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Brief Reflections on the Trinity, the Canon of Scripture, and the Protestant idea of Sola Scriptura
Vivificat! - A Personal Catholic Blog of News, Commentary, Opinion, and Reflections ^ | 16 August 2006 | Teˇfilo

Posted on 08/16/2006 7:47:20 PM PDT by Teˇfilo

Folks, I want to add some further, yet brief reflections that I think are connected to those I did about the Holy Trinity last week (here and here). I belief there are a few connections between the process which resulted in the Trinitarian settlement in the 5th century AD, the settlement of the Canon of Scripture, and the Protestant idea of sola scriptura. First, let's define a few key terms:

Once again, I don't delude myself into thinking that the few words of this essay will solve 500 years of Protestant controversy or over 1,000 years of anti-Trinitarian objections. All I can do is to witness to the soundness of Catholic teaching and to hope that someone, somewhere, would be moved by grace to accept this teaching and be thus empowered to attain eternal life.

Protestant apologists go to great lengths to defend Sola Scriptura, which is, after all, central to their conception of Christianity. Posts such as this one found in the Free Republic Religion board (Can traditions contradict God's completed Word? - Is the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura Really Biblical?) offer a case in point.

In fact, what struck me about this post is the circular reasoning of its author. The author assumes the validity of sola scriptura and then proceeds to "prove" it through Scripture, while seeking to "debunk" Tradition—rather, the author's own understanding of what Tradition is, which is another fallacy, a straw man argument. Implied the author own argumentation is the assumption that Scripture is a text book containing propositional arguments which can be lifted out of its literary context, stringed to other such "propositions" to build, or support, the Protestant conclusions in matters of faith and discipline.

The author falls in what I refer to as the problem of the interpreter. For Protestants, or at least to traditional Protestants who hold to the magisterial consensus of the classical Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Melanchthon, etc.), the individual believer is to approach the Bible alone, alone. If the interpreter is docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit—they reason—the believer will attain a working knowledge of the Truth that will lead him or her to Salvation, quite apart from the teachings of the Roman Church—in this they all agreed. This is what is referred to in Protestantism as free examen.

In this scheme, the interpreter, prompted by the Holy Spirit and rightly guided by the Protestant foundational axioms, becomes an "honest broker" of salvific information to other believers and to the unbelieving masses, with no other agenda than self-perfection and the salvation of other fellow souls. In this purported state of grace and election, the Protestant believer becomes a true interpreter and prophet of God's Word. That's what Protestant apologists argue in principle. The reality has been quite another.

History shows that Protestantism has been unable to produce an interpreter free from bias, prejudice, and completely aloof from the historical process that could serve as a transparent prism for the Holy Spirit's communications. Most defenses I've seen of the classical Protestant tenets fail to examine the scope, focus, and limitations of the interpreter as he or she approaches alone Scripture Alone.

The ability and authority of the individual Protestant interpreter to bind his conscience and that of others to his interpretation of Scripture remains largely unexamined by Protestant apologists. It seems that in their rush to define themselves against the historical Church, the Reformers—and their apologists—exacerbated the problem of interpretation by unwittingly multiplying authorities, believing their stance would facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit to explain and the individual interpreter's ability to receive from the Spirit binding interpretations of Scripture in matters of faith, morals, and discipline. Protestantism, in its revolt, compounded the problem without solving it. The immediate consequence could be seen in Protestantism' rich tendency to fracture and divide into sects that compete with each other for the souls of men.

In the end, the appeal that a Protestant interpreter of Scripture makes is not to Scripture alone, but to his ability to interpret Scripture rightly based upon questionable suppositions, strawmen, and circular reasoning.

The Canon of Scripture

Another matter contradicting the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura is the origin of the Canon of the Bible. How do we know that the Bible is, well, the Bible? How do we know that the books we see in the Bible belong to it? How do we know that …all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)?

The Canon of Scripture is not in the Bible. We don't know from the Bible which books belong to it and which do not. That information comes from outside the Bible, hence, the Bible cannot be the sole rule of faith, morals, and discipline for the Church. There is a preceding, discerning, and selective authority of the canon of Scripture: the Holy Spirit acting through a visible, historical, very human instrument—the Church.

We know which books are inspired because of the Church. Lovingly, carefully, exactingly, the Church examined, listed, debated, and listed again the list of books through which God spoke to men. Hence, the Church's discernment and teaching power—her magisterium—form a more proximate rule of faith, so to speak, than Scripture.

So there is more than one rule of faith, one depending on the other to be certain, but both impossible to separate without ruining the other. The relationship between the Church and Scripture is symbiotic; though is true that Scripture judges the Church it is also true that the Church rightly interprets Scripture. Scripture can't stand separate from the Church.

How often are we confronted by Protestant apologists who are keen to separate us from the Catholic Church with the claim that Scripture judges the Church? Because they do not consider, as we have seen, the role of the interpreter, what they really mean in practice is that they, the interpreters, judge the Church.

Has Public Revelation Ended?

Similarly, Holy Scripture never unequivocally states that public Revelation from God, binding on the consciences of all His children, has ever ended. How do we know that Revelation, that is, God's self-disclosure in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, came to an end with the death of the last Apostle? We know because the Church tells us, because our ancestors in the faith believe it and the successors to the Apostles so declared it.

Based on Sola Scriptura, Protestants cannot close the canon! Oh, they can accept convention or the words of the Reformers to that effect, but the Reformers were sticking to the classical Catholic canon with little explanation as to the exact end of public revelation.

The fact that Sola Scriptura allows for open-ended revelation has not been ignored by myriads of sects, from Montanism way back in Tertullian's time to the ecstatic sects of the Middle Ages to Seventh-day Adventism and Mormonism—this last one even has three more books of "sacred scriptures" besides the Bible! But the contradiction has been passed in silence by Protestant apologists.

A Protestant, if he or she is consistent, can't criticize others who add their revelations to the Bible simply because the Bible is silent on the subject. The answer to this dilemma comes from outside the Bible, from the all-encompassing Tradition maintained, treasured, and explained in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Stay tuned for the conclusion!


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: canon; protestantism; ruleoffaith; scripture; solascriptura
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To: Titanites

Because it wasn't raining??? It only takes a sprinkle :>)


61 posted on 08/16/2006 11:04:16 PM PDT by irishtenor (We survived Clinton in the 80s... we can survive her even when her husband is gone.)
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To: Iscool
Catholic: Mat 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

If taken literally, that saying was broken by the early Christians VERY early on.

"And being let go, they came to their own company, and related all that the chief priests and ancients had said to them. Who having heard it, with one accord lifted up their voice to God, and said: Lord, thou art he that didst make heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are in them. Who, by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, hast said: Why did the Gentiles rage, and the people meditate vain things?" (Acts 4: 23-25)

62 posted on 08/16/2006 11:05:23 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: irishtenor
If you were to die tonight, right after you committed a sin, and you didn't have time to see a priest, are your sins forgiven?

The last recourse in such a case is to make an Act of Contrition, which is often put in these words. "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all of my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because they offended Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen."

63 posted on 08/16/2006 11:08:08 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: Pyro7480

But, what if, while in your sin, a bullet came out of nowhere, smacked you in the head, and you died instantly? You had no chance to do anything, what then? Heaven? Or Purgatory? Or Hell?


64 posted on 08/16/2006 11:10:32 PM PDT by irishtenor (We survived Clinton in the 80s... we can survive her even when her husband is gone.)
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To: irishtenor
But, what if, while in your sin, a bullet came out of nowhere, smacked you in the head, and you died instantly? You had no chance to do anything, what then? Heaven? Or Purgatory? Or Hell?

If I am in grave sin, I will go to Hell.

65 posted on 08/16/2006 11:11:48 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: Pyro7480

Then you are not counting on Jesus to save you, you are counting on your action (the prayer) to save you. Jesus paid for all your sins. I truely believe that you believe in Jesus. Jesus has paid for your sins that you did, that you are doing, and that you will do. It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, that saves. He did it by being that perfect sacrifice on the cross. If you say that it is Jesus plus whatever you do, then it wasn't a PERFECT sacrifice, it was an almost perfect, or nearly perfect, or close but no cigar sacrifice.


66 posted on 08/16/2006 11:16:20 PM PDT by irishtenor (We survived Clinton in the 80s... we can survive her even when her husband is gone.)
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To: irishtenor
Then you are not counting on Jesus to save you, you are counting on your action (the prayer) to save you.

One cannot say that prayer truthfully unless they are given the grace of contrition. The Sacrifice of the Cross IS a perfect sacrifice. But as Our Lord Himself said, only those who persevere to the end shall be saved. Only God can give us that perseverance, but we can certainly as for it.

67 posted on 08/16/2006 11:18:51 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: Pyro7480

Jerome used the Siniaticus and Vaticanus manuscripts to write the Latin Vulgate...Those two sets of manuscripts came out of Egypt and disagree with each other in over 3000 places...

The bible I believe came out of Antioch, Syria thru what's known as the Majority Texts...Their numbers are far greater than Jerome's manuscripts and they agree with each other over 95% of the time...These manuscripts do not have the word 'father' in Acts 4: 23-25...

That's a Catholic addition...


68 posted on 08/16/2006 11:20:53 PM PDT by Iscool
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To: Pyro7480

Do me a favor, I have to go, but think on what I have written to you. Think about all that Jesus' sacrifice means, and pray to God the Father for insight. Let the Holy Spirit dwell with you.

Good discussion, without namecalling...(it can get so nasty here) Thank you.


69 posted on 08/16/2006 11:22:36 PM PDT by irishtenor (We survived Clinton in the 80s... we can survive her even when her husband is gone.)
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To: Iscool
That's a Catholic addition...

LOL!

70 posted on 08/16/2006 11:24:24 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: irishtenor

You've actually been a help, but in a way you wouldn't think of. God bless.


71 posted on 08/16/2006 11:25:19 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: Pyro7480
only those who persevere to the end shall be saved. Only God can give us that perseverance, but we can certainly as for it.

I realize what your church tells you but look at that verse very carefully...It is not speaking about the end of your life, or anyone's life for that matter...It is dealing with a period of time...And that period of time has nothing to do with you...

72 posted on 08/16/2006 11:25:48 PM PDT by Iscool
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To: Iscool
If you don't believe that, how about these??

Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with a promise (Ephesian 6:2).

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? (James 2:21)

73 posted on 08/16/2006 11:29:42 PM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Love is the fusion of two souls in one in order to bring about mutual perfection." -S. Terese Andes)
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To: irishtenor
Are you saying that those who do not accept this Catholic teaching are not saved?

No. I can't tell who is not saved. I am not God. All I can affirm is that those accept Catholic teaching and live it, are.

-Theo

74 posted on 08/17/2006 3:51:53 AM PDT by Teˇfilo (Visit Vivificat! - http://www.vivificat.org - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: nmh; old-ager; ConservativeMind; irishtenor
Of course this silly post isn't Bible bashing ... nah that's a one sided word to only be used when a Catholic is confronted with Biblical truth and contrasted to what has been taught by their church.

The basic point in my post is that, in the Protestant scheme, "biblical truth" is whatever the interpreter says it is. I know it is not a pallatable idea and I can see why you would find it shocking, uncomfortable, and challenging. The existence of thousands of Protestant sects prove my point.

It will remain so as long as you can't produce the chapter and verse where we can find a list of the closed biblical canon.

Scripture is holy because God says so, yes, but this only becomes meaningful when the Church proclaims it so. Without the Church's discernment and proclamation, there wouldn't be any "Scripture."

The Catholic Church as a human institution is not above criticism. But neither are her critics.

-Theo

75 posted on 08/17/2006 4:05:49 AM PDT by Teˇfilo (Visit Vivificat! - http://www.vivificat.org - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Iscool
Sola Scripture...Catholics are told they can't understand the bible on their own...You guys need your church to interpret it for you.

That would be somewhat bad if "the Church" were a reality completely external to me, but it isn't. I am in the Church, I believe with her; it is not "I and the Church believe" but "we in the Church believe."

The Protestant retort is that I need *you*, "Iscool," to interpret it for me. Because the Protestant claim is not a general claim made about a teaching church, but one made about the single, teaching individual.

I suppose you are "cool," but I don't need your help to interpret the Bible and see the Bible "your way." Thank you anyway, though!

-Theo

76 posted on 08/17/2006 4:11:48 AM PDT by Teˇfilo (Visit Vivificat! - http://www.vivificat.org - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: american colleen; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; ...


77 posted on 08/17/2006 7:21:51 AM PDT by NYer
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To: old-ager

You would have each man be a pope; nye, a prophet like Mohammed or Joseph Smith?


78 posted on 08/17/2006 7:44:54 AM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: nmh

Fallible men like Martin Luther? Fact is that each Protestant church has a magister, and when a member decides to reject the infallibility of this magisterium , he seeks out another or becomes one himself. The only Reformer who really sought to reconstitute the catholic church on a proper footing was Calvin. But after the anti-pope of Geneva died, even his movement lost its center.


79 posted on 08/17/2006 7:58:17 AM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: Teˇfilo
As a Cathoic convert, I find this an interesting discussion. Many Protestants find fault with Catholics in that the Magisterium does the interpreting. I have yet to find any prohibition on reading Scripture, and there are several Bible studies going on in my parish, and each Sunday more Scripture is read in Mass than I have heard in most Protestant services.

Protestants find no difficulty, however, in attending "Bible-believing" services where the pastor INTERPRETS passages of scripture as part of his sermon, and in fact tells the congregation that his interpretation is the correct one.

I would suggest that those who are concerned about the role of Mary and other aspects of the church enroll in an RCIA class at a large parish. Many of the questions would be answered, and there is no obligation to join the Church. We encourage this in my parish, so that people, even if they do not share our belief, can at least have the correct answer on what we do believe.

80 posted on 08/17/2006 8:01:19 AM PDT by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's and Jemian's sons and keep them strong.)
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