The Old Testament Was Made for Man…

…not man for the Old Testament.

Jewish High Priest

We’ve discussed the canon several times in the past few weeks, and one of the objections brought up by (Protestant interlocutor) Mike Field is that the deuterocanonical books contain historical errors and instances of deceptive practices.

One the reasons my Catholic friends and I are stupefied that he would bring such things up as grounds for rejecting a book’s inspiration, is the fact that such (apparent) problems are also found in the books we all accept as inspired.

Without even looking, I ran across two examples of this recently while reading the Bible and Pope Benedict’s newest book. First, from St. Mark’s gospel, in the passage where the Pharisees are criticizing Jesus because his disciples plucked grain and ate it on the Sabbath, Jesus says:

Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry…how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread…

Except, Abiathar was not the high priest at that time, Abiathar’s father Ahimelech was!

Big problem here, if we are using my Protestant friend’s canon criteria. Either Jesus said something false (making a historical error) or the gospel author wrote the wrong thing down, leading to a historical error. Either of those are back-breakers, the former for obvious reasons and the latter because the gospel is inspired, God-breathed, and so is inerrant.

And yet, my Protestant friends happily continue accepting this gospel as inspired, as do I and the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches and pretty much everyone. Which means that there must be another explanation that resolves this dilemma. And there is. But it is one that ruins my friend’s canon criteria.

Since we believe that 1) Jesus is God and that 2) the gospel faithfully transmits His words, it must be the case that Jesus both knew that Abiathar was not the high priest when this incident occurred and that his rebuttal to the Pharisees, that included this supposed “error,” was intentionally done to demonstrate a greater point.

And that’s exactly what the case is here. The Ignatius Study Bible’s note explains why using Abiathar in this example is more forceful, since he was the last high priest of his line, one who opposed the son of David (Solomon) and was thus banished from Jerusalem. The analogy to Christ and the Pharisees is thus powerfully apparent.

Christ demonstrates here that our modern, “scientifically literal” reading of biblical passages can lead us astray.

A “Body” or an “Ear”?

The other example is from Hebrews 10:5-7, where the Apostle says “a body you have prepared for me,” quoting Psalm 40:6-8. But when we read that psalm, we actually see it says “but you have given me an open ear.” Hmmm. Those aren’t the same.

So it seems an Apostle changed the phraseology of this Old Testament passage to better fit the Christology that he wished to describe. Is that legal? Apparently.

The other explanation, that the inspired author is drawing from a Septuagint manuscript, some of which used “body” like in Hebrews, runs afoul of the canon criteria of our other Protestant interlocutor, Shawn Madden, who claims that no “Septuagint” versions were cited by Christ and the Apostles (update: Shawn clarifies his position on the LXX in the comments).

In any case, even if some Septuagint version was used, how is it okay that the Hebrew manuscript is talking about “an open ear” while Hebrews says “a body you have prepared for me”?

Double Standards

Without intending to do so, my Protestant friends employ a double standard: they strain a gnat out of the deuterocanonical books while swallowing a camel in books whose inspiration we all accept.

They don’t realize it. What has happened is that they accepted the Protestant canon based on the authority of Protestantism in general and then have ex post facto gone back and crafted canon criteria that will match it, selectively applying their own filters to give a pass to books they accept while blocking those they don’t.

I have emailed Shawn and Mike both to ask them how they resolve these issues.

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103 Responses to The Old Testament Was Made for Man…

  1. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Devin,

    Either you completely misunderstood me or you lied specifically. I never said, no “Septuagint” versions were cited by Christ and the Apostles.” Of course the gospels and NT wrtings cite Greek translations of the TNK. I did very specifically say that there are no Jewish canons that list the apocryphal writings. The (very loosely used) term Septuagint in most modern, illinformed uses is a Christian collection of Jewish writings. Strictly, the Septuagint, in Jewish terms, if you want to assign a canonical aspect to the term, concerns only the originally translated Torah.

    So too your use of Abiathar. The Greek text (??? ??????? ?????????) and English translations (under Abiathar the high priest-Douay-Rheims) do no say ‘when Abiathar was the high priest’ but rather ‘in the time of Abiathar [the] high priest.’ When referencing him Jesus give Abiathar the title he eventually had, much like if we talked about Reagan in the time before he was president but nevertheless referred to him as President Reagan.

    Mike’s argument stands.

    You really do need to be more careful, especially when quoting someone.

    In Christ,
    Shawn
    smadden@sebts.edu

    • Devin Rose says:

      Shawn,

      I don’t think I quoted you. I paraphrased my recollections from several comments you have made here and elsewhere. Suggesting I am deliberately “lying” is uncharitable. Also, I emailed you specifically to respond, something I would not have done had I wanted to deceive people about your position.

      Your argument that no Jewish canons listed the apocryphal [sic] (deuterocanonical) writings still doesn’t hold water. The Called to Communion guys’ evidence of the varying Jewish canons, as well as the other article I mentioned from Sundberg, counter this claim that you continue to make. But I do not plan to delve into that issue anymore than has already been done, so this is my last word on it.

      In any event, your explanation still does not resolve the question I brought up that the inspired author of Hebrews is using a Septuagint manuscript that is significantly different from the Hebrew manuscripts. How do you resolve that in your own mind?

      I read previously about the argument you mention for the Abiathar issue, and rebuttals to it. Even this exposition at a meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society cogently explains why this particular argument is not ironclad: http://bible.org/article/mark-226-and-problem-abiathar. (But as with other contested issues, you cavalierly proclaim your opinion as ironclad truth and brush aside all counter-arguments as spurious, no matter how strong their merit.)

      Nonetheless, the Abiathar issue I think can be explained, but it blows Mike’s canon criteria out of the water, and demonstrates y’all’s double standard (yup, just used “y’all’s”). The gospels get a pass, even the words of Jesus Himself, which in this case are very hard to square with you guys’ paradigm. But the deuterocanonicals don’t.

      I’m glad you clarified your position on the Septuagint. God bless.

  2. Leila says:

    I know I’m a dummy on these issues, but aside from the misstatement, did Shawn actually address the points you made, Devin?

    • Devin Rose says:

      Hi Leila,

      Not really, so I just replied to him and re-asserted the points. His claims about the Septuagint, TNK, Jewish canons, etc., have been rebutted by Joe H. at Called to Communion’s post on the canon: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/#comment-20296

      Shawn has not responded to this rebuttal, and I do not want to duplicate the same conversation over here.

      My point was that Hebrews is using a very different phrasing of Psalm 40 that is found only in some Septuagint texts. He claims that his statements about the Septuagint do not preclude that, which is fine. So I asked him how he reconciles the difference in the Septuagint and Hebrew texts, with the goal of seeing if he applies a double-standard here, allowing a book he accepts (Hebrews) to be harmonized in a way he will not allow others to.

      God bless!

  3. It saddens me when I see arguments of this kind, over the Living Word of our Lord. I have been taught that to make any point about the Holy Bible, in reference to historical fact(s), is really inappropriate. The Bible is much deeper, and provides an en-richness that is indescribable when you truly take hold, of what the Lord has shared.

    I offer no answer to the question at hand, but here is another example. Christmas. There has been much talk about that particular day, the 25 of December. But if you spend all that time and effort on proving and dis-proving the “historical” aspect of Christmas, you are missing out on what Christmas is all about.

    Christmas is Love, Love is G-d, and the Lord loved us so much , he gave us his son. The rest of the story, you know.

    Peace be with you.

    • Devin Rose says:

      Mike,

      I understand where you are coming from. My Protestant friends here, however, have made it their aim to discredit and deny seven books of the Bible, books God inspired and wants all people to be blessed by.

      And their tactics involve trying to find some contradiction in those deuterocanonical books while overlooking other prima facie “errors” in books we all accept. So this post meets them on their own ground and challenges them to recognize they are employing a double-standard, with the hopes that they will embrace the fullness of the truth of Christ.

  4. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Devin, Leila,

    Your memory was exceedingly poor. Better to quote what I actually said. I am glad to hear that it was not a purposeful mistatement.

    No, that called to Communion guys have not shown a Jewish canon that comes anywhere near the Catholic canon. If they have show me–send a link.

    Hebrews–let me quote a Catholic source you should have access to–Jerome Biblical Commentary, and Rahlfs Septuagint. Rahlf’s tc note points to BSA–all Christian manuscripts. The note from Jerome’s (s.v. Heb 10-5-7, pg. 399) ‘the LXX reading of v. 7b is peculiarly applicalbe to [Jesus], so much so that it has been thought that the reading was introduced into the LXX (BSA) under the influence of Heb.’

    You continue to miss my point on the LXX and so you keep mistating my position on it. You need to park yourself and read what I said. One more time. The original translation that we call the Septuagint (LXX) was done by Jewish elders in 250 B.C. and originally included only the Torah. Later the other books of the Hebrew 22 book canon were translated into Greek with various degrees of fidelilty (Daniel is so notorious that Rahfls has two translations in it) and several non canonical Hebrew books were translated (Ecclesiasticus for instance) into Greek and some non canonical Jewish works were written in Greek from the first. The non-canonical books were never included in a Jewish canon. Neither you, Sundberg or anyone else has found or identified a Jewish canon that matches the Catholic canon. Christians produced manuscripts (BSA) centuries later that included books the Jews never would have nor did put into their canon. So, one more time, the three great Greek manuscripts (BSA) were CHRISTIAN compilations of Jewish Greek (some translation, some original) works, some canonical, some not.

    In Christ
    Shawn

  5. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Joe’s answer was inadequate and well rebutted by Lojahw. I see little to add.

    Shawn

    • Brent says:

      Dear Shawn,

      These short kind of replies (along with statements like “your memory is exceedingly poor”, “you need to park yourself”) imply that we are all just idiots. It stifles the possibility of any kind of charitable dialogue. Saying something is inadequate is an assertion. Showing how it is exactly deficient is how you make an argument that something is inadequate. The last two comments at CTC are from Joe, and it appears, regarding one bit of evidence, they will have to agree to disagree (Pope Gregory). Apparently Lojahw is out of town, so you might want to engage Joe’s points if you are interested in dialogue and not grand-standing. I’m inclined to believe the former–I really am, but I am getting confused by the current tenor of your comments.

      Your last point is that no Jewish canon mirrors the Catholic canon. Right? So what. What does that prove theologically? (not historically) In other words, why am I to grant the Jews authority in canonizing Scripture that is ultimately the text of His Church? I say there is no consensus on the canon and it has been proved that there is not. We can continue to trade footnotes until we are blue in the face. You are convinced, I’m not. We can both get together a list of scholars who agree with each other and then what do we have? A canon?

      The better question, Shawn, is why do you keep arguing that there is historic, unanimous agreement regarding the canon amongst Christians in the early church (if that is not correct, please correct me but don’t do it by saying I’m an idiot)? You act as if that fact were the same as pointing to the sky is blue and that every man or woman of good will should know the canon is 66 books because the evidence is so obvious even a caveman could see it. Or, that it is as historically obvious that Jesus existed, died and that he likely rose from the dead (we agree on that).

      I can easily abstract myself out of my Catholic intellectual tradition, fail to be committed to a 73 book canon, and still not see the necessary consequence you seem to imply your scholarship/arguments make.

      • Brent says:

        Correction:

        Or that your point about that canon is as historically obvious that Jesus existed, died and that he likely rose from the dead (we agree on that).

        • Brent says:

          note: I say “likely rose” because Christ’s existence and life are empirical facts, whereas the resurrection transcends empiricism but is still the best explanation we have for the empirical evidence we have (no body in the tomb).

          Peace in Christ

  6. Bradley says:

    Shawn (or also Devin if you wish to chime in also),

    So is the Protestant position this [?]: if and when I perceive one book to contain any historical error whatsoever (or two books of Scripture to contradict each other) based on critical scholarship, rather than (as a believer) trusting that there is always some explanation that resolves the tension even if I don’t know what it is (and even if I won’t know till I see Jesus), I should rather do what the Protestant Tradition has done with the deuterocanonical books and just jettison the book in which I perceive a contradiction? (and if two books contradict each other, pick one of them to jettison to resolve the contradiction?).

    The reason I ask is because the former (just trusting in the canon) has always been more-or-less the Protestant evangelical position as I have understood it (even though it appears that the Protestant Tradition applies a different set of criterion to the Catholic books our Tradition rejects, as Devin points out). Yet, the irony here is this: if the first of these two positions is the “real” evangelical position (that is, the one that evangelicals operate with functionally), then it would seem that we accept the Protestant canon based on some form of faith, and our own personal judgments (or the judgments of scholarly communities) is not ultimately determinative for canon criterion (after all, most Christians don’t have the time or smarts to study all that erudite stuff anyways). But if this is the case, it would seem that if that same kind of faith is applied to the deuterocanonical books (which is something that can in principle be done, since there is not authoritative canon for Protestants, since the Church is in principle fallible in how they went about choosing the canon in the first place), they would have to ruled out by something other than apparent “contradictions” with either history or some other part of the canon.

    Your thoughts?

    • Devin Rose says:

      Bradley,

      You present a fair appraisal of the situation. I think Calvin saw the futility of trying to rule out books based on supposed historical inaccuracies or contradictions, and so went straight for the throat: we know the books of the Bible because they authenticate themselves to us, which any Christian can tell as easily as discerning white from black, sweet from bitter, etc. He essentially says that we know the canon through faith by the internal witness of the Spirit.

      Though I don’t think Shawn answered your question directly, I would say that a Protestant like him (or like Mike) claim: the historical evidence is overwhelmingly obvious for the Protestant Old Testament, but we don’t rely on that to have certainty in our canon. Instead, we rely on our faith that God gave the Jews the correct Old Testament, and then the Church just transferred it over into its Bible “as-is.” So the obvious historical evidence gives sound reasons to believe God gave us the right Old Testament.

      Now, why then the early Church had such a hard time “transferring” over the Protestant Old Testament books, making various errors for centuries and finally settling on the wrong set of books, is an open question. If all the worldwide Jews had a single canon, closed for centuries before Christ, why would the Church–primarily made up of Jews early on!–have any difficulty knowing the right Old Testament canon? Mike and Shawn provide no answer to this.

      • Bradley says:

        Ah yes,

        Calvin writes:

        Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture is self authenticated … And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. (Institutes, 1.7.5)

        But this raises another question: How are Protestants to measure the Spirit’s voice? In principle, without an objective measurement that transcends the authentication of the Spirit’s voice to a particular person, there could potentially be an endless number of canons each subjectively validated by the “Spirit’s Voice” in the life of each Christian.

        For example, how can someone, in principle, adjudicate between one Christian who says the deuterocanonical books are authoritative because the Spirit speaks through them, and another who says they are not authoritative because the Spirit does not speak through them?

        How do Protestants escape total subjectivism? It would appear that whatever Protestants say is the objective standard, it cannot be in Scripture itself, since the Scripture neither implicitly nor explicitly delineates the canon. Therefore, it would appear that for the majority of Protestants, Tradition (with a capital T) practically functions as this objective standard; that is, Protestants tend to just accept the Protestant canon without being aware of (much less adjudicating between) the more sophisticated historical and philosophical arguments made by erudite theologians, historians, and philosophers.

        It would appear, then, that Evangelicals accept Sola Scriptura as authoritative, as well as the Protestant Canon, not because these are found explicitly in Scripture, but they inherit it from their Protestant Tradition.

        Bradley

  7. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Brent, Bradley,

    I never implied nor called anyone an ‘idiot.’ Again, you are putting words in my mouth that I never utter nor implied.

    Joe’s answer was inadequate, I answered it and so did Lojahw. I found mine and his rebut adequate and see no reason to rehash it. Should my answer have been more expansive to say the same thing? You miquoted me apparently from misreading me hence the comment on your poor memory and the need to ‘park your self’ (i.e., take your time) and reread what I wrote so that you will understand it. It is not idiocy that I am implying, it is hurriedness, again, demonstrated by what you just wrote. You take offense at my words? I meant none. It may be my Marine side showing itself. If offense occurred then please accept my apology.

    ‘So what’ to ‘no Jewish canon [that] mirrors the Catholic canon’?!? Again, you have not read what I wrote. The ‘Jews’ that I am ‘granting authority in canonizing Scripture’ are Jesus and the NT writers. My search has always been for the canon used by Jesus and the NT writers. Sorry if you don’t buy it but Mattew and Luke (words of Jesus) very definitely shows and defines a closed canon, the same canon Josephus expounded upon and gave a definite limit to and is reflected in Philo and Sirach. If the Jews had ‘canonized’ the TNK, Josephus said that it had been at least 400 years before his time, and Philo and Sirach and Jesus agree. The complete TNK was in place at the time of the NT. Later confusion on the part of church writers does not negate what Jesus said.

    No, I don’t buy an ‘Alexandrian canon’ nor a ‘Pharisee canon’ nor a ‘Sadducee canon’ or Essene or whomever you want to mention. As I said, there is no hint in history (sorry you don’t like history) of such beasts—they are Catholic constructs to come up with an illegitimate expanded canon that was never recognized by the Jews (Jesus, NT writers, every other Jew), defined by the Jews, nor hinted at by the Jews. I am sorry you seem think so little of the Jews but they were (and I would argue still are) God’s chosen people. Paul didn’t say that we replaced them but rather that we were ‘grafted in.’ Heck, read Romans 3, 11, especially 11.20-21.

    Jesus ‘likely rose’ and his ‘resurrection transcends empiricism’?! Have you not read 1 Corinthians 15? Paul makes his proof of the resurrection very empirical! As did Thomas!

    Bradley, I am not the one making the ‘historical error’ argument.

    Based on my argument above and to dispel the notion of ‘jettison’ing vice ‘adding’, show me the Jewish canon that included the aprocryphal books. Me, I am not trying to apply a ‘Protestant criteria’ or a ‘Catholic criteria’ but rather, as I mentioned above, ‘what was the TNK at the time of Jesus and the NT writers’? As I have said, I find it clearly defined in Matthew and Luke by Jesus, and verified by Josephus, Philo, and Sirach. Again, if you are arguing with me, then show me the Jewish canon at the time of Jesus and the NT writers that included the apocrypha.

    As far as ‘Jews’ or the ‘Church’ choosing the TNK canon, me, I go with the Jew Jesus.

    In Christ,
    Shawn

    • Brent says:

      “Mattew and Luke (words of Jesus) very definitely”

      I’ve read carefully what you wrote and I disagree. At the most, your argument is based upon some very nuanced inferences.

      “sorry you don’t like history”

      And the crowd goes wild!!!

      Shawn, I don’t take offense at you personally. I have no problem speaking with curt people. In fact, if we were to speak together in person, I imagine it would be rather lively. However, I am more interested in making sure, for the sake of your position, that nothing gets lost in polemics. (e.g., Bradley is a protestant who is not trying to argue with you but understand…how would you go about helping someone in your church understand what you are saying if they they didn’t find it to be as obvious as you claim it is? Would you say, “pay attention more” or “apparently you just don’t like good historical analysis”, or “I can tell you are a papist in sheep’s clothing”?)

      Would you consider your position the widely accepted position among New Testament scholars? If not, why?

      Also, your position implies that any disagreement with it is unreasonable. Could you explain “why” any dissent from your position is unreasonable? I’ve read Joe’s responses and I think they are reasonable alternatives to your interpretations of the data. Why am I to believe they are not?

    • Devin Rose says:

      Tangents but wanted to chime in:

      1. The Essenes (assuming they were the Dead Sea Scroll people) had many many writings, both inspired and non-inspired, that were found. But from what I have read the one book not found was…Esther. The deuterocanonicals were found, including ones in Hebrew that pre-dated Christ. Now maybe all the copies of Esther were destroyed, but this is unlikely. Couple this with the fact that several Fathers excluded Esther from their Old Testament canons, and you have another example of conflicting historical testimony on the canon.

      2. Joe H. and others have demonstrated that the Sadducees canon was much smaller, only the Pentateuch: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-bible-did-sadducees-use.html. You have provided no counter evidence to this at all, in any of your comments here or elsewhere. It’s not enough to declare victory and accuse us of ignoring history, when you seem to be doing just that here.

      3. If no deuterocanonical books were ever considered inspired, why on earth would there be any question about it today? Why would there be a question about it in the early Church? The fact that, not only was their a question about it, but that those books were even included in the earliest mostly-complete biblical manuscripts that we possess today, undermines your position. Leave aside the fact that the early Church–the same one that defended the orthodox Faith from the Arians, Donatists, Sabellians, etc.–chose to include those books, even though, by your claim, no one had ever thought they canonical. The incongruities pile up. Either what you are saying is inaccurate or something very, very odd happened that defies logical explanation.

  8. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Brent,

    ‘If all the worldwide Jews had a single canon, closed for centuries before Christ, why would the Church–primarily made up of Jews early on!–have any difficulty knowing the right Old Testament canon? Mike and Shawn provide no answer to this.’

    Brent, sorry brother but you really just don’t read what I write-even something less than an hour ago. The ‘Jews’ of the early church (NT writers) were very clear on their canon. I have said that until I am blue in the face and yet you don’t get it. I have answered that time and again. Note that. Yes, you disagree with my conclusions but I have given what I consider very solid conclusions very many times.

    I just wrote this–‘As I have said, I find it clearly defined in Matthew and Luke by Jesus, and verified by Josephus, Philo, and Sirach. Again, if you are arguing with me, then show me the Jewish canon at the time of Jesus and the NT writers that included the apocrypha. As far as ‘Jews’ or the ‘Church’ choosing the TNK canon, me, I go with the Jew Jesus.’

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the ‘early church fathers’ you or Joe quoted as proof of the Catholic canon were not Jewish Christians were they? If you have early ‘Jewish Christians’ who espouse the present Catholic canon please show them to me or remind me where you cited them.

    As far as the ‘reasonableness’ of may argument, it is clear and reasonable to me. I do note that apparently, for some reason, it is not so to you. But you set up ‘Catholic criteria’ and ‘Protestant criteria’ for the canon. I just set up the parameters of my quest–the 1st century Jewish canon.

    As far as Protestants, the most in depth agrument for the ‘protestant canon’ is in Beckwith’s The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church. He and I agree as to the books but not where they fit in the TNK (e.g., I put Daniel in the Prophets, not the writings).

    In Christ,
    Shawn

    • Devin Rose says:

      Shawn,

      I think you got confused, quoting part of my response but then attributing it to Brent.

      Note also for readers that “Beckwith” is Roger Beckwith and not Francis, the recent convert from Evangelicalism.

  9. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Devin,

    1. It is possible that the copies of Esther were destroyed. Cave 4 is notorious for its copious numbers of books and the dusty remnants of a myriad of others. You are speculating against more solid evidence that points in the other direction.
    2. No Joe did not. He has a bad thesis, ‘ The reason He does this is that the Sadducees accepted only the first five Books of the Bible, the Torah, also known as the Law of Moses.’ Beckwith (The OT Canon of the NT Church), 88, ‘When Jesus is in controversy with the Sadducees, he answers their argument against the resurrection by referring to the Pentateuch (Mark 12.18-27 etc.), though he could more readily have answered it from the other sections of the canon, had the Sadducees accepted these. However, the Pentateuch was the basic section of the canon, and as the Sadducees had drawn their argument against the resurrection from the Pentateuch, Jesus draws his counter argument from the same source (verses 19, 26). N. R. M. de Lange remarks that the rabbis normally use the Pentateuch, not the Prophets or Hagiographa, to prove the resurrection.’ I would add that Jesus cites that passage that names the Patriarchs, all polygamists. On page 89 he goes on to note, ‘Josephus’s works list the distinguishing tenets of the three great Jewish schools, and the rabbinical literature mentions a great many of the points at issue between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, but neither source ever suggests tha the Sadducees rejected the Prophets and Hagiographa. On the contray, as Jean Le Moyne points out, one of the later midrashim, which Solomon Buber calls Tanhuma C (i.e., the printed Tanhuma) seems to imply the opposite, stating that, ‘the Sadducees deny the resurrection and say, ‘as the cloud disperses and passes away, so he who descends to Sheol shall not come up any more’ (Job 7.9).
    3. I suggest the loss of Hebrew and the enthrallment with Greek. As far as the early church Eusibius (Eccl. History iii.ix-x) points very clearly to the Josephus’s list of the Hebrew canon. He prefaces it with ‘In the first of these [Josephus] gives the number of the canonical scriptures of the so-called Old Testament, and showed as follows which are undisputed among the Hebrews as belonging to ancient tradition. I could also quote Jerome and then Cajetan, who shows that the issue was not settled and major theologians up to Trent were arguing for the 22 book Hebrew canon of Jesus and the NT writers. As far as the ‘earliest mostly-complete biblical manuscripts’ (which I have in my library) have you noticed that Vaticanus is missing Maccabees? Of course, as I have pointed out again and again, those great manuscripts are 4th century Christian productions. To give you some perspective, we are barely past 2 centuries from the constitution and look how we have it screwed up.

    Hey, I leave it up to you guys to try to explain why you stick with a canon that no Jew (Jesus and NT writers included!!) owns or ever owned.

    In Christ
    Shawn

  10. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Devin and Brent, you are correct, I am confusing you two. My only excuse is that my brain is still fried from a week in the Texas sun, and I have committed the sin I charged you with, not reading closely. Mea culpa.

  11. Bradley says:

    Shawn,

    No offense, but I think you need to slow down a bit yourself and stop being so defensive. I wasn’t making an argument against you. I was only asking a question. You’re machine-gun spewing out all your knowledge about Josephus, TNK, Philo, canonical facts about second Temple Judaism, etc., but my question concerns the mass of evangelicals who don’t have that kind knowledge to even begin to verify all your claims and arguments one way or the other. I actually think that makes my question more important (not less important).

    Again, no offense, but I care very little (although it’s interesting) about your peculiar reasons for accepting the Protestant canon if your reasons are unique to your field of disciplinary study and are not reasons representative of the great mass of faithful Protestants and evangelicals.

    I will repeat my question for your convenience and for further clarification.

    It is my contention that the Protestant canon, in all reality, is generally accepted by faithful Protestants and Evangelicals (not the small percentage of Protestant and Evangelical scholars who make up such a small margin) apart from any responsibly informed historical arguments they have themselves verified by their own rigorous study of all the relevant facts (something it appears only scholars really do).

    It also appears to be the case that faithful conservative Evangelicals seeking to uphold some notion of inerrancy (even the scholarly ones) never subject the Word of God to their own individual scrutiny *in such a way* as to reject any books they happen to find an apparent contradictions in, whether those contradictions appear to be historical or canonical or logical. Instead, it appears they never stop seeking to find ways to make sense of the apparent contradictions in a way that resolves them, thus even if they have yet to find satisfying solutions to these apparent contradictions, they still will believe by faith that such a solution exists, and thus in principle never allow for their to be a contradiction in the Word of God (even if all they can say is: “it appears to be a contradiction to me, but I must be misunderstanding or misinterpreting something”).

    If this is the case, the pertinent question is this: Should we as faithful evangelicals allow for apparent contradictions to be real contradictions whenever we can’t find a good solution (whether this is due to a lack of the exorbitant amount of time it would take to read and research, or whether genuine effort is put forth [which efforts will be proportionately different depending on the intellectual ability of each individual evangelical]), or should we just believe by faith such a solution exists even if we can never find it?

    This is the real question on which I would love to get your thoughts.

    Bradley

    • Shawn C. Madden says:

      Bradley,

      What you have bumped into is me arguing on two sites with folks who have not read my post well or just chose to misrepresent it. I have repeated myself many times to try to get them to see my argument. It was obvious that they had not by how badly they represented it. It was time to bring out the maw deuce.

      As far as my advocacy of the TNK canon that I do, it has nothing to do with a ‘unique field of disciplinary study’, anyone can read what I cited and argued, and judge for themselves regardless of their field or level of training. It is a simple, logical presentation.

      Now, your question. I take it that Catholics, like Evangelicals (scholars or not) accept the Word of God as Inerrant Scripture. I assume that everyone here discussing the canon issue accepts that as a given (whether they rigorously investigated it for their own selves or not). Does not CC 107 teach that?

      So, I open it up to everyone here as we (I take it) agree on the core issue—God’s Word is Inspired and Without Error. There is more ‘rigorous work’ on the part of our Catholic brethren as they have a few more books to which to apply your question—the Judith question previously for instance. The question is, of course, what is God’s Word.

      Now, before I tackle it at length, a little background on me and an untrained Christian approaching ‘apparent contradictions.’ I grew up a pre-Vatican II Irish-American Catholic (still Irish-American by the way). Not once had I or any Catholic that I had known, family or friends, ever cracked open a Bible. Such was the state of Catholicism back then (it is proverbial). Some here indicate it is no longer so in parts of Catholicism today—I am glad to hear that. Then I met a girl. She was (still is) Baptist and very knowledgeable in Scripture. And, to quote the Quiet Man, had a ‘tongue that could clip a hedge.’ She asked me what I believed and why. My response to the why was always, ‘the priest said so.’ Her answer was always, ‘but the Bible says. . .’ Because of her I brushed off the dust of our family Douay-Rheims and started to read. What I found was the Catholic church saying one thing and the Bible another. I also bumped into the canon issue with the book of Ecclesiasticus. At first simple things like, ‘call no man father’, ‘don’t repeat prayers,’ ‘make no graven images.’ The more I dug the more difficulties I found. It turns out that Mary did have other children, that she was like the rest of us in sin, that Jesus’s sacrifice was sufficient enough to eliminate the need for purgatory. However, the main thing I bumped into was two authorities saying two different things. And these were simple things, not minor points of grammar or history that took some digging to resolve but major, obvious things. Suffice it to say that I am no longer a Catholic because, of the two authorities, I accept the Word of God over the word of Rome and Rome’s answer to the dichotomies was obviously self serving and inadequate.

      Now, our Catholic brethren may have an answer for these questions (I have read widely in Catholic works to see the answers presented and am very familiar with them) or they may be like I was and accept ‘the priest said it is ok, there is no contradiction’ not unlike what you seem to see in too many other Christians.

      But that is the problem that you see with a great majority of Evangelicals. Again, let me widen it, it is a problem with all Christians, or Jews, or anyone else who claims loyalty to a system. For the most part a fair number of folks don’t question what they believe. Unless they determine to dig on their own or are challenged (as I was).

      For my part, as a student, as a teacher at a seminary, and as a Sunday school teacher, I live and teach that of all the things in the world to work hard at and to break a sweat over, it is the Word of God. Nothing should command our effort as much as understanding God’s revealed truth. I also tell my students, ‘let the grammar of the Bible determine your theology’. Don’t bring your theology to the Bible and try to beat it to conform to your thinking. Yes, Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic are major tools in that endeavor but the translations do a good job on their own.

      Now, if we all agree with the witness of Israel and the church that the Bible is God breathed and inspired and thus, logically, free from error, then apparent contradictions are only apparent and have been resolved by others and reading a good commentary will greatly aid our quest or hard work will resolve them (rabbis and Ezekiel come to mind).

      As far as whether or not our quest and investigation of a book will lead us to reject it from the canon I will have to return to my thesis on the canon. It is obvious to me that Jesus, Sirach, Philo, Josephus, and the NT writers knew and understood that the TNK was a closed canon and agreed upon (yes, 22 books). I accept the witness of Jesus and will therefore work hard to resolve any ‘apparent contradictions’ knowing that he has already endorsed the books I am investigating. As far as the NT, taking my cue from the above very excellent Jews, I note that a council was not necessary for them to determine the TNK but rather it seems that the whole of Israel recognized the books. And so I find that early in church history the whole of the church recognized what we recognize as the NT was inspired. Yes, disagreements over some books with rigorous discussion but solid general agreement early on, much like Israel and the TNK. If I find ‘apparent contradictions’ I will trust God’s people, Israel and the Church, that the books are God’s Word and logically free of error and so break a sweat to resolve the issue and teach others to do likewise.

      I pray that I have answered your question.

      Now, how would you or our brethren here answer it as it applies to you and them as well?

      In Christ,
      Shawn

      • Shawn,

        I appreciate the time you have spent in entertaining my question. You have given a substantive response. I have selectively extracted from your answer a number of propositions (P1a – P14) and numbered them [doing only minor interpretive work separated by brackets].

        1a. My advocacy of the TNK canon “has nothing to do with a ‘unique field of disciplinary study’ [because] 1b. “anyone can [in principle] read what I cited and argued, and judge for themselves.”
        2. Catholics and Evangelicals accept the Word of God as Inerrant
        3. The Catholic Church contradicts the Bible, forcing one to choose between the Bible and Rome.
        4. These contradictions are “obvious” and “major”
        5. Therefore the Word of God is to be accepted “over the word of Rome.”
        6. Catholics may accept “the word of Rome” because “the priest says it’s ok” and that “there is no contradiction”
        7. “A great majority” of Evangelicals do the same thing, accepting without ever questioning, and this is a problem.
        8. All Christians do this (7), as well as Jews.
        9a. If we agree with “the witness of Israel and the church” that the Bible is God-breathed,” then we cannot allow for there to be any real contradictions, only apparent one’s.
        10. We should “work hard to resolve any apparent contradictions” knowing that Jesus has already endorsed the [Protestant] Canon so rejecting any portion of Scripture would be to go against “the witness of Jesus.”
        11. Even if there is still an apparent contradiction after study “I will trust” Israel and the Church and never stop trying to resolve the contradiction [thus in principle never allowing there to be a contradiction]
        12. Reading a good commentary “will resolve” these apparent contradictions anyway.
        13. The whole of Israel “generally” accepted only the Protestant OT books “early on”
        14. The whole of the Church “generally” accepted the Protestant NT “early on”

        If I have misunderstood you, you can now easily correct me using this number system. :)

        • I have 5 areas of inquiry if you care to follow this dialogue.

          1a. I find a direct answer to my question in P9a — P11. It would seem that whatever list of books one accepts as Scripture, one can never allow any sort of contradictions (whether historical, logical, or canonical), even if they do have apparent contradictions we cannot resolve.

          1b. If this is true, and so also is P2, don’t you think it is probably a useless effort to try to convince a Catholic that the deuterocanonical books contain historical errors or contradict the rest of their Scripture, since the same sort of reasoning would apply to them? And if an evangelical expects a Catholic to reject a part of her canon on the grounds that it contains historical, canonical, or logical error in some way, would such an evangelical be expecting her to be open (in principle) to the idea that her canon may have real contradictions (not just apparent ones). If this is the case, is not such an evangelical expecting the Catholic to do something with her Scripture that a faithful evangelical should not be willing to do with his own canon? For such an evangelical will not be open in principle to allowing a real contradiction even in the face of unanswerable arguments (as you admit in P9a – P11), but would nevertheless expect the faithful Catholic to be open in this way. In other words, would not such an evangelical have a bit of a double standard here?

          1c. It would appear that even if such an evangelical had a persuasive argument and the Catholic could not provide a good counterargument, this would no more necessitate any concession on their part as it would for so many of my evangelical friends (including my own mother, and especially my 80 year old Grandmother) who would have absolutely no clue, for example, how to counter Bart Ehrman’s arguments (if they by change were exposed to them and happened to understand them).

          2. According to P11, it would seem that you “trust” an extrabiblical authority (Israel + the Church) for your acceptance of the Protestant Canon. You apparently discern this Tradition not from study of the Bible itself, but from some other source, for how else would you know P13 or P14? It would seem, then, that you allow for extrabiblical Tradition to be authoritative. Do you think this is faithful to Sola Scriptura?

          3a. If you have understood me correctly (and perhaps I have communicated poorly), then P1 and P7 appear to be contradictory propositions. Let me explain. The study of history is all I meant by “unique are of disciplinary study.” Not everybody studies history (whether as a scholar or a literate laymen). My contention has nothing to do with whether evangelicals could “in principle” check the sources you cite, but if you really understand my question (and perhaps I’m doing a poor job of asking it) you would understand that my question has to do with whether the faithful mass of evangelicals are already aware of these sources cite (which they would have to be if they responsibly accept the Protestant canon for the same reasons you do, without just taking someone else’s word for it). It appears that you admit in P7 that this is not the case.

          3b. The mass of faithful evangelicals, according to P7, do not in fact “check the facts” but simply accept the Protestant Tradition that tells them “this is the true canon.” Therefore, if the mass of faithful evangelical Christians accept the Protestant canon by inheriting the Protestant Tradition (as was my contention from the beginning of this discussion), then your reasons for rejecting the canon are (as was my contention) unique to those who take up the challenge to enter the study of history and investigate for themselves all the relevant ancient documents from which historians draw their general conclusions about, say, “Canon Usage in Second Temple Judaism in Jerusalem and the Diaspora.”

          3c. What I’m saying is not hard to understand. In order to make responsible, informed, historical arguments for the Protestant Canon, you’d better know your history well. Only people who know well the history of Second Temple Judaism can responsibly accept the Protestant Canon for the same reasons you do. And this is what I mean by your reasons being “unique” to your area of disciplinary study. The amount of Christians who actually have such responsible knowledge is infinitesimal, as even you admit in P7. Therefore, it seems that on the one hand, you are saying in P1 that your reasons for accepting the canon are not unique only to the small minority of evangelical Christians who happen to study history, but on the other hand in P7 you admit that the “great majority” of faithful evangelical Christians don’t study this history but “trust” the Protestant Tradition.

          4. Regarding P4, are you saying the contradictions are obvious in themselves, or are you saying such contradictions are obvious to anyone who reads them, or are you saying the contradictions are only obvious to Protestants or non Catholics? In other words, “Obvious to Whom?” REMEMBER: Bart Ehrman thinks the contradictions in Scripture are “obvious,” many Catholics think the contradictions in Protestant theology are “obvious,” atheists believe the contradictions between science and theism are “obvious,” Lutherans think the contradictions between Baptist theology and Biblical teaching (on baptism) are “obvious,” etc.

          5. Regarding P12, I have learned over the years two things: 1) Not all commentaries are created equal and 2) finding answers to my questions is never as easy as simply picking up a good commentary, but usually involves researching multiple commentaries (after sifting through the not-so-helpful one’s which may not even address the apparent contradiction, or give little help in resolving it). Protestant commentaries (I can’t speak for Catholic one’s) are so varied in their strategies for resolving a contradictions that one might find as many ways of resolving a contradiction as there are commentaries. For this reason, I think you make it sound easier than it really is, especially since P12 assumes a level of academic resources that one might argue only wealthy Christians have access to. For example, I’ve been to China, and not a single Christian I met there had the convenience of good Chinese commentaries. This seems to make P7 inevitable for so many evangelicals.

          6. Also, according to P7, although the mass of faithful evangelicals simply accept the Protestant canon more-or-less on the basis of some kind of Church authority (which I call the Protestant Tradition), you think your way of accepting the canon is the right way, and the “great majority” of Spirit-filled, Spirit-led evangelical Christians are simply wrong and should instead accept the canon the way you do. I know you probably won’t like me putting it this way, but it appears to be the implication of P7, since you think the way the mass of faithful evangelical Christians accept the canon is a “problem.” Are you saying that the mass of faithful evangelicals simply accept the Protestant canon on faith in the Protestant Tradition (e.g. their pastor, or some group of Protestants), and that therefore Evangelicals (generally speaking) don’t actually have any good reason (in actuality, not in principle) to accept the Protestant canon?

          In Christ,

          Bradley

          • CORRECTION:

            3b. “… then your reasons for *accepting* the canon are (as was my contention) unique to those who take up the challenge …

            Sorry

          • Shawn C. Madden says:

            Bradley, I will evaluate whether you understand me or not based on your answers.
            1a. If taken as a given that Scripture is inspired then inerrancy (in the autograph) is a logical conclusion. So, no real contraditions. This is not to say that ‘apparent contradictions’ are easily resolved.

            1b. The ‘historical errors or contradictions’ was not my issue, hence my first response to you. So, I leave this to he who brought it up.

            1c. My criticism of Devin’s book is in this vein. If you are going to attack an institution or person’s position then bring your arguments to a knowledgeable respresentative-don’t take cheap shots at the less informed. I work hard to ensure that folks in my Sunday school class can handle Ehrman (to a degree). He is local here, I have taught his students and we have discussed him at length in my Sunday school and seminary classes. My point previous argues for rigorous Sunday School classes so that even grandmothers can take on Ehrman. Of course I have known some church ladies that would leave Ehrman in their dust.

            2. You have not read my argument on the TNK. It begins with Matthew, and Luke and then finds agreement in Sirach, Philo, and Josephus. Yes, for 14 I do have to look at church history informed by what I read in the books everyone accepted early on-the gospels and then what I find in Peter’s endorsement of Paul’s writings.

            3a. My point in P7 is not a doctrinal one but observatoinal—a number of folks should study history but don’t (but everyone can—it only takes an ability to read-no higher math needed). This is true for Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, everyone. So, again, not propositional but observational. My point on the ‘history side’ is like any other ‘field’—once aware of an issue it takes little to run it down (again, all you have to be able to do is read), espcially with the internet these days. What it does take is a willingness and an effort. Again, not propositions, observations.

            3b. I argued here and have argued to my students (daughter, high school, library workers, seminary, Sunday School) that it is incumbent on anyone who claims to hold a position to know why they do and to own it for themselves and not just because someone (parent, pastor, priest) said so. I am fulfilling my responsibility by making sure that that happens in the case of those with whom I have contact and responsibility over.

            3c. See 3b.

            4. They were obvious to me and enough to get me to start my questioning (see 3b). What is an is not obvious to someone else was not my point. I agree that the finding of ‘obvious contraditions’ leads many people many different directions.

            5. I am surprised that you have not investigated the Catholic commentaries in Dayton. Please do so and recommend one for me and our library. I know that Scott Hahn started one but I haven’t looked at it yet, have you (or anyone else here)? The only place I have encountered them is in the Catholic contributions to the Anchor series. I do have to note that I have bumped into Catholics who are not happy with the likes of Raymond Brown (despite the imprimatur on his volumes on John) or Joseph Fitzmeyer.

            Again, the issue is whether or not someone is desirous and willing to take the time to run down what difficulties they run into. Yes, it will take looking at several sources and making an informed decision. Ihave run into several Catholics who would cite the church fathers as if they were in complete agreement, which, for those who have studied them, know that they are not. So it takes some studied, informed picking and choosing.

            6. Of course everyone should follow my way!

            Cold turkey I asked our dean in a meeting yesterday why he accepted the ‘Protestant Canon’ and much to my delight (no prompting) he was using the same method I did, Matthew, Luke, Josphus, etc.

            My main point to your main question is that whomever you are, study hard to know what you believe and be ready to defend it. I have taught this since I have been a teacher.

            To your point that the majority of Evangelicals ‘don’t actually have any good reason’ I will reemphasize what I said earlier, neither do the majority of Catholics or Jews or Muslims or secular humanists. Much as I disagree with many of my interlocutors here, I encourage anyone who is in a teaching position to teach their students to study and investigate what they believe and why. I am doing my part. Are you doing yours?

            Bradley, it seemed odd that you directed your question specifically as an Evangelical problem on a Catholic site. Why didn’t you open it up to all Christians? Why didn’t you couch the question to include the Catholics on this very Catholic site? Do you think that Catholics don’t come under those who ‘don’t actually have any good reason’ or are better informed than Evangelicals?

            In Christ
            Shawn

          • Devin Rose says:

            Shawn,

            2. You have not read my argument on the TNK. It begins with Matthew, and Luke and then finds agreement in Sirach, Philo, and Josephus. Yes, for 14 I do have to look at church history informed by what I read in the books everyone accepted early on-the gospels and then what I find in Peter’s endorsement of Paul’s writings.

            Not so fast. I refuse to spot you Matthew and Luke, and 2 Peter as well. Just because “everyone” accepted them “early on” doesn’t provide certainty they are inspired by God.

            Baptismal regeneration was accepted by everyone early on, but you reject that doctrine as false. You have to provide a principled reason for accepting the early Church’s consensus on issue X but rejecting it on issue Y. You have not provided that in any dialogue I have seen you take part in.

            And until you can do that, you cannot use Matthew and Luke to bootstrap your canon.

  12. Dear Bradley

    You have demonstrated penetrating insight.

    Sincerely

    Jeff Simmons

  13. Dear Shawn

    Thank you for your excellent explanation. As someone who has recently been convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church I was wondering if you could explain your last statement.

    “If I find ‘apparent contradictions’ I will trust God’s people, Israel and the Church, that the books are God’s Word and logically free of error and so break a sweat to resolve the issue and teach others to do likewise.”

    Are you referring to the Catholic Church? If not, what Church are you referring to? I am hoping that perhaps you could provide an explanation of your understanding of the Church.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Simmons

  14. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Jeff,

    For the TNK, Israel. For the NT, the church. Church is the body of believers in the saving work of Christ on the cross.

    In Christ
    Shawn

  15. Dear Shawn

    Thank you for that explanation. Would it be possible to clarify what you mean when you say: “Church is the body of believers in the saving work of Christ on the cross.”

    Is this a specific group of people such as the Catholic Church or anyone who is saved? My wife is a Baha’i and says she is part of the body of believers in the saving work of Christ. I wish I could say she was saved. However, Baha’is deny the Trinity. So I am wondering what a person has to believe in order to be part of the body of believers? The Catholic Church seems to explain this but I am wondering what you think. Do you have any thoughts on what someone has to believe in order to be saved? Is it necessary to believe in doctrines such as the Trinity and the physical resurrection in order to be saved? Does the Bible clarify these points?

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Simmons

  16. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Jeff,

    How does the ‘Catholic Church seem to explain’ your question? What are the ‘minimums’ according to them? I mean, can you believe that Mary had physical relations and other children and still be save? Do you have to believe that she is without sin? Or that she is the sole channel of grace? Can you be saved and not believe those things?

    I have answered your question. Your turn.

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  17. Dear Shawn

    Thank you for your answer. I don’t really know the answer to all those questions. However, I definitely will look into it. In the meantime, can you give me an honest answer. I am sincerely asking you to explain your understanding of the gospel. From your perspective why do you feel the Catholic Church is wrong? I really want to know. I have to leave in a few minutes but if you decide to take the time to answer I will read your explanation later.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Simmons

  18. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Jeff,

    Shoot me an e-mail (majormadd@gmail.com) and I will attempt to answer you one on one. I am involved in enough threads on the canon that I don’t want to open up another melee.

    In Christ,
    Shawn

  19. Shawn, I sure wish you would answer Jeff’s questions here, for all to see. I am interested in how you will respond. I know how you respond privately to questions, but I’d like to see it continue here.

    Also, you said a lot of things, and this really stuck out:

    I live and teach that of all the things in the world to work hard at and to break a sweat over, it is the Word of God. Nothing should command our effort as much as understanding God’s revealed truth. I also tell my students, ‘let the grammar of the Bible determine your theology’. Don’t bring your theology to the Bible and try to beat it to conform to your thinking. Yes, Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic are major tools in that endeavor but the translations do a good job on their own.

    What of the average Christian over the course of 20 centuries? Most people have been illiterate, and most never had access to Scripture, much less the ability to study it like the academic elite in American in the 21st century. Gosh, the printing press didn’t come around till 14 centuries after Christ. How did Christ provide for His people then? How can 98% of Christians since the time of Christ do what you tell your students to do? How is sola scriptura workable for the masses? Did God forget to provide access to Truth for them?

    • Shawn C. Madden says:

      Leila,

      Sorry, not posting it here.

      My statement concerning what I do concerns the present and my responsibility to those with whom the LORD brings me into contact. How things were handled in other times and places was not my point. Present, personal responsibility was.

      In Christ
      Shawn

  20. Dear Shawn

    I will definitely shoot you an e-mail. Although I think a lot of people here would appreciate hearing your answer. From my perspective, I feel like we are all traveling on a journey together. My greatest desire is to love people the way Christ loved people. So, I sincerely try to honor and respect all perspectives even if I don’t always agree. If Catholics and Protestants are even close to being right then we both agree that the consequences of what we believe and how we live is of paramount importance. For me, questions about the Canon are fascinating but fail to touch the real heart of the issue which is: What must I do to be saved? In regard to the issue of salvation, Leila made what I thought was a good comment. What about people throughout history who have not been able to read and study the Bible?

    I do want to clarify something here. As I stated, I recently came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is true. However, I did not mention how recent that decision was. I made that decision about a month ago. I begin RCIA classes on September 28. So, I am not officially Catholic yet but am on my way to becoming Catholic.

    Finally, I want to say that I think there are probably a lot more people like myself and Leila that want to hear what you have to say. In all sincerity I want to say that if you feel the Catholic Church is teaching a different gospel then this is an opportunity for you to explain why you believe this. I have no problems with having my views critiqued and I am guessing most of the people who read these posts do not have a problem with it either. After all, don’t you think the ultimate goal of all these discussions about the Canon are really a roundabout way of discussing the real issue: “What must I do to be saved?” This can be done in a spirit of charity and goodwill.

    Sincerely

    Jeff Simmons

    • Shawn C. Madden says:

      Jeff,

      You don’t know Leila.

      This discussion is on the canon and that is plenty at this moment. Like I said, I will answer you off line–that will keep it from becoming a different thread and discussion. Of course, it does not preclude Leila or Devin or Brent from voicing their opinions here as to what it takes to be saved.

      In Christ
      Shawn

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        If folks like Leila are truly interested in your question and not just locking and loading to hit my answers then they can also answer my questions on that issue that I asked earlier.

        In Christ
        Shawn

  21. Dear Shawn

    I understand your reluctance to answer in this format. I did send you an e-mail. If you have time I would be very interested to know what you have to say.

    I wanted to mention that it is true I don’t know Leila or anyone else here. I don’t know you either. I have no idea what you really believe. I can only guess. I know you are a Baptist but that does not necessarily mean anything. That is one of the reasons I am asking.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Simmons

  22. Leila says:

    Shawn, and they don’t know you, either. (But they are getting acquainted.)

    For the record, Shawn and I have been dialoguing (both publicly and privately) for twelve years or so. He is much more of a scholar than I am, for sure, but I have found that he does not answer logic questions with any clarity. I am glad there is a public forum for these discussions, because so often my questions go unanswered. Like the one above.

    Shawn, I hope you will choose to answer it. There are always lurkers and others who are on the fence, and they want to hear both sides. I’d like to hear your side to that question, too. Did God forget about most of the Christians in the world, or did He provide a way for them to know the way to salvation, too, even without the amount of time and effort you and your 21st century American students have to study the ancient texts, etc.?

    I like you Shawn, and you know that, but I want you to be a straight shooter and answer the question.

    Blessings!

  23. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Leila,

    I will pass on that one. But, nothing precludes you from providing your answer. I am sure lurkers are interested in your views too.

    In Christ
    Shawn

    • Brent says:

      Salvation is an act of grace through Christ’s sacrifice in the soul. Those who die in a state of friendship with God because of that grace will be saved. Everything else that is argued against Catholic soteriology fails to grasp the simplistic center of the Catholic gospel. Salvation was, is, and will always be constituted in the personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

      Every question about sacraments, venial/mortal sins, etc. simply address what our Lord taught his Apostles regarding how one “works out one’s salvation with fear and trembling”. I encounter the Risen Christ in the sacraments. To believe all that the Catholic Church teaches is merely to submit to Christ’s authority vested in His Church. To willfully and with complete knowledge dissent from the Truth taught by Christ through His Church would place my soul in a state of enmity with God. To reject the truth is to reject The Truth and thus The Way and The Life. In turn, I would resist the grace of God and my faith would be dead.

      Moreover, the question recorded in the Gospels is, “What must I do to be saved?” Not believe. Belief is only as good as the actions that correspond to that belief. In other words, faith without works is dead. Dead faith is belief without works animated by agape.

    • Leila says:

      I’d pass on that one, too, if I were you. ;)

      Blessings, brother!

      • Leila says:

        And one more thought, Shawn. The lurkers would be much better served by answers from the great Catholic converts here. They do a great job giving the Catholic position and they can speak for the Church and for me with eloquence.

        What I have never heard is a response to the question I posed to you, and that is why I am asking. It seems there is no one to answer it.

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        Leila,

        And apparently you have passed on it too! Not even willing to answer your own question.

        But, it really isn’t a speculation question is it? It would seem that you should be able to answer your own question from history. You seem to have an answer–let’s see it.

        In Christ
        Shawn

  24. Dear Brent

    Thank you for that helpful and honest answer. I greatly appreciate your insight on these matters. As I mentioned previously I start RCIA classes on September 28. Perhaps after further study I will be able to answer as eloquently as you have.

    Sincerely

    Jeff Simmons

  25. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Devin,

    My research into baptism revealed nothing of the sort, i.e. early acceptance of baptismal regeneration. If you have proof I would be interested in seeing it.

    So, Gospels accepted early on (you disagree?). TNK canon in Gospels. My position stands.

    In Christ,
    Shawn

    • Devin Rose says:

      Shawn,

      Here’s an avalanche of evidence from the Bible and the Fathers and the early Church: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/the-church-fathers-on-baptismal-regeneration/

      Even Protestant apologist William Webster, with whom I am sure you are familiar, concedes that the Church “went off the rails” from the beginning by teaching baptismal regeneration.

      You have not provided a principled reason for believing the gospels based on their early acceptance by the Church but disbelieving baptismal regeneration, accepted by the same people at the same time. So your position is currently based on an ad hoc decision. Thus, your position does not stand (not even getting to the TNK thing yet).

  26. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Devin,

    Impressive evidence. I will read it.

    I did find this that you (?) wrote, ‘If we are to follow the Church and the Creed, then when we say we believe in “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” we must believe what the Church has always taught this to mean. The faith by which we are saved, is a faith that testifies that we are saved by baptism.’

    Are you saying that you are saved by ‘baptism’?

    I have never argued ‘because I agree X said 1′ that I have to agree to everything that X says. Or several Xs. Are you of the opinion that in my agreement with someone on one point it is a necessity on my part to endorse everything someone says? Do you believe that?

    In Christ,
    Shawn

    • Devin Rose says:

      Shawn,

      Second question first.

      What you have to establish is a principled reason for believing in X’s discernment, whether of the canon or of one book or of other doctrines.

      X could be the early Church.
      X could be a single Father.
      X could be Marcion.
      X could be Joseph Smith.
      X could be you.

      So, you said that you accepted Matthew because “everyone” accepted it early on, and by everyone you meant certain members of the early Church (or perhaps the early Church itself). Let’s say you meant Clement, Irenaeus, and other early Christians who believed in the inspiration of Matthew’s gospel.

      The question then becomes, what principled reason do you have for accepting their opinion on one doctrine but not on another?

      True, you don’t have to provide one, but that means that your decisions to 1) trust certain early Christians but not others (e.g. Marcion) and 2) to trust this selected set of Church leaders on one matter but not on another is ad hoc. And if you are going to accept an ad hoc like that, you will have a hard time saying Ehrman is wrong when he says his canon is different because he chose Marcion and his followers as rightly choosing the canon.

      The Catholic position has a principled reason for believing Matthew’s gospel is inspired: We believe God has protected His Church from error in her discernment of doctrines on faith and morals. And so, we don’t have conscience-binding certainty that Matthew is canonical because this or that Church Father believed it–though that certainly provides supporting evidence–but rather because the Church discerned the canon and God protected this discernment from error.

      But you do not have confidence in the Church’s discernment–you don’t think God protected it from error, believing instead that the Church did err–so you cannot have confidence in the canon she discerned.

      And further you do not have confidence in any one Church Father. Even Jerome, whom you and Mike point to for his support of the Protestant canon, defended Mary’s perpetual virginity, a doctrine you think utterly false. Same with the Church Fathers who believed in Matthew but also believed in the authority of bishops and apostolic succession and baptismal regeneration etc. etc.

      So you are unable to provide a principled reason for believing that any person or group’s discernment of the canon was protected from error while other doctrines they discerned were not. Hence, you cannot have confidence in your canon, including Matthew and Luke, which you seek to use to bootstrap your canon-deriving process.

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        Devin,

        You wrote, ‘We believe God has protected His Church from error in her discernment of doctrines on faith and morals. And so, we don’t have conscience-binding certainty that Matthew is canonical because this or that Church Father believed it–though that certainly provides supporting evidence–but rather because the Church discerned the canon and God protected this discernment from error.’

        Show me your defense for this. One, define ‘Church’. Then show me where you find support that your definition of ‘church’ is protected from ‘error’.

        In Christ,
        Shawn

        • Devin Rose says:

          Shawn,

          You are going on the offensive against my position but have completely ignored my arguments against your position. As it stands now, your position rests on an ad hoc judgment.

          Here’s an article arguing that Christ founded a visible Church: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

          As Augustine said, the Catholic Church is that Church that everyone knows and that no heretic will claim his own is. It’s visible. It’s easy to find. It’s vicar is the bishop of Rome, with whom the other bishops are in full communion.

          And as Irenaeus said, we look to the Church of Christ which, though composed of many churches, all speak with the same voice the one true faith of God, following the Tradition of the Apostles, especially safeguarded in the (glorious) church of Rome, with whom all other churches must agree.

          Christ made promises to the Apostles, the first rightful leaders of His Church, as well as made promises about the Church. These are easy to find, from Matthew to John’s gospel (e.g. John 16:13 for one), to 1 Timothy, etc. etc.

          Can you deny all this and claim the Church as an invisible collection of all believers? Sure. But that definition is a novelty necessitated by the Protestant Reformation.

          I hope you will show us how you avoid the ad hoc error.

          • Shawn C. Madden says:

            Devin,

            Do I answer you guys with a link to someone else’s comments? I asked you a question, not Bryan Cross. Show me YOUR proofs, not someone elses otherwise I will just spend my time sending you links. Actually, no I won’t. I will just quit it here as I am interested in what you think, not what a link thinks. Otherwise you should only be sending me Vatican.va posts. Come to think of it, shouldn’t that be the only source of your information? Otherwise, as I have told Leila, I am just getting some lay Catholic’s opinion (no Imprimatur any where) so no real guarantee that what I am reading from you guys represents Rome at all. I don’t even think any of you here is a priest (big problems there) or even an authorized Catholic representative, are you? Of course, as you guys like to point out, we Protestants are totally independent and don’t have to say ‘thus says Rome’. All we have to do (and which I have been doing) is to say, ‘this is what I think the passage says.’

            To start off, your first Scripture says nothing about God protecting the Roman church from error. Try again.

            As far as your question, of course I pick and choose, as do you as you demonstrated (you don’t agree with Jerome on the canon-you may or may not agree with him on his translation of Gen 3.15–the Roman church has changed there). For me, if someone (from apostolic times to now-Paul’s advice to the Galatians 1.8 I take to heart–Rome very definitely teaches a different Gospel) says something that I am convinced violates God’s Word then I will disagree with them. Will you not on your own or do you first check all of your Roman sources to make sure that what you thought was ‘correct’ thinking? Me, I double check my interpretation against others just to make sure I am not out there alone but I reserve the right to make a decision based on my own studied work. You do too, as does anyone, even Leila (to an extent).

            In Christ,
            Shawn

          • Devin Rose says:

            Shawn,

            As a Catholic, if someone has already said it well, I will reference their work. Why reinvent the wheel? If Aquinas or Augustine or Chrysostom or Jimmy Akin or the Called to Communion guys have already produced a solid argument for a teaching, I will reference them instead of trying to create my own work, unless I think I have a unique insight into it.

            Ecclesiology is a deep issue. I paraphrased a few of the early Christians on what the Church is. I point out that, had we lived back then, it would have been very clear what the Church is and what are schisms from that Church. Would you have followed the Gnostics, or stayed with the Church? Followed the Montanists, or stayed with the Church? The Sabellians, or the Church? The Arians, or the Church? The Donatists, or the Church? The Novatians, or the Church?

            Protestantism had to change this conception of the Church–now there are many different “branches” in the tree of Christianity; there is no visible Church like there was in the early centuries [so a Protestant would argue]. But in reality there is a Church, the Catholic Church, and there are schisms from the Church (e.g. Protestantism).

            But I know well what little chance there is for you to change your understanding of the Church from your Protestant view. So I am not going to get into a big discussion about it here. If you comment over at Called to Communion’s article, I will respond there.

            And, I am an authorized Catholic representative, empowered by the Church to spread the fullness of the truth found in the Catholic Faith, under obedience to my bishop.

            For me, if someone…says something that I am convinced violates God’s Word then I will disagree with them.

            Ah, but you have not demonstrated how you have confidence in what God’s Word consists of–that’s the very topic being discussed here–so the axe is at the root of your epistemological tree, whose roots are resting shakily on an ad hoc judgment. So you are 1) not able to say that something violates “God’s Word” and 2) even if you knew what God’s Word was, you would have to demonstrate how it is that you were the interpretive authority for God’s Word that I or anyone else should listen to.

            I reserve the right to make a decision based on my own studied work. You do too, as does anyone

            This is a tu quoque attempt at a “rebuttal” and it doesn’t work for the explanation given here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

            In short, the difference between our positions does not reside in the fact that one of us does “studied work” and the other doesn’t, but in what is discovered by that work.

            Shawn, I can see you are getting frustrated. I understand it. When I was presented with this ad hoc problem at the root of Protestantism’s position on the canon, I was dumbstruck. I searched everywhere to find an answer, a way around it, and I did not find it. I have continued looking for ten years and haven’t found it. I do not think it exists. That is disturbing for you, who have based decades of your life in Protestantism and whose career is based on teaching at a Protestant institution. I say this to communicate to you that I have an inkling of how tough this is for you to accept or even face.

            The best response would be take a step back and say you need to consider this problem I have posed to you.

            May Christ unite us in the fullness of the truth!

            God bless,
            Devin

    • Devin Rose says:

      First question on baptism: here’s an article that talks about it: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2008/0803fea2.asp

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        ‘Ah, but you have not demonstrated how you have confidence in what God’s Word consists of–that’s the very topic being discussed here–so the axe is at the root of your epistemological tree, whose roots are resting shakily on an ad hoc judgment.’

        Yes I have. So no problem at all on my part. The arguments you have presented for your canon have not been demonstrated at all other than ‘Trent said so.’

        Frustrated? Only when I am talking to one person and they can’t articulate their answer well enough to present it to me without posting someone else’s url. On this one you have given your opinion-good.

        As far as definition of ‘Church’ your allegiance and embrace of one that so violates the clear teaching of God’s Word (Mary, purgatory, priests, sacraments) reminds me of the Pharisees who Jesus told in Matthew 9–‘do not say that you have Abraham for your father’, if those who claim Abraham for their father can be cut off for maltreating God’s Word, so too can those who claim ‘Apostolic succession’ be cut off if they so violate the clear teachings of God’s Word. Paul made that point in Galatians 1.8. No claim of ‘authority’ from perceived succession or unity in Rome permits clear violations of God’s Word.

        Here is a specific for instance. Show me in the New Tesatment a ‘priestly office’ besides the ‘priesthood of the believer.’ Don’t bother referencing the Called to Communion article, is was embarassing to read the first time I read it. I couldn’t believe they were trying to argue the way they were with a straight face. So Devin, where do you find the ‘priest’ (iereus/sacerdo) as a NT office in the NT?

        In Christ,
        Shawn

        • Devin Rose says:

          Yes I have [demonstrated how I have confidence in the books of the Bible]. So no problem at all on my part.

          So far, you have said that you “begin with Matthew and Luke…” to start your canon-discerning process. And I challenged you as to why you accept the testimony of the early Christians on this issue but not on others (like baptismal regeneration). You provided no answer.

          To your credit, you did say you would read more about the Fathers’ and the early Church’s unanimous testimony to baptismal regeneration. But that was all.

          So you have provided no reason for accepting Matthew and Luke other than that (certain) early Christians accepted them. I pointed out why this is ad hoc. You have not responded. So, contrary to your assertion, you do have a problem.

          Until we resolve this fundamental issue, talking about other ones dependent on this one doesn’t make sense.

          • Shawn C. Madden says:

            As you have set yourself up as an ‘official and sanctioned teacher of Catholic doctrine’ (correct me if I am wrong-you did mention a local bishop didn’t you?) and I find a Catholic reference that bears the Imprimatur that disagrees with you, whom should I believe? You or the Imprimatured work?

          • Devin Rose says:

            Shawn,

            These comments you are making are all out of order. It’s hard to follow the discussions because you reply to the wrong comments.

            Nonetheless, though you put words in my mouth I didn’t say, produce for me the “imprimatured” work that contradicts something. Imprimatur just means “let it be published” I recall. Maybe you mean Nihil Obstat? In any event, you’re trying to catch me out in something, but it won’t work. I can make mistakes. As can other Catholics. If we err, then we are open to the correction of the Church. I happily and humbly submit all that I say to the Church’s judgment.

  27. 1 Peter 3:1 “baptism now saves you”

    Baptism is the ordinary means of salvation.

  28. ***Oops! Make that 1 Peter 3:21

  29. Shawn,

    I am grateful for your response, and your taking advantage of my numbering system. :)

    [the dialogue continues]

    R1a. :: My contention is not only that we cannot allow for contradictions even if they are not “easily resolved,” but even if we never find a resolution (in this life). On the individual level, even if I personally cannot resolve an apparent contradiction, it would seem this never gives me the “right” to allow it to be a real contradiction. Because of this, I don’t think it is fair for Evangelicals to expect people of other faiths (whether this is Catholic, Muslim, or Atheism [yes I consider atheism a “faith”]) to give up their faith just because some apologist shows them apparent contradictions (which they cannot resolve in this life) in their canon, Koran, or worldview. This is not to say that arguments have no place, but it is to say that I am humble enough to admit that I cannot expect others to reject what they believe based on apparent contradictions (which they cannot resolve) if I myself am unwilling to do the same. I think this is only fair.

    R1b. :: I wasn’t necessarily saying this is your issue. I was only raising the question. But if you cannot show me that I am mistaken in R1a (above), this makes me more confident that I am right, and that it’s unfair for an evangelical to expect others to reject their faith based on apparent contradictions (which they cannot resolve), since we ourselves are not willing to allow apparent contradictions (which we cannot resolve) to be a grounds for rejection our own faith. Perhaps you have no interest in telling me that I am wrong about this, and making a counter-argument that it is indeed fair for evangelicals to expect others to do what they are unwilling to do, or perhaps (what is more likely it seems to me), given P9a – P11, there really isn’t a good counter-argument to my contention. If you have no interest in making such a counter-argument, it only further convinces me that I am right about this.
    R1c.1. :: It is my contention that Christians who have Sunday School teachers who actually read books written by the critics of Christianity are few and far between. Your Sunday School class is luck to have you doing this, but I believe Sunday School classes like yours are the exception.

    R1c.2 :: Furthermore, I also don’t think (as you seem to) that it is the duty of every Christian to have ready philosophical, historical, biblical, and theological answers to the most sophisticated critics of Christian faith. (I don’t agree with the way most Christian apologists prooftext I Peter 3:15 either) I think a Christian can live on fire for God and as a faithful servant in the Kingdom without ever taking interest in reading, say, books from Bart Ehrman, then reading more books to find answers on how to respond to him, or learning how to read Greek and reading the variant manuscripts, etc. In fact, I believe that probably the great majority of the most godly Christians in the world were not so much conversant with, say, things like the original historical documents of Second Temple Judaism, or the philosophy of Bertrand Russell, or things like this. Most of the mass of faithful evangelical Christians spend their time serving Christ and his Church in other ways, such as sharing the simple gospel message to the lost, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, loving their neighbor in simple yet sacrificial ways, or giving their lives in martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. Those whom God calls to the task of what today we call an “apologist” have a special gift, not a common one, and God uses them to protect the flock from those who wish to destroy their faith. The majority of the mass of faithful Christians strengthen the faith of the Church in other ways. I hardly find this to be a controversial thing to say, but I have a feeling that maybe you disagree with me on this point.

    R2.1 :: My comments were not in reference to your argument on the TNK (you do not need to keep explaining this argument), they were based rather on your own accurate summary of where this argument leaves you standing. And I quote: “If I find ‘apparent contradictions’ I will trust God’s people, Israel and the Church, that the books are God’s Word and logically free of error…” Even if I have not read your argument on the TNK, I have understood your own summary of where it leaves you standing. So unless you have given me a poor summary of your own views, my contention still stands. You “trust” (your words not mine) an extrabiblical authority, namely “Israel and the Church” (again your words not mine) for your acceptance of the Protestant Canon. You admit (in 2) that you discern this Tradition not from study of the Bible itself, but from some other source (e.g. P13 or P14). It would seem, then, that you allow for extrabiblical Tradition to be authoritative. I don’t see how this fits with Sola Scriptura, and you can’t responsibly escape my question by simply accusing me of ignorance, since all I need for this contention to stick, is your own summary of where your own arguments leaves you standing: “trusting” (your words, not mine) in “the Church and Israel” (your words).

    R2.2 :: In other words, trusting in an extrabiblical authority (my words). Unless you can show me that the following argument is unsound (or retract your own summary of where your position leaves you standing) my contention sticks: Trusting in “Israel and the Church” for acceptance of the canon is not the same thing as trusting in the teachings of the canon itself, but is trust in an extrabiblical authority. Sola Scriptura teaches that no extrabiblical Tradition (which would seem to include the tradition of “Israel and the Church” on the canon) has authority, but ~only~ the Bible. Otherwise Sola is not Sola.

    R3a.1 :: I’m afraid your distinction between “observational” and “propositional” is an unfortunate mistake in logic that confuses cause and effect. In this case, your observation has caused you to make a proposition that is both ~based on~ your observation, and ~about~ your observation, but should not be confused with the observation itself. An observation is distinct from a proposition yes, but the two (in this case) are related as cause and effect. It’s one thing for you to observe that the mass of faithful evangelicals don’t study history, it’s quite another for you to put your observation into propositional form, that is, for you to write “A number of folks should study the history but don’t.” Once you put it into words like that, it becomes a proposition; a proposition based on observation, but a proposition nonetheless. I’m surprised that you would fail to see this. The word “proposition” (as I am using it anyway) simply refers to anything stated or affirmed for consideration, discussion, illustration, argument, etc. In this case, you have stated (based on observation) that “a number of folks should study history but don’t.” Another way I can illustrate how this is a proposition, is to remind you that this statement can be believed or not believed, affirmed or not affirmed, disagreed with or agreed with. It has all the properties of a proposition. Yes, yes, I realize it’s a proposition based on observation, but just because it’s based on observation doesn’t make it non-propositional.

    R3a.2 :: You also used the words “doctrinal” and “propositional” interchangeably. I know this because of the way you used the word “again” in the sentence: “So, again, not propositional but observational” Wait, where before this sentence did you already say that? Nowhere. But you did say “My point in P7 is not doctrinal but observational.” Therefore, the only way you could’ve understood yourself as saying something twice, is if we take you to be saying the same thing with different words. I suspect this is the source of your confusion, namely, thinking that I mean by my word “propositional” the same thing you mean by “doctrinal” (whatever that might be).

    R3b. :: The fact that you try hard to make sure that the mass of faithful evangelicals do not just accept the canon based on the Protestant Tradition raises no threat to my contention that the mass of faithful evangelical Christians accept the Protestant canon by inheriting the Protestant Tradition (as was my contention from the beginning of this discussion) or my contention that your reasons for rejecting the canon are (as was my contention) unique to those who take up the challenge to enter the study of history. It only proves that although my contention is true, you are trying your best to see to it that as far as it is in your power, you will try to reverse this state of affairs because you see it as “problematic.” If this is your response to my contention, then you have (in so many words) granted my contention, adding only that you are doing your best to reverse the current state of affairs. Again, I am more interested in what Protestantism actually is, not what you hope it to be one day. Again, if we define Protestantism by what it actually is, I repeat: the “great majority” of faithful evangelical Christians don’t study this history but “trust” the Protestant Tradition. Evangelical Protestants who accept the canon for the same reasons you do are infinitesimal (in spite of your efforts to grow the number).

    R4. :: “What is and is not obvious to someone else was not my point.” Yes, but it was mine.

    R5. :: The Anchor Bible Commentary series is probably the best one I can think of. Bryan Scott and the guys at Called to Communion probably would know if there is anything better. They seem to be the most source knowledgeable about Catholic literature here in this Christian niche of the blogosphere.

    R6. :: Again, your insight that “the majority of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims or secular humanists” don’t have good reasons for accepting their canon only concedes my point and applies it even more broadly. So my point not only still stands, but has an even broader application than I cared to mention. Again, the mass of faithful evangelical Protestants accept the canon based on faith (as do many others) in an extrabiblical Tradition, trusting that God guided that Tradition by his good providence.

    RQ (in response to your question). :: If you are referring to my contention about Protestant reasons for accepting the canon, I’m afraid you have misread the situation. I am calling attention to what appears to you to be an Evangelical “problem,” but I never said it was a problem (and perhaps a bit of that has come out in R1c.2).

    In Christ,

    Bradley

  30. Shawn C. Madden says:

    Bradley,

    Again, it is interesting to me that you have not opened your contentions up to the wider Christian audience, that you are focusing on the Evangelical aspect of it on a Catholic web site and stubbornly staying there without asking the same question of the Catholic audience here. It looks an awful lot like you are trying to find confirmation for becoming a Catholic. Are you?

    1. Again, I am not the one making the ‘irresolvable contradiction argument.’ So go ask that of he who made it.

    2. OK, I give you ‘observation’ and ‘proposition.’ So what?

    3. Yes, many Christians (Evangelical, Catholic, Moravian) survive just fine without such discussions as ours. No problem with that at all. If someone has questions, let them dig. If there is an opportunity to teach or learn deeper issues, take it.

    4. Apparently my argument on the TNK has to be repeated as you are still not getting it. I at the first said that I will give you or whomever the fact that I rely on church history (use the word tradition, fine) for the acceptance of the Gospels and the NT. Having accepted the Gospels I find the TNK there, in Scripture–i.e., Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke are my first definitions of Israel. When I say Israel (and I think I did say this) I start out with Matthew and Luke and then find confirmation in Sirach, Philo and Josephus. If I didn’t say it before, mea culpa, I have said it now. Should I say it again? If you don’t buy my reasoning, fine. If you think it is a weakness on my part, fine. It satisfies me and a bunch of others. If you or others see it as a weakness of the Sola Scriptura argument that I go outside of Scripture to find Scripture, fine.

    In Christ
    Shawn

    • Leila says:

      Shawn, you said: “If you or others see it as a weakness of the Sola Scriptura argument that I go outside of Scripture to find Scripture, fine.”

      Shawn, do you see it as a weakness of the Sola Scriptura argument?

      If not, why not?

    • Shawn,

      I have replied to each of your points, placing an R in front of the numbers that correspond to your points. This should make our dialogue easier to follow.

      [… the dialogue continues…]

      R1. :: This reply is painfully ambiguous. What exactly do you mean by the “irresolvable contradiction argument”

      ARGUMENT #1 :: If by this you are referring the argument that goes something like this: “We cannot in principle allow for any contradictions in the Word of God even if we find apparent contradictions we cannot resolve (in this life)” then actually I am the one making this argument. But this still makes your comment hard to interpret, for you seem to speak of me in third person as I were an outsider to our dialogue when you say “So go ask that of he who made it,” as if I were supposed to go and ask myself a question, and start up a dialogue with myself. Therefore I conclude this must not be the argument you have in mind.

      ARGUMENT #2: If by this you are referring to something like this: “I cannot expect others to reject what they believe based on apparent contradictions (which they cannot resolve) if I myself am unwilling to do the same,” then again, I am the one who made this argument

      ARGUMENT #3 :: If the argument you refer to goes something like this: “If I find ‘apparent contradictions’ I will trust God’s people, Israel and the Church, that the books are God’s Word and logically free of error and so break a sweat to resolve the issue and teach others to do likewise,” then actually, you did make this argument. But this would make your comment seem as if you had Alzheimer’s, forgetting what you have said. So you must not have been referring to this either.

      ARGUMENT #4 :: Let’s take argument #4 as whatever you had in mind. If the argument you refer to is anything other than A#1 and A#3 above (each of which span the content of this part of our dialogue), maybe I’ve missed something, but I am at a loss to know exactly what A#4 is? It’s like you’ve pulled a rabbit out of a hat, killed it, then made yourself disappear.

      R2. :: Only three things appear to follow: (1) the distinction you made only served to distract our dialogue and detour us into an elementary path about the meaning of commonly understood words, and in order to even get back to where we were in the dialogue (as opposed to regress further into such elementary discussions), you must consider that (2) my contention in 3a still stands, and you seem to be caught in yet another contradiction between P1 and P7 (in the specific way that I spelled out in 3a above), and (3) you continue to discredit yourself by taking back things you say when pressed on them, which makes it seem like you haven’t really thought things through very well before you said them.

      R3. :: On the one hand you say that Christians who don’t study history are a “problem,” (see P7 above in my list of propositions extracted from your comments) since they take the Protestant canon by faith without having done their historical homework. On the other hand, you say there is “no problem with that at all.” Pardon the pun here, but there is an “apparent contradiction” in your present concession with what you said earlier in P7. Perhaps you care to clarify why this is only an “apparent” contradiction and not “real”?

      R4. :: Quoting Matthew and Luke only gets you a Jewish Canon. Matthew and Luke never implicitly or explicitly affirm the books of the New Testament (nor do any other NT authors). Therefore, even if we suppose that if Matthew and Luke explicitly listed every OT book (excluding the deuterocanonical books) you still are “trusting” in an extrabiblical Tradition for your Protestant Canon. If this extrabiblical Tradition is not authoritative (has no authority), then it would seem that neither is the Protestant canon on which it rests. To put it another way, if the “rug” on which the Protestant canon stands is not authoritative, then ironically, this pulls the “rug” out from underneath Sola Scriptura (since Sola takes for granted the authority of the Protestant Canon). And this is why you cannot so easily dismiss Devin’s contention that we need some kind of authoritative Tradition. I’m not saying this logically entails that this Tradition be the Pope or your local Orthodox Patriarch, so don’t mistake my arguments as if I’m some sort of Catholic or Orthodox apologist. If ever there was a time to show all these Catholics that the Protestant conception of authority makes good sense, now is your perfect opportunity. But we can never find a good answer to Devin’s contention if we don’t seek to understand or are not willing to recognize the weight of the challenge. This is why I think my challenge is good for you, and that you shouldn’t despise me, for I am your Gadfly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_gadfly).

      RF (response to your final comment) :: Your last statement also appears ambiguous to me, for I cannot exactly tell what questions you are referring to. What questions have I asked you that you would like me to also direct to the Catholic audience here? Spell them out and I will have no problem asking the Catholics. I’m not looking for confirmation for becoming a Catholic (although if I were it appears that it wouldn’t be all that hard). I cannot look for confirmation on becoming Catholic unless I have become Catholic, since that would require for me to look for confirmation on something I haven’t done. Again, I think you misunderstand my purpose here: I am the Gadfly (whether you like it or not).

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        Bradley,

        Drop the pretense. I think that you have accomplished your mission and have presented your qualifications here to become the next ‘Evangelical Who Became a Catholic.’ They will welcome you as another former reformed evangelical over at Called to Communion. I am sure they are impressed with your ability to complicate what to this old Marine was a simple issue.

        Gadfly? The Marine Corps word for that is pissant. You are well qualified.

        In Christ
        Shawn

        • Shawn,

          Which part your reply cannot be reduced to mere ad hominem? If you can point it out to me, I will respond. Otherwise, I think that since our dialogue has regressed from elementary clarifications of the meaning of words to an even lower level of name-calling, I will no longer participate. I believe that something even more important than discerning truth through the exchange of rational arguments is compromised when a dialogue reaches the level where it ceases to be charitable.

          Just as the greatest “apologetic” for the gospel of Jesus Christ is Christian love, so the greatest “apologetic” for any church is the same. I understand myself to have been treated with more respect and courtesy from the Catholics in this dialogue than from you. Someone motivated by love who gets his facts wrong and makes poor logical mistakes is more pleasing to God than he who speaks the truth without error and with logical consistency, but fails to speak the truth “in love.” The goal of our reasoning together should be love (of God and neighbor), and when we compromise this we have become so caught up in the means we have lost sight of the end, and forgotten the most important teaching in the Scripture’s we are arguing over:

          “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall Love your Neighbor as Yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another …” – The Apostle Paul (Gal. 5:14).

          [... the dialogue ends ...]

          Bradley

  31. Leila says:

    In response to Shawn at 10:49. Actually, Shawn, we Catholics ultimately subordinate our “interpretations” to the teachings of the Church. We defer to her on issues of faith and morals if there is any conflict between what we feel and what the Church teaches.

    Of course, after I state that time and again, your argument always goes back to the default: “Where are the official teachings of the Church? How can I know what these teachings are?” And yet not once in years have you answered my question to you: What Catholic teaching is unclear to you? Even you, an ex-Catholic Baptist, know full well what the teachings of the Church are. So what am I to make of your question?

    At base, you know a lot of things that you claim not to understand (i.e., what is official Church teaching), and then you also claim to understand a lot of things that you don’t know (i.e. your insistence, over and above what you know to be official Church teaching, that Catholics worship Mary).

    Sometimes it makes my eyes cross.

    • Devin Rose says:

      If Shawn wants me to buy and mail him gift copies of the Catechism as well as Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, I would be happy to.

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        Devin,

        Have Catechism, have Ott. I have quoted more Catholic doctrine to Leila than she has to me.

        Worshipping Mary–If I see someone kneeling down before a statue, kissing it, putting crowns, flowers, money on it, parading it through cities, placing it in a place of honor in the ‘house of God’ . . .

        If I read prayers directed to Mary (or any other ‘saint’) and asking of her that which should only be asked of God or attributing to her that which should only be attributed to God, or seeing things directed to her or a ‘saint’ that looks an awful lot like what I read about the children of Israel doing in Kings, or saying that all of the Grace of God goes through her . . .

        I don’t know, maybe that isn’t worship. Yeah, right. I saw Hindus doing the same thing in their temple. I suspect you would not be a great fan of that.

        In Christ
        Shawn

        • Leila says:

          I understand that you don’t read links, Shawn, but for anyone else reading, Brent has just recently answered those questions (Hindu worship of gods the same as Catholic veneration of Mary?, etc.), here:

          http://www.almostnotcatholic.com/2011/08/myth-busters-catholics-worship-mary.html

          Myth busters.

          And, you said:

          I saw Hindus doing the same thing in their temple. I suspect you would not be a great fan of that.

          Right, because they are worshipping false gods. Hindus will admit that that is their worship of gods. If they were simply venerating their holy dead, and not worshipping false gods, I suspect we would not have a problem with that. You?

    • Shawn C. Madden says:

      Leila,

      If I have crossed your eyes I have accomplished my mission.

      Shawn

      • Leila says:

        Your mission is to cross my eyes? Interesting, because my mission is to proclaim Christ and His truths in clarity, not confusion.

        • Shawn C. Madden says:

          Well, you have failed in your mission.

          • Leila says:

            And so I ask yet again: What part of the Catholic Church’s teaching is not clear to you? Are you unclear about what Catholics believe about baptism? Or contraception? Or the Eucharist? Or any other point of Catholic doctrine?

            Because I am very confused about the Protestant position on baptism, and contraception, and the Eucharist, and pretty much all of it. What is the Protestant position on baptism, for example? You did a paper on it. What is the Protestant position?

  32. Shawn C. Madden says:

    PRAYER OF REFUGE
    (By St. Alphonsus Liguori.)
    Behold, O Mother of my God,
    my only hope, Mary,
    behold at thy feet a miserable sinner,
    who asks thee for mercy.
    Thou art proclaimed and called by the whole Church,
    and by all the faithful,
    the refuge of sinners.
    Thou art consequently my refuge;
    thou hast to save me.

    http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english3/p02363.htm

    • Leila says:

      Shawn, is Mary the Mother of God?

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        No.

        THE PRAYER
        A SALUTATION TO MARY
        (by St. John Eudes, C. J. M.)
        Hail Mary, Daughter of God the Father;
        Hail Mary, Mother of God the Son;
        Hail Mary, Spouse of the Holy Ghost;

        Even this ‘Catholic’ Agrees with me. Your stupid question insists that Mary is the mother of the Godhead (99% of the world’s definition of the Christian word for ‘God’) as you have not qualified it with ‘Son’ or ‘Second Person’ as this ‘Marian Prayer’ has. You show your greater devotion to Mary than to her Lord when you take what began as a Chritological defintion and turn it into (as most Catholics very erroneously do) a Maritological definition.

        It is really embarassing when a Catholic asks so sophmoric a question.

      • Mary is the mother of the person Jesus, and the person Jesus is God. Therefore, if Mary is not the Mother a person who was God, then the incarnation never happened. Whoever denies Mary as the Mother of God is unfortunately in opposition to The Ecumenical Council of 431, and would be considered a heretic by those at that council. Anyone who denies Mary of the title “the Mother of God” (although they don’t realize it) are denying the incarnation basically. That was the whole reason for giving her this title–it was a Christological controversy that led to the dogmatic teaching at this Council that Mary had to be the mother of God.

  33. Leila says:

    Shawn, when Catholics say that Mary is the Mother of God, we mean that she is the Mother of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, of course. She is mother of the whole Christ.

    Do you believe she is the Mother of God? Is it “sophomoric” that Elizabeth asked in Scripture, “How is it that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”

    99% of Jews would not have equated “Lord” with “Jesus”, so was Elizabeth incorrect to use the term? Or was Mary the Mother of her Lord?

  34. Shawn C. Madden says:

    ‘99% of Jews would not have equated “Lord” with “Jesus”, so was Elizabeth incorrect to use the term? Or was Mary the Mother of her Lord?’

    Leila, you really do need to read the Bible more often. Matt. 22.43-44. They knew the distinction. You apparently don’t.

    This protestant’s position on baptism?–step one-believe.

    Thanks for your stuff on the Hindus–you made my point. You both violate the 2nd commandment.

    Devin, violation of the 2nd commandment is a good reason to argue against Rome. You guys do it in spades and justify it. Leila brags about how her church in Arizona does it. And, of course, the Marian prayers and devotions are a violation of the 1st commandment. And you guys claim to be of Christ?

  35. Leila says:

    Shawn, whaa….? What are you talking about?

    Are you saying that the word “Lord” does not mean “God”? My eyes are crossing again. At the time when Jesus was in the womb of Mary, you think that the Jews would have equated the term “Lord” with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, now incarnated as Jesus Christ? Really?

    Let me ask this way: What did Elizabeth mean when she said, “Mother of my Lord”?

    Thanks!

    And, it’s not just “my church in Arizona” that has May Crownings and processions. It’s the Church universal. Hopefully, churches everywhere are doing so.

    As for Protestant beliefs on baptism: That is your answer? “Step one – believe”? What about “Is it regenerative?” and “Is it necessary for salvation?” and “Can babies be baptized”? Can you give me the Protestant position on those points? They all touch on salvation, so it seems very important to have clarity for the new convert.

  36. Shawn C. Madden says:

    ‘the early Church’s unanimous testimony to baptismal regeneration.’

    ‘(certain) early Christians accepted [Matthew and Luke].’

    It looks like, according to you ‘everyone and their brother accepted ‘baptismal regeneration’ but only ‘(certain) early Christians accepted’ the Gospels.

    Really?

    • Devin Rose says:

      Shawn,

      Let’s make it simpler so you don’t get tripped up by details that don’t matter, and say:

      There was widespread acceptance of Matthew and Luke early on in the Church, and
      There was widespread acceptance of baptismal regeneration early on in the Church

      • Shawn C. Madden says:

        There you go! Balance.

        Is ‘baptismal regeneration’ an ‘interpretation’ of what the Scripture says? How does it relate to John 3.16?

        May not get back to you ’til Monday and then spotty afterwards. School is starting back up and the busy factor hits warp Monday.

  37. Devin (or Anyone),

    If a canon was not decreed until the Council of Trent authoritatively by the Church, then from whence did the authority of the canon come before Trent (assuming it did in fact have authority)?

    Also, if we grant that the early Church accepted the apocryphal literature as a part of the canon, why was there not a theological backlash when certain Christians argued that it had a “lesser” status than the other books?

    Bradley

  38. Brent says:

    1. The Council of Carthage listed the Catholic canon in 419 (canon 24). The Council of Florence (Session II) also defined the canon the same way. The final infallible definition of canonical books came from the Council of Trent in 1556.

    2. I think your question can be summarized in the follow question:

    “What is the status of any article of faith until it is dogmatically promulgated?”

    (1) It may be a part of the deposit of faith, yet only implicit or explicit in the liturgical life of the Church (Sacred Tradition), (2) it may not be a part of the faith, and therefore not worthy of assent, or (3) given the potential scandal of (1) or (2), we find the Church, in her infallible pastoral function, explicitly defining the article of faith or teaching against error on matters of faith or morals due to her imperative to “feed the sheep” and lead souls to heaven. The Church does not define truth. Instead, she teaches truth infallibly through a charism of the Holy Spirit. The canon is *true* because it is true. We believe the canon (authority), because the Church teaches it. The epistemic distinction is unique to articles of faith versus articles of science.

    3. I think it is important to make the distinction between the deuterocanon and the apocrypha. The Catholic Church does not accept the apocrypha. The Reformers claim that the Catholic deuterocanon is apocryphal.

    I think the answer to the question regarding the “lack of backlash” over the apocrypha is the fact that the Church has always operated on two levels: local and universal. There have always been seasons when local churches struggle understanding what exactly is the right practice or right belief. Nonetheless, it is the Bishops in union with the Chair of St. Peter that rightfully define dogma and lead the Bride of Christ into all Truth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Where I have erred, let the Church correct me.

  39. Brent,

    Thanks for responding to my question! I trust this will be very helpful for me.

    Concerining 2, I think your summary broadens my question to include a more general one. For now I’m only interested in the question about the canon in particular (for I think I could better answer the general question by understanding this particular). I would only modify the way you’ve summarized my question by adding one word: “authoritative.” That is, “What is the authoritative status of the canon before it is dogmatically promulgated?”

    Concerning 1, The Council of Carthage is just a local council. If the Council of Florence was ecumenical, why would you say only the council of Trent was “infallible”? If only the council of Trent was “infallible,” then how do pre-Trent Catholics not wind up in the same authority dilemma that Catholic apologists say makes the Protestant model of authority untenable? That is, Protestants need an authoritative canon to even have a Scriptura to be “sola” about, but since Sola denies the existence of any extrabiblical authority and the canon is not delineated in the Bible itself (the only authority in Sola), we have agreed that this makes the Protestant doctrine of authority (Sola) incoherent.

    But it would seem to me (and I’m asking you to show me if you see any problems with my reasoning here) that pre-Trent Catholics who believed the Catholic canon (including the deuterocanonical books) was authoritative had no more reason to believe it was authoritative than today’s Protestants have to think their canon is authoritative, since neither would have any confirmation by an infallible authoritative Tradition (with a capital T). How does the argument “You need an Authoritative Canon for Scripture to have authority” not put pre-Trent Catholics in the same boat as Protestants?

    To say it yet another way, based on what you’ve said, it would seem that the pre-Trent tradition that held to the Carthaginian canon (if we can call it that) fits your #2 possibility (in your second paragraph) and therefore “may not be a part of the faith, and therefore not worthy of assent” (2.2).

    Concerning 3, Devin seems to argue (as best I can tell) that the lack of backlash at the acceptance of the deuterocanonical books by Augustine makes it unlikely that the early Church did not accept the deuterocanonical books. Wouldn’t your comments (in par. 3) discredit Devin’s assumption that if the Protestant Canon were the early Church canon, we should expect a “backlash” by the Church?

    If I have misunderstood something here, I am glad to be corrected.

    Your thoughts?

    Bradley

    • Brent says:

      Bradley,

      1. “What is the authoritative status of the canon before it is dogmatically promulgated?”

      I want to be careful to speak about the canon in more general terms as it relates to an article of faith. The reason is that for a Protestant, once you get the canon you lose the Church (i.e., any other authority). Therefore, we can talk about the canon in two different ways. As an authoritative witness to the Apostolic teaching in the Church quaScripture, or we can speak about it as an article of faith qua canon.

      The distinction is important because in the Protestant paradigm the Bible functions quite differently than the Catholic paradigm, and thus “being in the same boat” isn’t quite the same. Christ gave us his Church first. We receive the Tradition second. Scripture third. Scripture functions within the liturgical life of the Church. Regarding Scripture we must always think about it in relationship to two questions:

      1. What can be read in the liturgy?
      2. What does the Church use to discern the deposit of faith.

      Before Nicea did the Church not have an Orthodox Christology? Of course she did. The point is that the dogmatic promulgation of the council ended any controversy and stated what the Church always believed not some novelty.

      2. But it would seem to me that pre-Trent Catholics who believed the Catholic canon was authoritative had no more reason to believe it was authoritative than today’s Protestants have to think their canon is authoritative, since neither would have any confirmation by an infallible authoritative Tradition. How does the argument “You need an Authoritative Canon for Scripture to have authority” not put pre-Trent Catholics in the same boat as Protestants?

      You’ve conflated Tradition and the Magisterium. Carthage and Florence evidence the canon in the Sacred Tradition; Florence approaches dogma. Something isn’t “in” the Sacred Tradition when the Magisterium declares it to be so, just in the same way that Scripture is not waiting around for the Magisterium to have meaning. The Magisterium’s function is to bind the conscience on matters of faith and morals. The deposit of faith has been entrusted to her, and it is her duty to make sure it is safeguarded.

      To say it yet another way, based on what you’ve said, it would seem that the pre-Trent tradition that held to the Carthaginian canon (if we can call it that) fits your #2 possibility (in your second paragraph) and therefore “may not be a part of the faith, and therefore not worthy of assent” (2.2).

      #1 and #2 are not created equal. You are right, though, in a sense. If Catholics were to act like Protestants and declare that there Bible is the authoritative canon and that others must not use another canon, they would be like a Protestant. However, that is kind of the point of Trent. While there was certainly debate, the Church was using the Catholic canon in its worship. It was drawing from the Catholic canon for its dogmatic constitutions. Why define it? (think Nicea) Not until the Reformers challenged it sufficiently as such, thereby opening the faithful to scandal (e.g., “Should we really listen to the word being read in Mass”), did the Church dogmatically act to stop the non-sense.

      Wouldn’t your comments (in par. 3) discredit Devin’s assumption that if the Protestant Canon were the early Church canon, we should expect a “backlash” by the Church?

      I think you are right to point out that my argument somewhat diminishes the force of Devin’s argument, but I don’t think it takes all the wind out of it sails. The more important question is what the bishops were using. By “the Church”, Devin probably is implying the Bishops. In other words, if St. Augustine is introducing novelty, wouldn’t we expect the Bishops to “blow a gasket?”

      God bless,

      Brent

      • Dear Brent

        I just read your testimony. It was awesome. I found it amazing that you mentioned the concept of penal atonement because I came to the same conclusion you did and is one of the reasons I had to do some hard thinking about the Catholic Church. I start RCIA in September. I plan to read some of the books you mentioned in your testimony. Great story!

        Sincerely,

        Jeff Simmons

    • Devin Rose says:

      Bradley,

      Tacking onto what Brent said, I’ll respond to the last question. My own take on why there wasn’t a big backlash during Trent when, say, Cajetan or others doubted the deuterocanonicals, is that there were too many other hugely important issues and events going on at the time for this particular issue to cause a stir.

      Christendom was in upheaval. The tumult, violence, and instability caused by the Reformation and the Catholic response to it was tremendous. Trent itself was broken up into multiple sessions spread out over many years, so difficult was it to convene a council in such times. The canon was important but even more so was justification and the other doctrines the Reformers challenged. Ultimately Trent just affirmed what Florence had said a century prior, and what the Church in general had settled on–though not without some questioning here and there over the centuries.

  40. Brent and Devin,

    Thanks for you kind and respectful responses and helping me through this.

    i. My apologies for conflating the “Magisterial” with “Sacred Tradition.” Given that this distinction is important, can both of these authorities define dogma for the whole church with the same level of authority? How do you define “Sacred Tradition?” Also: Can the Magisterium authoritatively teach something not in Sacred Tradition (so long as it does not contradict Sacred Tradition)?

    1. I understand that theoretically, Catholics don’t “need” Scripture for their claim to authority, since Scripture itself is grounded on the authority of the Apostolic Tradition. Although there is overlap, we must make this distinction between the Apostolic Tradition (which gave birth to the Bible, precedes the Bible, and establishes the very authority of the Bible) and the Bible itself (which is just one part of the Apostolic Tradition). I think, therefore, it’s safe to say that if a Tim LaHay “Bible rapture” happened tomorrow, Protestants would be in quite a different “boat” than Catholics. Just for fun let’s call this the “one-legged stool distinction,” since Protestants might be said to claim to only have one thing “holding them up,” as it were (that is, one principle of authority). Catholics on the other hand, would have several legs on their stool (e.g. the Magisterium, the Pope, the Bible, ecumenical councils, etc.). Rather than the boat analogy, perhaps we can say that if the “Bible-rapture” happened tomorrow, Catholics would not be sitting on the same stool as Protestants, and would thus not fall to the ground (i.e. loose their seat of “authority”).

    2. At the same time, as you are already aware, I don’t believe that in practice it is possible to really follow Sola Scriptura. Thus, Protestants function with an ad hoc Magisterium. For example, if you don’t agree with Nicaea, for most evangelicals, you’re a heretic. Or, if you don’t agree with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, for many conservative evangelicals, you are a heretic. In other words, each group of like-minded evangelicals tend to arbitrarily pick who they want their Magisterium to be, and then this or that council of decree becomes their functional Magisterium inasmuch as it treated as Authoritative in such a way as to literally define Christianity (if you don’t believe Nicaea, you are not a Christian). Let’s call these the “invisible legs” of the evangelical stool of authority just to stick with a consistent analogy.

    3a. I also understand that dogs tend to bark when someone is threatening their territory. In other words, the ecumenical councils (such as Nicaea and Trent) tended to be reactions when a minority group started causing division and violating the faith of the Church abroad. But this is where things get fuzzy for me. I’ve heard it said by numerous historians that at one point in history, Arianism had the “upper hand” over what later became Orthodoxy. Therefore, how do we define “the Sacred Tradition” if it cannot be defined simply as “what the majority believe”?

    3b. You have said: “Carthage and Florence evidence the canon in the Sacred Tradition” But if Sacred Tradition is authoritative with a capital “T,” why say that Trent was not dogmatically established before Trent?

    3c. Furthermore, help me understand how Carthage evidences Sacred Tradition if its only a local council? And why does the council of Florence only “approch” dogma, whereas Trent “defines” dogma? What is the difference between them? Was Florence not ecumenical?

    3d. But if Florence did not define dogma the way Trent did because it was not as ecumenical, then again this raises my question about how to define Sacred Tradition via anything less than a thoroughly ecumenical council (hence my curiosity as to why Carthage would count as evidencing Sacred Tradition). If you say that Carthage only evidences sacred tradition in retrospect after Trent (and leaving the Council of Florence out of view since I’m not sure why it is distinguished from Trent in terms of authority) then it seems my question still tugs at me:

    4a. If Carthage and Florence are not authoritative with a capital “T,” in such a way as to provide dogmatic assurance to pre-Trent Catholics that the issue of the canon was clear (and nobody could say to them “How do you know for certain you have the Word of God?”) then does this not put pre-Trent Catholics in the same predicament of not having dogmatic assurance about the canon?

    4b. If Carthage and Florence are Tradition with a capital “T” (what you call the Sacred Tradition), then what does this imply about Sacred Tradition, given that Carthage was a local council and Florence only “approaches” dogma without “defining” it (or whatever the next level up would be from “approaching”)? Can local councils define dogma for the whole Church, making it authoritative tradition with a capital “T”?

    5. If Carthage and Florence do not “dogmatically promulgate” (as you put it), since Carthage was a local council and since Florence only “approaches” dogma, how do they escape your #2 possibility (in your second paragraph) and therefore “may not be a part of the faith, and therefore not worthy of assent” (2.2 in your comment on 08/14/11: 10:39).

    I am sure I am still confused about something and you can help me make sense of the Catholic position on these things,

    With gratitude for your help,

    Bradley

  41. Correction on 3b: “why say that the canon was not dogmatically established before Trent?”

    • Brent says:

      Bradley,

      i. The Magisterium defines dogma. Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture is her Sacred source for that job. Sacred Tradition consists of all that Christ taught and explained that was preserved in the Church. Moreover, it is the living “spirit” of the Church–that which she believes and holds in her bosom for all time that grows like a seed. No, the Church cannot teach something that is not in the Sacred Tradition/Scripture. By “in” though we do not mean only those things that are logically adducible, but rather all those things that can be known both explicitly and implicitly by the power of the Spirit in His Church.

      1. True, although the Rapture will not happen because it is not true. : )

      3a. See “i”. The Sacred Tradition is the very life of the Church. However, one should not be confused that the Church has either (1) a set of rationally unassailable Scripture passages or (2) rationally unassailable evidence in the Tradition. What she does have is the “mind of Christ”. Thus, she is able to discern in the deposit that which the Tradition and Scripture evidence. Certainly the evidence is available to us, but we can expect that in both the ordinary and extraordinary use of the Magisterium, the de fide teaching of the Church will be consistent with the evidence (see “i”) in Scripture and Tradition. What we should expect to see is individual Christian thinkers in antiquity erring at times; which we do.

      3c. Sacred Tradition is an authoritative source. You are right in a sense. We might even say that all of the teachings of the Church are true dogmas before the Church teaches them. However, it is in her authoritative act that she binds the conscience. She is not creating Truth. It is precisely in that act that the faithful may no longer be confused on a particular doctrinal issue. As you evidence, many of the bishops got the Arian controversy right before the Council. There was no excuse after the council.

      For the rest of your points, I recommend Yves Congar’s book “What is Tradition”. There still appears to be some conflation between Tradition and the Magisterium. The Councils become a part of the living Tradition of the Church, but in themselves are acts of the Magisterium.

      We also should distinguish between the way a Catholic and Protestant thinks about faith. A Protestant requires a level of certainty that a Catholic does not require. As a Catholic, what is certain is that I am in the Church. By the time of Jerome, the canon that was read in the liturgy throughout the Church was the canon at Trent. Thus, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. In a sense, the question regarding the “status” of the Protestant and Catholic regarding a dogma of faith misses the point, since it would be the same as asking if a “schismatic” and a Catholic in the 3rd century were in the same boat regarding Christology before the council. The truth of the major premise is undermined by the falsity of the minor premise.

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