Skip to comments.Sola Historia?
Posted on 02/09/2015 12:47:13 PM PST by RnMomof7
Perhaps the most important aspect of the continuing controversies between Protestants and Catholics is the area of epistemology, or how we human beings know things--in this case, how we know divine truth. The question "How do you know?" is central to the Catholic polemic as it is presented to Protestants by some of the former's ablest contemporary defenders. 1 Unfortunately, these apologists not only commit a fundamental error in the target they direct this attack against, but they also miss a fatal flaw in their own logic.
The first mistake lies in the confusion of modern "evangelical" Christianity--almost universally identified by Catholic apologists as "fundamentalism"--with the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Many Catholic apologists have honed to near perfection the technique of blasting to smithereens the anti-creedal, anti-historical, anti-intellectual positions of "Bible-Only" fundamentalists. By focusing their attention on the "no creed but Christ" foolishness of the latter and wrongly equating it with the classical Protestant formal principle of Sola Scriptura, they attempt to expose what they believe to be a glaring inconsistency in something they rather generically call "the Protestant view". 2
After discarding this caricature as hopelessly false, the defenders of Rome then attempt to establish the authority of their Church by building a step-by-step inductive argument, or more simply stated, by gratuitously piling up "historical" facts as if such can stand on their own outside of their basic interpretive framework. In so doing, they ironically end up exposing a basic inconsistency in their own apologetic! This inconsistency appears when the Catholic principle of how humans know divine truth meets its Protestant opponent on the field of historical battle. Let us try to follow their reasoning.
The Bible--"Just Another Ancient Book"?
The argument usually begins by admitting up front that it is not going to treat the Scriptures as if they are divinely inspired, but merely as legitimate historical documents. It then proceeds to build a chain of "purely" historical evidence--passages of Scripture, quotations from early Christians and Councils, etc--which is supposed to show that Christ instituted a Church with certain properties, properties which are today found only in the Roman ecclesiastical hierarchy.
In a debate on Sola Scriptura with Patrick Madrid (then of Catholic Answers), James White asked Madrid how he could know that the Roman Church is the one true Church. Madrid responded as follows:
This is how I know, Mr. White. I can look independent of what I see in Scripture. In fact, I'm not going to even treat Scripture as an inspired document for the moment, just for the sake of argument. I'm going to look at whether or not a man named Jesus Christ lived. Can I prove that historically? Yes. Can I prove that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead and appeared to many people who as eyewitnesses claimed that He died and rose from the dead? I can prove that. In two minutes I can't prove it for your satisfaction, but I think we would all agree that those things are true. I can demonstrate through non-Christian, unbiased sources, in fact sometimes actually biased against the Christian position, that Jesus Christ instituted a church. We can look at the writings of these early Christians, not only the apostles but also the men and women in the post-apostolic era. I can look at the Scripture and see what, independent of whether or not I believe it is inspired, I can look and see a description of the church that Jesus established. All of you know the verse in Matthew 16 verse 18, "On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." Mr. White and I would argue all night long over what the rock is, but the fact is Jesus established a church. The next point is that as I look at Scripture I see that the church is described as having certain functions, certain attributes, certain characteristics, certain jobs that it has to perform, and I can compare and find out, well, historically, yes, I can show that that was done, through the writing of the Scriptures. So if I believe that Jesus is God, and I believe that His promise is true that He founded a church, then I have to say, this is the next step, I have to say, does that church, is there a church today which fits that description which is doing all the things that Jesus said. If that's true, if I can find that, and I have, by the way, it's the Catholic Church, then I know that what is described here in this book is the same church that I see today. So when that church tells me, Jesus said in Luke 10:16, "He who listens to you listens to Me, he who refuses to hear you refuses to hear Me," when I hear that Church speak I know that it is Jesus speaking through the church.
Notice that Madrid's argument follows the familiar evidentialist pattern of much of "evangelical" Protestantism, though it is used by him not to establish the authority of the Bible, but of the Roman Church 3 --a fact which reveals that there are two competing ultimate authorities in the debate: Sola Scriptura and the Catholic Magisterium. It is then marshalled against a caricature of the Protestant position--which, it is said, amounts to believing the Bible is inspired simply "because it says it is". 2 I quote Madrid again, from his essay "Sola Scriptura: A Blueprint for Anarchy":
Another problem for Sola Scriptura is the canon of the New Testament. "There's no inspired table of contents" in Scripture that tells us which books belong and which ones don't. That information comes to us from outside Scripture. Our knowledge of which books comprise the canon of the New Testament must be infallible; if not, there's no way to know for sure if the books we regard as inspired really are inspired. it must be binding; otherwise folks would be free to have their own customized canon containing those books they take a fancy to and lacking the ones they don't. And it must be a part of divine revelation; if it's not it's merely a tradition of men, and if that were so, Protestants would be forced into the intolerable position of championing a canon of purely human origin.
The Catholic doesn't have this problem, claim Madrid and the others, because he has an external authority--the Church--to tell him that the Bible is inspired and which books are contained in it. Madrid continues:
Sola Scriptura becomes "canon" fodder as soon as the Catholic asks the Protestant to explain how the books of the Bible got into the Bible. Under the Sola Scriptura rubric, Scripture exists in an absolute epistemological vaccuum, since it and the veracity of its contents "dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church." [quoting the Westminster Confession of Faith]. If that's true, how then can anyone know with certitude what belongs in Scripture in the first place? The answer is, you can't. Without recognizing the trustworthiness of the Magisterium, endowed with Christ's own teaching authority (c.f., Matt. 16:18-19; 18:18; Luke 10:16) guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 16:13), and the living apostolic Tradition of the Church (1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Thess. 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:2), there is no way to know for certain which books belong in Scripture and which do not. As soon as Protestants begin to appeal to the canons drawn up by this or that Father, or this or that council, they immediately concede defeat, since they are forced to appeal to the very "testimony of man and Church" that they claim not to need.
The problem with this line of reasoning should be manifestly obvious. Notice the numerous Scriptural references Madrid cites as part of his proof that we need the Church to tell us what the Scriptures are. Since he has already told us that no one (particularly Protestants, of course) can know the Scriptures apart from the witness of the Church, how then can he cite these passages of Scripture as part of his "proof" for how he knows those Scriptures in the first place?
The problem is particularly acute when we examine the central passage of Scripture Madrid cited--Matthew 16:18-19. These verses supposedly imply that the Church will be infallible (so that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it). But on the Catholic premise that the infallible witness of the institutional body of bishops is necessary in order for one to "know for sure" that the book of Matthew is legitimate while, say, the Gospel of Thomas is not, how can the book of Matthew be used as part of a "proof" of the existence of that infallible body of bishops? Thus, the Roman apologist uses Scripture to support his claims about the infallible Church and then inconsistently asserts that no one can know what Scripture is until the infallible Church tells him so!
These facts show us that despite the assertion that the authority of the Roman Church can be "proven" by the use of the New Testament records "merely" as legitimate historical records, exactly the opposite is occurring. Madrid and all Catholic apologists who use this type of argument are tacitly assuming from the get-go that they "know for sure" what books are trustworthy historical records, nay, even infallible historical records! On what basis do they reject the numerous heretical writings, many of which also claim to be presenting the "catholic" (universal) faith?
Those Marvelous, Unbiased, Infallible Catholic Historians
But the problems don't stop with this disingenous use of Scripture.4 Catholic apologists treat all of Church history with the same question-begging, "neutral" evidentialism. I will not even attempt to get into detailed refutations of Catholic historical points as historical points. Such is beyond the limited scope of this essay, and at any rate, has been done by others far better than I ever could. 5 My focus is on the inconsistent epistemology that is used by the Catholic apologists.
If we were to take the principle that such apologists apply exclusively against Sola Scriptura and make it into a general principle, it would be this: infallible external confirmation is a prerequisite for any claim to "know for sure" that a chosen ultimate authority is the correct one. Very well. If this principle is true, we should rightly expect Catholics to jump at the chance to show us such an infallible external proof for their Church, especially if they are going to parade through the town square proclaiming that Sola Scriptura is invalid because it has no infallible external proof. It seems obvious that if the identity and supreme authority of Scripture must be "proven" by means of an infallible external authority, then so must the identity and supreme authority of "the Catholic Church".
Oddly, this challenge goes unanswered. Though Catholic apologists often like to point out that even heretics quote the Bible in support of their errors, I have yet to find even one Catholic apologist who honestly attempts to grapple with the fact that many heretics (both past and present) also claim to be "the Catholic Church". 6 With tongue in cheek, I must ask these apologists how they can "know for sure" that the particular organization they are defending is the real "Catholic Church". How do they "know for sure" that the Protestant Reformers--or for that matter, the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses--weren't right after all?
Never ones to follow the supposedly Mormon-esque "I know its true because I feel it in my heart" tactic they wrongly attribute to classical Protestants, these heroically "objective" warriors tell us they have an answer to our query. They ask us to wait patiently while they zealously weld into place beam after beam of historical data, following a blueprint only they can see. Soon, they point proudly to the veritable skyscraper they have built, and note with triumph that its shadow overwhelms the pitiful shack of Protestant "novelties" that were seemingly spun from whole cloth barely five centuries ago.
Unfortunately for them, this massive edifice of historical trivia turns out to be utterly useless as a "proof". This is so because the very apologists who are compiling the evidence are not themselves infallible, and so, on their own criterion of knowledge, they cannot really "know for sure" that they are dealing with history fairly. How do they "know for sure" that they have not left some relevant historical facts out of the picture, or allowed their own peculiar biases to warp their reading of history, or perhaps even that the "historical" sources they are drawing upon are not clever frauds which have simply not been detected yet? 7
All these questions reveal that the use of historical evidences as a ground of faith in the trustworthiness of the Roman institution is a well-meaning, but nevertheless misguided tactic. Such evidences do have their place--as warrants, or supports, of the trust these Catholics already had in their Church (although they can still be challenged by Protestants). But if, as the Roman defenders tell us, the warrants for our faith must be infallible, these warrants can never serve as the foundations, since they, like the apologists who adduce them, are fallible.
If one still doubts the validity of my reasoning here, just ask why, if the historical skyscraper produced by Catholic apologists is really so incredible, really so "obvious", why does it not convince Protestants like James White, who is at least as well-informed about Church history as Patrick Madrid? And why can a James White or a William Webster produce similar skyscrapers that appear "obvious" to Protestants but not to Catholics? One begins to suspect that it is just not enough to say one's faith is true because it is "historical".
The claim that the identity and supreme authority of the Roman Catholic institutional Church can be established to be true solely by the use of non-inspired historical writings (which include those writings known as "the Bible") is false for two reasons.
First, it tacitly assumes the very thing that it is supposed to be proving. Both Catholics and Protestants take the Scriptures as reliable sources of information about God even if any given individuals in either camp cannot produce external supports for it. Protestants at least admit that this is what they are doing. Catholics, on the other hand (particularly the apologists), propose to treat Scripture "only as a historical document", which they then use to build up the authority of their Church. But in so doing, they ignore the fact that they are assuming that they "know" what books constitute "Scripture"--the very thing they deny that can be done apart from their Church!
Second, the claim that the identity and supreme authority of the Roman Catholic institutional Church can be established to be true solely by the use of non-inspired historical writings neglects to factor into its equation the fact that historical arguments are by their nature fallible, since they are constructed by fallible people who can never know all the facts and their inter-relationships with perfect clarity.
Thus, the apologetic tactic used by many Roman Catholic apologists today actually undermines the very "certainty of faith" it is supposed to safeguard. The Catholic tells the Protestant that he cannot know that Scripture is trustworthy since he doesn't have an infallible Church to vouchsafe the canon to him--that he has only a "fallible collection of infallible books". But the Protestant need not be nervous about admitting the truth of the last phrase, for he is still in a better epistemological position! He can simply reverse the argument and point out that the Catholic cannot know that Rome is the true Church, since all he has is "a fallible collection of (possibly false) historical trivia".
Hence, like the fundamentalists they so vehemently oppose, the argument of today's Catholic apologists rests in what one of their number, Patrick Madrid, termed "an absolute epistemological vaccuum". The irony is too delicious to ignore.
Prove that what the apostles taught as “tradition” is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches as “tradition”. Give documentation please.
And still you use Sola Scriptura for Catholic Church authority. What's up with that?
Did you not read this?
Where is Sola Scriptura in Scripture? I like this one:
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”—Isaiah 8
Revelation 1:9-11 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying,
Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.
Revelation 1:17-19 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying,
Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
Revelation 2:1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
Revelation 2:8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
Revelation 2:18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
Revelation 3:1 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write:
Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
Revelation 3:14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
OK, if you want to use the specious red letter hermeneutic, the same place God told the many prophets and psalmist to write the many prophecies and psalms that the Lord invoked in substantiating His claims.
And the same place He said for the church to write down oral tradition and encyclicals.
But at least as regards the Scriptures, your argument means that you deny that the Holy Spirit was told by Christ to indeed write the Scriptures, and which your argument renders superflous.
Where did Christ tell anyone that His Religion would be based on a book?
By substantiating His Truth claims upon Scriptural substantiation in word and power, for the Word of God/the Lord was usually written, and as written it became the transcendent supreme standard for obedience and testing/establishing Truth claims, as is abundantly evidenced , including oral preaching.
Thus the Lord did not make oral tradition the standard, but, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,...And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written , and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:..." (Luke 24:44-46) (Luke 24:27)
Oral preaching has its place, including that of enjoining obedience to what is preached, but all such preaching is subject to testing by the established wholly inspired supremely powerful word of God existing in a testable, objective form, which the Scriptures unique are, and Rome's "infallible" decrees are not.
And thus the question is where did Christ tell anyone that His Religion would be based on the premise of perpetual magisterial infallibility, a novelty never seen nor necessary in Scripture in order to discern Truth from error and preserve Faith.
where to begin....her diatribe kind of suggests that the study of the history of Christianity began sometime last week....I’m certain that there were historians writing stuff down from day 1. History is an ongoing study wherever possibly...even the cavemen left evidence of who they were and what they did, ate, wore. Christianity, primarily Catholicism, has a recorded, written, pictorial, archectural history which is very well preserved and can hardly be disputed....
I am a former catholic. The priests and nuns in the catholic schools I went to, always told us the mass was the unbloody sacrifice of the cross. Maybe they were wrong when they told us that.
By the way, welcome to FR. Go Blackhawks. Stanley Cup champions 2010, 2013, and if we are lucky, in 2015 too.
Just because you don't obey the speed limit doesn't mean that it no longer exists...it does.
You cannot blame them for no subscribing to the metaphysical "with God there is no time" polemic, which is problematically used in the light of such RC statements as,
The supreme power of the priestly office is the power of consecrating...Indeed, it is equal to that of Jesus Christ...When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man...Indeed it is greater even than the power of the Virgin Mary [who is said to be all but almighty herself]...The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest's command. - (John A. O'Brien, Ph.D., LL.D., The Faith of Millions, 255-256 , O'Brien. Nihtt obstat: Rev. Lawrence Gollner, Censor Librorum Imprimatur: Leo A. Pursley, Bishop of Fort Wayne,-South Bend, March 16, 1974
1265. What is the Sacrifice of the Mass?...Christ, the eternal High Priest, in an unbloody way offers himself a most acceptable Victim to the eternal Father, as he did upon the Cross.
1269. How does the Mass re-present Calvary? The Mass re-presents Calvary by continuing Christs sacrifice of himself to his heavenly Father. In the Mass, no less than on Calvary, Jesus really offers his life to his heavenly Father.
1277. Does the Mass detract from the one, unique Sacrifice of the Cross? The Catechism of the Council of Trent: The Mass in no way detracts from the one, unique Sacrifice of the Cross because the Mass is the same Sacrifice as that of the Cross, to continue on earth until the end of time...The Mass, therefore, no less than the Cross, is expiatory for sins; but now the expiation is experienced by those for whom, on the Cross, the title of Gods mercy had been gained. - The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism by Fr John Hardon
And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propritiatory...For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. - Trent The Twenty-Second Session, cp. 2; http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct22.html
We, therefore, confess that the sacrifice of the Mass is one and the same sacrifice with that of the cross...That the holy sacrifice of the Mass, therefore, is not only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, or a commemoration of the sacrifice of the cross; but also a sacrifice of propitiation, by which God is appeased and rendered propitious.. (The Catechism of the Council of Trent, Published by Command of Pope Pius the Fifth (New York: Christian Press, 1905), pp. 173-175).
CCC 1364 As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out."
CCC, second edition 1367: The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory."
Wow, pretty impressive post!!!! and ALL from the Bible that the Catholic church compiled and saved for you....pretty impressive I'd say!!!
From Jesus, declaring to the Adversary:
ο δε αποκριθεις ειπεν γεγραπται ουκ επ αρτω μονω ζησεται
ανθρωπος αλλ επι παντι ρηματι εκπορευομενω δια στοματος θεου
(Mt. 4:4, as written in the characters of the plenarily inspired, inerrant, infallible, preserved Koine Greek language.) Which translated is (uninspired but accurate):
But He responded and stated, "It stands written.
'Man does not intrinically live upon a breadloaf only, but upon every utterance proceeding through God's mouth.' "
(A literal rendering into English, a nested quotation.)
And, of course. it is the prophet who says, "Thus sayeth The Lord" as Jesus as a prophet did to Satan, and Levi copied down the inspired words.
Jesus validated the authority of Holy Scripture found written in Deut. 8:3 by Moses: Deu 8:3 "And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live."
It’s stunning what Catholics don’t really know what their church teaches. Good job!
well there is that quote something like what you shall bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven and what you shall loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven
You can’t use that. That’s Sola Scriptura unless you have some other authority.
“So just post the Chapter and verse that supports Sola Scriptura an I will go away”
Dear chap, I’ve no wish that you would ever go away.
I do wish salvation for you. I do wish everyone that claims the name of Christ would “study to show yourself approved by God, rightly handling the Word of Truth.”
Just check your post account. The answer is there - multiple times.
“Cite the chapter and verse where Christ told anyone to write anything down “
Ah, another question.
In this case, your question assumes a presupposition and that makes it a logical fallacy.
I will give you a clue...
Yes, it was a member of the Trinity, but not the one you name.
History is written by those who eliminated their competition, sort of like the Cosa Nostra.
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