Six Reasons to Reject “the Perspicuity of Scripture”

Near the root of what divides Protestantism from Catholicism is a question concerning the clarity (or, in technical parlance, the “perspicuity”) of Sacred Scripture. The Catholic view is that Scripture needs interpretation; the typical Protestant view is that Scripture is so clear that there are no ambiguities needing authoritative interpretation by the Church.

Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)

As classically articulated, this doctrine holds anyone guided by the Holy Spirit can come to understand everything in the Bible. In fact, Martin Luther argued that if you’re confused on the meaning of some part of the Bible, it’s because of your own sinfulness, since “if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from their own blindness or want of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of the truth.” Here’s Luther’s summary of the doctrine:

The clearness of the Scripture is twofold; even as the obscurity is twofold also. The one is external, placed in the ministry of the word; the other internal, placed in the understanding of the heart. If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures, but he that hath the Spirit of God. All have a darkened heart; so that, even if they know how to speak of, and set forth, all things in the Scripture, yet, they cannot feel them nor know them: nor do they believe that they are the creatures of God, nor any thing else: according to that of Psalm xiv. 1. “The fool hath said in his heart, God is nothing.” For the Spirit is required to understand the whole of the Scripture and every part of it. If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world.

I think that there are several things worth mentioning in response to this doctrine.

1. The Scriptural Case for this Doctrine is Weak. 


None of the passages Luther cites in his defense of this doctrine say anything remotely close to “the Scriptures are all so clear that they don’t need any interpretation.” The closest we get is Luke 24:45, where Christ explains the meanings of the Old Testament to the pair of disciples on the road to Emmaus. And when you think about that example, it’s striking that they’re in need of Old Testament exegesis, even after three years of Christ’s public ministry: that passage could just as easily be used to argue against the perspicuity of Scripture.  Which brings me to the second point…


2. The Scriptural Case Against this Doctrine is Stronger.  

Scripture itself presents itself as something to be read with the Church, not in lieu of the Church. Perhaps the quickest way of demonstrating this is the interaction between Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:29-31,

And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”
Note well that the Holy Spirit is at work in this Ethiopian man’s life, but not by internally inspiring him with the perspicuous meaning of Scripture. Rather, He sends him a representative of the Church to interpret Scripture for him (Acts 8:35). On his own, the man is humble enough to realize when he doesn’t understand what the passage is talking about.
Or take the question of the status of the Mosaic Law. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas engage in “no small dissension and debate” with “the party of the Pharisees” (Acts 15:1-2, 5). That is, from the earliest days of the Church, we see disputes periodically arising between Christians. And how is settled? Does each party pull out their Bible and show why they think they’re right, splitting into two churches when they can’t agree? No. “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter” (Acts 15:6) at the Council of Jerusalem. When the Council announces its decision, it declares that its conclusions “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).
3. The Early Church Did Not Believe in the Perspicuity of Scripture.

Traditionally (dating back to the earliest days of the Church), the Church’s role has been to declare which doctrines are authentically Christian, and which aren’t. She may point to specific passages supporting this, but She doesn’t always. After all, the earliest Christians didn’t believe in sola Scriptura, so it’s not surprising that the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed look very different from, say, the “statement of beliefs” found in many Protestant denominations.

Guercino, St Jerome in the Wilderness (1650)

For one thing, unlike every Protestant statement of beliefs that I know of, there are no references to Scripture in the early Creeds. For another thing, the Creeds are a statement of faith binding upon the whole Church.  In contrast, the Protestant denominations’ statement of beliefs are at most, in the words of the Southern Baptist Convention, a “statement of generally held convictions.” This is the difference between a Church governed by a visible authority, and a denomination governed by hoping everybody interprets a Book the same way.

Similarly, St. Jerome (one of the greatest Scripture scholars in the early Church) talks about his in his Dialogue Against the Luciferians:

We ought to remain in that Church which was founded by the Apostles and continues to this day. If ever you hear of any that are called Christians taking their name not from the Lord Jesus Christ, but from some other, for instance, Marcionites, Valentinians, Men of the mountain or the plain, you may be sure that you have there not the Church of Christ, but the synagogue of Antichrist. For the fact that they took their rise after the foundation of the Church is proof that they are those whose coming the Apostle foretold.  
And let them not flatter themselves if they think they have Scripture authority for their assertions, since the devil himself quoted Scripture, and the essence of the Scriptures is not the letter, but the meaning. Otherwise, if we follow the letter, we too can concoct a new dogma and assert that such persons as wear shoes and have two coats must not be received into the Church.

Jerome is by no means the only Church Father to talk about the error of taking Scripture against the Church, but he is one of the clearest on this point.

4. Luther Proves this Doctrine False.

Luther changed his mind on all sorts of doctrines (e.g., Purgatory) after he left the Church. Many of these reversals and changes occur after 1524, when he wrote On the Bondage of the Will, the text in which he advanced the idea of the perspicuity of Scripture.

This seems to show that Luther was wrong … or by his own argument, that he wasn’t guided by the Holy Spirit, since everything would have been crystal clear to him, if he had been.

5. Protestantism Proves this Doctrine False.

The easiest way to see that Scripture needs an interpretative authority is to look at the anarchy that has invariably resulted where that authority is rejected. If the perspicuity of Scripture were true, we should expect to see one more-or-less unified Protestant church. Everyone of good will, guided by the Holy Spirit and the clarity of Scripture, would be able to come to the same conclusions. But of course, the history of Protestantism has been the expect opposite of this.

Doctrinal anarchy erupted almost immediately after Luther launched his “Reformation.” Within Luther’s own lifetime, Calvin, Zwingli, and a whole litany of other Reformers arose who accepted the principles of Protestantism, while rejecting other key parts of Lutheranism (which, if Luther was right about Scriptural perspicuity, shouldn’t have been possible, if both men were guided by the Holy Spirit). Writing at the close of the 16th century, St. Francis de Sales compared the rapid collapse of the Reformation to the Tower of Babel (Part II, Article III, Chapter IV):

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel (1563)
What contradictions has not Luther’s reformation produced! I should never end if I would put them all on this paper. [….]

You have not one same canon of the Scriptures: Luther will not have the Epistle of S. James, which you receive. Calvin holds it to be contrary to the Scripture that there is a head in the Church; the English hold the reverse : the French Huguenots hold that according to the Word of God priests are not less than bishops ; the English have bishops who govern priests, and amongst them two archbishops, one of whom is called primate, a name which Calvin so greatly detests: the Puritans in England hold as an article of faith that it is not lawful to preach, baptize, pray, in the Churches which were formerly Catholic, but they are not so squeamish in these parts. And note my saying that they make it an article of faith, for they suffer both prison and banishment rather than give it up. Is it not well known that at Geneva they consider it a superstition to keep any saint’s day? — yet in Switzerland some are kept ; and you keep one of Our Lady. The point is not that some keep them and others do not, for this would be no contradiction in religious belief, but that what you and some of the Swiss observe the others condemn as contrary to the purity of religion.

Are you not aware that one of your greatest ministers teaches that the body of our Lord is as far from the Lord’s Supper as heaven is from earth, and are you not likewise aware that this is held to be false by many others ? Has not one of your ministers lately confessed the reality of Christ’s body in the Supper, and do not the rest deny it ? Can you deny me that as regards Justification you are as much divided against one another as you are against us : — witness that anonymous controversialist. In a word, each man has his own language, and out of as many Huguenots as I have spoken to I have never found two of the same belief.

St. Francis explained that because the dispute is over the meaning of Scripture, Protestants are incapable of ever resolving these issues, if they refuse to submit to the authority of the Church:

But the worst is, you are not able to come to an agreement: — for where will you find a trusted arbitrator? You have no head upon earth to address yourselves to in your difficulties; you believe that the very Church can err herself and lead others into error: you would not put your soul into such unsafe hands; indeed, you hold her in small account. The Scripture cannot be your arbiter, for it is concerning the Scripture that you are in litigation, some of you being determined to have it understood in one way, some in another. Your discords and your disputes are interminable, unless you give in to the authority of the Church.

That prediction – that the disputes would prove interminable – was made over four hundred years ago.  Would anyone today deny his point?  Does Protestantism seem any closer to solving these exegetical disputes? Quite the contrary. Protestantism has spent five hundred years slowly imploding into an ever-greater number of warring denominations. We are as far away from having a unified “Protestant church” as we’ve ever been, and the situation is only getting worse, like a universe spiraling towards heat death.

6. This Doctrine Risks Making you a Jerk. 

I hesitated to include this one, for fear that it would seem like more of a potshot than an argument, but hear me out. Even ignoring all the disputes Protestantism has with historic Christianity (and with modern Catholicism and Orthodoxy), there are innumerable Protestant denominations feuding with one another over the proper interpretation of Scripture on a whole litany of doctrines. Are we really to believe that all but one of these denominations are arguing in bad faith?

John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli (1874)

If you really believe that the meaning of Scripture is just obvious to anyone guided by the Holy Spirit, you’re essentially left with three options:

  • Option A: Your opponent is ignorant, and just needs to be shown the proper Scriptures.  Once he sees those, he will convert.
  • Option B: Your opponent is godless, and that is why he can’t understand Scripture.
  • Option C: Your opponent is a liar, and that is why he pretends he can’t understand Scripture.

I would suggest that this is at least one factor in the ugliness of so much inter-Christian dialogue (although by no means the only factor), and the speed in which non-Protestants are accused of acting in bad faith.  Again, we need look no further than Luther’s own life, to see how toxic this doctrine turns out to be in real life.

The logic is clear enough: if your opponents disagree with you (and in the case of the Protestants holding this position, this includes the entire Church prior to 1500 A.D.), they must be ignorant, godless or liars. Otherwise, they would “see the all-perfect clearness of the truth.”  Just look at how Luther treated the Jews once they weren’t convinced by his version of the Gospel.

Conclusion

To clarify, there are two things that I’m not saying: (1) I’m not saying that early single passage of Scripture is so cryptic that someone has to spell it out for us; and (2) I’m not saying that the Church’s primary task is to exegete individual Scriptural passages.  But what I am saying is that the doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture” is contrary to Scripture, Tradition, Protestant history, and is generally a bad idea.

79 Comments

  1. All that without an analogy between the Constitution and the Supreme Court? Hey–good job!

    As far as morality, the Perspicuity of Scripture view can’t even say if everything not explicitly prohibited is allowed, or if everything not explicitly commanded is prohibited.

    1. I thought about using that analogy, but I think it needs to be fleshed out for it to be effective. For now, I’ll just say that I think that there’s a reason that the constitutional originalists on the Supreme Court are all Catholic.

      The Constitution means what it meant when it was written. The Bible means what it meant when it was written. Meanings don’t suddenly evolve because, left to your own devices (and influenced by the surrounding culture), you decide that the documents suddenly mean something else.

  2. You first must blame God for failing to write the scriptures with clarity so that you can then rescue God from his alleged ineptness by enthroning popes to have the final say-so. Nope, I’m not persuaded.

    In doing this you seek to make men accountable to the popes, and not to scripture. But popes are just men, and men produce tradition, not scripture, and one or the other must rule supreme: “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:9 KJV

    Peter wrote, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20 KJV.

    A private interpretor asserts a personal meaning not actually written publicly in scripture for all to read.

    So the proper method is to bid people to observe and obey scripture as it is written; the false method is to bid people observe and obey scripture subject to the final say-so of men’s traditions.

    There are thousands of sects and cults, notably including the Roman Catholic religion, who all assert the finality of their group’s own teachings, and all of this chaos depends upon the assumption that the scriptures are inadequate.

    But one can only conclude that that scripture lacks perspicuity if one first presumes that he has fully mastered it and can make such judgment. But this is like a child declaring a puzzle unsolvable simply because it is too difficult for him.

    Unity in the Christian Church will either come about when everyone submits to one set of traditions (picking between the pope, the watchtower society, the LDS elders, the president of the Souther Baptist Association, etc etc etc.), or else when all submit to the exact words of one particular Book – the King James Bible – and are all willing to change whatever they believe as they all come, in good faith, to understand it more fully by the work of the Holy Ghost.

    The recipe for patiently attaining to this understanding is found in Proverbs 2:1-5 KJV.

    1. Mackquigley,
      1) where does the Bible say that the English translation done during the reign of James I of England is the Bible to which all should submit?
      2) if one is not a native speaker of English, what translation should he read?

    2. mackquigleyApril 23, 2013 at 5:34 AM
      You first must blame God for failing to write the scriptures with clarity

      I’m not aware that God wrote any Scriptures, except the Ten Commandments on a sheet of stone:

      Exodus 31:18
      And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

      Where does Scripture say that God wrote any other Scripture?

      so that you can then rescue God from his alleged ineptness by enthroning popes to have the final say-so. Nope, I’m not persuaded.

      Scripture attests that God inspired men to preach and write the Scriptures. Scripture also attests that God appointed men to lead His people and to teach them. If you refuse to accept the truth, that is your decision. Your emotionalism doesn’t make your claims any true. It just makes you incoherent.

      In doing this you seek to make men accountable to the popes, and not to scripture. But popes are just men, and men produce tradition, not scripture, and one or the other must rule supreme: “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:9 KJV

      The fact is, that Jesus didn’t write any Scriptures either. He established a Church and deposited His Tradition with that Church, commanding her to teach those Traditions to the world. It is the Church which turned around and wrote down the Traditions. The New Testament is evidence of those Traditions since they are its base. Anyone who does not know the Traditions will have a great deal of trouble understanding the New Testament. And you are evidence of that.

      Peter wrote, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20 KJV.

      Keep reading:
      21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

      The Holy Spirit inspired men to SPEAK. They afterward, wrote the same things which they first spoke.

      A private interpretor asserts a personal meaning not actually written publicly in scripture for all to read.

      That is what you are guilty of doing.

      So the proper method is to bid people to observe and obey scripture as it is written; the false method is to bid people observe and obey scripture subject to the final say-so of men’s traditions.

      That is what you are doing. But the Scripture, Old and New Testament, is written with God’s Traditions as a basis. God’s Traditions because they are Traditions which God established. The content of Scripture was first spoken and passed down word of mouth. And then, written. If you understood the Scriptures, you would know this. The Scriptures attest to this fact.

      cont’d

    3. cont’d

      Mack said:
      There are thousands of sects and cults, notably including the Roman Catholic religion, who all assert the finality of their group’s own teachings, and all of this chaos depends upon the assumption that the scriptures are inadequate.

      Wrong. You are describing the Protestants who have literally decimated the Scriptures and continue to do so. Some want to take out one passage, others another. But the Catholic Church says that the Scriptures are without error. But it is man who is incapable of understanding the spiritual truths there contained.

      But one can only conclude that that scripture lacks perspicuity if one first presumes that he has fully mastered it and can make such judgment. But this is like a child declaring a puzzle unsolvable simply because it is too difficult for him.

      The fact is that the Catholic Church fully understands the Scriptures. Because the fact is that the Catholic Church is the Oracle of God. It is by the Catholic Church that the Wisdom of God is taught in this world:

      Ephesians 3:10
      King James Version (KJV)
      10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

      Unity in the Christian Church will either come about when everyone submits to one set of traditions (picking between the pope, the watchtower society, the LDS elders, the president of the Souther Baptist Association, etc etc etc.), or else when all submit to the exact words of one particular Book – the King James Bible – and are all willing to change whatever they believe as they all come, in good faith, to understand it more fully by the work of the Holy Ghost.

      Unity will come when men learn to be obedient to the Word of God which is most perfectly taught in the Catholic Church. At that point, they will become members of the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

      The recipe for patiently attaining to this understanding is found in Proverbs 2:1-5 KJV.

      That is true. When will you follow that advice and submit to the Teaching of the Church described in Scripture as the Household of God and the Pillar of Truth? (1 Tim 3:15).

    4. Mack,

      You said: “You first must blame God for failing to write the scriptures with clarity so that you can then rescue God from his alleged ineptness by enthroning popes to have the final say-so.

      This argument assumes that God intends the Scriptures to be perspicuous. That’s the very thing that we deny. You’re assuming your conclusion.

      If God didn’t intend perspicuity, then your argument falls apart. For example, do you “blame God” that Jesus’ parables were not perspicuous – such that even His Disciples had to ask for further clarification (Matthew 13:36)? Do you “blame God” that some of St. Paul’s Epistles contain things that are “hard to understand,” as St. Peter says in 2 Peter 3:15-16? Do any of these things make God inept?

      This isn’t a matter of God failing or being inept. It’s a matter of God not operating the way you expect (and demand) Him to. It wasn’t a failing when the Holy Spirit chose to operate by having St. Philip explain Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch, rather than filling the Ethiopian eunuch with an inner light. It was just a reflection of God’s Sovereign plan (and how it differs from your own assumption of what that plan ought to look like).

      Unity in the Christian Church will either come about when everyone submits to one set of traditions (picking between the pope, the watchtower society, the LDS elders, the president of the Souther Baptist Association, etc etc etc.), or else when all submit to the exact words of one particular Book – the King James Bible – and are all willing to change whatever they believe as they all come, in good faith, to understand it more fully by the work of the Holy Ghost.

      With all due respect, you’ve had almost half a millennium. How much more time do you need?

      For that matter, what progress do you have to show for it? How close are Protestants to all being part of the same church, and holding to identical doctrines? An easy rubric of success or failure: have the number of Protestant denominations gone up or down over the last five hundred years?

      I agree with you that the “choices” are between (1) submitting to visible authority, and (2) hoping that you’ll all just eventually agree. You’ve tried (2) for almost five hundred years, and failed miserably. Now the question is just whether you’ll submit to the authority of the visible Church that the Protestant branch broke itself off of, or whether you’ll try to find a new visible authority of your own liking (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and LDS have). That’s ultimately the debate: now that Protestantism has failed, will you come back to the Church, or continue in your path onto restorationism, Mormonism, and the rest?

      As for Bible translation, I think it’s a red herring. Can you point to a single denominational dispute that’s going to be resolved by using the KJV (which, in any case, most English-speaking Protestants have used, historically), over and against, say, the NIV?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    5. Joe:

      The issue has more to do with final authority than clarity. Clarity is something that takes time – and you should be patient rather than appeal to alternate authorities to “fix” things in the meantime.

      In fact, if you assume that God did not want the scriptures to be clear, then impatience is all the more unjustified – why should we believe a pope is suppose to make clear what God didn’t write to be clear? You’ve dug yourself into a hole.

      The choice is not between a visible authority and “hoping we all eventually agree” – it is between men as final authority or scripture as final authority.

      I submit to the King James Bible as final authority: It is my Pope, my Canons and Decrees, my Catechism, my Creed, and it is what I consider to be the “official teachings” of Christianity, and I believe it to be God’s very words in English, and that every created thing will be judged by its words on the Day of Judgement.

      So as you claim a pope provides perspicuity, I claim the King James Bible is holy scripture. One of us is evading proper authority – either me or you.

      The resolution of doctrinal disputes must begin by all parties submitting to a single set of scriptures, which hasn’t happened yet. Until it does, the ones show to be wrong by the King James Bible will simply go to a different version or manuscript or lexicon to evade what the AV text says in English.

      – Mack

    6. Mack,

      You say: “The issue has more to do with final authority than clarity. Clarity is something that takes time – and you should be patient rather than appeal to alternate authorities to “fix” things in the meantime.

      Again, how much time do you need here? And what do you have to show for the last half-millennium?

      It’s a lame excuse to blame it on the fact that Catholics don’t believe in sola Scriptura, or that not all of us use the same version of the Bible. Even taking only sola Scriptura-affirming Protestants, there’s less doctrinal or denominational unity than amongst Christians who reject sola Scriptura. How do you explain this, if all that’s needed for unity is sola Scriptura?

      It seems to me that one has only to look at the lack of unity within Protestantism to see that the problem for Christian isn’t that too few Christians believe in sola Scriptura, but that too many believe in it.

      In fact, if you assume that God did not want the scriptures to be clear, then impatience is all the more unjustified – why should we believe a pope is suppose to make clear what God didn’t write to be clear? You’ve dug yourself into a hole.

      First, you suggested that God would be inept if His Teachings needed clarification. This, I showed, puts you in an awkward place, since Scripture shows that His Teachings did need clarification, as Matthew 13:36 shows.

      Now, having ignored this point, you claim that my position means “that God did not want the scriptures to be clear,” and we shouldn’t believe in any further clarifications. But once again, you run headlong into Matthew 13. Because after the Disciples asked Christ for further clarification, He gave it (Mt. 13:36-43). By your logic, He’s dug Himself into a hole.

      In both of your positions, you start from the same false assumption: that God wants Scripture to stand or fall on its own, without ecclesial interpretation. But that assumption is unscriptural and false.

      Finally, you say: “The choice is not between a visible authority and “hoping we all eventually agree” – it is between men as final authority or scripture as final authority.

      This is just rhetoric. All sides are bound by the authority of Sacred Scripture. The Magisterium “is not superior to the word of God, but is rather its servant” (Dei Verbum 10; Verbum Domini 47). The only two questions are: (a) whether we are bound only by Sacred Scripture, and (b) how we should understand disputed Scriptures.

      Here, claiming Scripture as your pope is ineffectual. As St. Francis said,

      “But the worst is, you are not able to come to an agreement: — for where will you find a trusted arbitrator? You have no head upon earth to address yourselves to in your difficulties; you believe that the very Church can err herself and lead others into error: you would not put your soul into such unsafe hands; indeed, you hold her in small account. The Scripture cannot be your arbiter, for it is concerning the Scripture that you are in litigation, some of you being determined to have it understood in one way, some in another. Your discords and your disputes are interminable, unless you give in to the authority of the Church.”

      I.X.,

      Joe

    7. Mack said:

      mackquigleyApril 23, 2013 at 3:14 PM
      Joe:

      The issue has more to do with final authority

      True. Scripture, your purported authority, tells you to appeal to the Church as authority and to men as your authorities.

      Matthew 18:17
      King James Version (KJV)
      17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

      Hebrews 13:17
      King James Version (KJV)
      17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

      But you claim that Scripture is supposed to be the final authority. Where does Scripture say that?

      than clarity. Clarity is something that takes time – and you should be patient rather than appeal to alternate authorities to “fix” things in the meantime.

      But that is not what Scripture says. Scripture says you should appeal to human authorities for clarity on the Word of God:
      Hebrews 13:7
      King James Version (KJV)
      7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

      Where does Scripture say to appeal to Scripture for clarity?

      In fact, if you assume that God did not want the scriptures to be clear, then impatience is all the more unjustified – why should we believe a pope is suppose to make clear what God didn’t write to be clear? You’ve dug yourself into a hole.

      We assume that Jesus established a Church to teach His Doctrines:
      Matthew 28:20
      Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

      This is why Jesus opened the Scriptures to the Church:
      Luke 24 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

      The choice is not between a visible authority and “hoping we all eventually agree” – it is between men as final authority or scripture as final authority.

      None of the above. The choice is between obedience to Jesus’ commands or disobedience. Jesus established the Church and gave the Church the mission to teach what He commanded. Those who disobey the Church, disobey Christ.

      It is a false dichotomy to try to pit the Church against Scripture. The Church wrote the Scripture in order to assist in the mission of passing down the Teachings of Jesus Christ.

      cont’d

    8. cont’d

      Mack also said:
      I submit to the King James Bible as final authority: It is my Pope, my Canons and Decrees, my Catechism, my Creed, and it is what I consider to be the “official teachings” of Christianity,

      You do so in complete rebellion against Christ.

      and I believe it to be God’s very words in English, and that every created thing will be judged by its words on the Day of Judgement.

      It is and you will be judged by its words on the day of Judgment.

      So as you claim a pope provides perspicuity, I claim the King James Bible is holy scripture. One of us is evading proper authority – either me or you.

      You have evaluated the situation correctly. Here is what Scripture says about the Church:
      Matthew 16:18-19
      King James Version (KJV)
      18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      The resolution of doctrinal disputes must begin by all parties submitting to a single set of scriptures, which hasn’t happened yet. Until it does, the ones show to be wrong by the King James Bible will simply go to a different version or manuscript or lexicon to evade what the AV text says in English.

      When the Scriptures can stand up and say, “Hey, you read that wrong!”‘; you will be right. Until then, men must submit to the authority which Jesus Christ established to preach in His name:
      Matthew 28:19-20
      King James Version (KJV)
      19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

      20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  3. Now that I think about it, KJVonlyism is very incompatible with sola scriptura.

    First, every Bible save the KJV is defective thus not sufficient for doctrine.

    Second, the KJV nowhere says that it alone is God’s word: that’s a core theological tradition that accompanies the text.

  4. Joe,
    Where do you get the idea that “.. the typical Protestant view is that Scripture is so clear that there are no ambiguities needing authoritative interpretation by the Church”.. or that ..”anyone guided by the Holy Spirit can come to understand everything in the Bible”?

    If this were true then why do many Protestant pastors and teachers go to seminary to learn about the Scripture? Why do pastors and teachers spend so much time teaching their members what the Scripture means and write commentaries on the Scripture if the “Holy Spirit can come to understand everything in the Bible”?

    1. Meyu,

      See my respond to Rev. Hans below. What are your own views on the question of if “Scripture is so clear that there are no ambiguities needing authoritative interpretation by the Church”?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Meyu,

      It seems like you’re trying to both deny and affirm that “the typical Protestant view is that Scripture is so clear that there are no ambiguities needing authoritative interpretation by the Church.”

      First, you ask “Where do you get the idea”? Then, you claim “There is no need of an infallible church to understand Scripture.” Which is it?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. Joe,
      Most of Scripture is clear. Some things are not. That’s why there are different understandings of the book of Revelation for example. Has your church officially interpreted that book?

      There is no such thing as an infallible church.

    4. Meyu,

      A. In response to your (obviously-rhetorical) question about Revelation, look back to what I said above: “there are two things that I’m not saying: (1) I’m not saying that early single passage of Scripture is so cryptic that someone has to spell it out for us; and (2) I’m not saying that the Church’s primary task is to exegete individual Scriptural passages.”

      Let’s consider (2) specifically. Given the multiplicity of meanings that Scripture admits, I doubt that She could exhaust all of the meanings of Sacred Scripture. That’s not doesn’t reflect poorly of the Church: it reflects well of Scripture. When Jesus opened up the Scriptures to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, do you think He spelled out every implication of every Old Testament passage? Or just that He showed one of the meaings: that the Christ would suffer, die, and rise again?

      And I as said before that, the Church (from the time of the Apostles’ Creed until today) has typically defined dogmas, not explained specific verses. As regards eschatology, She’s defined (for example) that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. This also constitutes a denial of a “Secret Rapture” apart from the Second Coming.

      But precisely we’re not sola Scriptura Christians, any more than the Christians who gave you the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, so our primary concern isn’t what a specific chapter or verse means, but about what is and isn’t part of the deposit of Faith.

      B. You said that “Most of Scripture is clear. Some things are not.” I’d generally agree (again, see the first of the two things that I’m not saying), but your position is still vague.

      As I said before, I think the best question is this: Is so Scripture is so clear that there are no ambiguities needing authoritative interpretation by the Church?

      You first appeared to claim that Scripture needed authoritative interpretation, then you appeared to deny it. I asked you to explain this contradiction and you appear to have changed the subject. So let’s hold off on the broader issue of ecclesial infallibility, and get you to try to commit to (and articulate) a position in this debate.

      C.As for your final claim, that there “is no such thing as an infallible church,” I respond in the words of St. Francis de Sales, “since you only advance a simple assertion I will return your pass by a simple negation.” If you want to raise an argument with warrants, I’ll respond to it with an argument with warrants. If you want to simply claim “No!” then I think “Yes!” suffices as a response.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  5. With #1, it doesn’t just go against the clarity of Scripture, it obliterates it. It isn’t until the Breaking of the Bread in that passage that the two disciples recognize Jesus.

    In fact that whole passage of the Road to Emmaus is a Mass. Jesus talks about the Scriptures (Liturgy of the Word) and then he Breaks the Bread (Liturgy of the Eucharist). Those two elements are the bare-minimum for what you need for a valid Mass, and Jesus does both.

  6. meyu –

    Countless Protestants continuously claim scripture is clear. I’ve met many a Protestant who when cornered with an illogical position claims the Holy Spirit guided them in THEIR interpretation so that it must be correct and I’m wrong (of course, I can’t be guided by the Holy Spirit in their eyes).

    I think you’ve made a case for reason number seven. Such men have to keep “learning” because they’re down a fools road believing that they can interpret all of scripture accurately. They place a duty upon themselves that they cannot possibly meet. No one person can interpret scripture properly and with no Protestant “church” with authority over a Protestant or a Protestant tradition since Pentecost, he is left trying to interpret scripture on his own.

    I’m more suprised that the sola scripture crowd doesn’t also claim that scripture must be interpreted in native Greek. That would make more sense with this ridiculous doctrine. That would cut down on bad translations.

    1. cwdlaw223,
      Where has your church officially interpreted the Scripture? How can you claim the Protestant interpretation of Scripture is incorrect when you have no way to know that since your church has never officially interpreted the Scripture?

  7. meyu –

    The Westminster Confession of Faith states that scripture is clear:

    “Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7)

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130).”

    Of course, Protestants can’t agree on such issues as baptism, the Eucharist, eccelesiology, etc., despite the above. Calling a pumpkin a watermelon doesn’t make its contents sweet and juicy just as stating that scripture is clear doesn’t make it so.

    Here is a link by RC Sproul on the perspicuity of scripture and how the Reformers believed that scripture was clear about the “basic message”: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/primitive-scriptures/

    Protestants can’t even agree on what is the “basic message.” Scripture was never intended to be interpreted by man outside of the physical church that Christ founded on this planet and commonly called Rome. Anyone can figure this out by looking at how scripture was used in the past (i.e., part of the Mass).

    The Mass predates a fair amount of the NT and yet no Protestant touches on this fact.

    1. Notice that while Scripture states that all Scripture is inspired by God and useful for instruction, the Westminister Confession claims that some of it is superfluous because it is unclear and therefore can not contain anything to known, believed or observed for salvation.

  8. I cannot help but feel that you have created a straw man logical fallacy with this post because I do not know many Protestants that hold to this doctrine. It might be your point that many do not actually hold to this doctrine (point #4 about Luther). I had to do a little reading about this topic because I was not familiar with this doctrine with my undergrad religious studies courses or even my seminary education. I found that this position is taken by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and not used in any meaningful way within the ELCA. I was raised in the LCMS, and I cannot ever remember this doctrine being used or discussed in the church. In a way this post is a straw man logical fallacy, and in another way it is not. For those that hold this view, then this post is not a straw man argument. For those, like myself, that do not hold this view, then this post is a straw man argument or not an applicable argument.

    I liked your quote from Luther to start this article. One phrase in that quote caught my attention, which was “are BY THE WORD brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world.” “By the Word” caries a lot of meaning, and it significantly impacts my reading of this passage and this doctrine.

    Does it make me Catholic if I do not hold to this doctrine?

    1. Rev. Hans,

      I’m glad to hear that it’s not a position that you hold to or have heard of. I know that there are various opinions within Protestantism on the perspicuity of Scripture, even among those who hold to the doctrine. I don’t mean to suggest that modern Protestants are bound to the articulation in On the Bondage of the Will (if you’ll forgive an atrocious pun).

      For me, the fundamental question is if “Scripture is so clear that there are no ambiguities needing authoritative interpretation by the Church.”

      I think there are several problems with saying affirming that proposition (six of which I’ve laid out above). But if you deny that proposition, I think you have to acknowledge the opposite: that, for at least some issues, Scripture does require authoritative interpretation by the Church. And so while this may not automatically “make you Catholic,” I think it shows the need for an infallible Church. So it at least moves you in the Catholic direction, I hope!

      God bless, my brother!

      Joe

    2. Joe,
      There is no need of an infallible church to understand Scripture. How many RC books are there are on your bookshelf that have helped you to understand Scripture that are written by men who are not infallible?

      The pastors and teachers have a responsibility to rightly interpret the Scripture and will are held higher standard: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1. See also I Tim 4:16.

      BTW- much of Scripture is easily understood.

    3. Given that Joe does not claim that his understanding is authorative — ah — well — so what?

      How does one determine whether someone is a pastor or teacher who has a responsibility to rightly iinterprete Scripture?

      And can one, having determined it, therefore have any trust in their teaching?

    4. Rev. Dark Hans asks:
      Does it make me Catholic if I do not hold to this doctrine?

      Only if you also begin to accept the authority of the Catholic Church and submit to her Doctrines. 😉

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  9. It doesn’t make you Catholic Rev, but you’ve taken a big step in the right direction if you reject this man made worldview of scrpiture. The Reformers certainly believed in the perspecuity of scriputure about the “basic message.” The problem is that Ps can’t even agree on the basic message because scripture isn’t so easily contained. There is no straw man here, see my post above.

    I don’t believe that Joe was saying that Ps assert ALL scripture is clear, but constantly assert that scripture is clear on an issue like “justification by faith alone” when it isn’t. In fact, the Greek behind the Englsih translation of “justification” is complex.

  10. Mack,

    If the KJV is the only English version that is absolutely clear, what about the Greek versions from which it was derived? Because all other English versions were derived from the very same Greek originals.

    How can the KJV be clear and yet the originals from which it was derived lead others to error?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

    1. De Maria,

      I didn’t say the AV was “absolutely clear,” only that it should be universally believed.

      “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:48 KJV.

      All English versions are not from the same source. A few old and corrupt Greek manuscripts have tainted most Bibles on the market today. The AV is uniquely from the textus receptus/majority text source (even the NKJV, which claims to use this source, doesn’t).

      Whether the Holy Ghost speaks by the apostles to write scripture, or works among later Bible believers to translate those words into new tongues, both times it is supernatural.

      If you don’t believe the AV’s words in English, why do you think you would believe the apostles’ original words in Greek?

      “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the LORD.” 1 Corinthians 14:21 KJV.

      – Mack.

    2. mackquigleyApril 24, 2013 at 6:54 PM
      De Maria,

      I didn’t say the AV was “absolutely clear,”

      So you don’t believe that God made the Scriptures absolutely clear either? But you were castigating Joe for, as you put it, “blam(ing) God for failing to write the scriptures with clarity”. So what’s up with that?

      Are you now blaming God for not writing the AV with absolute clarity?

      only that it should be universally believed.

      True. But that is beyond our control. Even the Jews did not believe Jesus. So, if Jesus, God incarnate, was not believed by all, what makes you think that the AV is better than Our Lord and God?

      “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:48 KJV.

      All English versions are not from the same source. A few old and corrupt Greek manuscripts have tainted most Bibles on the market today. The AV is uniquely from the textus receptus/majority text source (even the NKJV, which claims to use this source, doesn’t).

      This is all besides the point. You asserted that the Scriptures were perspicuous and were castigating Catholics for saying that this was not true.

      Whether the Holy Ghost speaks by the apostles to write scripture, or works among later Bible believers to translate those words into new tongues, both times it is supernatural.

      True. But Bible only believers contradict the Word of God in embracing a doctrine which is not in Scripture and which contradicts Scripture.

      If you don’t believe the AV’s words in English, why do you think you would believe the apostles’ original words in Greek?

      Who says I don’t believe the AV? I use it continually to prove Catholic doctrine.

      “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the LORD.” 1 Corinthians 14:21 KJV.

      Absolutely! That proves the efficacy of Tradition. It is Sacred Tradition which is passed down by word.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  11. meyuApril 23, 2013 at 2:31 PM
    Joe,
    There is no need of an infallible church to understand Scripture.

    1. Its not a question of need. Its a matter of fact. Jesus established an infallible Church.
    2. It is also a matter of wisdom. God knows that men are fallible. Therefore, inerrant Scriptures are of little value since, because of their fallen nature, they will err in their understanding of the inerrant Scriptures. Therefore, God established one entity which could Teach the contents of His Word infallibly in Tradition and Scripture.

    How many RC books are there are on your bookshelf that have helped you to understand Scripture that are written by men who are not infallible?

    Many. They are explaining the infallible Teachings of the Church. And they agree with each other.

    How many Protestant books do you have on your shelf teaching what they personally believe and contradicting each other.

    The pastors and teachers have a responsibility to rightly interpret the Scripture and will are held higher standard: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1. See also I Tim 4:16.

    Very true. That higher standard is upheld by the Catholic Church:
    Ephesians 3:10
    King James Version (KJV)
    10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    BTW- much of Scripture is easily understood.

    But not all. Scripture itself says:
    2 Peter 3:16
    As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

    1. De Maria,
      1. Jesus did not establish an infallible church. It surely is not your church given its track record.
      2.Your church has never officially interpreted the Scripture.

      Anyone can pickup a Bible and read the gospels for example and gain an understanding of Who Jesus is and what He did.

      Actually your church is guilty of violating 2 Peter 3:16 by misusing a number of verses to support its unbiblical doctrines such as the immaculate conception, the papacy, purgatory and indulgences.

    2. He says He did. Are you calling him a liar?

      As for “track record” what you are objecting to is that our teaching contradict what you like — which means you are claiming infallibility.

    3. meyuApril 24, 2013 at 10:32 AM
      De Maria,
      1. Jesus did not establish an infallible church. It surely is not your church given its track record.

      He said He did:
      Matthew 16:18-19
      King James Version (KJV)
      18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

      19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      2.Your church has never officially interpreted the Scripture.

      But in the New Testament, she produced an official written record of Sacred Tradition.

      Anyone can pickup a Bible and read the gospels for example and gain an understanding of Who Jesus is and what He did.

      Anyone can also pick up the Bible and make up their own religion based upon a complete misunderstanding of Scripture.

      Actually your church is guilty of violating 2 Peter 3:16 by misusing a number of verses

      1. You are arguing against perspicuity of Scripture. If it is true that the Catholic Church misunderstood the Scripture, then Scripture is not perspicuous.

      2. But it is you who have misunderstood Scripture and fallen in the trap prophecied by St. Peter in 2 Pet 3:16.

      to support its unbiblical doctrines such as the immaculate conception, the papacy, purgatory and indulgences.

      Those doctrines are perfectly Biblical. It is Protestant doctrine which violates the Word of God in Tradition and Scripture.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  12. De Maria –

    Good points. Ps can’t even agree on the basics of Christianity such as Baptism, the Eucharist, eccelesiology, etc. (or what the basics should be). Pure theological relativism built upon the back of Rome and fueled by pride and scholasticism. Man wants God on his terms, not God’s.

    Pism is very close to Gnosticism which was the first heresy. The heresies don’t go away, they just re-form.

    1. The biggest shell game is that they claim to obey Scripture. But they disregard Scripture completely. They follow the fables of their own mind and throw Scripture out the window.

      Scripture says:
      1 Corinthians 1:10
      Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

      But they all teach something different.

      Scripture says:
      Hebrews 13:17
      Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

      But whom do they obey and to whom do they submit? They would rather die than obey and submit to anyone in the Church. They don’t believe anyone in the Church speaks for Christ. But what does Scripture say?
      2 Corinthians 5:20
      Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

      Nope, they don’t obey Scripture at all.

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  13. De Maria –

    They don’t believe that sinful man was granted the “keys” to the Church created and built by Christ. I used to think that way and continue to pray for forgiveness. It is simply amazing how many Ps who claim to be apologist dodge history and the Church question. A few (wrongly) admit that there is better exegesis now than before. That’s insane and shows the folly of their ways. We documentation what was happening in the early Church and this information points directly to Rome and nothing like Christianity. The fact that the Mass preceded most of the NT is ignored by Ps. They think scripture makes sense without the Mass. I now know scripture cannot make sense without the Mass or a Church to properly interpret scripture for man.

    1. I agree completely. All which Jesus taught and commanded the Church to practice and pass on is in Sacred Tradition. And Sacred Tradition is the basis of the New Testament.

  14. I suspect if they had their choice they would do away with the sinful Apostles themselves. Paul murdered Christians and yet he was an Apostle??? God cannot allow such things in their (my former) world.

    This type of scholastic thinking is somewhat similar to the line of thinking by Stephen Hawking who doesn’t believe that God was necessary for the “big bang.” Of course, Stephen doesn’t explain how there is any order in the universe let alone how the natural can have something come out of nothing. Only the supernatural could allow such action and that’s the thing he denies as being in existence. What’s similar is that the athetist denies the supernatural and yet the atheist needs the supernatural to explain the world. The Protestants deny a physical Church on this earth created by Christ and infused with Holy Tradition yet they need such a Church and Tradition to properly interpret scripture.

  15. Cwdlaw223 and De Maria,

    I’m not convinced that this line of discussion is productive or charitable. It seems to be more talking about Protestants (and in sweeping overgeneralizations). I welcome interaction with specific Protestant beliefs, but would remind you to assume good faith. I don’t think that most Protestants are consciously engaged in a “shell game,” or want to get rid of the Apostles, etc. I’m inclined to see these broad bad-faith accusations wrong-headed and unproductive (even destructive), regardless of which side of the Tiber is hurling them.

    I.X.,

    Joe

  16. meyu –

    Do you believe that Rome was the true church and then failed to be the true church after the inquisitions started?

    The fact is Paul was a murderer and still chosen as an Apostle. God uses sinful men for his glory all of the time. The fact that people sin does not detract from the Church. Is the Church sinning? If that happened there would be cause for concern.

  17. cwdlaw223,
    Rome was one of the churches but not the only church. Things changed over time for the churches.
    True Christ chose Paul though he persecuted the church and uses sinful men all the time to advance His cause.

    Depends how you define the church and its functions. What would it take to show that a “church” is sinning? What would be the characteristics?

    1. Meyu,

      You asked, “Depends how you define the church and its functions. What would it take to show that a “church” is sinning? What would be the characteristics?

      How would you answer these questions? I think that Catholic ecclesiology is pretty clear and straightforward:

      1) Christ established the Catholic Church with Peter as head, he moved the primal See to Rome, he and his successors are called “popes” by virtue of a spiritual fatherhood over the global Church.

      2) Christ created the Church for specific purposes. He could have just left us as a disorganized group of believers, but He didn’t. One of the (many) reasons for founding the Church was to settle doctrinal disputes when they arise, and to thereby preserve the unity of His Mystical Body.

      3) This Church is, as a result, necessarily infallible (there are Scriptural passages supporting this, but it’s also logically necessary). Her members may sin, Her leaders may even permit (and even engage in!) bad behavior, but She can never proclaim heresy as the teaching of the Church.

      4) This Church is also necessarily visible and readily identifiable. Again, this can be seen from Scripture and plain reason: what good does it do to have an infallible Church if no one knows where it is? And the Catholic Church is this visible city on a hill, this mustard tree dwarfing the garden plants.

      As J.R.R. Tolkien pointed out, you don’t even have to be a Christian to realize that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded: “”I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and re-arising.”

      So that’s our view, and I think we’ve presented it clearly and straightforwardly, without doublespeak or evasiveness. Now it’s your turn. How would you describe the creation of the Church? What is it, and how is it different from simply “the sum of all believers”? Why did Christ create it? Was it ever capable of settling doctrinal disputes authoritatively? Is it capable of doing so today, etc.? If She became heretical, when? And did anyone try to stop Her from losing the faith?

      I admit that I’ve never seen a compelling historical narrative explaining how and when Christ’s Church failed, but maybe you can present one.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Joe,
      The problem with claiming to be infallible is that it makes true reform impossible. It makes it impossible for men to admit mistakes even when presented with global evidence.The primary purpose of church is to build up the body so that the members can become mature in Christ and into a holy temple in the Lord. See Ephesians 2:19-22 and Colossians 1:28.

      Some examples of a sinning church would be the church at Corinth. See also revelation.

      Characteristics of a sinning church would be a church that teaches non-apostolic doctrine, don’t do church discipline and promote immoral behavior would be some of the characteristics.

    3. Meyu –

      So you don’t believe that Chris created a physical church on this earth that would prevent sinful man from altering apostolic teaching? You don’t believe a physical church exists on this earth that is always guided in teaching faith and morals? You believe that after the Apostles died the only thing that man had left was trying to determine what is scripture and then interpret that scripture?

    4. Meyu,

      Your argument that the “problem with claiming to be infallible is that it makes true reform impossible,” since it “makes it impossible for men to admit mistakes” only works if the Church isn’t infallible.

      Imagine if someone made the same argument against Scripture: that we have to deny that Scripture is infallible, because it would make “true reform” of the Bible impossible, and would make it impossible for us to admit that the men who wrote Scripture made mistakes.

      Those might be reasons someone would wish Scripture was fallible, since we could reject it when it was convenient, in the name of “true reform” or the “mistakes” of Scripture. Likewise, you’re giving reasons you wish the Church wasn’t infallible, but not giving any evidence that She actually is fallible.

      It hasn’t escaped my attention that your response to my comment didn’t answer my questions at all. It didn’t even pretend to. So I’ll try it again:

      “So that’s our view, and I think we’ve presented it clearly and straightforwardly, without doublespeak or evasiveness. Now it’s your turn. How would you describe the creation of the Church? What is it, and how is it different from simply “the sum of all believers”? Why did Christ create it? Was it ever capable of settling doctrinal disputes authoritatively? Is it capable of doing so today, etc.? If She became heretical, when? And did anyone try to stop Her from losing the faith?

      I admit that I’ve never seen a compelling historical narrative explaining how and when Christ’s Church failed, but maybe you can present one.”

      One more question that I have to insist that you answer, in order to keep this dialogue going: what is your purpose in this conversation, as you understand it?

      Sometimes, you ask what seem to be thoughtful questions. But otherwise, you act in a way that seems dishonest or evasive. I can’t get a read for whether you’re “trolling,” or whether you’re actually interested in a substantive debate. Since this conversation has gone on for hundreds of comments over several posts (and since I think it’s keeping other people from commenting), I have to insist that you answer.

      This last question, in my view, is the most urgent to answer, because if you really aren’t interested in having a substantive conversation, I don’t see any reason to continue it.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  18. Meyu –

    I too have never been given an explanation as to what happened to the physical church created by Christ on this earth. Assume that the word church means “a body of people who believed that Jesus was the Messiah.” A certain body of believers worshipped God sacerdotally (through the sacraments) and they’re called Catholics. Everyone else is non-Catholic.

    What happened to the other non-Catholics from Pentecost until today?
    What were their names in history (i.e., how could I identify them)?
    Did their beliefs change and if so, how and when?

    I don’t know how a Church could sin which is why I asked you the question originally to show you there’s a difference between the Church and its members (including a Bishops and Popes). You brought up the inquisition in an attempt to show that Rome couldn’t be what it claims to be.

    1. Coleslaw223,
      There has always been a physical church.

      You do realize that the early church did not have the same sacraments you have.

      Does the word Catholic mean the same thing as Roman Catholic?

      See my response to Joe on a sinning church. I brought up the inquisitions to show one of the problems with infallibility and being incapable of error.

      The eastern orthodox church existed just as long as the church at Rome as far as I can tell. They are not Roman Catholic.

    2. So the orthodox have always had 7 sacraments like your church has today?

      Where does Paul mention in his letter to the Ephesians that it sacramental church? Where does John in his letters?

    3. Where do they say that it’s not a sacramental Church? Each of the seven Sacraments are mentioned in Scripture. Why are you specifying that all seven have to be listed in Ephesians or John’s letters?

      And yes, the Orthodox have always had the seven Sacraments that we have today.

    4. meyuApril 24, 2013 at 4:23 PM
      Why don’t you tell me what a sacramental Church is?

      A Sacramental Church is a Church which provides the Sactraments, wherein men are justified by faith apart from works. We present ourselves to the font of grace and believing in Christ’s promises, are washed of our sins calling upon His name.

      and where Scripture mentions it?

      The Word “Sacrament” was not developed yet during the time of the writing of the New Testament. The Sacraments were mentioned separately and described when the name of the Sacrament had not yet been coined.

      Here is one instance of the mention of the Sacrament of Baptism:
      Titus 3:5
      King James Version (KJV)
      5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

  19. Meyu –

    Let’s just limit the debate to one sacrament called the Eucharist where the people believed that Christ was physically present in the consecrated host.

    Where are the people in history from Pentecost until today who are non-sacramental believers? Who were they called? Where could I find them in the 3rd Century? 6th Century?

    I just wanted to inform you that in certain circumstances, Catholics are allowed to take the Eucharist at an EO Church. EO’s liturgy is congruent with Catholicism. Bug difference from a body of believers in schism vs. heresy.

  20. cwdlaw223,
    Where did the early church in the first 5 centuries dogmatically define the nature of the Lord’s supper? What council defined it?

  21. meyu –

    You don’t need anything defined. Quit avoiding the question and playing games. Where are these non-sacerdotal believers in history from Pentecost through today? What would I have called them? Where could I locate them in any history book? Or any other way in history? I can point to Rome throughout history. Belief in the real presence is the heart and soul of Catholicism.

    Rome is sacerdotal to the core since day one. You don’t need a practice dogmatically define for it to be a key practice of the Church. Usually it takes a challenge to the practice. I have made this easy for you. The least you could do is admit you don’t know of a non-sacerdotal body of believers from Pentecost until today.

  22. cwdlaw223,
    This is about the 5th question you have not answered. Where and when did the early church dogmatically define the nature of the Lord’s supper in the first 5 centuries? Unless we have some kind of dogmatic definition from a council all we are left with are the opinions of men.

    Even if Rome is ” sacerdotal to the core since day one” that would not mean its what the Scripture teaches. Maybe you can answer the question I asked Joe–“what a sacramental Church is and where Scripture mentions it?”

    We must always start with the Scripture if we want to know what the Lord Christ and His apostles taught. Then we can see if the churches were faithful to their teachings or not.

  23. Meyu –

    Where do you get the premise that you must always start with scripture? That’s not biblical. In fact, scripture points to tradition to understand the teachings. You hold scripture as a recipe for all things Christian and yet it was never written for that purpose.

    Please show your evidence of your beliefs in history. Assume the Eucharist has never been dogmatically defined. It’s a very simple belief. Christ is physically present in the consecrated host. That is the key thread for recognizing Catholicism.

    Joe’s website is replete with articles on the sacraments. A simple Google search will show you. A simole Google search will not show me a history of people who believed in Christ since Pentecost and were non-sacerdotal. There’s no evidence of a continuity of non-sacerdotal beliefs in history outside of Catholicism.

    “Then we can see if the churches were faithful to their teachings.” You use the opinions of men to interpret scripture because scripture is not self interpreting. I defined the term sacerdotal and church for you to keep this Historical request for evidence simple. I believe that you are avoiding questions and not providing proof. Show me in history the people who you think were faithful to your interpretation of scripture! Who were they? What were they called or known as? Where is their record in history? These are simple questions any Catholic can answer but you avoid answering.

    You know full well you don’t need a council to understand the word sacerdotal or to dogmatically define the belief of the real presence in the Eucharist.

    1. cwdlaw223,
      We start with Scripture because the Scripture is the starting point for all discussions of theology because it alone is the Word of God. It alone contains the teachings of the Lord Christ and His apostles. That’s why I want to see what they teach about a ” sacerdotal church” if such a thing exist.

      There have been many opinions on the nature of the Lord’s supper over the centuries. There are a number of different views of each. In fact the NT does not give us specific instructions on its nature nor what place it is to play in a worship service.

      If I’m using the “opinions of men to interpret scripture” then so are you. I did not see your definition of what a sacerdotal church means. Can you show me where you defined it? Can you show me also in Scripture where the church is referred to as a sacerdotal church?

      BTW- how can a RC be faithful to the “interpretation of scripture” when your church has never officially interpreted the Scripture?

      Of course you need things dogmatically defined. Without it, you can’t say its what your church officially believes. Right?

    2. Meyu,

      You’ve claimed several times now that (1) Catholics need to have everything defined dogmatically in order for it to be anything more than the opinions of men; and (2), that we can’t have a Catholic interpretation of Scripture without dogmatically defining specific passages.

      Are you honestly confused on these points? Several of us have tried to clarify that both of these arguments are false, but you seem unfettered in your insistence. If you do believe in this, can you point me to some sort of evidentiary basis for this?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. Meyu asks,

      Of course you need things dogmatically defined. Without it, you can’t say its what your church officially believes. Right?

      Wrong. The New Testament is the official Teaching of the Catholic Church and it is the authority of the highest order. It is the Word of God and it is written on the basis of the Traditions which Jesus Christ commanded be taught.

    4. Joe,
      RC’s are making assertions about the Lord’s supper and it being believed that same way by all (except Protestants) for centuries. I’m just trying to see if there is any foundation for this claim given that there have been different opinions about it throughout the centuries.

      If something is dogmatically defined by a council then you would have a foundation for claiming this was universally believed by the entire church.

      In fact “the earliest known use of the term “transubstantiation” to describe the change from bread and wine to body and blood of Christ that was believed to occur in the Eucharist was by Hildebert de Lavardin, Archbishop of Tours (died 1133), in the 11th century and by the end of the 12th century the term was in widespread use…..The Council of Trent in its 13th session ending October 11, 1551, defined transubstantiation as “that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation”. This council officially approved use of the term “transubstantiation” to express the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject of the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist,..” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation

    5. Meyu,

      It wasn’t dogmatically defined until it was seriously challenged. When a doctrine isn’t in dispute, it’s typically not defined. Look at the history of nearly any dogmatic definition, and you’ll see that this is the case.

      For this same reason, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dogmatic definition condemning, say, murder. But does any Christian have any a serious question about the Church’s position on murder?

      So it is with the Eucharist. From the first decade of the 100s, we hear that belief in the Real Presence is being used as a litmus test to determine who is and isn’t in the Church. And the person telling us this (Ignatius of Antioch) was a disciple of the Apostle John. There’s no serious question about the Church’s position on the Eucharist.

      You’ve already seen (because we’ve already shown you) that there were Christians who believed in the Real Presence, over a millennium before the philosophical term “transubstantiation” was coined. The question now is simple: did these Christians represent the general belief of the Church, or were they heretics on the fringe?

      There’s an easy way of figuring this out. These were some of the most prominent and widely-read Christian authors and leaders of their time. If you’re right, these men are using a very prominent pulpit to proclaim heresy.

      If that’s true, what should we expect to find? The answer is obvious: we should expect to find condemnations of this heresy, and we should expect to find the real Christians (the folks who took your everything-is-a-symbol view of the Sacraments) articulating this view somewhere. Right? Or is there some reason that the entire Church would stay silent in the fact of idolatrous heresy being proclaimed?

      So I’m laying down what ought to be the easiest challenge in the world for you. If you’re right, show me a mainstream Christian in the first six centuries of the Church who denied the Real Presence or who condemned the Real Presence-believing Catholics as heretics.

      If you can’t find this, then that explains why there was no dogmatic definition. Because it shows that there was no controversy during this time period.

      We’ve shown you early Christians who affirm the Catholic doctrine: you show us early Christians who deny it. That’s more than fair. Ball’s in your court.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. See my other comment above: I want to find out what your intentions are.

    6. Joe,
      The determining factor for truth is not how long something has been believed but is it taught and explained in Scripture. In regards to the nature of the supper it was debated for centuries. Some Christians thought that Christ was present spiritually with no change to the bread or wine. Others like yourself claim it truly changes but there is no evidence that it has. In fact the real presence doctrine runs into some serious problems. One is that it makes something physical (bread-wine) out to be a god. There is no indication in the biblical accounts of the Last Supper that the disciples thought that the bread and wine changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. These are just some of the problems that the real presence doctrines creates. Even if people believed in the real presence for centuries that would not make it true.

    7. Meyu,

      “In regards to the nature of the supper it was debated for centuries. Some Christians thought that Christ was present spiritually with no change to the bread or wine.”

      You keep claiming this, but you’ve yet to back this claim up with a single shred of evidence.

      Above, I said:

      “One more question that I have to insist that you answer, in order to keep this dialogue going: what is your purpose in this conversation, as you understand it?

      I explained at the time that this question “ is the most urgent to answer, because if you really aren’t interested in having a substantive conversation, I don’t see any reason to continue it.” You ignored the question. In my last comment, I drew your attention to it again. You ignored it again.

      So now I’m putting my foot down. Unless and until you give some sort of response as to what your agenda is, I’m just not going to let you comments anymore. Any further comments you make that continue to ignore this question will just be deleted.

      Honestly, I hate doing this, because I like a free-flowing debate, but I find your conduct evasive, rude, and trollish.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    8. >I’m just trying to see if there is any foundation for this claim given that there have been different opinions about it throughout the centuries.

      Which you’re doing by…reading the sources we’ve provided for you?

      > If something is dogmatically defined by a council then you would have a foundation for claiming this was universally believed by the entire church.

      Following this logic, when was the Divinity of Christ believed? What about the Trinity? I’ve said it many times before – your case must be consistent.

    9. >Even if people believed in the real presence for centuries that would not make it true.

      The above statement really does make a mockery of Meyu’s previous “history matters” rhetoric. He admits that, even if the Real Presence was believed universally from the beginning (which it was and has yet to be rebutted), this history can be safely ignored (and also left unexplained) if it violates his interpretation of Scripture.

      It’s also worth noting that this interpretation of Scripture is the personal, fallible opinion of someone who has declined to say whether or not he considers himself a “Scripture expert” and whether or not he knows the Biblical languages fluently which would aid him in his exegesis. Yet for some reason we are invited to believe him rather than the Martyrs, Confessors, Bishops and Christian writers of the early centuries…

      “But beyond these [Scriptural] sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called” – St. Athanasius, “Ad Serapion” 1:28

  24. meyu –

    I too look forward to evidence that the real presence “was debated for centuries” in early Christianity. I have yet to see any body of people debating the real presence from Pentecost until the Reformation. (Certainly not the EO as their liturgy is the same as Catholicism). The Eucharist is God on this earth! I agree that the fact that people believed a certain way for centuries does not make it true. However, it does show WHAT people believed when being instructed underneath Apostles or one person removed from Apostles. I presume that people being instructed under the Apostles or one person removed from an Apostle would be closer to the truth than scholastic man trying to interpret scripture that was interpreted from Greek to English.

    I also have no idea why you believe that scripture is the only holy communication from God to man on this earth. Scripture doesn’t make this claim. By making this condition out of thin air you effectively remove any possibility of holy tradition. Why do you make this claim? I suspect you just want God to only communicate with man through scripture. I also believe that you do not want to believe that God created a physical church on this earth that would be guided by the Holy Spirit and contain Holy Tradition. You have removed almost all of the supernatural from Christianity which is why your though process isn’t congruent with history and/or Catholicism. You honestly believed that Christianity is everything contained in scripture and if it isn’t there in black and white and explained fifty different ways that nothing else can come from God.

    I can only presume that you reject the Trinity since it is not in scripture.

  25. meyu –

    Are you going to provide some evidence for your position? The least you could do is to advise us you don’t have any evidence to support your claim that the real presence was debated for centuries in the early Christianity.

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