Carl Trueman:

Protestants tend to be very suspicious of any talk of tradition as playing a role in theology as it would seem to stand somewhat in tension with the Reformation’s view of scripture alone as the authoritative basis for theological reflection.

In fact, the Reformation itself represented a struggle over two types of tradition, that which scholars call T1, tradition based upon scripture as the sole source of revelation (the position of Protestants such as Luther and Calvin, and of some pre-Tridentine Catholics) and that which they term T2, tradition based upon two sources, namely, scripture and an oral tradition mediated through the teaching magisterium of the Church. This latter was arguably the position codified at the Council of Trent, although it would seem that the boundary between T1 and T2 is in practice often blurred, and very difficult to define in any formal or precise sense; nevertheless, as a heuristic device the distinction is useful and it is really only as Protestants come to understand exactly what the Catholic view of tradition is (i.e., T1 plus T2) that they can come to properly understand how tradition (T1) does not subvert the notion of scripture alone.

A moment’s reflection on Protestant practice should demonstrate the truth of this. Every time a Protestant minister takes a commentary off his shelf to help with sermon preparation, or opens a volume of systematic theology, or attends a lecture on a theological topic, he practically acknowledges the importance of T1, whether he cares to admit it or no. A belief in scripture as a unique and all-sufficient cognitive foundation for theology does not, indeed, cannot, preclude the use of extra-biblical and thus traditional sources for help.

Protestantism and Catholicism both value tradition; the difference lies in the source and authority of this tradition: Protestant tradition is justified by, and is ultimately only binding insofar as it represents a synthesis of the teaching of the one normative source of revelation, holy scripture.

Catholicism is more flexible. Though, as noted above, the boundary where T1 ends and T2 begins is not an easy one to formalize or define, Catholicism has proved far more open to the development of dogmas not immediately justifiable on the basis of scripture; and has also been willing to take more seriously ancient practice as a significant guide. Thus, the practice of praying to saints has no apparent scriptural warrant, but was something evident very early on in the post-apostolic era, a point used by Catholics to argue for its validity (a good example of a T2 dogma).

The difference on tradition, of course, connects to other differences on authority. Undergirding Protestant notions of scripture is a belief in the basic perspicuity of the Christian message. This lay at the heart of Luther’s dispute with Erasmus. Erasmus saw scripture as complicated and obscure and thus as requiring the teaching magisterium of the church to give definitive explanations of what it teaches; Luther saw the basic message as clear and accessible to all who had eyes to see and ears to hear. The basic Erasmus-Luther dispute epitomizes the Catholic-Protestant divide on this issue and also reminds us of why the papacy and the teaching magisterium of the church are so crucial in Catholicism. The problem of the Anglican, John Henry Newman, as he wrote his masterpiece on the development of doctrine, was not that doctrine developed, but how Protestantism could discern which developments were legitimate and which were not. By the time the work was published, Newman was a Catholic, having become convinced that the authority of Rome, not the scriptural perspicuity of Wittenberg, was the only means to resolve the problem.

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131 thoughts on “The Difference Between Protestants and Catholics on Tradition”

  1. John Thomson says:

    The problem is, reading the comments of too many of by confessionally reformed brothers, it is hard to believe that T1 is what guides them. For many it seems as if the final word is ‘the confession says’. And it would appear, for too many, that is the first word also.

    I am aghast when I read blogs where the overwhelming rationale for a position is multiple quotations from confessions with little attempt to persuade from Scripture.

  2. Matthew says:

    Thank you Heiko Oberman.

  3. Brandon Vogt says:

    One problem with the T1/T2 categorization is that it fails to explain what happened between Jesus’ Ascension and the settling of the canon (fourth century). What Trueman calls T1 and T2 were both impossible paradigms since both require an agreed-upon canon of Scripture.

    There must be something else–a living, breathing Tradition that existed before Scripture was written down–that guides and illuminates Scripture itself.

    This is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and it’s precisely what Newman found.

  4. Devin Rose says:

    Regarding perspicuity, it should be noted that Luther and Calvin both changed their minds in a significant way on this idea, as Protestant scholar Alister McGrath explains:

    “The magisterial Reformation initially seems to have allowed that every individual had the right to interpret Scripture; but subsequently it became anxious concerning the social and political consequences of this idea. The Peasant’s Revolt of 1525 appears to have convinced some, such as Luther, that individual believers (especially German peasants) were simply not capable of interpreting Scripture. It is one of the ironies of the Lutheran Reformation that a movement which laid such stress upon the importance of Scripture should subsequently deny its less educated members direct access to that same Scripture, for fear that they might misinterpret it (in other words, reach a different interpretation from that of the magisterial reformers). For example, the school regulations of the duchy of Württemberg laid down that only the most able schoolchildren were to be allowed to study the New Testament in their final years – and even then, only if they studied in Greek or Latin. The remainder – presumably the vast bulk – were required to read Luther’s Lesser Catechism instead. The direct interpretation of Scripture was thus effectively reserved for a small, privileged group of people. To put it crudely, it became a question of whether you looked to the pope, to Luther or to Calvin as an interpreter of Scripture. The principle of the ‘clarity of Scripture’ appears to have been quietly marginalized, in the light of the use made of the Bible by the more radical elements of the Reformation. Similarly, the idea that everyone had the right and the ability to interpret Scripture faithfully became the sole possession of the radicals.”
    — McGrath, Reformation Thought

    Luther and Calvin replaced the Catholic Church’s Magisterium with their own opinions about what Scripture meant.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Does anyone want to respond to my comment regarding Luther and Calvin’s turnabout against perspicuity? It seriously undermines the post’s argument.

      1. J. Clark says:

        Devin, you are correct. They both did what you said. I think there was a greater complexity then. Consider who ruled their people and what was their relationship to the church? It was still something of a theocracy. But, I do give them this: we have handed down to us a great freedom to do in practice what they first risked in theory. This is our heritage from them.

      2. J. Clark says:

        And lastly, what we need is not traditions, nor Fathers, nor organizations, nor machines, nor creeds, nor etc. but we need the all sufficient power of the Holy Spirit to teach us all Truth.

        1. Devin Rose says:

          J. Clark,

          I appreciate your candor. Maybe because I became a Christian by God’s grace through my Baptist’s friends witnesses, I still have a great affection for Evangelical Protestantism. In my mind it takes sola Scriptura and the individual as ultimate interpretive authority to its consistent conclusion, and makes no bones about it.

        2. J. Clark,

          Many cults would say the same thing. But how can the Holy Spirit’s leading be objectively measured if not through the church abroad? The “Holy Spirit” argument has inspired many a heresy and cult. How does this appeal not reduce to a sort of subjectivism?

          Bradley

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “There must be something else–a living, breathing Tradition that existed before Scripture was written down–that guides and illuminates Scripture itself.

    This is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and it’s precisely what Newman found.”

    Let’s read the following suggestion:

    “If God’s voice is found in an infallible magisterium or unwritten traditions, sola scriptura is refuted.

    This is why those of us defending sola scriptura constantly ask those attacking it to produce what they claim to have. If they have God’s special revelation elsewhere, throw it on the table and let’s get a good look at it.

    … An argument like this is pointed directly at what Romanism claims to have: God’s voice elsewhere besides the Sacred Scriptures. Most often those defending Romanism claim to have God’s voice in Sacred Tradition. Getting them to throw this Tradition up on the table to take a look at is the problem. Typically only one thing is thrown up on the table as Sacred Tradition, the canon of Sacred Scripture. The canon is said to be an example of God’s voice of special revelation outside the Bible.

    The first problem with this argument is that it goes to battle alone. If I quote a verse from the Bible, I can also have that verse joined by the entire text from which the verse is found. When someone uses the canon as an example of God’s voice in Sacred Tradition, the entire contents of Sacred Tradition still hides back up in the hills. Roman Catholics can’t produce what they claim to have. They aren’t even unified as to whether Sacred Tradition is simply the same material as found in the Bible, or if it’s information of another kind. One bucket of water in a desert is not proof that a large lake is just over the mountain.

    The second problem is a misunderstanding by Roman Catholics as to what the canon list is. The canon list is not revelation, it’s an artifact of revelation. It is Scripture which Christians believe inspired, not a knowledge of the canon which is inspired. The church has discovered which books are canon, they haven’t infallibly determined them to be canon. For a detailed explanation of this, track down a copy of Dr. White’s book, Scripture Alone, chapter five.

    Third, Roman Catholics have often jumped on R.C. Sproul’s statement that the canon is a fallible collection of infallible books. The statement itself originates from Sproul’s mentor, John Gerstner. This statement is not an admission that there is an error in the canon. It is a statement simply designed to acknowledge the historical selection process the church used in discovering the canon. By God’s providence, God’s people have always identified His Word, and they didn’t need to be infallible to do so. Remember that large set of books in your Bible before the Gospel of Matthew? The church had the Old Testament, and believers during the period in which the Old Testament was written also had God’s inscripturated word, this despite a lack of magisterial infallibility.

    Fourth, there is no reason to assume church infallibility in order for the church to receive the canon. That is, there is no reason to assume God’s voice of infallible pronouncement via an infallible magisterium. I recognize the Christian church received the canon. It does not though infallibly create the canon, or stand above the canon. The church was used by God to provide a widespread knowledge of the canon. The Holy Spirit had worked among the early Christian church in providing them with the books of the New Testament. This same process can be seen with the Old Testament and Old Testament believers. The Old Testament believer fifty years before Christ was born had a canon of Scripture, this despite the ruling from an infallible authority.”

    From: The Canon as Infallible Sacred Tradition.

    1. Thomas says:

      This is very helpful. Thanks!

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        You’re very welcome, Thomas!

    2. Devin Rose says:

      Truth Unites wrote “The church has discovered which books are canon, they haven’t infallibly determined them to be canon….It is a statement simply designed to acknowledge the historical selection process the church used in discovering the canon. By God’s providence, God’s people have always identified His Word, and they didn’t need to be infallible to do so. “

      Catholics agree that the Church recognized (or “discerned”) which books God had inspired. The Church does not “create” the canon or make the books authoritative. They are God-breathed, a fact which Protestants completely agree with (well, except for liberal Protestants who reject inspiration).

      But your claims cause your position several problems:

      1. If God did not protect the “historical selection process” of the Church from error in discerning which books are inspired, we cannot have conscience-binding certainty in the result of that discernment.

      Catholics believe God protected that discernment from error. Protestants don’t (or if they do, their basis for that decision is ad hoc).

      2. If God’s people “have always identified His Word,” why then did the Church accept the deuterocanonical books in the early centuries, settling on them in the 4th century? Why did so many early Christians propose differing canonical lists, not hitting upon the exact twenty-seven books of the NT until 367 AD (St. Athanasius’ list)? And why do all the Orthodox Churches also accept the seven deuterocanonical books in Catholic Bibles?

      Are all the Orthodox Churches not part of “God’s people?”

      3. Finally, your comments imply that you recognize that the Church was the agent who discerned (“discovered”) the canon. How then would you respond to this 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 discerned 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 even moderate certainty.
      5. Therefore Protestants cannot trust the canon with even moderate certainty.

      God bless,
      Devin

      1. Rhology says:

        Devin Rose said:
        If God did not protect the “historical selection process” of the Church from error in discerning which books are inspired

        But He did, so your “then” is groundless.
        What is your argument that since God protected the Canon-finding in the Church, therefore the modern Roman Catholic Church is infallible?
        A few gaps to fill there.

        Protestants don’t (or if they do, their basis for that decision is ad hoc).

        I need to see an argument.
        (And yes we do.)

        If God’s people “have always identified His Word,” why then did the Church accept the deuterocanonical books in the early centuries, settling on them in the 4th century

        1) “The Church” didn’t accept them. Some accepted some of the DC books, but not all accepted all books.
        2) That said, I don’t think I’d agree with the statement “God’s people have always identified His Word”. More like God brought His people to an understanding of it over time, but not all at the same pace. But quite a lot. There’s a reason why people from far-spread, remote locations all eventually came to the virtually same conclusions over the Canon despite access to email or Twitter.

        And why do all the Orthodox Churches also accept the seven deuterocanonical books in Catholic Bibles?

        1) I’d go ahead and ask them, not Sola Scripturists. I am not responsible for others’ bad decisions.
        2) They accept more than the 7, and they’re not sure about a couple of them.
        3) For that matter, RCC’s Canon of the OT isn’t definitively closed either. You’re not really in a good position to chuck rocks.

        Are all the Orthodox Churches not part of “God’s people?”

        Correct. By and large, by their rejection of the Gospel, modern EOdox are not part of God’s people, just like most of RCC.
        Unless you’re referring to earlier ones, like from the first few centuries, who wouldn’t be like modern EOdox. And then in that case, you wouldn’t find solid and all-agreed acceptance of a given list of books, specific to the letter.

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

        But God is the one Who reveals it. We don’t need certainty in the Church. We need it in God.

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

        1) “The Canon” does not communicate a whole lot. The Scripture does. Saying “trust in the Canon” is really weird, unwieldy, unhelpful.
        2) You’re equivocating between the early church and modern Rome, but you need an argument in between.

        4. Protestants do not trust the Church with even moderate certainty.

        Again, which church?
        And I should think our trust in Jesus can make up for a lack of trust in sinful people.

        1. Devin Rose says:

          Here’s the ad hoc, from my conversion story:

          “I realized that my belief in the Protestant canon could not be maintained without making an ad hoc claim that God protected the Church from erring as she determined which books belong to the canon, but did not protect from error anything else the Church did.”

          What is principled reason for believing God protected the Church’s discernment of the canon from error but not other doctrinal discernments of the Church?

          I’m not trying to show that the “modern Roman Catholic” Church is the same Church as in the early centuries that discerned the canon. I’m presenting the problems in the Protestant position on the canon, as articulated by Truth Unites And Divides.

          If the Church didn’t accept the deuterocanonical books, what books did “the Church” accept. And when did the Church accept them?

          I don’t think I’d agree with the statement “God’s people have always identified His Word”. More like God brought His people to an understanding of it over time, but not all at the same pace. But quite a lot. There’s a reason why people from far-spread, remote locations all eventually came to the virtually same conclusions over the Canon

          Okay, so you differ from Truth Unites in the speed and clarity with which God revealed the canon to “His people.” Even so, since Protestantism as a movement started in the 16th century, how do you explain that the Christians prior to that time (who were Catholic or some flavor of Orthodox) did not come to “virtually the same conclusion” as Protestants did on the OT canon?

          You reveal here that the discernment of the canon was a long process, taking place over centuries, that eventually settled out. But why should we think that this bumbling, human process of the Church over centuries came up with the right canon? After all, baptismal regeneration was a doctrine accepted universally from the beginning of the Church. There was no question on it. Yet, Protestants rejected it in the 16th century (other than Luther who still held to it substantially), claiming the early Church got it wrong.

          Again, what is the principled reason for believing God protected the Church from error on the canon (a long, messy process) but allowed her to err on baptismal regeneration (a unanimously held belief from the beginning)?

          Okay, so you don’t think the Orthodox are Christians, or that Catholics are Christians. Shrug.

          The Catholic canon of the OT is closed. You are in error in your statement that it is not.

          But God is the one Who reveals it. We don’t need certainty in the Church. We need it in God.

          We all believe in God, including His goodness, that fact that He cannot lie, and so on. But as Truth Unites (and you) realize, God did not drop the canon to us out of the sky a la Joseph Smith Mormonism. He instead used the Church to discern it in a long, slow process. So in fact we actually do rely on the Church as the agent.

          Again, which church?

          The Church of the first four centuries that discerned the canon. Whatever Church “that” one may be today, if it even exists anymore.

          1. Rhology says:

            What is principled reason for believing God protected the Church’s discernment of the canon from error but not other doctrinal discernments of the Church?

            1) Again, what church?
            2) The reason would be that God gave the Scripture for the explicit purpose of teaching and identifying doctrine and belief for the church. Having done that with the Scripture, He didn’t need to do it some other way, and indeed…
            3) the Scripture does not lead us to accept such.

            I’m not trying to show that the “modern Roman Catholic” Church is the same Church as in the early centuries that discerned the canon.

            Oh, OK. Well, you need to.

            If the Church didn’t accept the deuterocanonical books, what books did “the Church” accept

            Already asked and answered.

            the Christians prior to that time (who were Catholic or some flavor of Orthodox) did not come to “virtually the same conclusion” as Protestants did on the OT canon?

            1) Yes, we and they actually did. All the books of the Protestant OT Canon are accepted by everyone else, and there are only a relatively few in the margins.
            2) There’s more than just the OT to the Canon of Scripture and we came to the same conclusion on the NT.

            But why should we think that this bumbling, human process of the Church over centuries came up with the right canon?

            1) B/c we trust God.
            2) Contrast that with the 1500 years that passed before RCC came up with its official Canon.
            3) And the fact that neither RCC nor EOC have a definitively closed Canon.
            4) And the fact that the RCC is demonstrably NOT infallible. Only by glossing over tons and tons of actual facts is this plausible.

            After all, baptismal regeneration was a doctrine accepted universally from the beginning of the Church.

            1) You’re just assuming such w/o justification from having read a few sources. You have no idea whether this is true.
            2) In fact, it’s clearly not true since the Scripture doesn’t teach it. Later Christians can be mistaken, but let every man be a liar, and God be truthful.

            The Catholic canon of the OT is closed. You are in error in your statement that it is not.

            Nope, not an error.

            He instead used the Church to discern it in a long, slow process. So in fact we actually do rely on the Church as the agent.

            No, not THE AGENT. The recipient.
            You’re a master at equivocation.

            1. Devin Rose says:

              Rhology,

              2) The reason would be that God gave the Scripture for the explicit purpose of teaching and identifying doctrine and belief for the church. Having done that with the Scripture, He didn’t need to do it some other way, and indeed…

              This statement could be challenged in many ways (it’s basically a restatement of sola Scriptura in a slightly different form), but I don’t have forever so I’ll try to just use your other statements to counter it.

              But you also stated that God “eventually” led His people to “virtually” the same canon. This took centuries. And even for the NT was a process with lots of contradictory canonical lists, including uninspired books, excluding inspired ones, and so on. Here’s a video by an Orthodox Christian of some of that messy, centuries-long process, during which the canon was not settled: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVEM-vZXWOI

              If God gave the Scripture as the sole way for the Church to know true doctrine, it seems implausible that He let His people not know the correct books of the canon for centuries. They couldn’t know which books to base their doctrines off of.

              Luther illustrates this wonderfully with his grave doubts about the book of James’ inspiration, using that notion to dismiss the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, as well as works being involved in one’s justification. If you don’t know the right canon, even getting off by one book, your doctrines will not be guaranteed to be correct. This is also illustrated, from the Protestant perspective, by the inclusion of 2 Maccabees in the Catholic Bible, which includes prayers for the dead.

              In any event, the idea you present as a principled reason is really just your belief in sola Scriptura, which has so many problems and has been discussed elsewhere so many times that it’s not worth delving into much more here. I’m not even sure that it could count as a principled reason, but I will have to give that more thought.

              Regarding the link you sent, a while back I discovered that claim–actually by reading James White’s book Scripture Alone, of which I am the happy owner–and thought that perhaps this was something that would invalidate the Catholic position. But when I investigated it, I realized that White puts forth his opinion as truth on what is really an ambiguous matter, with the evidence favoring the Catholic position strongly. I was disappointed that he did that. It would have been more truthful to explain that this was an ambiguous issue of historical evidence. If people are interested I can probably locate the counters to it again.

              The truth is that the Catholic canon is closed. It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until Trent when the Protestants rejected the deuterocanonicals and Luther challenged the four NT books. You can either take the Catholic Church’s word for what she says is dogma, or you can take Rhology’s word for what the Church says is dogma.

              1) You’re just assuming [baptismal regeneration is true] w/o justification from having read a few sources. You have no idea whether this is true.
              2) In fact, it’s clearly not true since the Scripture doesn’t teach it. Later Christians can be mistaken, but let every man be a liar, and God be truthful.

              Here is one article that includes the landslide of historical evidence that baptismal regeneration was believed by the early Church:
              http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/the-church-fathers-on-baptismal-regeneration/

              That article includes quotes by the Church Fathers interpreting the Bible (e.g. John 3) as supporting baptismal regeneration. So Scripture does teach it, according to the early Christians. You obviously interpret it differently. Whose interpetation is right?

              But don’t just take the early Christians and Church Fathers universal testimony on it. Even Protestant apologist William Webster concedes without qualification that the Church “went off the rails” from the beginning by believing baptismal regeneration.

              Finally, claiming I’m a “master of equivocation” implies I am attempting to deceive here. I am not. If I am making mistakes, I am open to correction. If what I believe is false, I am open to being convinced. I spent most of my life as an atheist who hated Christianity. Then by God’s grace I became a Christian and went to a Southern Baptist church. Now I am a Catholic. I desire God’s truth and nothing else. I have been wrong before, in big and small ways. I may be wrong again right now, though I think my beliefs are true.

              1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

                Devin,

                Take a look at this summary post by Jason Engwer:

                Baptism in Bible and Church History.

              2. Devin Rose says:

                Truth Unites,

                I checked out that link and some of the referenced material. Nothing of it seems able to nullify or deflect the patristic quotes and other evidence of baptismal regeneration. Philip Schaff agrees: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.vii.xiii.html

                As does Protestant apologist Bill Webster.

              3. Rhology says:

                Man, one could only wish Devin Rose would deal with my points about “patristics” that I made like a week ago.

              4. Devin Rose says:

                Rhology,

                Which points were those?

                Seriously, I don’t recall seeing them and may have just missed them. Give me the benefit of the doubt rather than assume I’m being deliberately evasive.

                Nonetheless, I could wish you would respond to the challenges I made.

              5. Rhology says:

                Oh man! I just checked and it’s still “awaiting moderation” from 31 August!!!! Grrrrrrrrrrr…

                I repost it here in the hopes that it will actually get approved. Sheesh, not cool.

                you also stated that God “eventually” led His people to “virtually” the same canon. This took centuries.

                And it took a lot more centuries (15 total, in fact) for Rome to carve out an official, almost-closed Canon.
                So, again, Sola Scriptura comes out smelling rosier than Rome.

                some of that messy, centuries-long process, during which the canon was not settled

                I don’t remember denying that it was messy. I just don’t see how inserting an infallible interpreter into the mix helps matters at all. It seems to me it makes matters worse, since the infallible interpreter didn’t keep things from “descending” into “messiness”.

                If God gave the Scripture as the sole way for the Church to know true doctrine, it seems implausible that He let His people not know the correct books of the canon for centuries.

                1) He did let them know the correct books of the Canon. People’s reticence or incomprehension does not reflect upon God.
                2) There wasn’t really a whole lot of competition. Nobody was proposing Homer or Julius Caesar as inspired. There was some indecision and confusion and disagreement about some books, but certainly not all. Don’t overstate the case.
                3) Again, this reflects poorly on the infall interper for not stepping in to clear it all up.
                4) Also, I don’t accept the presumption of “it seems implausible”. Why precisely does it “seem implausible”, and what are your prior probability judgments you used to come to that idea?

                If you don’t know the right canon, even getting off by one book, your doctrines will not be guaranteed to be correct

                So how did ANYone function for the 1st 15 centuries of the church? (Obviously, they did function. This assertion is groundless and poorly aimed, since nobody said anything about “guaranteeing” that doctrine be correct.)
                And how do you function since Trent couldn’t decide about 3 Esdras? I suppose your doctrines will not be guaranteed to be correct, no?

                I realized that White puts forth his opinion as truth on what is really an ambiguous matte

                If you listen to White’s debate with Michuta, Michuta asserts the same as he does in his book.
                Reply to Michuta, not White, please. Michuta is the one who found it out and is honest enough to state it openly.

                The truth is that the Catholic canon is closed.

                Naked assertion.
                I reply: Nuh uh. The truth is that the Catholic canon is NOT closed.

                It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until Trent when the Protestants rejected the deuterocanonicals and Luther challenged the four NT books

                Oh, OK. So by that same token, I can just say the same about the Protestant Canon.
                It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until, say, the Westminster Confession when the Roman Catholics persisted in their ahistorical acceptance of the deuterocanonicals and the Protestants got tired of it.

                You can either take the Catholic Church’s word for what she says is dogma, or you can take Rhology’s word for what the Church says is dogma.

                Or you could look at the historical facts and realise that Devin is setting a smokescreen and I’m taking history for what it is – messy – and realising that it causes us to have no idea what infallibility even means if Rome is infallible.

                Here is one article that includes the landslide of historical evidence that baptismal regeneration was believed by the early Church:

                I don’t accept citations of “Church Fathers” without a better historical case than “everyone I could find said so”. For reasons explained in the linked article.

                So Scripture does teach it, according to the early Christians. You obviously interpret it differently. Whose interpetation is right?

                That is an outstanding reason to think there’s more to this issue than just “go with what’s earlier”. You only do that when it suits you, so far be it from me to disagree.

                Even Protestant apologist William Webster concedes without qualification that the Church “went off the rails” from the beginning by believing baptismal regeneration.

                I don’t know what he meant. Even if (ad arguendo) all extant writings putatively from the early church explicitly held to bap reg, which they don’t, you still have the massive unanswered (and probably unanswerable) questions I’ve asked in my article linked above. So that doesn’t impress me any, and shouldn’t impress anyone who stops to think about the issue in the way I’ve framed it.

                If I am making mistakes, I am open to correction

                That’s rich, coming from someone who is under book contract with Catholic Answers. You’ll hopefully pardon me for rejecting that claim at face value.

          2. Rhology says:

            One quick clean-up point.
            I’d said, disagreeing with James Swan:

            That said, I don’t think I’d agree with the statement “God’s people have always identified His Word”

            Let me clarify and put a finer point on it, after a little more reflection.
            Jesus specifically promised in more than one place but most explicitly in John 10 that God’s people DO in fact listen to His Word and reject the words of others that conflict.

            1“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2“But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4“When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5“A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

            26“But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

            Devin may object with what amounts to: “But you don’t know how He does that.”
            And that’s OK; it doesn’t affect the point in the slightest. Just b/c I don’t know how, and even if (ad arguendo) I couldn’t identify even one single person throughout history whose writings are extant who believed the Gospel as described in the NT, that also would not affect the point in the slightest. God’s promise is sufficient. I dare any RC or EOx to give us a reason to think it’s insufficient.
            Not that I expect any to. They usually try to be much more subtle in their deceptions.

            1. Devin Rose says:

              Sure God’s promise is sufficient.

              I claim that Catholics and Orthodox are sheep that “hear His voice.” You deny that. Okay, so where do we go from there?

              We are trying to figure out how we can accurately know the content of divine revelation. Pointing to a passage like this does not help. It’s like pointing to Timothy that the Scriptures are God-breathed. Yup, agreed.

              Now, if you want to use this verse a la John Calvin and claim the Scriptures are self-authenticating, then we have something to discuss.

              1. Rhology says:

                so where do we go from there?

                We are trying to figure out how we can accurately know the content of divine revelation.

                Yes, I was forestalling the argument I hear all the time from RCs/EOx, that of “but you don’t know how”. Looks like it worked too – you didn’t use that argument. Glad to see it.

        2. Jason says:

          Devin, you’ve made some great points, and I’m really encouraged by your charitable responses.
          Rhology, you wrote:

          “If God did not protect the “historical selection process” of the Church from error in discerning which books are inspired But He did, so your “then” is groundless.”

          Rhology, we all believe that God is the one Who protected the Church in discerning the canon. The problem Devin raises is definitely worth considering. Why the distrust in these great men who were, by God’s grace, selected to lead the Church, a Church which was then unified, if not by a fully canonized-Scripture, certainly by the Holy Spirit in guarding both the teachings and traditions handed on to the Apostles’ successors, as mentioned by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 : “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter…”?
          Conscience-binding certainty in the canon is inextricable with God’s historical selection process. Otherwise, regular joes like me, in our day, would have to either rely on some subjective feeling (like Calvin’s methods, which Devin refers to below) or else trust in and submit to the judgments of Luther, Calvin, et al, assuming they were the ones to whom the true canon was revealed.

          1. Rhology says:

            Jason,

            You went awry when you took the COMMAND of 2 Thess 2:15 and assumed that modern Rome holds apostolic succession in the way modern Rome claims it. You need to argue for that, please.

            Conscience-binding certainty in the canon is inextricable with God’s historical selection process

            That’s never presented to us in the teaching of the NT. I can only conclude that you’re speaking for yourself here.
            However, modern Rome can’t fill this certainty either, since they’re not sure they have the right Canon.

            submit to the judgments of Luther, Calvin, et al, assuming they were the ones to whom the true canon was revealed.

            A foolish stramwan like this demonstrates that you really haven’t done a whole lot of profound reflection on this issue.

            1. Jason says:

              Hi Rhology,

              Thank you for your response. One problem I’d point out is in your assumption that I “went awry” in “assum[ing] that modern Rome holds apostolic succession…” For starters, I’m not a Roman Catholic; I’m a protestant who’s just looking into these issues. In any case, trusting that God kept the church unified and intact in the absence of a clearly defined canon, by protecting and guiding the teachings and traditions of the Apostles in the meantime, is not assuming the position of “Modern Rome.” Do you believe that God kept the Church unified in the absence of a clearly defined canon by guarding and protecting the Church at this period in history?

              You wrote: “[Conscience-binding certainty] is never presented to us in the teaching of the NT” Are you saying that no one can be certain of the canon?

              1. Rhology says:

                I’m not a Roman Catholic; I’m a protestant who’s just looking into these issues.

                OK, well, I’m glad to hear that. :-)
                Just make sure to look sufficiently deeply. Romanists like to obscure the issue and never ask the same questions of their own positions that they ask of Sola Scriptura.

                Do you believe that God kept the Church unified in the absence of a clearly defined canon by guarding and protecting the Church at this period in history?

                Yes.

                Are you saying that no one can be certain of the canon?

                No, that’s not what I’m saying. I was responding to the way you framed the issue with your challenge.
                The way that you’d said:
                Conscience-binding certainty in the canon is inextricable with God’s historical selection process

                The Gospel is inextricable with it.
                The Canon is not a necessary article of faith that delineates saved from not-saved. It CAN be known, and it is an important doctrine, but it’s not inextricably linked with God’s selection process. In the NT, God selects people for His kingdom, His church.
                However, He didn’t “select” what books He revealed. He simply revealed what He wanted to reveal, and that’s what we identify.

              2. Devin Rose says:

                Rhology,

                “Do you believe that God kept the Church unified in the absence of a clearly defined canon by guarding and protecting the Church at this period in history?”

                Yes.

                When, in your opinion, did the Church settle on a clearly defined canon? What is the century when that occurred, and what canon did it clearly define?

                And, did sola Scriptura only kick in after this date, or was it operative before this date as well, when the canon was not clearly defined?

            2. PeaceByJesus says:

              Thank God for your heart to contend for the truth, but could you or Steve expand upon your statement that “neither RCC nor EOC have a definitively closed Canon”?

              And has the controversy been resolved as to whether the canon of Carthage and Hippo not being the same as that of Trent (Esdras)?

              Also, would not the RC position make it impossible that Jews could have absolute certitude and so give assent of faith (due to lack of an assuredly infallible magisterium) prior to Christ?

              Thanks

              1. Rhology says:

                Sure.

                Here is how we know RCC’s canon isn’t closed.
                This is by their own admission.

                As for EOC, they lack even the authority structure to fix a Canon of Scr. There are some books on the outer fringes of the DeuteroCanonicals that they can’t identify as “canonical or not”. They also have a very vague separation between tradition and Scr, to the extent that to them, the Canon of Scr is not nearly as important as it is to Rome.

              2. Rhology says:

                Your Jewish question is nearly the same as “the White question”.

  6. Brandon Vogt says:

    First, instead of copying and pasting long pieces of text, let’s dialogue about specific issues of interest. Pasting huge quotes often introduces dozens of topics which gets us nowhere in particular.

    There’s a handful of things that this quote block misunderstands about Catholicism, but here are just a couple of thoughts:

    “An argument like this is pointed directly at what Romanism claims to have: God’s voice elsewhere besides the Sacred Scriptures. Most often those defending Romanism claim to have God’s voice in Sacred Tradition. Getting them to throw this Tradition up on the table to take a look at is the problem. Typically only one thing is thrown up on the table as Sacred Tradition, the canon of Sacred Scripture. ”

    This is not a problem at all. Open up the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is, in it’s essence, the Church’s entire Tradition. Consider it thrown on the table. If there’s something in particular within it you disagree with, let’s start there.

    Also, in response to the Third and Fourth points made here, a couple of clarifications need to be made. First, there was no agreed upon Old Testament canon fifty years before Christ. There were many competing lists which was precisely why both early-century Jewish and Christian communities began to discern the true list. This means statements like this are not completely true:

    “By God’s providence, God’s people have always identified His Word, and they didn’t need to be infallible to do so.”

    Second, the reason Sproul’s statement is so heavily critiqued is because it’s logically incoherent. It nulls the infallibility of the infallible books because you don’t know if the Bible you have contains fallible books or not.

    Anyways, for the sake of dialogue, if you have a particular point you disagree on, let’s start there instead of copying and pasting long blocks of text.

  7. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “Open of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is, in it’s essence, the Church’s entire Tradition. Consider it thrown on the table in response to your request.”

    Brandon, does this action of yours (thrusting the Catechism of the Catholic Church as being the Catholic Church’s entire Tradition) have the imprimatur of the Magisterium?

  8. Brandon Vogt says:

    I don’t know how to quite answer that question. The “imprimatur” usually goes hand-in-hand with the “neil obstat”. The latter simply means “nothing hinders” and the former means “let it be printed”. Both simply imply that the book contains error. So in that sense, the Catechism meets both criteria.

    In regards to your parenthetical note, the Church’s “entire Tradition” hasn’t been written down–and, by its nature, can’t–as it is living and organic in the form or both oral tradition and the Magisterium. But the Catechism, as Pope John Paul II said is a “sure norm for teaching the faith.” It’s the closest thing we have to a summary of Catholic Tradition.

  9. Brandon Vogt says:

    Here’s a better answer to your question from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:

    “The Catechism is part of the Church’s official teaching in the sense that it was suggested by a Synod of Bishops, requested by the Holy Father, prepared and revised by bishops and promulgated by the Holy Father as part of his ordinary Magisterium. Pope John Paul II ordered the publication of the Catechism by the Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, on October 11, 1992. An apostolic constitution is a most solemn form by which popes promulgate official Church documents. The new Code of Canon Law, for example, was promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution, Sacrae Disciplinae Leges. In Fidei Depositum, Pope John Paul II said, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.” John Paul II also stated that the Catechism “is given as a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.”

    1. PeaceByJesus says:

      I see the issue of what constitutes official teaching being an area of confusion among Catholics. You first said re the imprimatur neil obstat (which i think is spelled nihil obstat), “Both simply imply that the book contains error.” Didn’t you mean no error?

      Then you said the Catechism was a “sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.” Does this mean it is infallible? If it is a sure norm then does that means it cannot err? If so, could you explain the difference and how Catholics can have certitude regarding its teaching? Thanks

  10. Rhology says:

    There must be something else–a living, breathing Tradition that existed before Scripture was written down–that guides and illuminates Scripture itself.

    Makes me wonder if there is a a living, breathing Tradition that existed before Tradition was written down–that guides and illuminates Tradition itself.

    Oh, wait, let me guess. It’s the modern Magisterium read back into history as if it existed back then. Riiiiggghhhtttt.

    1. PeaceByJesus says:

      Thanks for your reply, but here was not reply button under your responses to me so i will do it here. Could you give me some documentation as that Rome considers the canon open, r do you mean she effectively does by making Tradition equal to it and giving the declarations of her Magisterium the authority of Scripture?

      As for the “White ?” that prayer is another example of the supererogation of Rome in her claims for Mary.

      “In thy hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou are more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge himself, because by one prayer from thee he will be appeased.”

      And while i am not sure if this booklet had the “stamps”, there are like statements, although this was at the top, and they never seem to suffer censure.

      1. Rhology says:

        What I mean is that Trent passed over 3 Esdras in silence, w/o setting it in the Canon or excluding it therefrom.
        Ergo, open Canon.

        1. PeaceByJesus says:

          I have read on BeggarsAll and AoM about 3 Esdras, but did not know if the matter was settled as i read a CA thread somewhere that disagreed.

          In either case, I see Rome effectively treating the canon as if it were open by her equalization of tradition with it and self-exaltation over it.

  11. Brandon Vogt says:

    Rhology: Tradition is simply the teachings of Jesus and the apostles passed down and applied through history. It is the base and doesn’t need another “Tradition” to illuminate itself. That’s a logical inconsistency.

    And if any group reads their position back into history, its Protestantism, which began after sixteen centuries of Catholic history.

    “To be deep into history is to cease to be Protestant.” – Cardinal Newman

  12. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “To be deep into history is to cease to be Protestant.” – Cardinal Newman

    “Cardinal Newman recognized the obvious difference between the current Roman Church and the early church. He was too deep in history not to see it. He had to develop his famous idea of doctrinal development to explain it. He argued that all the later Roman doctrines and practices were “hidden” in the church from the beginning. They were made explicit over time under the guidance of the Spirit. But the problem that many Roman Catholics fail to see is that there is a difference between development and contradiction. It is one thing to use different language to teach something the church has always taught (e.g., the “Trinity”). It is another thing altogether to begin teaching something that the church always denied (e.g., papal supremacy or infallibility). Those doctrines in particular were built on multitudes of forgeries.

    Cardinal Manning solved the problem by treating any appeal to history as treason. He called for blind faith in the papacy and magisterium. Such might have been possible had the fruits of the papacy over 1,500 years not consistently been the precise opposite of the fruit of the Spirit (Matt. 7:16).

    Cardinal Newman said that to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant. The truth is that to be deep in real history, as opposed to Rome’s whitewashed, revisionist, and often forged history, is to cease to be a Roman Catholic.

    Read here:

    To Be Deep in History – excellent article by Keith Mathison.

  13. Brandon Vogt says:

    Once again, you cite large chunks an article, and once again its filled with inaccuracies.

    First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings. In regards to Mathison’s misinformed suggestion, the idea of papal supremacy and infallibility in the earliest of the Fathers, and while it took many centuries to bloom and develop into the doctrine it is now, it has never been self-contradictory. I challenge you to provide one example from Church Tradition that contradicts this.

    Second, while yes, we’ve had plenty of bad and immoral popes, to say that the entire 1,500 years of Catholic history has “consistently been precisely the opposite” of the fruits of the Spirit is so ludicrous and juvenile it doesn’t deserve a response. Anyone saying that is either ignorant or intentionally ignoring history.

    Even still, the immorality of any Pope doesn’t demean the office of the papacy (just as Peter’s denial of Jesus didn’t remove the charism of authority that Jesus gave him.) The rest of Matthison’s piece is just inflated rhetoric.

    If you’d like to talk about a particular issue or doctrine that you have problems with, or that you think conflicts with earlier Church teaching, I’d love to dialogue.

    But otherwise I’ll bow out of this conversation which looks to be nothing more than a continuous series of cut-and-paste from your end.

    1. PeaceByJesus says:

      First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.

      Perhaps you should have narrowed this down to infallible teachings, but even this realm, which only covers a small portion of what RCs hold to, there is uncertainty as to the infallibility of hundreds of potentially pronouncements.

      As for never changing, trying to reconcile all that Rome has taught is a mammoth and impossible job even for RC theologians. One must consider how many human laws nearly 300 so-called popes could make through the centuries. “Alexander III is said to have issued thirty-nine hundred and thirty-nine decrees and Innocent II over five thousand”, (General Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, p. 42; H.A. Ayrinhac, Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1969) while just the “Bulls” of the popes from 540 to 1857 is said to fill forty-one volumes.

      But being autocratic, Rome can define what a contradiction is and is not, and can define history, Tradition and Scripture as need be in order to make it conformable to what she now declares it truth. Thus Manning, referred to before, stated,

      “It was the charge of the Reformers that the Catholic doctrines were not primitive, and their pretension was to revert to antiquity. But the appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the Divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be Divine… may say in strict truth that the Church has no antiquity. It rests upon its own supernatural and perpetual consciousness. Its past is present with it, for both are one to a mind which is immutable. Primitive and modern are predicates, not of truth, but of ourselves. (Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost: Or Reason and Revelation (New York: J.P. Kenedy & Sons, originally written 1865, reprinted with no date), pp. 227-228.

      As for what can documented here, there are many which can be seen from your separated Traditional Catholics, (http://www.reocities.com/militantis/vatican2.html), and as i expect this blog prevents lengthy substantiation, i will try to fit representative excerpts of few of things that have changed, even if Rome “reformulates” them, or effectively forgets them, and such usually have more than one quote to back them up.

  14. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “In regards to Mathison’s misinformed suggestion, the idea of papal supremacy and infallibility in the earliest of the Fathers, and while it took many centuries to bloom and develop into the doctrine it is now, it has never been self-contradictory. I challenge you to provide one example from Church Tradition that contradicts this.”

    Tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the RCC doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

    1. Brandon Vogt says:

      Which is precisely where they’re wrong. They get almost everything else right but miss this. I don’t see how that helps your case at all.

      Anytime any group breaks with Catholic Tradition, they necessarily reject certain Catholic doctrines. That’s no news flash, just logic.

      1. Brian says:

        It’s a good thing we “get almost everything else right” ;-)

        Pardon my light hearted sarcasm injection, carry on. I’m enjoying your dialogue.

    2. PeaceByJesus says:

      “Tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the RCC doctrine of Papal Infallibility.”

      And not only (though overall they are not as precise),

      The Orthodox Church opposes the Roman doctrines of universal papal jurisdiction, papal infallibility, purgatory, and the Immaculate Conception precisely because they are untraditional. The Roman doctrines of universal papal jurisdiction, papal infallibility, purgatory, and the Immaculate Conception precisely because they are untraditional.” (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 135)

      the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America states: “The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory (a place of purging), that is, the inter-mediate state after death in which the souls of the saved (those who have not received temporal punishment for their sins) are purified of all taint preparatory to entering into Heaven, where every soul is perfect and fit to see God…The Church lived for fifteen hundred years without such a theory.”

  15. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “Open up the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is, in it’s essence, the Church’s entire Tradition. Consider it thrown on the table. If there’s something in particular within it you disagree with, let’s start there.”

    As Cardinal Ratzinger remarked, “The individual doctrines that the catechism affirms have no other authority than that which they already possess,” The Catechism and the Optimism of the Redeemed,” 479.

    So their presence in the catechism doesn’t validate their authority. Rather, that only pushes the question back a step. You’d still have to run through them one-by-one to assess how authoritative they are apart from the catechism.

  16. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “One problem with the T1/T2 categorization is that it fails to explain what happened between Jesus’ Ascension and the settling of the canon (fourth century).”

    Actually, the Roman Catholic canon wasn’t settled until the 16C.

    “There must be something else–a living, breathing Tradition that existed before Scripture was written down–that guides and illuminates Scripture itself. This is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and it’s precisely what Newman found.”

    I see. So the OT scriptures were written after the Roman Magisterium was established.

  17. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Brandon Vogt: “I challenge you to provide one example from Church Tradition that contradicts this.”

    Me: “Tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the RCC doctrine of Papal Infallibility.”

    Brandon Vogt; “I don’t see how that helps your case at all. Anytime any group breaks with Catholic Tradition, they necessarily reject certain Catholic doctrines. That’s no news flash, just logic.

    You challenged me to provide an example from Tradition that contradicts the doctrine of papal infallibility. I provided one.

  18. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “First, there was no agreed upon Old Testament canon fifty years before Christ. There were many competing lists which was precisely why both early-century Jewish and Christian communities began to discern the true list.”

    Feel free to point us to your documentary sources, dated 50 years before Christ, to corroborate “many competing lists” at that time.

    1. PeaceByJesus says:

      “Feel free to point us to your documentary sources, dated 50 years before Christ, to corroborate “many competing lists” at that time.”

      If the Lord and His apostles appealed to Scripture, which they most assuredly did, then it presupposes they knew what was Scripture. The Lord Jesus can be seen affirming the tripartite Palestinian Canon in Lk. 24:44

  19. steve hays says:

    Brandon Vogt

    “First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.”

    For starters, try capital punishment.

  20. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Brandon Vogt: “First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.”

    Steve Hays: “For starters, try capital punishment.”

    I laughed out loud. Whenever I hear the saying, “Death by a Thousand Qualifications” I think of the claim “The Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.”

  21. Thanks, Carl. This morning, before reading your post, I was revisiting Avery Dulles’ ‘Models of the Church.’ I find his volume especially helpful in sorting out where the lines of continuity and difference fall.

  22. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Brandon Vogt: “First, the Catholic Church has never taught something that contradicted with previous teachings.”

    Steve Hays: “For starters, try capital punishment.”

    Lo and behold, I found this post by Steve Hays: Contraception and Capital Punishment.

    Excerpts:

    o “Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. … In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes. But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason. … In the high Middle Ages and early modern times the Holy See authorized the Inquisition to turn over heretics to the secular arm for execution. In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses. The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.

    In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. Venerable authorities such as Francisco de Vitoria, Thomas More, and Francisco Suárez agreed. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes.”

    And it’s argued that the following is not a contradiction to prior RC teaching on the matter of capital punishment?

    o “DECLARATION OF THE HOLY SEE TO THE FIRST WORLD CONGRESS
    ON THE DEATH PENALTY

    The Holy See has consistently sought the abolition of the death penalty and his Holiness Pope John Paul II has personally and indiscriminately appealed on numerous occasions in order that such sentences should be commuted to a lesser punishment, which may offer time and incentive for the reform of the guilty, hope to the innocent and safeguard the well-being of civil society itself and of those individuals who through no choice of theirs have become deeply involved in the fate of those condemmed to death.”

    1. David Charkowsky says:

      Hi TUaD,

      Our technological circumstances have changed. Most societies no longer need the death penalty to fulfill their duty to protect the innocent. Under these new circumstances, doesn’t it seem that the death penalty is no longer the highest good?

      Has the teaching changed in its essence, which is the intent to protect innocent human life and the dignity of the human person created in the image of God? Or has it merely changed in its accidents, to respond to new, unforeseen circumstances?

      In non-technological societies (the letter is addressed to the ‘first world’), the former circumstances persist and the death penalty remains justifiable.

      I’m no expert on the topic, but it seems to me this is a change in accidents. Non-dogmatic teachings, especially those on moral issues are always enmeshed in these kinds of changing circumstances that require accidental (non-essential) changes to those teachings over time.

  23. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose:
    Rhology,

    “But you also stated that God ‘eventually’ led His people to “virtually” the same canon. This took centuries.”

    It took centuries for the papacy to develop. It took centuries for ecumenical councils to develop. It took centuries for tradition to develop. Indeed, the Roman Church is still developing. Catholic theology is still developing.

  24. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “How do you explain that the Christians prior to that time (who were Catholic or some flavor of Orthodox) did not come to ‘virtually the same conclusion’ as Protestants did on the OT canon?”

    It’s not as if most Christians prior to that time were given a chance to vote on the issue.

    “Again, what is the principled reason for believing God protected the Church from error on the canon (a long, messy process) but allowed her to err on baptismal regeneration (a unanimously held belief from the beginning)?”

    We don’t have to believe God protected “the Church” from error on the canon. There are ways of evaluating the end-product of a process after the fact.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Hi again, Steve,

      We don’t have to believe God protected “the Church” from error on the canon. There are ways of evaluating the end-product of a process after the fact.

      Like, inter-textual analysis?

      To expand that: Do you claim that we can know the canon by examining possible books using the method of inter-textual analysis?

      I don’t recall Calvin mentioning that method. He said instead that a true Christian can know the books as easily as telling white from black, sweet from bitter. What do you think of his method?

  25. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Luther illustrates this wonderfully with his grave doubts about the book of James’ inspiration, using that notion to dismiss the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, as well as works being involved in one’s justification.”

    That cuts both ways. Trent “settled” the canon based on certain assumptions regarding the authorship of the canonical books which modern Catholic Bible scholars reject. Did Paul write the Epistle to the Hebrews? Did the Apostle James write the Epistle of James? Did Peter write 2 Peter?

    Even by Catholic standards, Trent got it wrong.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      The canon of Scripture dogmatically proclaimed by the ecumenical council of Trent was protected from error by God. Any particular supporting evidence or “certain assumptions” do not have to be infallible for the decree itself to be.

      So by Catholic standards, Trent did not get it wrong.

      If you mean instead, that some Catholic scholar may think that Paul didn’t write Hebrews, that’s fine. It doesn’t invalidate anything.

      1. PeaceByJesus says:

        “The canon of Scripture dogmatically proclaimed by the ecumenical council of Trent was protected from error by God.”

        Bold assertions are not arguments. How can we know for certain that Rome’s claim to possess assured (formulaic) infallibility is true? And how do you know for certain every time Rome has spoken thusly?

  26. Brandon says:

    It seems to me that basing the ongoing authority/infallability of “the magesterium” on the fact that God used the church for the process of canonizing the New Testament comes from a faulty assumption that agency necessarily implies ongoing authority. A world-renowned contractor can hire a cabinet maker to build cabinets for his current project; that doesn’t mean that since that cabinet maker was used for a specific project at a specific time, he has the right to go on making cabinets in the contractor’s name elsewhere, as though his agency was evidence of some intrinsic authority. That’s a massive assumption. I think this (however crassly) illustrates the kind of assumption at play in the magesterium.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Brandon,

      This is why I responded to Rhology’s question about “which Church” I am talking about vis-a-vis the canon discernment by saying the early Church in the first four centuries that discerned the canon, not making a further claim that that Church still exists or still has authority, etc. Protestants would still need a reason to trust that early Church on the canon but on nothing else.

      Of course, then they would need to provide the evidence that the early Church went off the rails/got corrupted/went apostate and deal with the consequences of such a position.

  27. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “The canon of Scripture dogmatically proclaimed by the ecumenical council of Trent was protected from error by God. Any particular supporting evidence or ‘certain assumptions’ do not have to be infallible for the decree itself to be.”

    i) Trent makes some specific authorial attributions. Are those infallible? Was Trent protected from error when it ascribed Pauline authorship or Hebrews or said the Apostle James wrote the Epistle of James?

    ii) Explain how you can reasonably drive a wedge between a conclusion and the reasoning which underlay the conclusion. Why is that not a purely ad hoc, face-saving distinction?

    iii) BTW, does Trent itself endorse your dichotomy?

    “So by Catholic standards, Trent did not get it wrong.”

    So it got the list of books right even if it got the authorship of books wrong?

    “If you mean instead, that some Catholic scholar may think that Paul didn’t write Hebrews, that’s fine. It doesn’t invalidate anything.”

    If Trent canonizes Hebrews because Paul wrote it when, in fact, Paul didn’t, then Trent canonized Hebrews on false pretenses.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Trent canonized Hebrews because God inspired Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit has led the Church into all truth. Again, the particular reasoning given in support of a dogmatic decree may not be the best or strongest.

      Sure, take James. Which James wrote it, assuming a “James” did write it? We’re not sure. We have a good guess, but it may be wrong. The historical records from that time are not exhaustive. This poses no problem for the Catholic Church’s claims, since knowing the particular author of a book is not necessary for God to lead the Church to accept that book as inspired. I’m sorry if that doesn’t sit well with you, but you do not get to make up the way God’s Church works.

      To you, the way we can know which books are inspired is by putting on our detective hats and compiling all the evidences and then applying subjective filters to give the result we previously accepted on authority. So, if for example your notion and application of inter-textuality has a problem in it, it casts the results of the work (your canon) into question, like a wrong step in solving a mathematical equation. But, though there is good evidence for all the books in the Catholic canon, it is not unambiguous enough (as the centuries-long canonization process demonstrates) to provide conscience-binding certainty in ANY canon, whether Protestant or Catholic. God must protect “someone’s” discernment of that canon from error. If you think that person is “Steve Hays,” great. I don’t.

  28. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose:

    “Like, inter-textual analysis? To expand that: Do you claim that we can know the canon by examining possible books using the method of inter-textual analysis?”

    By both internal and external lines of evidence.

    “I don’t recall Calvin mentioning that method…What do you think of his method?”

    You’re introducing a decoy to deflect my argument rather than refute my argument.

  29. Roger Ball says:

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”— Jaroslav Pelikan

  30. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Trent canonized Hebrews because God inspired Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit has led the Church into all truth.”

    Why does Trent attribute Pauline authorship to Hebrews if that’s irrelevant to the canonicity of Hebrews?

    “Again, the particular reasoning given in support of a dogmatic decree may not be the best or strongest.”

    Well, that’s euphemistic. What about the wrong reason.

    “Sure, take James. Which James wrote it, assuming a ‘James’ did write it? We’re not sure. We have a good guess, but it may be wrong. The historical records from that time are not exhaustive. This poses no problem for the Catholic Church’s claims, since knowing the particular author of a book is not necessary for God to lead the Church to accept that book as inspired. I’m sorry if that doesn’t sit well with you, but you do not get to make up the way God’s Church works.”

    The question is not whether that sits well with me, but whether that sits well with the Tridentine Fathers. Did they say the apostolic authorship of James was “just a good guess that might be wrong”?

    What poses a problem for the Catholic church’s claims is if it makes a claim which you yourself discount. You’re playing both sides of the fence.

    “To you, the way we can know which books are inspired is by putting on our detective hats and compiling all the evidences and then applying subjective filters to give the result we previously accepted on authority.”

    Which is exactly what you yourself do when you judge the historical claims of the Roman church.

    “So, if for example your notion and application of inter-textuality has a problem in it, it casts the results of the work (your canon) into question, like a wrong step in solving a mathematical equation. But, though there is good evidence for all the books in the Catholic canon, it is not unambiguous enough (as the centuries-long canonization process demonstrates) to provide conscience-binding certainty in ANY canon, whether Protestant or Catholic.”

    So you reject the evidentiary standard because the canon of the Roman church doesn’t measure up to the evidentiary standard. I appreciate your damning admission.

    “God must protect ‘someone’s’ discernment of that canon from error. If you think that person is “Steve Hays,” great. I don’t.”

    And how is an Italian bishop a less arbitrary candidate than Steve Hays?

    BTW, who was the “someone” during the Intertestamental period? Or the time of Christ? Did the Jews have a canon before the 16C AD?

  31. steve hays says:

    David Charkowsky

    “Our technological circumstances have changed. Most societies no longer need the death penalty to fulfill their duty to protect the innocent. Under these new circumstances, doesn’t it seem that the death penalty is no longer the highest good?”

    i) Which assumes the rationale for the death penalty was to deter future murders rather than to exact justice on actual murderers.

    ii) Have our “technical circumstances” eliminated murder?

  32. PeaceByJesus says:

    Contra 2.

    “The Moslems together with us adore the one merciful God.” — Lumen Gentium

    RCC: 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.[337]

    I confess that the Lord will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire the wicked who either did not know by way of the Lord or, knowing it, left it when seized by various transgressions, in order that they may burn without end. (Pope Pelagius I, “Humani Generis,” April 1, 557 A.D.)

    Acts which spring from natural goodness have only the appearance of virtue; they cannot last of themselves nor can they merit salvation.(Pope St. Pius X, “Editae Saepe,” May 26, 1910)

    He who is separated from the Body of the Catholic Church, however praiseworthy his conduct may seem otherwise, will never enjoy eternal life. (Pope Gregory XIV, “Summo Jugiter,” May 27, 1832)

    Contra 3

    Indeed, the Church deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-semitism levelled at any time or from any source against the Jews — Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, “Nostra Aetate,” Oct. 28, 1965

    The crucifiers of Christ ought to be held in continual subjection.(Pope Innocent III, “Epistle to the Hierarchy of France,” July 15, 1205)

    It would be licit, according to custom, to hold the Jews in perpetual servitude because of their crime. (St. Thomas Aquinas, “De Regimine Judaeorum”)

    Contra 4

    Therefore, the Church reproves as foreign to the mind of Christ any discrimination against people or any harrassment on the basis of race, color, condition in life, or religion. — Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, “Nostra Aetate,” Oct. 28, 1965

    Religious communities have the right not to be prevented from publicly teaching and bearing witness to their beliefs by the spoken or written word. — Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae,” December 12, 1965

    It is insanity to believe that liberty of conscience and liberty of worship are the inalienable rights of every citizen. From this stinking fountain of Indifferentism flows the erroneous and absurd opinion, or rather derangement, that liberty of conscience must be asserted and vindicated for everyone. This most pestilential error opens the door to the complete and immoderate liberty of opinions which works such widespread harm both in Church and State. (Pope Gregory XVI, “Mirari Vos,” August 15,1832)

    That every man is free to embrace and to profess that religion which he, led by the light of reason, thinks to be the true religion is hereby CONDEMNED as ERROR. (Ven. Pope Pius IX, “Syllabus of Modern Errors,”December 8, 1864)

  33. steve hays says:

    Notice how Devin Rose has tacitly gutted his own position. He led with the claim that Protestantism can’t offer certainty. Only the Roman magisterium can offer certainty.

    But now he’s admitting that Trent (to take one prominent example of the extraordinary magisterium) is only partially inerrant. Only some Tridentine statements are divinely protected from error.

    So a Catholic can’t be certain which Tridentine statements are inerrant and which are errant. Not only can’t he attain certainly, but he can’t even attain probability. How could he?

    He’s left to his own devices to sort this out. The magisterium isn’t telling him which Tridentine statements are errant and which are inerrant.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      Two arcs here:

      1. Let’s get more specific since you are trying to catch me out in the details. Which canons of Trent are you speaking that state the inspired books’ authorship of so I can go look them up?

      However, my point stands about the evidence supporting a dogma is not necessarily dogmatic itself. Take the Assumption, dogmatically defined ex cathedra by the pope 60 years ago. The dogma itself is formulated clearly in the document Munificentissimus Deus, but all the evidence around the dogmatic statement is not necessarily dogma.

      However, I haven’t looked into the Church’s position on the statements you say Trent makes on apostolic authorship–I didn’t even know they were there–so I will check on that when you kindly provide the links or sessions/canons. Which leads me to…

      2. Even as a Protestant, it was easy to tell what the Catholic Church taught. I looked online and read the documents, read explanations by the pope, bishops, etc. I also just went and bought a catechism. Easy. The fact that the Catholic Church had dogmatically defined the canon was easy to know. The Church says so. Now whether her canon is right or not is another story, but there is no difficult question about knowing it is dogma. The Church has made that clear, as she has with various other canons of Trent, like the ones on justification.

      So your line of argument would not have struck me as persuasive even as a Protestant. Knowing what a particular Protestant person or church or denomination believes can be quite difficult, and forget about Protestantism defining anything as dogma. Protestant denominations can and have changed their beliefs on the Trinity, homosexual marriage and clergy, divorce and remarriage, abortion, and on and on. Nothing is dogma in Protestantism.

      Your repeated assertion that I am the ultimate authority “left to my own devices” to sort out what is dogma and what is not is false. I look to the living teaching authority of the Church, who is able to clarify when needed any given teaching, or raise that doctrine to the level of dogma. Example: women’s ordination. People continue to ask: can women be ordained. Pope John Paul II said “the Church does not have the authority to ordain women.” And that has been reaffirmed again and again. Now, you could twist yourself all up in a knot wondering if that teaching is dogma or not, but why? The Church has taught it and practiced it for centuries (male only ordination); she continues to teach it and clarify that it is the teaching when challenged. So I believe it.

      Contrast that with one of your own positions: I recall reading that you interpret the Scriptures to say masturbation is permissible. (Now, if you had presented that belief at my old Southern Baptist church, they would have been stunned, and would have kindly set you straight.) But you have decided based on your own authority as the ultimate interpreter that you are right on this novel idea, to hell with what traditional Christianity has believed about it. That is being your own ultimate interpretive authority. Very similar actually to Luther, who said polygamy was permissible because he didn’t see where the Scriptures explicitly forbade it.

  34. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Let’s get more specific since you are trying to catch me out in the details. Which canons of Trent are you speaking that state the inspired books’ authorship of so I can go look them up?…However, I haven’t looked into the Church’s position on the statements you say Trent makes on apostolic authorship–I didn’t even know they were there–so I will check on that when you kindly provide the links or sessions/canons.”

    Readers should take note of this. Throughout this thread, Devin has been alleging that Protestants lack certainty regarding the canon of Scripture, whereas only the Roman Magisterium can furnish certainty regarding the canon.

    Now he has to admit that he’s never bothered to read the definitive magisterial statement on the specifics of the canon. Indeed, he doesn’t even know where to begin to look.

    So he’s been bluffing his way through this entire thread, pretending to know what he’s talking about when, by his own belated admission, he’s ignorant of what his church teaches on the subject, and he doesn’t even know where to find it.

    Faith in Catholicism begins, not with any facts, but a nice idea. A nice-sounding, fact-free idea.

    In answer to his query, here’s a link:

    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct04.html

    “However, my point stands about the evidence supporting a dogma is not necessarily dogmatic itself. Take the Assumption, dogmatically defined ex cathedra by the pope 60 years ago. The dogma itself is formulated clearly in the document Munificentissimus Deus, but all the evidence around the dogmatic statement is not necessarily dogma.”

    So only one sentence out of the entire encyclical might be protected from error–the sentence that formally states the dogma of the Assumption. Everything else the pope said may be false.

    “Even as a Protestant, it was easy to tell what the Catholic Church taught. I looked online and read the documents, read explanations by the pope, bishops, etc. I also just went and bought a catechism. Easy.”

    Another bait-n-switch. The question at issue is not what the Roman church teaches, but retrieving the allegedly true teachings from all the dross. Over the centuries, the Roman church has taught many things. A cumulative, multilayered tradition of contradictory teachings.

    As Pope Benedict XVI has himself admitted, the fact that some teaching is contained in the catechism doesn’t tell you how authoritative the teaching is. Its degree of authority is independent of, and prior to, the catechetical compilation. So that only pushes the question back a step.

    “So your line of argument would not have struck me as persuasive even as a Protestant.”

    Maybe because you’re chronically confused on how to identify the actual issue (see above).

    “Knowing what a particular Protestant person or church or denomination believes can be quite difficult, and forget about Protestantism defining anything as dogma.”

    You could say the very same thing about 1C Judaism. Yet that’s how God arranged things for the covenant community.

    “But you have decided based on your own authority as the ultimate interpreter that you are right on this novel idea, to hell with what traditional Christianity has believed about it. That is being your own ultimate interpretive authority.”

    Like so many converts to Rome, you don’t know what’s going on under your own roof. If you read the relevant entries in the latest edition of the New Catholic Encyclopedia, you’d see that contemporary Catholic scholarship says “to hell” with the traditional interpretation of the traditional prooftexts.

    Next time around, why don’t you take the car for a test drive before you buy it.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      This will be my last comment to you here, as you continue to be rude and disrespectful to me.

      Now he has to admit that he’s never bothered to read the definitive magisterial statement on the specifics of the canon. Indeed, he doesn’t even know where to begin to look.

      In fact, I have read those canons, the exact ones you linked to, and many more. And I do know where to find them, as they are on many sites. I thought you were speaking of some other part of Trent that went into detail on who, exactly, the “James” was who Tradition ascribes as the author of the book of James. But it doesn’t. So your claim that I haven’t bothered to read the statements is false and uncharitable.

      As Pope Benedict XVI has himself admitted, the fact that some teaching is contained in the catechism doesn’t tell you how authoritative the teaching is. Its degree of authority is independent of, and prior to, the catechetical compilation. So that only pushes the question back a step.

      Sure, as I linked to in the previous thread we corresponded on, different teachings are at different levels of theological certainty. Nothing new there, and nothing damning. How can we know? The Church tells us, clarifies it over time, deepens our understanding of it, etc.

      I made other points, and have asked you other questions, in this thread and others, than you have ignored or dodged. No one likes to converse with someone who 1) does not respect him and 2) refuses to have a give-and-take dialogue where the other’s questions are also addressed and not just ignored.

      It is clear to me you do not want dialogue in search of the fullness of the truth that Christ has revealed, but instead only to score points and cast FUD on the Catholic Church. I’ll let you do that by yourself.

      God bless,
      Devin

  35. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “In fact, I have read those canons, the exact ones you linked to, and many more. And I do know where to find them, as they are on many sites. I thought you were speaking of some other part of Trent that went into detail on who, exactly, the ‘James’ was who Tradition ascribes as the author of the book of James. But it doesn’t. So your claim that I haven’t bothered to read the statements is false and uncharitable.”

    This is what Trent says:

    “…fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James…”

    Notice the authorial attributions. Paul wrote Hebrews. Peter wrote two epistles. The apostle James wrote the Epistle of James. So, yes, it details who exactly wrote what, including the apostolic authorship of James. What does that say about your reading comprehension?

    “Sure, as I linked to in the previous thread we corresponded on, different teachings are at different levels of theological certainty.”

    “Levels of certainty” is a euphemism for degrees of uncertainty.

    “I made other points, and have asked you other questions, in this thread and others, than you have ignored or dodged.”

    To the contrary, I’ve been systematically responding to you while you keep moving the goal post.

    “It is clear to me you do not want dialogue in search of the fullness of the truth that Christ has revealed, but instead only to score points and cast FUD on the Catholic Church. I’ll let you do that by yourself.”

    Your directions lead us away from the truth.

  36. Philippe says:

    The question in Trent was the selection of the Gospels, not the authorship. Therefore the infallible pronouncement is on the selection of the books.

    “And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod.”

    This is Devin’s point, and he is correct in his interpretation.

    Further, it is completely consistent to expect truth to gain in clarity over time, without having clarifications refute earlier discernments. This is both biblical, and logical.

  37. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “The truth is that the Catholic canon is closed. It was generally settled long ago, and reaffirmed over the centuries, but like many doctrinal issues, did not have to be dogmatically closed until Trent when the Protestants rejected the deuterocanonicals and Luther challenged the four NT books.”

    False. There was no preexisting consensus on the canon prior to Trent. Both the Hieronymian and Augustinian positions were represented by the Tridentine Fathers, and the Augustinian position didn’t even garner a majority vote.

  38. steve hays says:

    Philippe

    “The question in Trent was the selection of the Gospels, not the authorship. Therefore the infallible pronouncement is on the selection of the books.”

    So individual lay Catholics like yourself are the final arbiter on which Tridentine statements are true and which are false.

    BTW, why does infallibility operate in fits and starts? Is God either unable or unwilling to protect Trent in toto from error? Why does God allow some Tridentine errors, but not others?

    Do you have a principled explanation? Or is this just a makeshift rationalization to limit exposure to your flank? The less you claim to be infallible, the less you have to defend against potential falsification.

    “Further, it is completely consistent to expect truth to gain in clarity over time, without having clarifications refute earlier discernments. This is both biblical, and logical.”

    You’re “refuting” both Trent and the church fathers on the authorship of the NT books. So much for tradition.

  39. Philippe says:

    “So individual lay Catholics like yourself are the final arbiter on which Tridentine statements are true and which are false. ”

    Nope. the pronouncement itself is… it states what is being decided on in the text itself….

  40. My fellow Protestants,

    i. Did any of you personally wait until all the relevant historical evidence had been read and examined *before* you believed and treated the Protestant canon as the Word of God, or did you first accept and treat the Protestant canon as the Word of God *before* you did your investigation of all the relevant historical evidence?

    ii. By “all the relevant historical evidence” I am only referring to all sources relevant to the question of canon (e.g. second Temple Judaism, all pseudepigraphal writings–including disputes about their interpretation and arguments made about their authorship by the most informed scholars, all relevant evidence of early Church beliefs in archeological discoveries, all writings of the early church fathers, all the details of local councils and their context, differences in reasons for canon reception that tended to vary in different regions of the Roman Empire and beyond, etc.).

    iii. I think we are simply kidding ourselves if we think Protestants examine for themselves first hand all this evidence *before* they decide what God’s Word consists of. We accept the canon as the Word of God *before* we ever examine the evidence (if we ever really do that), and during our investigation we do not put our treatment of the Protestant canon as divine inspired on hold until we figure it out.

    iv. As best I can tell, not even most evangelical scholars are up to such a laborious task and those who specialize in studying the canon (who alone would fit the criterion of having examined “all relevant evidence”) are probably less than 1% of all Protestants.

    v. I think most Protestants simply trust in the Protestant Canon because they inherit it from the Protestant Tradition, and if they are ever challenged on it, they still don’t research all the relevant evidence themselves, but they trust in those who have more knowledge than they do in the matter instead of researching all the relevant evidence themselves.

    vi. This makes the question of authority more practical. If every Protestant had to give informed reasons for why they know the Protestant canon were the right one, only about less than 1% of Protestants would even fit the preconditions of making such an informed judgement. I personally accepted the Protestant canon because I felt that I had encountered the living God through reading from it, and those who delivered the gospel to me and taught me about Christ used it. That was when I began to consider the Protestant canon the Word of God (although I wouldn’t have called it the Protestant Canon at that time, I would’ve just called it The Bible or God’s Word, and only later would I discover that Catholics had a different canon).

    vii. On what authority do Protestants accept the Protestant canon? If it’s on the basis of their own investigation of all relevant historical evidence, I wonder how solid a ground this basis would be (at least for the less than 1% who actually do such an investigation). It would involve a long series of interpretive judgments about such a monstrous span of historical evidence, the conclusion would seem to be only as trustworthy as the expert’s opinion. But what about the other 99% of Protestants? What do they base their trust in the Protestant Canon on? This is a serious question. The answers I can think of from my own experience amount to nothing more than experience and Protestant Tradition (their local church uses that canon, the Christians who witnessed to them use that canon, those who fed them spiritual truths taught them from that canon, they have read from that canon and found spiritual nourishment, etc.).

    Just throwing around some questions,

    Bradley

    1. Rhology says:

      Fine questions, worthy of being asked.
      Sadly, our Romanist friends never seem to ask themselves the same questions with any significant degree of open-mindedness.

  41. steve hays says:

    Philippe

    “Nope. the pronouncement itself is… it states what is being decided on in the text itself….”

    Does the council of Trent say, “You’re supposed to believe what we here, but you can disregard what we say there”? Does Trent itself distinguish between errant and inerrant Tridentine statements? Did Trent invite Catholics to winnow the council’s statements, treating some Tridentine statements as wheat and other Tridentine statements as chaff?

  42. steve hays says:

    The problem with Bradley’s questions is we could raise exactly the same series of questions regarding cradle Catholics who accept the “authority” of the Magisterium before they consider the evidence–assuming they ever get around to sifting through the historical evidence (which most of them do not and cannot). They have a hereditary faith in the Roman church.

    He’s also confusing the formation of belief with how to verify or falsify a belief. That’s often an ex post facto exercise.

  43. Philippe says:

    steve…

    It states what it is deciding.

  44. steve hays says:

    Notice the odd strategy of Catholics who tell us we should believe in the Roman magisterium, but then defend the magisterium by telling us that it’s okay to disbelieve the magisterium most of the time. You only have to believe a sentence here, a sentence there. The magisterium isn’t protected from error most of the time, yet the magisterium is absolutely necessary. Trent may be wrong 95% of the time, but it’s still trustworthy.

    Even though the magisterium is wrong when it makes unguarded historical claims, wrong, it’s coincidentally right on those occasions when it makes unfalsifiable claims.

  45. Steve,

    I would love it if rather than ignoring the question, someone would actually answer it and not just say “the same question could be asked of Catholics.” Yes, the same thing could be asked of any Catholic, but I (a Protestant) have asked it of my fellow Protestants.

    You said: “He’s also confusing the formation of belief with how to verify or falsify a belief. That’s often an ex post facto exercise.”

    Please elaborate on this point to clarify and offer a quotation from my statements locating where I confused them to help me understand what you mean. I understand that we form our beliefs in one way and verify them in another, but I’m just not sure where in my comments I necessarily conflated these two.

    Bradley

  46. Philippe says:

    steve… I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but The Magisterium’s pronouncements are considered infallible. Trent’s pronouncement was on the set of books. Therefore that is what they intended and did pronounce infallibly…. period.

  47. steve hays says:

    Bradley,

    Why do you frame the issue in terms of “authority” rather than evidence? Authority is no alternative to evidence, for as you yourself framed the issue, you still need evidence to verify or falsify the authority. So you’re committing a level confusion.

    If you’re discussing how the average Protestant forms his belief in the Protestant canon, there’s a parallel process by which the average Catholic forms his belief in the authority of the Magisterium. So appealing to authority doesn’t solve the problem that you yourself posed.

    If, however, you’re asking how we retroactively verify or falsify our hereditary beliefs, then that’s an evidentiary question (although it also involves the rules of evidence, burden of proof), &c. That would apply to both the Catholic canon and the Protestant canon.

    1. Jason says:

      Steve, doesn’t one have to trust his or her judgement of the evidence? that being the case, how can I be sure my judgements of the evidence are correct?That i’m not mistaken?

      Peace,
      Jason

    2. Steve,

      First you said the problem with my question was that it could also be applied to Catholics. But far from being a problem with my question, it only makes my question all the more relevant, since “the problem” is that it has a broader application than what I am using it for here. How you would manage conceive of this broader application as a “problem” escapes me (unless of course you just don’t like my question and are avoiding an answer).

      What is also unclear to me is how you managed to caricaturize my comments as confusing authority with evidence and framing the issue in terms of authority rather than evidence. If you go back and read my comments more carefully, however, you will see that 1) I did not frame the issue (as you accuse me of) in terms of authority RATHER THAN evidence, but in terms of the relationship between the authority and the evidence. 2) Since this is how I have “framed” my questions, it also follows that I am in fact distinguishing between these two, and therefore not confusing them.

      But just for your sake I will tailor the rephrasing of my questions to elude the sort of ambiguity and confusion you have imposed on them:

      I’m distinguishing between a Protestant’s acceptance of an authoritative canon as authoritative (nothing less than the authoritative Word of God) and her personal (and responsible) verification of that authority. Therefore, let me rephrase my question: Did any of you personally wait until all the relevant historical evidence had been read and examined *before* you believed and treated the Protestant canon as the authoritative Word of God, or did you first accept and treat the Protestant canon as the authoritative Word of God *before* you did your investigation of all the relevant historical evidence?

      Do those who seek to verify and find reasons for accepting the authority of the Protestant canon put the authority of that canon “on hold” until they can verify it for themselves? Or do they continue to accept it’s authority before and during their investigation?

      On what basis to Protestants accept the Protestant canon as authoritative when less than 1% actually study all the relevant evidence in such a way as to be in the position to even make a fair and thoroughly informed decision?

      It seems to me that over 99% of Protestants (like myself) tend to accept the Protestant canon as authoritative before and apart from anything close to a thorough examination of all sources relevant to the question of canon (e.g. second Temple Judaism, all pseudepigraphal writings–including disputes about their interpretation and arguments made about their authorship by the most informed scholars, all relevant evidence of early Church beliefs in archeological discoveries, all writings of the early church fathers, all the details of local councils and their context, differences in reasons for canon reception that tended to vary in different regions of the Roman Empire and beyond, etc.).

      In addition to the redundancy, I hope that clears up any confusion. There is indeed a difference between authority and evidence, between authority and attempts to verify or find reasons for accepting authority. The real question is whether Protestants accept authority apart from a responsible examination of the evidence. I hope now that instead of misinterpreting my question and assuming that I’m confused, you can answer it.

      Bradley

  48. steve hays says:

    Philippe

    “steve… I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but The Magisterium’s pronouncements are considered infallible.”

    You seem to be using “pronouncement” as a technical term for a dogmatic definition. Is that what you’re trying to say?

    “Trent’s pronouncement was on the set of books. Therefore that is what they intended and did pronounce infallibly…. period.”

    So the Tridentine authorial attributions were unintentional? An involuntary reflex, like blinking your eyes? They didn’t mean to attribute Hebrews to Paul? That’s accidental?

    Do the Tridentine Fathers themselves limit infallibility to their “pronouncement,” in contrast to everything else they affirm or deny? Where are you getting the fallible/infallible dichotomy from the actual text of Trent?

    And, no, it’s not “period.” You act as if the nature of authorship is irrelevant to the canonicity of a book. If 2 Peter was actually a forgery written by Simon Magus rather than Simon Peter, would Trent still canonized 1 Peter?

    Why do you think Trent includes information about the authorship of certain books of that’s irrelevant to their canonicity? And why should we think Trent’s “pronouncement” is infallible if it uses erroneous information?

    1. Philippe says:

      “…all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament–seeing that one God is the author of both –as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. ”

      From their own words again…

      Tradition was certainly a factor, as is the inspiration from the Holy Spirit,and it’s consistency with matters of faith and morals. Tradition here was not defined as dogmatic.

      1. Philippe says:

        Steve… I’m off from this thread.
        In general you seem to have some confusion as to how the Catholic Church defines what is infallible and dogmatic. I’d suggest learning more about this to understand.

        Cheers.

  49. steve hays says:

    Philippe

    “Steve… I’m off from this thread. In general you seem to have some confusion as to how the Catholic Church defines what is infallible and dogmatic. I’d suggest learning more about this to understand.”

    More like you can’t keep up your end of the discussion, so you’re beating a hasty retreat.

  50. steve hays says:

    Phillippe,

    The passage doesn’t end there. Why do you quote part of it, but arbitrarily stop part way through? It continues:

    “…all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament–seeing that one God is the author of both –as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one’s mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according [Page 19] to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.”

  51. steve hays says:

    Jason

    “Steve, doesn’t one have to trust his or her judgement of the evidence? that being the case, how can I be sure my judgements of the evidence are correct?That i’m not mistaken?”

    That’s unavoidable. There’s no alternative.

    1. Mike says:

      steve hays,
      So, where is the truth? Please show me the Church that is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

  52. steve hays says:

    The truth is in the Bible.

    As for to in 1 Tim 3:15, you might wish to poke around the ancient ruins of Ephesus, since that’s the church Paul was referring to. Not much left after 2000 years, but give it your best shot.

    1. Mike says:

      Which version of the Bible? According to your interpretation, or mine? I guess the truth died with that church in Ephesus, huh?

  53. steve hays says:

    I guess you’ve never bothered to ask where Timothy was ministering, huh?

  54. Mike says:

    Oh excellent! The truth did get passed on :)

  55. steve hays says:

    The truth got passed on in the very document you must reply on for your information.

  56. PeaceByJesus says:

    I would comment, but my comments have been in “awaiting moderation” limbo for days.

  57. steve hays says:

    Bradley,

    Just a word of advice: if you’re going to demand answers from others, you need to drop the angry, offended, defensive tone.

    Moving along, you continue to cast the issue in authoritative terms. That strikes me as equivocal. On the face of it, we don’t need one type of authority, much less a comparable or superior type of authority, to establish something else that’s authoritative.

    Take critical editions of the text of Scripture. These are produced by textual critics, comparing and contrasting various MSS, ancient versions, &c.

    To the extent that a reconstructed text approximates the urtext, it carries divine authority. But that doesn’t mean the textual critic must have the same authority as the text he reconstructs.

    Indeed, there’s a fundamental equivocation, since a textual critic is not an “authority” in the same sense that the text of Scripture is authoritative. Producing a critical edition of the OT or NT text is not an exercise in authority. Rather, it’s just a scholarly exercise, sifting the available evidence.

    Regarding your next point, you could treat an average Protestant’s belief in the Protestant canon as a properly basic belief. His belief is prima facie justified, although–in principle–that could be overturned.

    Regarding your next point, this is like Neurath’s boat. We can’t rebuild our entire belief-system from scratch all at once. We have to take certain beliefs for granted while we examine or reexamine other beliefs. We can’t simultaneously place all our beliefs on hold.

    If a Protestant is testing his hereditary belief in the Protestant canon, he can still treat the Protestant canon as his default position or operating reference frame during the course of his investigations unless his investigations lead him to reject his hereditary belief in the Protestant canon. It can still function as his provisional standard of comparison. He doesn’t have to suspend his faith in the Protestant canon.

    In addition, the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental orthodox canons don’t reject any books in the Protestant canon. So he’s not begging the question from their standpoint by at least accepting the same subset of books they do. The Protestant canon is already the core canon or common ground for all four competing groups. The books in the Protestant canon are not in dispute. It’s the additional books which are disputed.

    Keep in mind that we’re discussing public lines of evidence, since that’s our point of common ground in a dialogue with different faith traditions. However, this doesn’t mean a Protestant believer is necessarily limited to public lines of evidence to account for his personal belief in the Protestant canon. For instance, he may simply find John’s gospel inherently believable whereas Tobit doesn’t evoke belief. It’s not that he set out to believe the one or disbelieve the other. That’s just the differential effect that these two books have on him. That’s just the psychological state he finds himself in. When he reads the gospel of John, he has an irrepressible belief in what he reads. He can’t help himself. By contrast, after he reads Tobit, his doxastic state is no different than before he read it. No different than if he never read it. It has no impact on him one way or the other. (I’m just using that as a hypothetical illustration.)

    Finally, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant canon is, in fact, the true canon of Scripture. This is the set of books which God inspired and preserved for posterity.

    Given the fact that most Christians are in no position to independently examine or evaluate all of the evidence, we’d expect God to cause many Christians to opportunely believe in the true (Protestant) canon by providentially raising them or placing them in churches which uphold the true canon. God would employ the ordinary mechanisms of social conditioning to foster faith in the true (Protestant) canon, by situating Christians (or favored Christians) in an epistemic environment naturally conducive to the spontaneous formation of that belief.

    In principle, their prereflective faith could be confirmed by subsequent investigation, could be converted to a reflective faith. But in many or most cases, their prereflective faith is sufficient. Although they didn’t make an “informed” judgment on the canon, their judgment was reliably formed.

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for your gracious response and piece of advise. After going back and reading what I wrote, I agree that my tone comes across as a bit demanding and irritable. Please forgive me for coming across as uncharitable. I am grateful and delighted that you have given a serious answer to my question, quite impressively I might add, in a sort of Plantingan way.

      A. Before you had specifically said that I had set the issue in terms of authority “rather than evidence,” when my comments in fact refer to both, as well as their relationship. I will grant that I am asking a question about authority and evidence/investigation, and in this sense I am setting up the question partially in terms of authority. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on whether my asking the question “Do we accept God’s Word as authoritative before or after investigation?” confuses the distinction between authority and evidence. I don’t think my comments can be reduced to merely an issue of authority, since even your response to my questions forces you to deal with the very distinction I made between investigation of evidence and authority (i.e. the acceptance of the Protestant canon as authoritative because inspired).

      B. Some of your response aims as disagreeing with things I never said, so I don’t think it’s necessary to reply to them other than to ask: Where did I say that personal investigation has to bear the same authority as Scripture or that textual critics bear the same kind of authority as Scripture?

      C. Concerning your eloquent and substantive answer to my question, I will summarize how I have understood some of your points and put them in the order most helpful for following how I perceive your train of thought:

      1. All people have to take “certain beliefs” for granted because it would be impossible to suspend all our beliefs at once.

      2. “Most Christians are not in a position to independently examine or evaluate all of the evidence.”

      3. A Protestant is justified for taking her canon for granted (i.e. as a basic belief). In other words, her pre-reflective faith is sufficient (at least in most cases).

      4. A Protestant’s assumption or presupposition that the Protestant canon is true (and therefore that the deuterocanonical books are not inspired) is “reliable” apart from any investigation of the evidence.

      5. A Protestant can assume her canon (e.g. the rejection of the deuterocanonical books) is correct before and during her investigation of whether she has good reasons for doing so.

      6. A Protestant cannot continue to take her belief in the Protestant canon (e.g. the rejection of the deuterocanonical books) for granted if she comes find good reasons for rejecting it. *You said: “…he can still treat the Protestant canon as his default position … unless his investigation lead him to reject” it. It’s quite obvious that a person who rejects a belief can no longer take that belief for granted (this is like saying a person who no longer beliefs x cannot go on believing in x). Therefore I have tried to draw out what I think you were trying to say and will allow you to simply clarify what you meant to say if I’ve got you wrong.*

      7. Protestants can assume their canon as the right canon (as has been said) without begging the question because no book that Protestants hold as Scripture are contested in the three Christian Traditions (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox).

      8. In addition to public lines of evidence, another legitimate reason for a Protestant to accept some books as authoritative and others as not authoritative is whether they evoke belief in her or simply strike her as “believable” (I’m assuming here you really mean “authoritative” or “inspired by God” since we might find many extrabiblical books also “believable” that we would not therefore accept as Scripture, but you are welcome again to correct me if I’ve misunderstood you)

      9. If the Protestant canon were true, God would guide many people by his providence to form this belief (whether or not they ever reflected upon it or tried to verify it one way or the other).

  58. (to Steve cont’d)

    ••••••••R = “regarding”••••••••

    R1 :: I agree. We cannot doubt all things simultaneously. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that someone cannot have a significant measure of doubt (and thus suspend their confidence or belief) in the Protestant canon, especially when such a person is trying to objectively examine the evidence. In other words, a Protestant could be more or less open to accepting also the deuterocanonical books (especially given her Protestant belief that the Protestants who ultimately decided to reject the deuterocanonical books as well as those Protestants who give informed reasons for doing so, are in fact fallible). In fact, a Protestant could potentially be located on the far extreme of a spectrum in this regard, being extremely open to the possibility that the deuterocanonical books are also inspired (both before and during their investigation). Wouldn’t you agree?

    R2 :: I am glad you have conceded my point with honesty that most Protestants (I would say probably 99.9% of them) are in no position to study all the relevant evidence before accepting their canon. In fact, my questions did not concern what a Protestant can or cannot do, nor did they concern what Protestants should or should not do, nor did they concern what a Protestant can or cannot legitimately or justifiably do (epistemically speaking). My questions were instead aimed simply at asking what Protestants actually in fact do. In this sense, you have appeared to answer my question with clarity: Protestants do in fact accept the Protestant canon apart from a responsible examination of the relevant evidence. It appears that the rest of your remarks are designed simply to add this caveat: They are epistemically justified in doing so.

    R3 – R5:: I appears to me that your claims here are intended to be supported by points 1, 7, 8, and 9. The second part of point 3, however, is unclear. If you are going to say that a Protestant’s pre-reflective faith is “sufficient,” I must ask: “Sufficient for what?” What does it sufficiently accomplish?

    R7 :: This reason would also seem to support taking for granted that only Genesis and Mathew are inspired (or pick any number of books that fall short of the Protestant canon).

    R8 :: This reason would also seem to legitmate Catholics in their belief that the deuterocanonical books are inspired, granted these books seem authoritative to them when they read them. In other words, it’s incredibly subjective.

    R9 :: This reason would also seem to support the Catholics and Orthodox canons so long as we assume such Catholics and Orthodox also believe in God’s providence over the epistemic happenstances of individuals.

    Your thoughts?

    Bradley

  59. steve hays says:

    Bradley Cochran

    “But this doesn’t necessarily mean that someone cannot have a significant measure of doubt (and thus suspend their confidence or belief) in the Protestant canon, especially when such a person is trying to objectively examine the evidence. In other words, a Protestant could be more or less open to accepting also the deuterocanonical books (especially given her Protestant belief that the Protestants who ultimately decided to reject the deuterocanonical books as well as those Protestants who give informed reasons for doing so, are in fact fallible). In fact, a Protestant could potentially be located on the far extreme of a spectrum in this regard, being extremely open to the possibility that the deuterocanonical books are also inspired (both before and during their investigation). Wouldn’t you agree?”

    There’s a difference between doubting something due to the abstract possibility that, for all we know, we might be wrong–and doubting something because we have positive evidence to think our belief might be mistaken.

    By the same token, our hypothetical Protestant might be motivated by different starting points. One hypothetical Protestant might investigate the evidence for his hereditary belief in the Protestant canon because he’s suffering a crisis of faith while another hypothetical Protestant might do so to confirm what he already believes. That’s person-variable.

    “I must ask: ‘Sufficient for what?’ What does it sufficiently accomplish?”

    There are many things we know for a fact even though we haven’t bothered to prove them, and in some cases what we know isn’t susceptible to proof. It’s sufficient to be right for the right reasons, even if, in some cases, we have no supporting argument in our back-pocket.

    “This reason would also seem to legitmate Catholics in their belief that the deuterocanonical books are inspired, granted these books seem authoritative to them when they read them. In other words, it’s incredibly subjective.”

    Some subjective impressions are veridical whereas other subjective impressions are inveridical. The existence of inveridical subjective impressions doesn’t negate the existence of veridical subjective impressions. That just goes to the inherent limitations of any type of argument from personal experience.

    Either Tobit is inspired or uninspired. Depending on which is the case, that ought to have a different effect on the reader–for it wouldn’t be the same book in each case.

    “This reason would also seem to support the Catholics and Orthodox canons so long as we assume such Catholics and Orthodox also believe in God’s providence over the epistemic happenstances of individuals.”

    God’s providence has different aims. For instance, God may guide some Christians into a true belief in the true canon to establish a standard of comparison for other Christians. A subset of believers whose beliefs are truer than others. That anchors and centers the Christian faith, even if some other groups are adrift.

    Again, I’m not citing a bare appeal to providence to adjudicate rival canonical claims, but simply illustrating how a Protestant could be warranted in accepting the Protestant canon even if he had no robust argument to bolster his belief.

    I’ve presented some generic principles. If it came to defending a specific claim, then the debate would shift to the realm of arguments and counterarguments. But your question was predicated on the case of Protestants who don’t operate at that level. (Same thing with their counterparts in Catholicism and Orthodoxy.)

    1. Steve,

      D1 :: You said: “There’s a difference between doubting something due to the abstract possibility that, for all we know, we might be wrong–and doubting something because we have positive evidence to think our belief might be mistaken.”

      I agree that there can be a difference here, although what that difference will be depends partially on how one would define “positive evidence” It seems to me that all one really needs is confidence and certainty that those who give reasons for accepting the Protestant canon (as authoritative) are very, very prone to fallacy and that the fallible subjective sense that the Protestant has that his canon alone is authoritative (and not the deuterocanonical books) may just as easily be the result of his sinful nature as to anything else. I’m not sure whether you would categorize this as “positive evidence” or not, but they appear to work against (perhaps constituting defeaters for) the assurance that the Protestant canon is right (assuming that 99.9% of Christians never investigate the relevant evidence).

      D2 :: After all, in the Reformed faith we teach people to always assume (as a “basic belief” perhaps) that all people are fallible and sinful, and never to trust the words or judgments of man, but only the words and judgments of God, which alone are infallible. The judgments of man have no authority, only the words of God. Therefore, it would seem most appropriate to the Reformed faith to begin by distrusting the judgments of fallible humans who either assume or argue that the Protestant canon is the only right one (and the Catholic and Orthodox canons are therefore wrong). (I realize this would also have to apply to the judgments of Catholics and Orthodox also)

      D3 :: It would also seem that the Protestant (99.9%) has no more reason to believe that he possesses his belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon because God providentially guided him to form this belief than a Catholic has to assume that God has providentially guided her to accept as a basic belief that the Catholic canon is true. In fact, perhaps the Protestant has even less reason to believe this, since the Catholic’s believes the Church’s judgments is providentially guided by God to be infallible whereas the Protestant does not.

      D4 :: You said that a Protestant’s pre-reflective faith is sufficient. So I asked “[Pre-reflective faith is] sufficient for what?” You responded “It is sufficient to be right for the right reasons.” If we put the original subject of my question into your answer, then your answer goes something like this: “Pre-reflective faith is sufficient to be right for the right reasons.” Are you saying that the Protestant assumption (I use “assumption” here since it’s “pre-reflective”) that the Protestant canon is the true canon makes the assumption right? I’m just not even sure what that means? Can you clarify? It almost sounds at this point like you are saying that assumptions (non-universal pre-reflective beliefs) are sufficient to accomplish being “right” about the assumption. Surely that’s not what you mean to say?

      D5 :: You said: “There are many things we know for a fact even though we haven’t bothered to prove them” or even when they cannot be proved. I agree, but a Protestant’s belief that his canon is the right canon (and that the Catholic and Orthodox canons are therefore wrong) is not like our basic belief in the law of non-contradiction, that we exist, or that certain moral actions are evil and others good, or other such basic beliefs. The comparison fails. The people that tend to accept the Protestant canon as inspired are people who either had a conversion experience via some Protestant or Protestant group (the way I describe my own acceptance of the Protestant canon), people who grew up Protestant, or Catholics who convert to Protestantism after being convinced that Catholic doctrine is unbiblical (or as a result of a conversion experience or something like that). Thus, acceptance of the Protestant canon is not a basic belief in the sense that all people naturally take it for granted, but seem to be the result of certain non-universal contingencies.

      D6 :: When you distinguish between veridical and inveridical impressions, you never clarify how this relates to my point that the Catholic would seem to have just as good a reason to accept the deuterocanonical books if these books seemed inspired to her when she reads them. Are you considering the Catholics impression that the deuterocanonical books are inspired as “inveridical” or “veridical”? Although you conceded that arguments from personal experience have “inherent limitations,” I still can’t tell whether you agreeing with my point or disagreeing with my point that the Catholic would have a legitimate reason for accepting the deuterocanonical books as inspired if these books impressed her as inspired when she reads them. This would certainly seem to make the acquisition of a “good reason” or “legitimate reason” for deciding the canon very easy for me personally: I would just pick up the deuterocanonical books (or the books unique to the Orthodox) and read, then ask “Do these books seem like they are inspired?” If I thought “Why yes, they seem inspired,” it would seem that according to your epistemological views, I would then have a good reason for accepting them as inspired unless I put myself in a position to study all the relevant evidence and discover some “positive evidence” pointing me against such a conclusion. Would you agree?

      D7 :: When I first read certain books in the Protestant canon I read them with the great expectation that they would speak to me as God’s Word. Science (and a bit of common sense) shows us that our expectations can sometimes decisively shape our perception of things. I think this (in addition to the fact that human are sinful and fallible) makes it hard to trust one’s own level of discernment when it comes to reading the deuterocanonical books, for to give them the same sort of opportunity we give to the Protestant books to speak to us as God’s Word, we would have to read them with the same sort of expectation we take with us when we read the Protestant books.

      D8 :: You say: “I’m not citing a bare appeal to providence to adjudicate rival canonical claims.” Then it seems that what your remarks in this regard accomplish is to show that to the Protestant who assumes only his canon is the true canon, we should expect that same Protestant to also assume that God would providentially guide certain people (such as themselves) to actually believe that canon is indeed inspired. I’m not sure exactly how it relates to our discussion, however, for I would expect Catholics, Orthodox (even Mormons and Muslims) to interpret God’s providence in exactly the same way. Believers in an immanent God who has revealed himself always tend to interpret those who recognize that revelation as having been providentially guided to that recognition in some way. Wouldn’t you agree?

      Bradley

      1. Devin Rose says:

        Bradley,

        I’m appreciating your keen analysis.

        D3 is an important realization: “It would also seem that the Protestant (99.9%) has no more reason to believe that he possesses his belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon because God providentially guided him to form this belief than a Catholic has to assume that God has providentially guided her to accept as a basic belief that the Catholic canon is true. In fact, perhaps the Protestant has even less reason to believe this, since the Catholic’s believes the Church’s judgments is providentially guided by God to be infallible whereas the Protestant does not.

        1. Devin,

          Thanks. Unfortunately my proof reading analysis was not as keen: “…since the Catholic’s believes the Church’s judgments is providentially guided by God…” Yikes! LoL!

          Of course, I meant: “…since the Catholic believes that the Church’s judgments are providentially guided by God.”

          Bradley

  60. steve hays says:

    Bradley Cochran

    “I agree that there can be a difference here, although what that difference will be depends partially on how one would define ‘positive evidence’ It seems to me that all one really needs is confidence and certainty that those who give reasons for accepting the Protestant canon (as authoritative) are very, very prone to fallacy and that the fallible subjective sense that the Protestant has that his canon alone is authoritative (and not the deuterocanonical books) may just as easily be the result of his sinful nature as to anything else. I’m not sure whether you would categorize this as ‘positive evidence’ or not, but they appear to work against (perhaps constituting defeaters for) the assurance that the Protestant canon is right (assuming that 99.9% of Christians never investigate the relevant evidence).”

    You seem to be shifting the issue from objective types of evidence to the subjective perception of the evidence. Are you discussing evidence, or psychology?

    Your own objection could only hold if you (Bradley) exempt yourself from the vicissitudes you impute to those defending the Protestant canon. Otherwise, your objection recoils on yourself. You may be certain or confident that those who defend the Protestant canon are blind to their own bias or fallacies, but perhaps that’s a reflection of your own blindness.

    Your reasons for dismissing their reasons only hold if your reasons escape the fatal subjectivity you impute to them. So you’ve boxed yourself into a dilemma.

    “After all, in the Reformed faith we teach people to always assume (as a ‘basic belief’ perhaps) that all people are fallible and sinful, and never to trust the words or judgments of man, but only the words and judgments of God, which alone are infallible. The judgments of man have no authority, only the words of God. Therefore, it would seem most appropriate to the Reformed faith to begin by distrusting the judgments of fallible humans who either assume or argue that the Protestant canon is the only right one (and the Catholic and Orthodox canons are therefore wrong).”

    i) That’s an overstatement. The noetic effects of sin are not the same for the regenerate as they are for the unregenerate. Moreover, the Reformed faith also teaches that it is God’s will to bring the elect to a saving knowledge of himself. And God shall accomplish that purpose through the ordinary means of grace as well as regeneration.

    ii) In addition, something can be fallible, but still be generally reliable. Memory and sense perception are fallible, yet they are sufficiently trustworthy that we can rely on them most of the time.

    Likewise, we rely on ordinary providence to plan for the future. That’s despite the fact that there are exceptions (e.g. miracles) to ordinary providence. Because miracles are possible, the future is, to that degree, unpredictable. But we can still make provisional plans.

    “It would also seem that the Protestant (99.9%) has no more reason to believe that he possesses his belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon because God providentially guided him to form this belief than a Catholic has to assume that God has providentially guided her to accept as a basic belief that the Catholic canon is true.”

    You’re conflating two different issues. There’s a difference between a basic belief, and the supporting evidence or counterevidence.

    You’re also conflating first-order and second-order knowledge. The state of knowing (or believing) something is not the same thing as the process of justifying what I know (or believe).

    I can hold true beliefs which I might lack the aptitude to defend. That doesn’t mean my beliefs are inherently indefensible.

    We can debate the evidence for the Protestant canon over against the Catholic canon. But you keep alternating between two different issues.

    “In fact, perhaps the Protestant has even less reason to believe this, since the Catholic’s believes the Church’s judgments is providentially guided by God to be infallible whereas the Protestant does not.”

    If you treat the Catholic belief as a given. But, of course, that’s one of the principle issues in dispute.

    “Are you saying that the Protestant assumption (I use “assumption” here since it’s “pre-reflective”) that the Protestant canon is the true canon makes the assumption right?”

    You’re isolating my statement from the supporting argument. Did I say or imply that all prereflective beliefs are true? No. Rather, I said some prereflective beliefs are true. In that case, it’s sufficient to be right. It’s nice to be able to prove that you’re right, but you could only prove that you’re right if you were right in the first place. So proof doesn’t make you right. Rather, it presupposes that you were already right.

    There’s nothing unusual about what I’m saying. If a friend calls me on the telephone, I recognize his voice. He doesn’t even need to identify himself. Likewise, I can recognize my father’s handwriting.

    In both cases it would be difficult to explain how I know it, but I do.

    “But a Protestant’s belief that his canon is the right canon (and that the Catholic and Orthodox canons are therefore wrong) is not like our basic belief in the law of non-contradiction, that we exist, or that certain moral actions are evil and others good, or other such basic beliefs. The comparison fails…acceptance of the Protestant canon is not a basic belief in the sense that all people naturally take it for granted, but seem to be the result of certain non-universal contingencies.”

    Since basic beliefs don’t have to be universal beliefs or intuitive, self-evident truths, it’s your comparison that’s off the mark. Basic beliefs can include unique, personal memories (to take one example).

    “When you distinguish between veridical and inveridical impressions, you never clarify how this relates to my point that the Catholic would seem to have just as good a reason to accept the deuterocanonical books if these books seemed inspired to her when she reads them. Are you considering the Catholics impression that the deuterocanonical books are inspired as ‘inveridical’ or ‘veridical?”

    i) You’re changing the subject. I didn’t make any claim about what a reader actually experiences. Rather, I gave a hypothetical case.

    ii) You’re also equivocating over veridicality in relation to perceived inspiration. If a book is not inspired, but the reader perceived the book to be inspired, then that wouldn’t be a veridical experience.

    “I still can’t tell whether you agreeing with my point or disagreeing with my point that the Catholic would have a legitimate reason for accepting the deuterocanonical books as inspired if these books impressed her as inspired when she reads them.”

    Depends on what subsidiary assumptions you build into that question. If Tobit is inspired, then a Catholic could (ex hypothesi) have a veridical perception of Tobit’s inspiration. If Tobit is uninspired, then that perception would be inveridical.

    “When I first read certain books in the Protestant canon I read them with the great expectation that they would speak to me as God’s Word. Science (and a bit of common sense) shows us that our expectations can sometimes decisively shape our perception of things. I think this (in addition to the fact that human are sinful and fallible) makes it hard to trust one’s own level of discernment when it comes to reading the deuterocanonical books, for to give them the same sort of opportunity we give to the Protestant books to speak to us as God’s Word, we would have to read them with the same sort of expectation we take with us when we read the Protestant books.”

    An argument from religious experience, like any argument from experience, is person-variable. It doesn’t work for everyone. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t work for anyone.

    “Then it seems that what your remarks in this regard accomplish is to show that to the Protestant who assumes only his canon is the true canon, we should expect that same Protestant to also assume that God would providentially guide certain people (such as themselves) to actually believe that canon is indeed inspired.”

    That’s because you conflate first-order knowledge with second-order knowledge. A Protestant’s “assumption” regarding providence is irrelevant. I’m not discussing a Protestant’s belief in providence. A Protestant may not give providence a second thought. Because ordinary providence is a pervasive experience, that may be something he takes for granted at a subliminal level. He may never ask how he got the Bible he holds in his hand.

    I’m not discussing his belief in providence. Rather, I’m discussing a providential model of how a Protestant could be warranted in accepting the Protestant canon even if he’s completely unware of the providential factors which brought him to that state of mind.

    That’s a separate issue from arguing for the providential model. And that’s a separate issue from arguing for the Protestant canon.

  61. Steve,

    Thanks for you continued dialogue! I am finding it very helpful.

    G1 :: You said: “You seem to be shifting the issue from objective types of evidence to the subjective perception of the evidence. Are you discussing evidence, or psychology?”

    First I would like to point out that you are the one who brought up psychology when you said: “That’s just the psychological state he finds himself in” (see above dialogue). I have since then simply been carrying on the discussion about psychology that you started. Moving along then …

    G2 :: We are discussing the investigation of objective evidence by humans (who have a psyche), not the nature of objective evidence (which does not have a psyche). Therefore, yes, investigations are done by fallible subjects (such as myself) who are sinful and prone to err. But nowhere did I argue to exempt myself from this class or group of people who are prone to fallacy and sin. I gladly place myself in that same category with all fallible and prejudice human individuals. This doesn’t cause my argument to “recoil” upon myself; it only means that I myself am also included in the group of fallible humans prone to prejudice, sin, and error. Thus even if I were to take up the task of studying all the relevant evidence, no matter how much I studied, I would have to hold my conclusions at the status of “…it seems to me that we have the right canon, but I have a certain Protestant prejudice and sin nature of pride that may be influencing my judgment on this point, and I am therefore open to the possibility that the deuterocanonical books are also inspired.” My Reformed faith has developed in me a healthy distrust for the reliability of my own limited and prejudiced judgments, and at no point in my argument have I assumed that I am somehow excluded from this group.

    G3 :: Therefore, since you said “Your own objection could only hold if you (Bradley) exempt yourself,” then I will take that as a concession on your part of my argument. On your terms my point is valid and “holds,” since I do not consider myself exempt.

    H :: You said: “Your reasons for dismissing their reasons only hold if…” but my argument did not offer reasons for _dismissing_ their reasons, but reasons for having a default position of distrust and uncertainty for the judgments of humans, and a default position of certainty and trust only reserved for the judgments and words of God. Do you not hold this same basic stance?

    H2 :: My point is that since Protestants (99%) are not in a position to study all the relevant evidence, and since both Protestants and Catholics who do responsibly study the evidence disagree and come to contrary conclusions, it seems the Protestant would have a good reason for doubting whether he has the right canon. It’s not as complicated as your comments make it seem; it’s not “fatal subjectivism.” The practical import (if I am right) would simply look like this: “Well … my Protestant Tradition teaches me that the deuterocanonical books are not inspired, but I’ve never looked into it responsibly, and those who have studied the evidence come to opposite conclusions. Therefore, I’m not going to claim certainty about whether the Protestant canon is the true canon.” That’s not “boxing myself into a dilemma,” it’s just trying to be humble and recognize my own prejudice and limitations as a human being, and reserving my sense of certainty only for God’s Words, not my judgments or the judgment of fallible prejudice scholars.

    I :: You said: “The noetic effects of sin are not the same for the regenerate as they are for the unregenerate.” Here we are unfortunately back to you disagreeing with things I never said. I would agree they are not the same. Where did I argue otherwise?

    I2 :: I would add, however, that being regenerate does not remove this element of the Reformed faith whereby in our humility we recognize that we still struggle with sin and prejudice; being regenerate does not make us infallible. In fact, I don’t know what your church teaches Steve, but my church teaches that I still have to fight very hard against my own vulnerability to be prone to pride and prejudice even as a regenerate believer. I take this part of my faith very seriously. I find being more humble (and less certain) about my Protestant canon (something not taught explicitly or implicitly in the Scripture) to be more fitting to my Reformed sensitivities and one way I can fight against my own pride and prejudice. Far from being exempt from my argument, my perceiving myself as very much implicated by my own argument is the very reason I am making the argument in the first place. I am justifying my own reasons for taking a more humble approach to the question of the canon, since it is not explicitly or implicitly taught in Scripture and making a responsible decision would entail an impractical amount of investigation that, at best, would lead to “… it seems to me that …” (which would be far from certainty), but I don’t see a problem with that since it’s not a biblical doctrine but one that comes from human tradition. That still leaves open the question of whether such human Traditions might happen to be providentially guided by God. Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not. The Protestant, however, does not think the human Tradition that discerned the canon was infallibly guided by God (because Protestants do not believe in the infallibility of the human tradition). Yet the Catholic’s confidence that they have their canon right is more appropriate to Catholic presuppositions, since Catholics believe that God actually does (and did) providentially guide the church Tradition to rightly discern the canon.

    J :: “Something can be fallible, but still be generally reliable.” Agreed. But when I see both informed Catholics and Protestants who have studied the relevant evidence and come to opposite conclusions, this shapes my personal perception (as someone not in a position to study all the relevant evidence for myself) is that prejudice is at work in the investigation of the objective evidence. This leaves open the question of which tradition has the greater prejudice. Unlike many Protestants, however, I don’t exempt the Protestant investigators from this vulnerability to prejudice in their investigation of the objective evidence.

    K :: You said: “You’re conflating two different issues. There’s a difference between a basic belief, and the supporting evidence or counterevidence.” You again seem to be imputing ambiguity in my comments where it does not exist in substance. My comment simply states that a Catholic who is convinced that her canon is the true canon would have just as good a reason to believe this fortune is owing to God’s providence as the Protestant who is also convinced that his canon is the true canon has for believing that his fortune in this regard is also owing to God’s providence. If you can explain to me how this conflates the difference between basic beliefs and counter evidence please do so carefully so I can follow you. You accuse me of conflation as if my conflation is so obvious you don’t need to spell it out, all you need to do is quote what I said. How have you inferred this from my comments? (the last time you accused me of this your subsequent remarks appeared to work against the accusation, forcing you to deal with my distinction between authority and evidence).

    L1:: The same goes for this comment: “You’re also conflating first-order and second-order knowledge. The state of knowing (or believing) something is not the same thing as the process of justifying what I know (or believe).” I agree they are not always the same, but what about my comment necessarily conflates them? I am getting the impression that your conclusion that my comments are conflating something could be owing to your imposing on them a meaning I never intended. This impression is further supported by how in the process of our dialogue you have been consistently disagreeing with me over things I never said (see my previous comments).

    L2 :: In fact, you are still doing this, for you said: “I can hold true beliefs which I might lack the aptitude to defend. That doesn’t mean my beliefs are inherently indefensible.” I agree, so where did I explicitly argue that if someone lacks the aptitude to defend a proposition that therefore that proposition couldn’t be defended well by someone else? If I didn’t explicitly argue this, show me how you are inferring such a position from my comments?

    M :: When I said: “In fact, perhaps the Protestant has even less reason to believe this, since the Catholic believes the Church’s judgments are providentially guided by God to be infallible whereas the Protestant does not” have this type of assurance.

    You replied: “If you treat the Catholic belief as a given. But, of course, that’s one of the principle issues in dispute.”

    In no way, however, have I treated the Catholic belief as a given by making this argument. I’m afraid you are missing the subtlety built into the language of my argument. When I say “The Catholic has more reason to believe” X, I am not saying “there is objectively more reason to believe” X. Rather, I am saying that given “the Catholic’s” presuppositions they would have more reason to believe X than a Protestant does given that Protestant’s own presuppositions. That leaves wide open the question of whose presuppositions are in fact the right ones. Thus, it is not true (as you say) that I myself am taking the Catholic position for granted. Instead, what I have done in my argument is take for granted that “the Catholic” would take the Catholic position for granted. There is big difference.

    N :: I will now give a brief account about one part of our dialogue that seems to be humorously regressing into deeper and deeper confusion (this leaves open the question about who is in fact confused).

    1) First, you said that a Protestant is justified for taking her canon for granted (i.e. as a basic belief) and her pre-reflective faith is sufficient (at least in most cases). [what cases I wonder?]

    2) So I asked “[Pre-reflective faith is] sufficient for what?”

    3) You responded “It is sufficient to be right for the right reasons.” If we put the original subject of my question into your answer, then your answer goes something like this: The Protestant’s “Pre-reflective faith is sufficient to be right for the right reasons.”

    4) When I asked you clarify what exactly you mean by that, here was your explanation: “Some pre-reflective beliefs are true. In that case, it’s sufficient to be right. It’s nice to be able to prove that you’re right, but you could only prove that you’re right if you were right in the first place. So proof doesn’t make you right. Rather, it presupposes that you were already right.”

    5a) Therefore, I conclude based on your continual attempts to clarify your meaning that all you are really saying is that since the Protestant is right about his canon, therefore his pre-reflective faith (read: his assumption) that his canon is right is sufficient in order to make him right. (Notice how you have to assume the Protestant canon is right for your argument to hold, which makes it dreadfully circular).

    5b) This seem like quite a more complicated way of saying that if anyone is right about something, it is sufficient for their being right about it. What I would like to point out is this: If someone happens to be right (for reasons such as: they inherited it from their parents without questioning it, they inherited from their church without questioning it, etc.), we would only know that such a person is right about their belief through our own reflection. In this sense, we can always choose to challenge our assumptions and ask whether we personally have good reason for continuing to hold them, or we can assume that our assumptions are right and never bother. In the case of the Protestant canon, the Protestant’s assumption may be right, but it also may be wrong. And given the particular kind of Protestant we are talking about (the Protestant who does not investigate the evidence responsibly), I think it more fitting for such a Protestant (such as myself) to conclude that their assumption is vulnerable. In sum, I agree that a person whose belief corresponds well to reality is right by the mere fact of correspondence. But this does not seem to contribute anything to our dialogue, and I’m not sure why you brought it up. But since you did, I will simply add: The Bible does not teach that the Protestant canon is the right canon and it is not a universally held belief nor is it demanded by reason alone—and therefore, it is a very vulnerable assumption that should be questioned (like so many other assumptions we have, or just like so many Protestants would expect a Catholic to also question their assumption that they have the right canon).

    O1 :: I said: “I still can’t tell whether you [are] agreeing with my point or disagreeing with my point that the Catholic would have a legitimate reason for accepting the deuterocanonical books as inspired if these books impressed her as inspired when she reads them.”

    You Replied: “Depends on what subsidiary assumptions you build into that question. If Tobit is inspired, then a Catholic could (ex hypothesi) have a veridical perception of Tobit’s inspiration. If Tobit is uninspired, then that perception would be inveridical.

    But my argument and my question did not assume one way or the other whether Tobit is inspired. Therefore, you have managed to dodge my real question and assume that one must take for granted in advance one way or the other. So, then, so that you will better understand the force of my question, let me put it to you this way: If rather than bringing an assumption to the text about Tobit’s inspiration one way or the other, a Protestant such as myself (being open to it’s inspiration) would seem to have a legitimate reason for accepting the book as inspired if it impressed him as inspired as he reads it. Doesn’t this follow from what you said previously about non-public lines of “evidence”?

    O2 :: In fact, in your view it appears that even a Protestant who does in fact assume that Tobit is not inspired (and takes this assumption with him to the text) and finds that Tobit does not strike him as inspired, this would still give him reason for rejecting it. For you have said that it is acceptable for a Protestant to continue to assume his canon is correct both before and during his investigation, then you said: “… a Protestant believer is [not] necessarily limited to public lines of evidence to account for his personal belief in the Protestant canon. For instance, he may simply find John’s gospel inherently believable whereas Tobit doesn’t evoke belief.”

    P1 :: “Since basic beliefs don’t have to be universal beliefs or intuitive, self-evident truths, it’s your comparison that’s off the mark. Basic beliefs can include unique, personal memories (to take one example).”

    I was trying to be agreeable and just let you continue to assume that the belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon (and the Catholic canon false) is actually a “basic belief.” Therefore, you will notice I was careful to accommodate my question by only arguing that it was not a basic belief *in the same sense as* many other beliefs that we cannot prove but we nevertheless believe. My reasons for distinguishing it this way are due to the cultural and religious contingencies in play with such a belief. It therefore appears that you have again missed the intentional subtlety of the language of my argument.

    P2 :: But since you bring it up, I must ask: Given the cultural, religious, and personal contingencies that attend the assumption that the Protestant canon is the right one (and the Catholic one therefore wrong), what exactly is a “basic belief” and what then qualifies belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon as a “basic belief” in your epistemicological paradigm?

    Q1 :: You demur by saying: “I’m not discussing a Protestant’s belief in providence.” But you actually were, for the sake of argument, discussing how we would expect a Protestant to interpret God’s providence if the Protestant canon were in fact true. For here is what you said:

    “Finally, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant canon is, in fact, the true canon of Scripture. This is the set of books which God inspired and preserved for posterity. Given the fact that most Christians are in no position to independently examine or evaluate all of the evidence, we’d expect God to cause many Christians to opportunely believe in the true (Protestant) canon by providentially raising them or placing them in churches which uphold the true canon.”

    Q2 :: Thus, you were in fact discussing a Protestant’s view of providence, because you were discussing your own view of Providence, and you are a Protestant who continues to take for granted (in actuality and for the sake of argument) that the Protestant canon is true, and your argument about what we should “expect” God to do if the Protestant canon were true reflects your beliefs about the doctrine of Providence. I see your point. Both Catholics and Protestants expect God to guide people to the truth by his providence (even if their disagreement over the content of that truth causes them to interpret God’s providence in radically different ways).

    Your thoughts?

    Bradley

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Bradley,

      I’d comment on this point you made in 5b: “The Bible does not teach that the Protestant canon is the right canon and it is not a universally held belief nor is it demanded by reason alone—and therefore, it is a very vulnerable assumption that should be questioned (like so many other assumptions we have, or just like so many Protestants would expect a Catholic to also question their assumption that they have the right canon).”

      I agree and argue that the canon is not provable through reason. It is not obvious through analysis of the historical evidence. Nor is it deducible through the use of any human scientific means (e.g. inter-textual analysis).

      As Christians, we believe that God providentially inspired books to be written AND guided *somebody* to discern which books those were. If the Protestant canon were true, it means God allowed Christians and the visible Church itself to fall into error on the canon and remain in error for centuries until the Protestant Reformation. The great (so-called) saints who lived prior to that time, both in the East and West, failed to listen to His voice and tell which books were which. They also failed to employ their intellect to reason and examine the evidence to see that certain books were uninspired (or inspired in the case of the many Church Fathers who excluded inspired books from their canonical lists).

      One solution is to make the bald-faced claim that these so-called saints (and all Catholics and Orthodox, whose canons are wrong) were not Christians and so did not hear His voice, which Protestants today are able to hear, since they are His sheep. And so, the great majority of Christians throughout history leading up to the Reformation, even those considered faithful and holy, were not holy, were not faithful.

  62. steve hays says:

    Bradley Cochran

    “First I would like to point out that you are the one who brought up psychology…”

    In a completely different context. I wasn’t discussing the psychology a Protestant who examines the evidence for the Protestant canon. Rather, I was discussing the doxastic state of a Protestant who hasn’t examined the evidence, but maintains a properly basic belief in the Protestant canon.

    “We are discussing the investigation of objective evidence by humans (who have a psyche), not the nature of objective evidence (which does not have a psyche). Therefore, yes, investigations are done by fallible subjects (such as myself) who are sinful and prone to err…My Reformed faith has developed in me a healthy distrust for the reliability of my own limited and prejudiced judgments, and at no point in my argument have I assumed that I am somehow excluded from this group.”

    i) That’s essentially circular. You have to trust your own judgment even to (selectively) distrust your own judgment. If you didn’t trust your own judgment, you’d be in no position to judge your own limitations.

    ii) Likewise, it’s pointless to say human investigators are fallible. Since that applies to all parties to this debate, that has no directional or differential force. It’s like taking 5 points off both teams. That leaves them in the exact same position as if you didn’t take 5 points off both teams. It’s an otiose caveat.

    “But reasons for having a default position of distrust and uncertainty for the judgments of humans, and a default position of certainty and trust only reserved for the judgments and words of God. Do you not hold this same basic stance?”

    Your argument is regressive. To reserve certainty and trust for divine words and judgments is, itself, a human judgment which you are rendering. Your judgment about God’s judgment. If distrust or uncertainly regarding human judgments is your default position, then that would be reason to distrust your judgment regarding the words of God. You, the fallible human being, are exercising your own judgment when you reserve exclusive trust and certainty for God’s words. But if your judgment is untrustworthy, then, logically, you’d distrust your reservation.

    “My point is that since Protestants (99%) are not in a position to study all the relevant evidence, and since both Protestants and Catholics who do responsibly study the evidence disagree and come to contrary conclusions, it seems the Protestant would have a good reason for doubting whether he has the right canon.”

    i) Devout Catholics don’t arrive at their view of the canon by investigating the evidence for the canon. That’s not their starting point. Rather, they begin with a theological commitment to the dogmatic infallibility of their denomination. They then take the Tridentine position on the canon as their benchmark. It’s not the evidence for the canon that commits them to the Catholic canon; rather, it’s the council of Trent that commits them to the Catholic canon. They then reason back from that precommitment to (re-)interpret the evidence accordingly.

    ii) Left to their own devices, Catholic scholars don’t think the evidence singles out the Catholic canon. For instance:

    “Even on the eve of the council [of Trent] the Catholic view was not absolutely unified, as the mention of Cajetan in the preceding paragraph clearly indicates. Catholic editions of the Bible published in Germany and France in 1527 and 1530 contained only the protocanonical books.”

    “After all, the Tridentine fathers did not determine the canon on the basis of purely historical reconstruction but on a theological basis: the consistent church usage of certain books. Even at Trent, however, the council fathers did not specifically attempt to press the detail of church usage back beyond the period of Jerome, for they used the Vg [Vulgate] as the norm for church usage…There are many difficulties here that demand investigation: (1) In the period before the Vg there was no consistent church usage, as we have seen. Ironically, Jerome, the translator of the Vg, was very clear in his preference for the same short canon that Trent rejected in the name of the Vg…From Jerome’s time on, the Vg has not been a perfect witness of church usage, as it was several centuries before the Vg won acceptence in the church. And even then, the Vg was a norm only of Western church usage…If church usage was the norm for selecting the books of the canon, then several books that had been used in the church were omitted. For instance, 1 Esdr was used by the fathers more than was canonical Ezra/Neh, and the requiem liturgy cited 2 Esdr. Copies of the Vg often contained 1-2 Esdr and the Pr. Man [Prayer of Manasseh]–books not accepted at Trent,” The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990), 1042.
    Moving along:
    “The Protestant, however, does not think the human Tradition that discerned the canon was infallibly guided by God (because Protestants do not believe in the infallibility of the human tradition). Yet the Catholic’s confidence that they have their canon right is more appropriate to Catholic presuppositions, since Catholics believe that God actually does (and did) providentially guide the church Tradition to rightly discern the canon.”

    You’re substituting a different argument than the one I actually used. I didn’t make any general claim about God providentially guiding the church in the recognition of the true canon. Rather, I discussed the possibility of God guiding a Protestant into accepting the true canon by providentially placing him in a denomination or local church that uses the true canon. For purposes of my argument, it could be a historical accident that the church he’s attending (or was reared in) happens to use the true canon. I’m not discussing how his denomination or independent church (as the case may be) came to that belief, or how it would go about justifying that belief. Rather, I’m discussing how God could bring an individual Protestant to warranted faith in the true canon absent independent study on his part.

    “My comment simply states that a Catholic who is convinced that her canon is the true canon would have just as good a reason to believe this fortune is owing to God’s providence as the Protestant who is also convinced that his canon is the true canon has for believing that his fortune in this regard is also owing to God’s providence.”

    Which disregards the qualifications I gave. As I’ve explained to you before, I’m not discussing a reflective belief in the process by which one receives the canon or believes the canon. Rather, I’m assuming the viewpoint of an outsider discussing the resultant viewpoint of an insider who’s at the receiving end of that process, but hasn’t had occasion to consciously reflect on his belief.

    Is my hypothetical Protestant appealing to providence? No. You keep confusing my argument on behalf of the hypothetical Protestant with the self-awareness of the Protestant in question. You were the one who framed the issue in terms of Protestants who never studied the evidence. So that’s the type of Protestant I’m discussing. In the nature of the case, I’m not in the same situation as the hypothetical Protestant I discuss. I’m assuming a viewpoint which he doesn’t consciously share.

    Likewise, the hypothetical would only be reversible if the background conditions are different. But that’s a different issue.

    “Therefore, I conclude based on your continual attempts to clarify your meaning that all you are really saying is that since the Protestant is right about his canon, therefore his pre-reflective faith (read: his assumption) that his canon is right is sufficient in order to make him right. (Notice how you have to assume the Protestant canon is right for your argument to hold, which makes it dreadfully circular).”

    i) No, it’s not “dreadfully circular.” To begin with, I cast the issue in hypothetical terms at the outset: “Finally, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant canon is, in fact, the true canon of Scripture. This is the set of books which God inspired and preserved for posterity. Given the fact that most Christians are in no position to independently examine or evaluate all of the evidence, we’d expect God to cause many Christians to opportunely believe in the true (Protestant) canon by providentially raising them or placing them in churches which uphold the true canon.”

    ii) That can be valid or sound irrespective of how we proceed to validate the conditional. The “assumption” that the Protestant canon is the right canon is a defensible assumption. But that’s a separate argument.

    As I’ve said all along, I’m just giving you a model of how most Protestants could justifiably believe in the Protestant canon even if they haven’t investigated the evidence. Whether the model is correct requires a different argument.

    “If someone happens to be right (for reasons such as: they inherited it from their parents without questioning it, they inherited from their church without questioning it, etc.), we would only know that such a person is right about their belief through our own reflection. In this sense, we can always choose to challenge our assumptions and ask whether we personally have good reason for continuing to hold them, or we can assume that our assumptions are right and never bother.”

    i) And some Protestants are equipped to take the next step. But others are not.

    ii) However, it isn’t necessary to keep proving the same thing time and again. One person can prove something for the benefit of others. If something is true, then it’s true for all concerned parties. Everyone doesn’t have to independently check the results as long as it’s true. True for one, true for all.

    “The Bible does not teach that the Protestant canon is the right canon…”

    I disagree–for reasons I’ve stated elsewhere.

    “If rather than bringing an assumption to the text about Tobit’s inspiration one way or the other, a Protestant such as myself (being open to it’s inspiration) would seem to have a legitimate reason for accepting the book as inspired if it impressed him as inspired as he reads it. Doesn’t this follow from what you said previously about non-public lines of ‘evidence’?”

    No, that doesn’t follow, since in my argument, it’s the fact inspiration that generates the corresponding impression. That’s the underlying condition. Absent that condition, you don’t have the same effect.

    “In fact, in your view it appears that even a Protestant who does in fact assume that Tobit is not inspired (and takes this assumption with him to the text) and finds that Tobit does not strike him as inspired, this would still give him reason for rejecting it.”

    No, my argument wasn’t predicated on the prior assumptions of the reader. Rather, if John’s Gospel is inspired whereas Tobit is uninspired, then that difference might register with the reader apart from public lines of evidence.

    “I must ask: Given the cultural, religious, and personal contingencies that attend the assumption that the Protestant canon is the right one (and the Catholic one therefore wrong), what exactly is a ‘basic belief’…”

    Are you asking for the generic definition of a basic belief?

    “And what then qualifies belief that the Protestant canon is the true canon as a ‘basic belief.’”

    You need to distinguish between a basic belief in itself, and the argument for why something is a basic belief. In the nature of the case, an argument for the basicality of a given belief already takes us beyond the confines of the basic belief itself.

    “Thus, you were in fact discussing a Protestant’s view of providence, because you were discussing your own view of Providence, and you are a Protestant who continues to take for granted (in actuality and for the sake of argument) that the Protestant canon is true, and your argument about what we should ‘expect’ God to do if the Protestant canon were true reflects your beliefs about the doctrine of Providence.”

    No. You’re conflating my argument with the perspective of the hypothetical Protestant under review. I didn’t impute that appeal to the hypothetical Protestant. That’s an argument I made for him, not an argument he made for himself. My argument is external to the party in question.

    1. Steve,

      This may be my last reply (I explain why at the end).

      1a. “I wasn’t discussing the psychology [of] a Protestant who examines the evidence for the Protestant canon.”

      1b. It’s easy to get lost in a dialogue like this and forget what the initial line of topic originally was. I hope to refresh your memory here (as I did my own by tracing our dialogue).

      My initial question was (and I’m quoting): “Do those who seek to verify and find reasons for accepting the authority of the Protestant canon put the authority of that canon “on hold” until they can verify it for themselves? Or do they continue to accept its authority before and during their investigation?”

      1c. The kind of “putting on hold” here happens psychologically. Therefore my question from the start had to do partially with human psychology. But it also touches on the investigation of evidence, since it asks whether the Protestant psychologically suspends his assumption that the Protestant canon is true *before and during his investigation of the objective evidence.*

      1d. In the dialogue that followed, we were both discussing this question. You responded by arguing that Protestants can [psychologically] assume their canon as the right canon without begging the question because no book that Protestants hold as Scripture are contested in the three Christian Traditions: Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. (Now you didn’t use the word “psychologically” to qualify your word “assume” the way I have injected it into your comment here, but if someone does not assume something psychologically [whether subconsciously or consciously], then in what way to they “assume” it?).

      1e. In this context you said the following:

      The books in the Protestant canon are not in dispute. It’s the additional books which are disputed. Keep in mind that we’re discussing public lines of evidence, since that’s our point of common ground in a dialogue with different faith traditions. **However, this doesn’t mean a Protestant believer is necessarily limited to public lines of evidence to account for his personal belief in the Protestant canon. For instance, he may simply find John’s gospel inherently believable whereas Tobit doesn’t evoke belief. It’s not that he set out to believe the one or disbelieve the other. That’s just the differential effect that these two books have on him. That’s just the psychological state he finds himself in. When he reads the gospel of John, he has an irrepressible belief in what he reads. He can’t help himself.** By contrast, after he reads Tobit, his doxastic state is no different than before he read it. No different than if he never read it. It has no impact on him one way or the other. (I’m just using that as a hypothetical illustration.)

      1f. Then I pointed out that by this standard of “accounting for one’s personal belief in the Protestant canon,” the Protestant (or Catholic) who finds that the deuterocanonical books also strike him as inspired would be able to “account” for his subsequent acceptance of those books as inspired.

      1g. Continuing along the topic of my original question (see 1b above), I added that although we cannot doubt all things simultaneously, a Protestant might have a significant measure of doubt (and thus suspend their confidence or belief) in the Protestant canon, especially when such a person is trying to objectively examine the evidence. (Notice again how these two subjects are weaved together: psychology and investigation of objective evidence).

      1h. You responded that there is a difference between holding open the possibility that we might be wrong on the one hand, and having “positive evidence” on the other.

      1i. I responded by arguing that one might consider theological doctrines (that seem appropriate to Reformed theology especially) about the sinfulness, prejudice, and fallibility of man as “positive evidence” that helps bring a “healthy distrust” about one’s assumption that his canon is the right one.

      1j. In your response to this, you said: “You seem to be shifting the issue from objective types of evidence to the subjective perception of the evidence. Are you discussing evidence, or psychology?”

      1k. After tracing out the elements of this part of our dialogue Steve, and trying to understand why you would say that, I am still failing to see how my comment was off topic. Leaving open the question of whose fault this constant confusion belongs to, this dynamic of our dialogue makes it very unproductive and so much more time consuming that it should be.

      •••••

      2. I’m not arguing for the systematic and simultaneous doubt of all human judgments, only pointing out that a different level of confidence should be reserved for God’s revelation (this implies that there are levels of certainty, and I am assuming that for something to be authoritative it must have a greater level of certainty).

      3a) You said: “It’s pointless to say human investigators are fallible. Since that applies to all parties to this debate, that has no directional or differential force. It’s like taking 5 points off both teams. That leaves them in the exact same position as if you didn’t take 5 points off both teams. It’s an otiose caveat.”

      3b) But again Steve, I don’t think this works equally for Protestant and Catholics because Catholics believe that although their individual judgments may be prejudice, they ultimately trust in the judgment of the Church (which goes beyond their own individual judgment or the judgments of scholars who have investigated the evidence) because they believe the Church is providentially guided by God (as you know and as Devin continues to point out). Thus, it doesn’t actually “score” equally for the Protestant and the Catholic because in the Catholic paradigm the Catholic trusts in a collective human judgment (called Tradition) that has been providentially guided by God (which fuses two inevitable aspects of epistemology: human discernment or judgment and God’s revelation).

      4a) You said: “To reserve certainty and trust for divine words and judgments is, itself, a human judgment.” I agree. That’s why it is so obvious that Sola Scriptura and all interpretations of the Bible are human traditions and rest finally upon human judgments (this is why Catholics say we must trust that God guides this human tradition in order for it to become reliable revelation to which we can assign ultimate authority). I was assuming, however, in my previous comments that you believed in Sola Scriptura and that therefore I could (for the sake of argument) argue from this doctrine to conclude that we should reserve a different level of certainty to Scripture than to human judgment or tradition. But since you won’t even allow me this distinction, but insist that even this sort of reservation is ultimately a human judgment (we can call it a tradition, since so many Protestants share this judgment), it just goes to show that even Sola Scriptura (the doctrine that God’s Word alone is authoritative) is ultimately a human tradition (and I would add: a tradition not found in the Scripture itself and thus by its own terms is not authoritative).

      5) “Catholic scholars don’t think the evidence singles out the Catholic canon.” I assume here you mean certain Catholic scholars, but certain Protestant scholar such as JND Kelly do find the historical evidence in great favor of the Catholic canon, for he says:

      “It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the twenty-two, or twenty-four, books of the Hebrew Bible of Palestinian Judaism … It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Aporcrypha, or deutero-canonical books. … In the first two centuries at any rate the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. … even those Eastern writers who took a strict line with the canon when it was formally under discussion were profuse in their citations from the Apocrypha on other occasions. … The West, as a whole was inclined to form a much more favourable estimate of the Apocrypha. Churchmen with Eastern contacts, as was to be expected, might be disposed to push them into the background. [Here he mentions Hilary and Jerome] … For the great majority, however, the deutero-canonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.” JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978), 53-56.

      6a) I told you that for your argument to hold, you have to assume the Protestant canon is true (which, by the way, the argument that I was referring to was not even the one that you quote in your response, but I can’t keep going back and recounting our dialogue to refresh your memory as I have done in the beginning of my comments here).

      6b) You Replied: “To begin with, I cast the issue in hypothetical terms at the outset: ‘Finally, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Protestant canon is, in fact, the true canon of Scripture’”

      6c) Now if that’s the part of your argument I was referring to when I said “you have to assume the Protestant canon is true for this argument to work” (which it wasn’t), then your qualification in 7b above only further underscores my point. If the only way you can conclude that a Protestant is justified in assuming the Protestant canon is true (without examining the evidence) is by first taking for granted that the Protestant canon is in fact the true canon (especially if you are assuming it “for the sake of argument”), then your argument is circular. You can’t say “for the same of argument, let’s assume the Protestant canon is true,” then when I say “your conclusions here only hold if you are assuming the Protestant canon is true” object to this by saying “But I was only assuming this for the sake of argument.” (Obviously we are clearly having a hard time communicating and understanding each other here, and it is making our dialogue unproductive).

      7) You said: “Everyone doesn’t have to independently check the results as long as it’s true. True for one, true for all.” (NOTICE: When you say “so long as it’s true,” you show that you have to assume the Protestant canon is true for this argument to work.) So if a Protestant who has not examined the evidence is persuaded by another Protestant who has, he can just trust that the person who has done the research got it right without investigating the evidence himself? Like so many of your other points, unless you are already assuming the Protestant canon is the true canon, this gives just as much reason for a Catholic who hasn’t investigated the relevant evidence to trust the Catholic who has investigated the evidence and has concluded that the Catholic canon is the true canon.

      8) You said: “I disagree–for reasons I’ve stated elsewhere.” :: So you think the Bible explicitly or implicitly delineates the entire list of books (Old and New Testament?) and explicitly says that authority is to be given to these books only? (NOTE: Protestant Canon = all Old and New Testament books). Now that’s quite an interesting claim that I’ve never heard any Protestant make before. Pray tell, which chapters and verses? Also, if the books of the Christian canon are already delineated in Scripture, why did the early church have to wrestle so hard with this question? (and please don’t argue in a manner that already assumes the canon)

      9) You said: “You need to distinguish between a basic belief in itself, and the argument for why something is a basic belief.” Well Steve … that’s why I asked you two things: 1) What is a basic belief ? and 2) What makes belief in the Protestant canon a “basic belief” (I was taking for granted that if you answered this second question I would find out what your argument is for concluding that belief in the Protestant canon is a “basic belief”). Again, the distinction you are requesting was already implicit in my comments, and this detour of our dialogue demonstrates how unproductive it is becoming.

      10) Steve,

      I think that although this discussion has been helpful in some regards, it’s becoming about 10% helpful and about 90% unhelpful (at least for me). With all due respect and gratitude for your time in the dialogue, I’m a bit weary of having to expend so much energy and time just to understand what you are trying to say, continually correct your interpretation of what I say, re-establishing my questions, remind you where we are in our dialogue, point out that you are disagreeing with things I never said, etc. (I realize you probably think something similar from your point of view, e.g. that I’m always confusing your ideas or taking them out of context, etc.). Unless I think your next response will actually get us somewhere instead of regressing our dialogue into countless miscommunications (which leaves open the question of whose fault the miscommunication is), I’m going to have to have to call it quits. Thanks for your time in the dialogue.

      Grace and Peace,

      Bradley

      1. steve hays says:

        Bradley,

        I could take the time to address each of your points, but since you’ve preemptively discounted what I might say as “unhelpful,” I’ll invest my time elsewhere.

  63. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “If the Protestant canon were true, it means God allowed Christians and the visible Church itself to fall into error on the canon and remain in error for centuries until the Protestant Reformation. The great (so-called) saints who lived prior to that time, both in the East and West, failed to listen to His voice and tell which books were which.”

    If the Catholic canon were true, it means God allowed Evangelical Christians and the visible Church itself (to which they belong) to fall into error on the canon and remain in error for centuries after the Protestant Reformation. The great (so-called) Evangelical saints who lived after that time, throughout the world, failed to listen to His voice and tell which books were which.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      More Reformed Protestant readers of this blog privately contacted me asking follow-up questions based on our dialogue. So for their sake and others here, I’ll respond to this last argument you made and demonstrate how it actually favors the Catholic Church.

      1. Many Reformed Protestants, including some here, do not believe Catholics and Orthodox are Christians.

      From earlier conversation with Rhology:
      Are all the Orthodox Churches not part of “God’s people?”

      Correct. By and large, by their rejection of the Gospel, modern EOdox are not part of God’s people, just like most of RCC.

      2. But the Catholic Church teaches that Protestants are Christians.

      Interested Protestants can read Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism for more (Unitatis Redintegratio). One quote:

      The Catholic Church embraces upon them [Protestants] as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect….Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

      The Catholic Church sees Protestants as Christians, with the Holy Spirit and His gifts, the theological virtues, etc. etc. This means that we as Catholics recognize that Protestant Christians have lived and live today who love Jesus, who have given their lives for Him, who believe in Him with all their heart.

      So there is a disparity here in how each “side” views the other.

      3. If the Catholic canon were true…

      a. It means God kept His promises to the Church, to lead her into all truth.
      b. He didn’t let the Church fall into error in her teachings, as Protestants believe.
      c. So that Christians in every century could know the truth of Christ and be set free by it.

      4. So God intended us to know the truth through the Church He founded and protected from error.

      a. But He allowed Christians to accept or reject His Church
      b. And some Christians broke away in schisms from the Church
      c. Including the Protestant Reformers
      d. And Protestants today are brought up in ecclesial communities that are not in full communion with the Church

      5. Many faithful Protestant Christians are looking for the fullness of Christ’s truth

      a. Including on what books make up the canon
      b. But most don’t realize that there is a Church, the Church, visible and unified, that God has led into all truth
      c. This is the way God has deigned for Christians, in every century, to know Christ and His truth.
      d. So, through little to no fault of their own, faithful Protestants have difficulty apprehending the true canon
      e. Because they inherit the Protestant canon from Protestant tradition, and this forms a strong bias for it
      f. And when they realize (if they ever do) that Catholics have a different canon, they first try to justify their own
      g. and it turns out that the historical evidence is ambiguous toward which books are inspired
      h. which is one reason why there are different canons even among faithful Christians today
      i. so they find evidence that seems reasonable enough to them to support their canon
      j. and they “confirm” that evidence in their hearts by the fact that they have read the books and been moved by God through them
      k. So their acceptance of the Protestant canon is understandable, even if it is not the true canon

      6. We as Catholics can affirm that:

      a. Protestants are Christians and many of them are incredibly faithful people, yet
      b. Because they grew up in a Protestant community, they inherit an incomplete canon from their Protestant forefathers

      God is calling Protestants back to full communion with His Church. Schism is never right, never good, and will never be good. Many Protestants have made or are making the long and difficult journey to listen to God’s voice as He leads them to the fullness of the truth and the fullness of the means of salvation, found in the Catholic Church.

      I entreat you as well to lay down your resentments and mistrust, and ask God if you have been blinded by them from finding the fullness of the truth.

      God bless,
      Devin

  64. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “More Reformed Protestant readers of this blog privately contacted me asking follow-up questions based on our dialogue. So for their sake and others here, I’ll respond to this last argument you made and demonstrate how it actually favors the Catholic Church.”

    i) Notice that Devin doesn’t respond to my last argument. He dodges my argument.

    I simply constructed a parallel argument. If God allows Catholics to fall into error for centuries regarding the canon, then Devin deems that to be an unacceptable consequence. But his own position carries a logical corollary, viz., God allows Protestants to fall into error for centuries regarding the canon–which Devin deems that to be an acceptable consequence.

    ii) Moreover, Devin doesn’t begin to *demonstrate* how my argument actually favors the Roman church. All Devin does is to give us an exposition of Catholic ecclesiology. He doesn’t give the reader a single reason to believe it’s true.

    He draws a comparison and contrast between the two respective positions, but that doesn’t demonstrate the superiority of one over the other. Rather, it only differentiates them.

    “But the Catholic Church teaches that Protestants are Christians.”

    Anathematized Christians.

    “If the Catholic canon were true… a. It means God kept His promises to the Church, to lead her into all truth.”

    i) God didn’t promise to lead “the Church” into all truth. Rather, he made a promise to the disciples. The disciples aren’t “the Church.”

    ii) Moreover, the disciples aren’t the church of Rome.
    iii) Furthermore, Devin is using “the Church” as code language papacy and the Roman episcopate.

    iv) Finally, Devin is alluding to a passage from John’s gospel. So he relies on Scripture even as he demotes Scripture.

    “He didn’t let the Church fall into error in her teachings, as Protestants believe.”

    According to Devin, God let Protestants fall into error.

    “So that Christians in every century could know the truth of Christ and be set free by it.”

    Notice that Devin is alluding to a passage from the Gospel of John. That’s something you can only find in writing. In one of the canonical gospels. Not “the Church.”

    “4. So God intended us to know the truth through the Church He founded and protected from error.”

    That begs the question, as if God didn’t intend us to know the truth through the Scriptures he inspired and protected from error.

    “But He allowed Christians to accept or reject His Church.”

    He allowed Christians to reject a pretentious wayward denomination (i.e. the Roman church).

    “And some Christians broke away in schisms from the Church.”

    Not to mention Roman Catholics who broke away from the NT church.

    “And Protestants today are brought up in ecclesial communities that are not in full communion with the Church.”

    We’re not in communion with an errant denomination headquartered in Rome.

    “Many faithful Protestant Christians are looking for the fullness of Christ’s truth.”

    Which you will find in the Bible.

    “Including on what books make up the canon.”

    Which the Roman Church didn’t even bother to officially list until the 16C. And even that is somewhat open-ended.

    “But most don’t realize that there is a Church, the Church, visible and unified, that God has led into all truth”

    The Southern Baptist convention?

    “This is the way God has deigned for Christians, in every century, to know Christ and His truth.”

    A Mormon would say the same thing.

    “So, through little to no fault of their own, faithful Protestants have difficulty apprehending the true canon.”

    Why did the Tridentine Fathers have so much difficulty apprehending the true canon?

    “Because they inherit the Protestant canon from Protestant tradition, and this forms a strong bias for it.”

    While Catholics inherit the Catholic canon from Catholic tradition, and this forms a strong bias for it.

    “And when they realize (if they ever do) that Catholics have a different canon, they first try to justify their own”

    And when Catholics realize (if they ever do) that Protestants have a different canon, they first try to justify their own.

    “Because they grew up in a Protestant community, they inherit an incomplete canon from their Protestant forefathers.”

    Because cradle Catholics grew up in a Catholic community, they inherit a bloated canon from their Catholic forefathers.

    “God is calling Protestants back to full communion with His Church. Schism is never right, never good, and will never be good. Many Protestants have made or are making the long and difficult journey to listen to God’s voice as He leads them to the fullness of the truth and the fullness of the means of salvation, found in the Catholic Church.”

    Except that Catholics are schismatics. They broke with the NT church. They listen to the voice of the pope rather than the voice of God in Scripture.

    “I entreat you as well to lay down your resentments and mistrust, and ask God if you have been blinded by them from finding the fullness of the truth.”

    Notice that Devin hasn’t given a single argument for his long litany of question-begging assertions.

    1. Devin Rose says:

      Steve,

      I demonstrated that your parallel argument has much less impact than the corresponding one I made, due to the differences in how each of us views the other, the Church, etc.

      Anathematized Christians.

      This is false. You are not anathematized. Please google Jimmy Akin anathema to read the article explaining it.

      God didn’t promise to lead “the Church” into all truth. Rather, he made a promise to the disciples. The disciples aren’t “the Church.”

      The promise was made to the rightful leaders of the New People of God, the Church. The authority Christ gave to them was not lost, but rather through Holy Orders was transmitted to their successors, the bishops.

      Moreover, the disciples aren’t the church of Rome.

      says you.

      Furthermore, Devin is using “the Church” as code language papacy and the Roman episcopate.

      No, I’m using “the Church” to mean, the Church, the visible, unified supernatural society that Christ founded and that He guides to this day. That Church subsists in the Catholic Church, which certainly includes the bishop of Rome but also all the bishops in communion with him around the world, of which there are thousands.

      Finally, Devin is alluding to a passage from John’s gospel. So he relies on Scripture even as he demotes Scripture.

      Of course I rely on Scripture, as the Catholic Church encourages me to do. I do not demote Scripture but refuse to yank it out of it God-ordained place alongside the Apostolic Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church.

      According to Devin, God let Protestants fall into error.

      Yes, He did. Though in His goodness, He does not deprive Protestants of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, the theological virtues, etc. Protestants can also, by grace, return to full communion with His Church, which He desires and give them the grace to do.

      Notice that Devin is alluding to a passage from the Gospel of John. That’s something you can only find in writing. In one of the canonical gospels. Not “the Church.”

      The Scriptures, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Magisterium are all found within Christ’s Church.

      Not to mention Roman Catholics who broke away from the NT church.

      Question for you: When did the Roman Catholics break away from the “NT Church”?

      Can you give me a year, an event, a decade, or even the century in which this occurred?

      Which the Roman Church didn’t even bother to officially list until the 16C. And even that is somewhat open-ended.

      By this same logic, the Church “didn’t even bother to officially” decree the Trinity and Christology until the fourth through seventh centuries. The date that a doctrine is made dogma is not the date it was invented or first taught. I know you know this but explain it for the benefit of those reading who may not, and who may then be confused by your statements.

      A Mormon would say the same thing.

      No they wouldn’t. They say the Church fell into Apostasy, lost its divinely given authority and the priesthood, and remained that way until the 1800s. During the period from 100 to 1800 AD, the truth of Christ was polluted, corrupted, and in grave error, and people who lived during that time did not have access to the truth of God, only to falsehoods and heresies that disfigured the truth.

      Why did the Tridentine Fathers have so much difficulty apprehending the true canon?

      Because there was debate for a long time about the canon. As Luther’s decision in dismising four NT books shows, not to mention the Reformers’ rejection of the deuterocanonicals. Ultimately, though, the Church reaffirmed the same 73 books as had the Council of Florence 100 years prior (and prior to the Reformation I would add), the same canon affirmed previously in history, though not without dispute over some books. This poses no problem to the Catholic Church’s claims, but seriously undermines Protestantism’s sola Scriptura (for one, how could they practice sola Scriptura if the canon was still up for grabs as late as the 1500s?).

      Except that Catholics are schismatics. They broke with the NT church. They listen to the voice of the pope rather than the voice of God in Scripture.

      All the heretics throughout history have said the same thing. Where was this NT Church of yours in the year, say, 1200 AD? Where could I have found it at that time?

      Notice that Devin hasn’t given a single argument for his long litany of question-begging assertions.

      My exposition demonstrated, simply by looking at the issue from the Protestant perspective and then from the Catholic perspective, how the two parallel arguments have very different effects. My argument assuming the Protestant canon were true, shows its implausibility. I demonstrated your argument, assuming the Catholic canon is true, shows nothing but evidence that the Catholic Church is true.

      God bless,
      Devin

  65. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Schism is never right, never good, and will never be good.”

    The Pharisees and Sadducees felt the same way about John the Baptist. The Sanhedrin felt the same way about Jesus and the Apostles.

  66. the daily observer says:

    steve,
    i appreciate reading this exchange between you, Devin, and Bradley. But i notice how you refer to Devin in the third person, rather than addressing him personally. i understand you’re addressing arguments but by addressing him in the 3rd, it seems you exclusively deal with an argument, not a human being who’s making the argument, not a fellow brother.even if you believe he’s absolutely mistaken, that’s all the more reason to address him personally. you didn’t seem to take this approach with Bradley.

  67. steve hays says:

    Devin Rose

    “Steve, I demonstrated that your parallel argument has much less impact than the corresponding one I made, due to the differences in how each of us views the other, the Church, etc.”

    Less impact given Catholic presuppositions or Protestant presuppositions?

    “This is false. You are not anathematized. Please google Jimmy Akin anathema to read the article explaining it.”

    Why should I google Jimmy Akin? Is he an authorized spokesman for the church of Rome? Does he have any institutional standing in the church of Rome? Is he a church historian at a Catholic seminary or university? Can he read the primary sources in the original Latin? What about his command of the secondary literature in French, German, Spanish, Italian, &c?

    Is he a Catholic theologian? Was he trained at, say, the Gregorian?

    What in the world makes you think he’s qualified to speak to the issue?

    For an example of real scholars on the Tridentine anathemas, try this:

    http://wordalone.org/o-site/docs/wa-german-professors.shtml

    “The promise was made to the rightful leaders of the New People of God, the Church.”

    Yes, to Jesus handpicked disciples. Those he personally called.

    “The authority Christ gave to them was not lost, but rather through Holy Orders was transmitted to their successors, the bishops.”

    Where does Jn 16:13 make that promise?

    “says you.”

    Remember that Devin was alluding to Jn 16:13. This was a statement made in a private home in old Jerusalem c. 30 AD. to the original disciples.

    It wasn’t made in Rome. There were no Roman Christians present on that occasion. The Roman church didn’t even exist at the time this statement was made. There’s no mention of the pope. Or the Roman episcopate.

    Yet Devin transmutes this verse into a promise made to the church of Rome. That’s the infinitely protean methodology which Catholic epologists repair to.

    “No, I’m using ‘the Church’ to mean, the Church, the visible, unified supernatural society that Christ founded and that He guides to this day.”

    Devin doesn’t think the average Catholic is protected from error. So the “promises” are transferred to the Magisterium.

    “Of course I rely on Scripture, as the Catholic Church encourages me to do. I do not demote Scripture but refuse to yank it out of it God-ordained place alongside the Apostolic Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church.”

    Which assumes what he needs to prove.

    “Yes, He did. Though in His goodness, He does not deprive Protestants of the Holy Spirit and his gifts, the theological virtues, etc. Protestants can also, by grace, return to full communion with His Church, which He desires and give them the grace to do.”

    Actually, Protestants fall into error if they return to Rome.

    “The Scriptures, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Magisterium are all found within Christ’s Church.”

    This Scriptures can be found in Protestant churches as well.

    “Question for you: When did the Roman Catholics break away from the ‘NT Church’? Can you give me a year, an event, a decade, or even the century in which this occurred?”

    Since we’re dealing with a corporate entity, that’s a gradual, geographically diverse process.

    “By this same logic, the Church ‘didn’t even bother to officially’ decree the Trinity and Christology until the fourth through seventh centuries. The date that a doctrine is made dogma is not the date it was invented or first taught. I know you know this but explain it for the benefit of those reading who may not, and who may then be confused by your statements.”

    But by Devin’s own admission (see below), the Roman church didn’t always teach the Tridentine canon. So, yes, that’s the first time it was exclusively taught.

    “No they wouldn’t. They say the Church fell into Apostasy, lost its divinely given authority and the priesthood, and remained that way until the 1800s. During the period from 100 to 1800 AD, the truth of Christ was polluted, corrupted, and in grave error, and people who lived during that time did not have access to the truth of God, only to falsehoods and heresies that disfigured the truth.”

    Devin’s forgetting (if he ever knew) about the “House of Joseph” in Mormon theology.

    “Because there was debate for a long time about the canon.”

    Notice how Devin is backpedaling. He originally said Protestants have difficulty discerning the true canon. Now he concedes the same thing for Catholics.

    “…though not without dispute over some books.”

    Which proves my point.

    “But seriously undermines Protestantism’s sola Scriptura (for one, how could they practice sola Scriptura if the canon was still up for grabs as late as the 1500s?).”

    Devin confuses practicing a standard with a standard of practice.

    “All the heretics throughout history have said the same thing.”

    Didn’t take long for Devin to switch from the ecumenical rhetoric about “separated brethren” to the polemical rhetoric about “heretics.” The leopard never changes its spots.
    “Where was this NT Church of yours in the year, say, 1200 AD? Where could I have found it at that time?”

    Where were the faithful during the time of Elijah?

    “My exposition demonstrated, simply by looking at the issue from the Protestant perspective and then from the Catholic perspective, how the two parallel arguments have very different effects.”

    Actually, his entire exposition was slanted towards Catholicism.

    “My argument assuming the Protestant canon were true, shows its implausibility.”

    Devin assumes the Protestant canon for the sake of argument, but the consequences are only implausible on Catholic assumptions. So he spiked the punch.

    “I demonstrated your argument, assuming the Catholic canon is true, shows nothing but evidence that the Catholic Church is true.”

    Which disregards the fact that I dismantled his exposition piece-by-piece. Just as I’ve done with his latest reply.

  68. Devin Rose says:

    Gentlemen,

    I am unsubscribed from this blog post. I pray for God’s blessing on you. May He unite us in the truth, and may we continue to seek it.

    Devin

  69. PeaceByJesus says:

    Thank you Steve for continuing on and giving answers in a deeper than normal debate.

  70. Robert says:

    Thank you Devin,
    for remaining poised and articulate in explaining your message despite hostility.

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Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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