seems to be an unobtainable fantasy, which, ironically, can only itself be known with reasonable certainty.

    Thanks,
    God bless ya, you Catholic warrior! BRING IT!
    Garret

  27. One more vital thing to be said, for clarity.

    The inerrancy of Scripture (canon) is an objective truth claim. That is, it depends on the object (canon).

    It can be true that Scripture is inerrant, whether anybody in the world knows it is or not.

    When a person is faulted for not knowing whether the Scripture is inerrant, that is NOT a claim about Scripture, it is a claim about the person (subject).

    You cannot attempt to define inerrancy of Scripture by whether anybody infallibly knows it, because the inerrancy of Scripture is a claim about Scripture, NOT the person who knows it or does not.

    Therefore, I fear much of our back and forth is wasted, because you keep trying to fault ME for not knowing infallibly, whether SCRIPTURE is inerrant.

    An example-

    In #27 you said-Mr. White’s admission that his Bible’s table of contents (the canon) is not inerrant.

    In the Matatics/White debate clip, people out there actually thought that because White(subject) is not infallibly sure that the canon (object) is inerrant, that it was a statement about the inerrancy of the canon, when in fact it was a statement about James Whites knowledge. It is not necessary for White to know infallibly whether the canon is inerrant, because inerrancy exists outside of White or anybody else- it resides in the object- the canon.

    This is leading to confusion. We talk past each other because I’m talking about the canon, and you are talking about my Knowledge of the canon! My knowledge of the canon has NOTHING to do with whether the canon is inerrant or not!

    Thanks,
    Garret

  28. Hi Garret,

    I will consider your responses in more depth soon, but I do want to reply briefly to address this statement: Of, relating to, or being a second canon, especially that consisting of sections of the Old and New Testaments not included in the original Roman Catholic canon but accepted by theologians in 1548 at the Council of Trent.

    If your understanding of the history of the deuterocanonical books is coming from this article on wikipedia, I encourage you to read a truthful history of the matter. The wikipedia statement is false or at best, grossly misleading.

    It implies that it was not until 1548 that the Catholic Church accepted the 7 deuterocanonicals, even that she added them to the Bible at that time. A pure fantasy. Look up the Council of Florence about 100 years earlier (even before Martin Luther was born), and read what canon the Church affirmed there. Read about the Councils of Hippo and Carthage 1600 years ago and what those Councils affirmed (and which the Pope approved).

  29. Hi Garret,

    One more point about the historical canon:

    The historical question of which Biblical canon was used in Christ’s Church up to 1500 AD is important. You seem to be claiming that the 66-book Protestant canon was used until this time. Please show evidence of this claim, which I say flies in the face of the historical evidence which shows that 73 books were in the Church’s Bibles. (Another piece of historical evidence against your claim: The Eastern Orthodox Churches accept the 7 deutercanonicals, and that schism occurred in the 11th century.)

    In regards to the OT, we keep to the Hebrew Bible. Do you think this was an arbitrary decision, made with no thought, rhyme or reason?

    I don’t doubt there were reasons behind it, but whether those reasons were correct or not is what we are discussing, and an important part of it is the historical canon of Christ’s Church.

    You appeal to ‘incredibly fallible and untrustworthy means’ here Devin, all the time and yet, I am supposed to believe you! You make assertion after assertion about history, faith, appeals to logic, etc. So don’t pretend these things are not viable means of gaining understanding, and gaining reliable knowledge! You use those things yourself! Like I pointed out above, YOU ARE IN THE SAME BOAT.

    Garret, you have made this point several times, and here is why it doesn’t make sense: You and I have differences in our beliefs about the authority God gave His Church (what it is, how it works, when it can be trusted, etc.) as well as differences about the place of the Bible within the Church, whether sola Scriptura is true or whether revelation outside of the Scriptures is binding, etc., and because of these differences, you cannot have infallible certainty in what you believe to be fallible processes and agents. I am not in the same boat because I do not hold the same beliefs as you do on sola Scriptura, the Church, and authority.

    I have been asking you for your principled reason for how you can know the canon is inerrant. I think we have gotten to the point where your answer is that you cannot know infallibly that the canon is inerrant, BUT that “you believe” the canon is inerrant. More on that later. That is a fine position. You do not have a principled reason for infallibly knowing that the canon is inerrant; thus, like Sproul, you would say that the canon is a “fallible collection of infallible books” which would be more correctly stated “the collecting of the books was a fallible process so there could be errors in the Bible’s table of contents.”

    The confusion came because I presented Sproul’s statement vs. an “inerrant” canon, by which I did mean that you had principled reasons for being able to know that the canon was inerrant infallibly, assuming that you would understand the distinction between the two–Sproul also believes (like you) that the canon is inerrant, but he (like you) also does not have a principled reason for knowing the canon infallibly, so he says that it is a “fallible collection” meaning there could be errors in it. This seems to be your position, too. If that is not correct, then please say so.

    Not all of Christianity. Did every pope and bishop agree with every book in the canon, even since Trent? Some of these were disputed from long ago, finally locked in at Trent! I would reply you are overreaching with your claim, I have demonstrated a historical basis for dis-inclusion, and can provide more evidence!

    “All of Christianity” did not mean that every single Christian always knew the canon but that the Church believed, taught, and promulgated Bibles with the Catholic canon until the 1500s when the Reformers removed 7 books. Your burden is to show that the Church for all of those centuries used the Protestant canon, explaining how you know that the historical Councils’ recorded decisions in which the Catholic canon was affirmed were forgeries, why the Orthodox also believe the deuterocanonicals, how to explain the preserved Bibles from before the 1500s that have the Catholic canon of books, etc.

    The ‘list in the list’ is a reference to the White/Matatics debate. He faulted the ability of White to infallibly know that the canon is inerrant because a ‘table of contents’ is not itself in the text of any of the books in the canon. It does not testify to itself inerrantly.

    I’m going to go to an annoyingly basic level here, to drive home this point. The list of books are not identical to the books themselves, obviously. The word Matthew in the table of contents ( which is defined as a list of books and/or chapters, wiki ‘table of contents’) does not impart the information in the book of Matthew, therefore, they are NOT identical. In other words, go to the table of contents and read the word Matthew. You did not just read the Gospel of Matthew, you read the word Matthew in a list.

    Of course I agree and understand this, though by your statement about “the list of books is not in the canon” it seemed to me that you did not, though now you have explained that you really did mean that (odd-sounding) statement.

    The agency of creation of the books in the canon is God Himself, not the Church. God is the agent, they are God breathed, not Church-breathed. The books that comprise the canon, via the agency of God, were organized by the Church. From the Greater handed down to to the lesser.

    Yes, not ‘created’ the canon. Another way to put it- the Church organized the books into a canon. BUT ‘Agency of creation’ is greater than ‘agency of organization of the created’. Gods revealed will within His created books that comprise the canon must of necessity overrule the will of the organizers of said books, where the issues are addressed. Creator (agent) is greater than the organizers

    What you are trying to show here doesn’t work. We all agree that 1) God inspired X number of books to be written, and that 2) the Church “organized” or “discerned” those exact X books (as inspired versus the Y other books which God did not inspire), but this means that the Church was very much the agent who, by God’s guidance, discerned the canon.

    No one argues that God is greater than the members of His Church whom He guided (fallibly or infallibly) to select the canon. The question is, did He work infallibly through the Church in the first 3 centuries of Christianity in defining the 73 books of the canon, or did he work fallibly at that time but then infallibly in the 1500s when the Reformers decided on 66 books?

    The canon was pared down, not expanded upon. All of the info was there already to be read. I could understand your objection if books were added TO the canon! This answer should be sufficient. The correct canon is not a necessity for salvation technically, saving knowledge is- the thief on the cross, millions of saved Christians in history who couldn’t read and know the canon…

    Here you admit that the canon was “pared down”, that is, the Reformers “removed” books from it.

    Previously you have said (and by believing in sola Scriptura you believe), that all that is necessary for salvation is found in the books of the Bible, yet now you say that having the correct list of books is not a necessity for salvation.

    If you do not have a correct canon, then you do not know that the contents of whichever books you think make up the Bible are trustworthy. Whatever “truths” you then derive from your Bible are dubious because you are basing these “truths” on books which may not be true at all.

    I don’t know, I’m not God. i don’t know that that was the only issue that he worked infallibly through the Church, as I am not infallible, with infallible knowledge. Then again, infallible knowledge as a ability for fallen humans seems to be an unobtainable fantasy, which, ironically, can only itself be known with reasonable certainty.

    You do not have a reason for believing that God worked infallibly through the Church to define the canon. By your own concessions and logic, your canon is not trustworthy and cannot be relied on for knowing God’s revelation. At best, you can appeal to historical decisions made by other men–the same type of historical decisions by the same men which also produced erroneous doctrines like the Communion of Saints, Purgatory, the Mass, baptismal regeneration, and so on.

    You cannot attempt to define inerrancy of Scripture by whether anybody infallibly knows it, because the inerrancy of Scripture is a claim about Scripture, NOT the person who knows it or does not.

    Therefore, I fear much of our back and forth is wasted, because you keep trying to fault ME for not knowing infallibly, whether SCRIPTURE is inerrant.

    I was not and am not attempting to define the inerrancy of Scripture based on anyone’s knowledge of it. But you are almost putting your finger on our confusion.

    I thought that you understood my question in comment #18 about Sproul’s position vs. the other position when you claimed the other position as your own. You claimed to know that the canon was inerrant, and I wanted you to present your reasons for knowing that.

    However, you actually don’t “know” that, meaning you do not have any reason for believing that the canon was infallibly collected, so in fact, you “believe” that the (Protestant) canon is inerrant, but you have no principled reasons for infallible certainty in that, which Catholics do have.

    This is leading to confusion. We talk past each other because I’m talking about the canon, and you are talking about my Knowledge of the canon! My knowledge of the canon has NOTHING to do with whether the canon is inerrant or not!

    You are right in the point that, the objective state of any given canon is either inerrant or not, depending on whether the canon lists the exact books that God inspired and includes none which He did not inspire. This objective state of a given canon is not altered by a person’s knowledge or claim about it.

    However, we being human persons wanting to know which books make up the canon, and we being two Christians who have differing canons, we are also discussing our reasons for believing or knowing that our respective canons are inerrant. We are talking about both of these questions, evaluating our different reasons for accepting the canons which we do and reconciling our acceptance with other principles we hold to be true (like sola Scriptura, which excludes binding revelation outside of the Scriptures.)

    My question in comment #18 was not clear, and for that, I apologize. I assumed that you would understand what Sproul meant by his statement that the Bible is “a fallible collection of infallible books”. By saying this, Sproul means that he does not have a principled reason for believing that the collection of books which make up his Bible are inerrant, even though he does believe that the books themselves (that is, the contents of the books) are inerrant (because they are inspired by God).

    I am now under the impression that you would answer question #18 differently by choosing Sproul’s statement, since you do not claim that you have a principled reason for knowing the canon is inerrant. You hope that it is inerrant, but you do not think it was “collected” together by an infallible agent (because that agent was the fallible Church), and so you do not have infallible certainty in the canon. Is that right?

  30. Hi Devin! Part 1

    You seem to be claiming that the 66-book Protestant canon was used until this time. Please show evidence of this claim, which I say flies in the face of the historical evidence which shows that 73 books were in the Church’s Bibles. (Another piece of historical evidence against your claim: The Eastern Orthodox Churches accept the 7 deutercanonicals, and that schism occurred in the 11th century.)

    The only point that I made was the Protestant canon was within the RC canon. read my answer again. Also, and this is important THE NT CANON IS THE SAME!

    and because of these differences, you cannot have infallible certainty in what you believe to be fallible processes and agents. I am not in the same boat because I do not hold the same beliefs as you do on sola Scriptura, the Church, and authority.

    Yes you are in the same boat, you deny that you are, but it is obvious! Just because you claim that the RCC gives you infallible knowledge does not mean that you have actually obtained that infallible knowledge at all. You rely on faith, which is a trust that you place in the Church, that they give you this infallible knowledge. This is an authority claim- different objects of authority, no doubt, but authority claim none the less.

    You do not have a principled reason for infallibly knowing that the canon is inerrant;

    Show me that your principled reason is NOT faith based. Based on the authority claim of the Church. I know you can appeal to history, so can I. I know you can appeal to logic, so can I.

    but he (like you) also does not have a principled reason for knowing the canon infallibly, so he says that it is a “fallible collection” meaning there could be errors in it. This seems to be your position, too. If that is not correct, then please say so.

    If your principled reason is that the Church can let you infallibly know because the Church is infallible, this is a authority claim, believed in when you trust it IN FAITH. Sola Scriptura has a faith based aspect to it as well. As in I believe that the Scriptures are the sole infallible…. and on and on.
    Faith versus faith is all you are boiling it down to. DO YOU EXPECT ME TO UNDERSTAND EVERY HISTORICAL FACT BEFORE I CAN JUSTIFY MY FAITH? That is not reasonable.

    Your burden is to show that the Church for all of those centuries used the Protestant canon, explaining how you know that the historical Councils’ recorded decisions in which the Catholic canon was affirmed were forgeries, why the Orthodox also believe the deuterocanonicals, how to explain the preserved Bibles from before the 1500s that have the Catholic canon of books, etc.

    Gee, thanks! I’m sure you will take my info that I research and shoot it all down by saying that I can’t infallibly know that info, therefore my conclusions will be invalid. I could spend 100 hours compiling a case, only to have the ‘infallibly know’ objection hit me, as though it would be a valid objection.

    Why would the Councils need to be declared forgeries?

    Are you saying you would not allow me to show internal inconsistencies within the deuterocanonicals as compared to the canonicals to formulate a case against them? That I would need to show forgery as my reason?

    Previously you have said (and by believing in sola Scriptura you believe), that all that is necessary for salvation is found in the books of the Bible, yet now you say that having the correct list of books is not a necessity for salvation.

    Both are true, yes technically.

    If you do not have a correct canon, then you do not know that the contents of whichever books you think make up the Bible are trustworthy. Whatever “truths” you then derive from your Bible are dubious because you are basing these “truths” on books which may not be true at all.

    I have reasonable certainty that the canon is correctly chosen in its Protestant form. Those truths are not dubious, I have good reasons for trusting in the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have the same NT, you know.

    By your own concessions and logic, your canon is not trustworthy and cannot be relied on for knowing God’s revelation.

    THAT IS BASED ON YOUR UNOBTAINABLE AND ILLOGICAL REQUIREMENT. Infallible certainty is not, I repeat, NOT a requirement in believing something is true or false. Period. EVER!

    Part 2 later
    God bless,
    Garret

  31. Hi Devin,

    I am now under the impression that you would answer question #18 differently by choosing Sproul’s statement, since you do not claim that you have a principled reason for knowing the canon is inerrant. You hope that it is inerrant, but you do not think it was “collected” together by an infallible agent (because that agent was the fallible Church), and so you do not have infallible certainty in the canon. Is that right?

    Sprould and I and Protestantism do have principled reasonS for accepting the canon and I have enumerated those for you, in a very shallow way.

    I ask you this- why is it necessary to infallibly know? AND HOW CAN DEVIN INFALLIBLY KNOW THAT THE RCC IS FALLIBLE? You are a fallible human being, so even if by some miracle the Church were infallible, you are not- so how do you bypass your infallibility? Keep in mind, if you cannot bypass your infallibility, your entire proclamation of infallibly knowing DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU, and is therefore a mere pipedream. Also, demonstrate that the RCC is infallible in a practical way- because I would maintain, that in all practical matters the RCC is clearly errant, constantly and continually.

    Thanks, God bless.
    Garret

  32. ERRATA
    I asked in #39 this

    AND HOW CAN DEVIN INFALLIBLY KNOW THAT THE RCC IS FALLIBLE?

    and of course, it should be this

    AND HOW CAN DEVIN INFALLIBLY KNOW THAT THE RCC IS INFALLIBLE?

    Thanks

  33. Hi Garret,

    I am still formulating a reply, but I was re-reading some of the earlier comments in light of our realization that there has been some confusion, and I came to this statement of yours:

    Before there was a NT canon, it had to exist orally

    When you said “it” in this statement, did “it = the canon” or did “it = the Scriptures themselves“?

    I understood you to mean that “it” was the canon, that is, the list of books since the canon was the only subject in the dependent clause preceding the “it” in the independent clause. But did you actually mean “it” to be the NT Scriptures themselves?

  34. Hi Devin,

    You asked, about my confusing statement-

    Before there was a NT canon, it had to exist orally

    When you said “it” in this statement, did “it = the canon” or did “it = the Scriptures themselves“?

    I understood you to mean that “it” was the canon, that is, the list of books since the canon was the only subject in the dependent clause preceding the “it” in the independent clause. But did you actually mean “it” to be the NT Scriptures themselves?

    That was a confusing statement, because I was not careful with the word ‘canon’. I had misused it, I suppose. My apologies, if I have created confusion here. This has not been the smoothest exchange in the world, but we are trying, and I am learning as I do it as well. I hope and pray that you are finding this valuable too. I had answered that oral issue if only in passing in #11, #25 a bit as well-

    The ‘it’ was a reference to the unwritten gospel aka ‘oral tradition’, which was not even referred to there at all! There was an oral tradition that was being taught, about Jesus Christ and who He was, and what He meant to ‘the world’, etc. Eventually it was realized they needed to get the gospel in writing, as the people were being martyred, Christianity spread afar, etc. The Epistles of course are targeted exchanges, usually addressing specific issues within particular Churches. All of this you know already.

    BUT please, don’t bore me with a yarn about how that is not my tradition, and I can’t infallibly know it. Please, don’t claim that because an oral tradition existed, sola scriptura is proven false. Scriptura means Scripture- if Scripture didn’t exist, there would be no ‘Scriptura’ to proclaim ‘sola’. Oral tradition prior to Scripture does not disprove Scripture’s efficacy in teaching, reproof, imparting saving knowledge, etc- though I get the feeling that some Catholics want to argue that!

    I want to bring forward some of my earlier statements to look at, that might help illuminate where we’ve been-

    # 7 I wrote-

    You see, SS does not require that ALL of what the apostles taught can be known or is represented by the Scripture, only the things necessary.

    #11 I wrote-

    1. sola scriptura is not a claim that the bible contains all knowledge.

    2. Sola scriptura is not a claim that the Bible is an exhaustive catalog of all religious knowledge.

    My summary of his paragraph-{A doctrine does not have to be exhaustive, it has to be sufficient. The Bible testifies to this, in that there are many things Jesus said and did that are not recorded. John 21:25}

    3. Sola scriptura is not a denial of the authority of the Church to teach God’s truth.

    You wrote-1. You previously stated that “Christian orthodoxy” is found from the Bible alone.

    I replied- Yes. Before it was written it was oral. I did not cover that aspect before, this is true.

    #25 I wrote-

    I said before that sola scriptura allows FOR the formation of the canon to actually occur, then why would it PRECEED the canon? When it was oral, why would they be able to hold to a doctrine that refers to written Scripture?

    Thanks Devin, and God bless!
    Garret

  35. Garret,

    Responding to comments #38-#40.

    Representative excerpt: I ask you this- why is it necessary to infallibly know? AND HOW CAN DEVIN INFALLIBLY KNOW THAT THE RCC IS [IN]FALLIBLE? You are a fallible human being, so even if by some miracle the Church were infallible, you are not- so how do you bypass your infallibility? Keep in mind, if you cannot bypass your infallibility, your entire proclamation of infallibly knowing DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU, and is therefore a mere pipedream.

    You have been making this type of statement over several comments, and I will now respond to it. Firstly, however, I want to mention the caveat that am not a trained philosopher, and I would guess that you are not either, so we can probably not go too deeply in these matters, which are in the realm of epistemology, before getting in over our heads.

    That being said, the position you are espousing is close to a form of (philosophical) skepticism.

    Bryan Cross, a convert from Reformed Protestantism to the Catholic Faith recently made this reply to a Protestant bringing up the same objection that you are, which I will reproduce in full here:

    “It is important to distinguish between the susceptibility of an agent to err, and the possible falsehood of any proposition held or stated by that agent. The fact that we are susceptible to err does not entail that we cannot know with certainty that any of our beliefs are true. Nor does it entail that every proposition believed or stated might be false. When we state a true proposition, the fact that we could instead have stated a different, and false, proposition, does not mean that we cannot be certain that the proposition is true. The fallibility of the agent should not be confused with the fallibility of the proposition stated or believed by the agent. The fallibility of the agent does not entail skepticism about knowledge or about truth. It does not prevent us from knowing the truth, and knowing it with certainty; fallibility does not entail fallibilism.

    Not only that, but our fallibility does not prevent us from having more certainty about x than y. And that is because we can perceive the truth of some things to a greater degree than we do other things. When we are epistemically limited to testimony, the more credible the witness the greater reason we have for believing the testimony to be true. And when the witness is God, we can be absolutely certain that His testimony to be true and without error, because God cannot lie or err. So in what cases is God testifying? Jesus authorized His Apostles to speak for Him, saying, “He who listens to you, listens to Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me.” We know, with certainty, by the testimony of the Church (those whom Christ authorized to speak for Him), that God spoke in the writing of Scripture. These words are God-breathed, and so we know with absolute certainty that they are protected from error. Likewise, from the very same Church that is authorized to speak for Christ, we know that the Church is protected from error by the Holy Spirit under certain conditions, such as when she defines dogmas. Just as we gain epistemic certainty about the truth of the content of Scripture from knowing that Scripture is protected from error, so likewise we gain epistemic certainty about the truth of the dogmas of the Church from knowing that the Church is protected from error when she defines dogmas. All of that is fully compatible with our being fallible agents.”

    From: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/on-perspicuity-and-commentaries/#comment-1917

    You are conflating “the susceptibility of an agent to err, and the possible falsehood of any proposition held or stated by that agent,” which is an error.

    Sincerely,
    Devin

  36. Hi Devin,

    Yes, thank you for that very careful reply- it touches on my #34. It is important to see that I asked you if you can INFALLIBLY know, not whether you are merely certain. ‘Infallibly know’ means that you cannot be in error in a particular knowledge, which is a bigger claim than mere ‘certainty’. In #37 you proclaimed this-and so you do not have infallible certainty

    Bryan Cross…..
    “It is important to distinguish between the susceptibility of an agent to err, and the possible falsehood of any proposition held or stated by that agent. The fact that we are susceptible to err does not entail that we cannot know with certainty that any of our beliefs are true. Nor does it entail that every proposition believed or stated might be false. When we state a true proposition, the fact that we could instead have stated a different, and false, proposition, does not mean that we cannot be certain that the proposition is true. The fallibility of the agent should not be confused with the fallibility of the proposition stated or believed by the agent. The fallibility of the agent does not entail skepticism about knowledge or about truth. It does not prevent us from knowing the truth, and knowing it with certainty; fallibility does not entail fallibilism.

    Which corresponds to MY OWN from #34

    The inerrancy of Scripture (canon) is an objective truth claim. That is, it depends on the object (canon).

    It can be true that Scripture is inerrant, whether anybody in the world knows it is or not.

    When a person is faulted for not knowing whether the Scripture is inerrant, that is NOT a claim about Scripture, it is a claim about the person (subject).

    First- I accused YOU of not understanding the difference. You proclaim for yourself infallible certainty, that’s how I understood it, which further implies that you CANNOT BE WRONG. Do you mean that you cannot be wrong that you are certain? I know that I am certain, but so what? That is meaningless outside of yourself. That is why I asked you to define it. Now the reason I would have typed that response (#34) in the first place is because much is made by Roman Catholics that the Protestant can not infallibly know that the canon is inerrant. This is a claim that only has grounding in the Protestant person and his/her knowledge, and does not shed light on the canon itself in regards to actual inerrancy.

    Not only that, but our fallibility does not prevent us from having more certainty about x than y.
    Thank You! Granted, that is a statement about US, not x or y. I can have the same certainty as you, but hold different reasons. Infallible certainty seems to be different.

    We know, with certainty, by the testimony of the Church (those whom Christ authorized to speak for Him), that God spoke in the writing of Scripture.

    Here, you equate Church with Apostles, and you imply that this same Church is what you have as a 21st century Roman Catholic. The theology of Roman Catholicism does not match the Biblical theology in matters of grace, justification, soteriology, etc. Giving a GREAT reason to doubt your claim Devin! I am certain of that! I am just as certain that I am right as you are that you are right! So, we need to appeal to evidence, don’t we?

    Just as we gain epistemic certainty about the truth of the content of Scripture from knowing that Scripture is protected from error, so likewise we gain epistemic certainty about the truth of the dogmas of the Church from knowing that the Church is protected from error when she defines dogmas. All of that is fully compatible with our being fallible agents.”

    The epistemic certainty that you gain from the RCC is based on her authority claim as the one true Apostolic Church. Of course, If one were to claim that, there would be almost no limit whatsoever to how far such a Church could drift from the Scriptures. I would challenge you to read this article- http://vintage.aomin.org/YouTell.html-

    and here are a couple of examples from it-

    The Council of Florence, the 17th Ecumenical (and hence “infallible”) Council of the Roman Catholic Church, said the following:

    It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock.

    BUT then there is this which CONTRADICTS IT COMPLETELY-

    Section 841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) says:

    The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

    Thanks,
    God bless you,
    Garret

  37. Garret,

    This comment will be my last response to you on this post. I am not angry at you; quite the contrary, I have enjoyed our discussion, but I need to focus on some other things right now, and responding to you in this thread has taken me a not-insignificant amount of time. I likewise appreciate the amount of time and thought you have put into it.

    I will only briefly address the last portion of our discussion directly above: We have used some words in our long interchange without strictly defining them, which has led to some problems, for instance “know” used synonymously with “believe” or “certainty” and “infallible certainty” or “infallible” and “inerrant” or “infallibly” and “inerrantly”, etc.

    Usually when we use words “loosely”, the meaning still comes across fine. Hence, when the well-known Reformed Protestant R.C. Sproul says that the Bible is “a fallible collection of infallible books”, everyone knows what he means, even if he didn’t make the exact right word choice or usage.

    As it is now, we have somewhat gotten lost in the trees and have missed the forest.

    My main question to you as to how you know the canon of Scripture was never in my mind satisfactorily answered. Your responses in comment #33 to my questions in particular:

    Devin: 1. The principle by which to know that it was only through the Reformers that God worked infallibly in selecting the canon. I.e. why He didn’t allow the majority of Christians living now or who ever lived to be privy to the correct canon.

    Garret: The canon was pared down, not expanded upon. All of the info was there already to be read. I could understand your objection if books were added TO the canon! This answer should be sufficient. The correct canon is not a necessity for salvation technically, saving knowledge is- the thief on the cross, millions of saved Christians in history who couldn’t read and know the canon…

    Devin: 2. The principle by which to know that it was only on this issue that God worked infallibly through the Church. Why doesn’t He work infallibly through the Church on every issue?

    Garret: I don’t know, I’m not God. i don’t know that that was the only issue that he worked infallibly through the Church, as I am not infallible, with infallible knowledge. Then again, infallible knowledge as a ability for fallen humans seems to be an unobtainable fantasy, which, ironically, can only itself be known with reasonable certainty.

    Ecumenical dialogue of this kind rarely ends by one of the interlocutors changing his mind and saying “Wow, you clearly showed me the errors in my beliefs; I now agree with you and think my position was wrong.” And that’s okay. The benefit of this dialogue I think is for people (including us) to read it and see the challenges, arguments, questions, and answers made by both of us and then to determine with God’s grace which is the more plausible.

    On this note, I will end with a quote from my Reformed Protestant friend Tom who has been examining these issues for many years:

    “But I think I’ve had things mixed up in my mind. Sure Calvin and Aquinas and St. Theresa of Lisieux were all capable of intelligent arguments, and all smarter than I am. But does that mean that I am incapable of reaching a conclusion on truth? Is this like standing in the floodwaters of truth, and only if one is tall enough will one be able to endure the truth? I don’t think so. I’ve come to the conclusion that even the ’simple minded’ can listen to opposing arguments, break them down to their fundamentals, and see which side has a challenge on the table which the other side is unable to address. I think intelligence really implicates how LONG it takes someone to process complexities, but it does not implicate an on/off ability to digest something complex.

    I say all this because I used to be discouraged: people smarter than me had devoted their lives to the pursuit of truth, so what hope did I have of getting it right? But through prayer and (slow) reflection, I was able to see a consistent pattern of one side making points the other side could not rebut, but would dart away from. So I hope your friends could be encouraged, trusting in God and seeking patience in their intellectual pursuit.”

    http://www.heroicvirtuecreations.com/2009/07/17/what-you-said-sounded-good/#comment-57144

    Garret, thank you again for your respectful dialogue. Feel free to respond to this comment as I give you the last word. I look forward to our interchanges on future posts!

  38. Hi Devin,
    This comment will be my last response to you on this post. I am not angry at you; quite the contrary, I have enjoyed our discussion, but I need to focus on some other things right now, and responding to you in this thread has taken me a not-insignificant amount of time.

    Thank you, I understand. Thank you for your precious time, I do appreciate it.

    The benefit of this dialogue I think is for people (including us) to read it and see the challenges, arguments, questions, and answers made by both of us and then to determine with God’s grace which is the more plausible.

    Amen, and may we have done justice to our sides, on our ends. I wish we could have achieved clarity, I think it is evident we did not. I have a definite role in that!

    Garret, thank you again for your respectful dialogue. Feel free to respond to this comment as I give you the last word. I look forward to our interchanges on future posts!

    Thank you, and I will give some time before I do come back. May God richly bless you and your family Devin!

    I will make a few parting comments in one last reply below.
    In His Love,
    Garret

  39. A last response here

    Devin is right, we had spent a lot of time writing past each other, without carefully defining terms to reach understanding. I had failed to answer with clarity a few questions as we went along, in part because I myself was greatly concerned that my side was not given a fair chance at even being understandable and coherent. So what better way to address that than by typing hundreds of words on multiple subjects in one reply! yeah….

    I will flesh out those answers for Devin now, and hopefully say something that brings a little more clarity to the issue.

    Devin: 1. The principle by which to know that it was only through the Reformers that God worked infallibly in selecting the canon. I.e. why He didn’t allow the majority of Christians living now or who ever lived to be privy to the correct canon.

    Garret: The canon was pared down, not expanded upon. All of the info was there already to be read. I could understand your objection if books were added TO the canon! This answer should be sufficient. The correct canon is not a necessity for salvation technically, saving knowledge is- the thief on the cross, millions of saved Christians in history who couldn’t read and know the canon…

    Very vague, partly because I focused on your syllogism, and was tired and tried to blow off this last bit. We put too much on each others plate constantly.

    The canon of Scripture is a complex subject. Many important Catholics held differing opinions on the books in the canon in regards to the OT. In his Prologues, Jerome mentions all of the deuterocanonical and apocryphal works by name as being apocryphal or “not in the canon” except for Prayer of Manasses and Baruch. The shorter Protestant canon ( shorter in the OT only mind you) is contained within the longer RC canon. Books that were deuterocanonical were not included (notable Bibles such as the KJV and others did include them and others as Apocrypha). Not being on par with the rest of Scripture either in internal consistency and consideration that the Hebrews themselves did not include them as inspired. Is this a proclamation by the Reformers to have suddenly discovered the correct canon? I don’t know, I will research that more carefully.

    Confidence in the NT Scriptures can be gained by historical research, reading the Church Fathers such as Eusebius of Caesarea, reading the non canonical books, commentaries, etc. In Eusebius book 3, 25, he describes a list of NT books and how they were determined to be worthy of the title inspired. He gives a list, talks about spurious books that didn’t ‘make the cut’. The primary method that he would use in determining the accurate canon would be this-
    1)The citation of these writings by the early Church Fathers, including authorship and quotes. Lack of mention and quotation in the Fathers helps determine the spurious later writings.
    2) Internal consistency of known inspired writings- he says of the spurious writings “The type of phraseology used contrasts with apostolic style, and the opinions and thrusts of their contents are so dissonant from true orthodoxy that they show themselves to be forgeries of heretics.”

    So, to sum up, a methodology that was used- testimony of Fathers, internal consistency and orthodoxy or lack therein.

    My other point was that people are saved by Gods mercy, and the person needs to hear and accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.The ultimate importance of the canon is in the message from God, what He would have us learn and know. People who cannot read, and couldn’t name any books of the canon, and who never even see a Bible, but hear the gospel delivered can be saved. This is what the Bible teaches.

    The other request, under #45 Devin 2-

    There is a quality to God breathed Scripture that partly addresses that. What I would call the ‘Eusebian’ method above is sufficient to achieve reasonable certainty of Apostolic origins- combine that with the resonation of the Holy Spirit within and you can be certain. One can achieve ‘certainty.’ I was honestly flabbergasted that anyone would even seemingly proclaim that infallible knowledge is an epistemic necessity.

    Talk to you later Devin,
    Blessings
    Garret

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