Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Catholicism 101: Intro

You all ask too much from my last post, methinks. The title was "Problems with Protestantism," not "Problems with Protestantism and how they are answered by a concise and accurate Catholic Systematic Theology."

Taken together, the comments seem to indicate a demand for a more detailed look at Catholic doctrine, and while I would love to meet that demand, it is something I feel neither prepared nor qualified to write at this time. However, I would loathe to leave these questions unanswered, and so I have arrived at the following solution: I will serve as an aggregator.

It is my intention to pick a doctrine and compile a list of sources that you can read to learn more about it, along with a brief summary of the sources, each week. Whether or not I will stick to that schedule is a different matter entirely, but I'll try.

For now I offer you this, leave me a comment with ONE question on ONE topic and I will do my best to answer it.

28 comments:

  1. Hopefully I didn't come across as too rough :P The intent wasn't to pick on you. I am actually fine with your dislike of the Protestant Church(es). I was mainly dismayed that those issues were being addressed at all, rather than the far more pressing issue of the different beliefs of Catholicism and Protestantism.

    There are some serious theological differences between the two. Some Catholics believe that rituals such as baptism and/or mass play a role in an individual's salvation. This contradicts Jesus' role as savior, and shouldn't be brushed away as a minor doctrinal deviation.

    This is just one example of incompatible beliefs between Catholic and Protestant ideas.

    Regardless of my thoughts on the matter, it's admirable of you to address your beliefs publicly, so good on you for that. : )

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    1. "There are some serious theological differences between the two. Some Catholics believe that rituals such as baptism and/or mass play a role in an individual's salvation. This contradicts Jesus' role as savior, and shouldn't be brushed away as a minor doctrinal deviation."

      To this I say yes, there are serious theological differences between the two, and that the Catholic beliefs are right and have been mostly static for two millennia. Time, space and energy all conspire to prevent me from going into detail here and now however. I just want to make the point that I am not unaware of these differences and it is in fact Catholic theology, along with a few other things, that has pulled me into the Catholic Church.

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    2. Alright, cool. As long as that is the foremost consideration, 's all good. I will gladly argue whether they're right or not but I understand that would take a ridiculous amount of time :P

      I wouldn't say they've been static either, but again, that's a lengthy debate of its own.

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  2. Hm. I dunno, I think people were pretty much staying on topic. Your post was, as you note, titled "Problems with Protestantism" - i.e., "Problems with Everybody Except Catholicism." Summarizing that post, the things you said were issues for a non-Catholic denomination were:

    1) There is no singular governmental body uniting that denomination with other denominations.
    2) There are many other denominations.
    3) The existence of many denominations makes unity impossible.
    4) Other denominations make differing truth claims, though they also claim Scripture as the authority.

    I think a common theme of the responses you got was the question:

    "So, why would you say that the issues you raise here aren't just as much problems for Catholicism?"

    (I'll make that my one question.)

    To your proposed aggregation: I mean, I can Google "What do Catholics believe about [Topic]?" as easily as anyone else. I think what's of greater interest is this: you seem like a reasonable guy who prides himself on logical argument and decision-making. You say in your opening post, "Because I am, if nothing else, a Truth seeker. It is my quest for Truth that has pulled me closer and closer to the Roman Church."

    Given that, it's been odd that these last few posts have... well... been kind of light on actual defense of the proposition that the Catholics have found the truth! And at least personally, that's what I'm much more interested in: the logical, rational reasons that have led you to conclude that this is Truth.

    So I'm not opposed to your aggregation plan, but look: if you don't know these theologies well enough to defend them, they're obviously not the reason you changed your mind. That causes me to wonder what is.

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    1. 1) The Catholic Church has the magisterium, and despite differences in (lower case t) tradition between the churches they are all unified under the same doctrine guarded by the same magisterium.

      2) see 1

      3) see 1

      4) The various Protestant denominations, while claiming Scripture as their highest authority, are really claiming their own interpretations of Scripture as their highest authority. I believe this is self evident. The difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist is not their Bibles, but how they interpret their Bibles.

      Basically, this boils down to Sola Scriptura being a false doctrine. If the Bible is sufficient for its own interpretation, then why do Protestant interpretations differ so dramatically?

      The Catholic Church doesn't have this problem because it doesn't subscribe to Sola Scriptura. In addition to Scripture there is (big T) Tradition, which guides the interpretation of the Scriptures. Defending this doctrine would take more than time/space/energy allow here, but suffice to say if it is a false doctrine than the greatest miracle God ever performed was in establishing a Church based on a book few people could read until 1500 years after its completion.

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    2. 1-3) The Southern Baptist churches have the Convention, and despite their differences they are all unified under the doctrine summarized in the Baptist Faith and Message.

      Substitute words for the denomination of your choice, because pretty much everyone has some variation of the same thing (except maybe the Quakers, unless we count the Holy Spirit as a governing body).

      What makes the Magisterium a unique feature? And in particular, on (3), why does the existence of lots of other denominations make unity impossible for Methodists (with their governing body), but not for Roman Catholics (with theirs)?

      Basically, this boils down to Sola Scriptura being a false doctrine. If the Bible is sufficient for its own interpretation, then why do Protestant interpretations differ so dramatically?

      Because men, being fallen, prefer to add their own biases to it, and their sin blinds them to its clear truth.

      When one of my students makes an error in logic, he does not thereby diminish logic's power as a tool for investigation when applied correctly. That men choose their sinful pride instead of Scripture speaks to their insufficiency, not Scripture's.

      The Catholic Church doesn't have this problem because it doesn't subscribe to Sola Scriptura. In addition to Scripture there is (big T) Tradition, which guides the interpretation of the Scriptures.

      Which would be the Catholic interpretation of Scripture, yes. And then your interpretations of that.

      Defending this doctrine would take more than time/space/energy allow here, but suffice to say if it is a false doctrine than the greatest miracle God ever performed was in establishing a Church based on a book few people could read until 1500 years after its completion.

      I'm happy to acknowledge the existence of the church as a work of divine intervention, ayup! Wouldn't all of us?

      (Part of that "Tradition" involved making sure that few people could read Scripture, which, ah, seems like a flaw.)

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    3. I'm seeing a trend of misunderstanding what Sola Scriptura means. You seem to think it means "every man/woman/congregation for itself when reading the Bible!" or in your words just now, that "the Bible is sufficient for its own interpretation". This is not what it means. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the necessary and sufficient source of the information required to come to a saving knowledge of Christ and what it means to follow him. It is an attempt to preserve the church from the same problems that beset the Pharisees. However, it does *not* entail a categorical rejection of theological tradition as you seem to think it does. Example: every single Presbyterian church I've attended has had copies of the Westminster Confession of Faith readily available to the congregation (often appended to the hymnal), and uses it and others (such as the Heidelberg Catechism or Shorter Catechism) in teaching its congregation in Sunday School and such.

      So, Sola Scriptura does not require rejection of theological tradition. It simply says that you can read the Bible without any input from theological tradition and still be saved, and that when it comes to understanding God, Scripture and tradition are *not* on equal footing, that theological tradition must always be counter-examined against what the Bible itself says.

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    4. lillian-brandon

      Actually, Sola Scriptura argues that Sacred Scripture is the only or sole rule of faith and morals, not only that Scripture is a 'necessary and sufficient' source of knowledge to come to salvation. (A doctrine not found in Scripture, I might add.) While SS may not *demand* a rejection of all theological tradition, the caveat that theological tradition always be counter-examined against "what the Bible says" places the interpretation of the individual believer - and therefore authority of the individual believer - above all.

      -Kevin

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    5. Nothing is above individual interpretation - not church tradition, not Scripture, nada. I have known Catholics who experience the same teaching and tradition as other Catholics and still misinterpret what it means. Therefore, not an advantage Tradition-heavy churches have over Scripture-heavy or -exclusive churches. Right?

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    6. With respect to revelation, there are two major differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.

      Protestantism is fundamentally a one-source tradition, where traditional understandings of God may be helpful, but Sacred Scripture is the sole rule of faith and morals. Tradition can help with interpretation, but is not on the same level as Scripture, and can be overriden by interpretations of Scripture. Catholicism recognizes that both Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition are part of the deposit of faith that Christ left his apostles when He ascended into Heaven.
      "For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit" - Dei Verbum, Vatican II

      The mere recognizance of Apostolic Tradition in addition to Scripture as part of the deposit of faith alleviates (more truth = more data = fewer assumptions = good) but does not categorically eliminate the interpretation problem. Now one just has a bigger set of revelation to interpret from. This brings us to our second difference:

      Christ did not simply leave us to our own private interpretive devices, He established a teaching authority before He left, and invested it with a guarantee against error: "Whatever you bind on earth *is bound* in Heaven." The use of tense here shows that Peter's (or the whole body of the apostles, or the bishops, their successors) decisions about doctrine will reflect an enternal Heavenly reality. This is typically exercised by the issuance of short statements rejecting dangerous errors, like this one from the Council of Trent.

      "If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."

      As an exercise of the teaching authority established by Christ, this is a known-good interpretation of Scripture and Tradition, to which personal interpretations can be easily and clearly compared for validity. It is through this teaching office that disputes about private interpretation may be resolved in a final manner that does not devolve into "your verses and understanding vs. my verses and understanding" - because in addition to the infallibility of Scripture as a source of truth, the judgements of the teaching office of the Church are also infallible.

      You may dispute the validity of this doctrine, but assuming its truth, you can hopefully see how differing private interpretations are not an unresolvable problem.

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    7. Kevin:

      Catholicism recognizes that both Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition are part of the deposit of faith that Christ left his apostles when He ascended into Heaven.

      This is an authority Catholicism has claimed for its own tradition, yes. Notably, it's not one that Scripture grants to Catholic tradition - it's entirely self-supporting.

      From my perspective, Catholic tradition (a) contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture, and (b) has some really weird historical hang-ups. These both seem like good reasons to dismiss it as an authoritative source. What good reason is there to accept its claim about itself?

      Plus, as you note, the interpretation problem remains - there is always a layer of "what this appears to say to you" over whatever inputs you receive. The objection to Protestantism - that it places the individual interpretation over all - thus seems entirely unfair.

      The use of tense here shows that Peter's (or the whole body of the apostles, or the bishops, their successors)

      Again, the idea that the bishops are the successors of the apostles is not found in Scripture. Even if one accepts that Christ is uniquely speaking to Peter in the latter half of that sentence - which is not uncontroversial! - there's a sum total of no Scriptural evidence that Peter could or did pass this to anyone.

      Further, we know from Scripture that whatever authority Christ may have given Peter, it didn't render him generally authoritative in his teaching. Peter is rebuked for his theological mistakes later in the same chapter, after his denial of Christ, and again by Paul in the Judaizer controversy.

      "When Cephas came from Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned." Peter's tradition - even as an eyewitness, as an apostle, as Petras - was not "infallible" or a "teaching authority" comparable to Scripture. Why, then, would any council - even one claiming to descend from his authority - be different?

      Indeed, the model Scripture presents is that, when Peter was mistaken, it was proper for other Christians to oppose him. And that's the Reformative principle in a nutshell.

      but assuming its truth, you can hopefully see how differing private interpretations are not an unresolvable problem.

      "But assuming its truth" is in large part the issue, here. If the question is, "Why Catholicism over [something else]," it's rather unhelpful to begin with, "Well, assuming the Catholics are right about everything..."

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    8. I would also echo lilian-brandon's comments on Sola Scriptura. Protestants still write theological treatises and read C.S. Lewis - they absolutely find sources outside of Scripture helpful in reading Scripture.

      They just don't acknowledge them as co-equal to Scripture, either in authority or necessity. But a good teacher's a valuable thing, even if he's not always right.

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    9. Irked, you completely missed the point with my "assuming it's the truth" statement. I'm not begging the question, I'm pointing out that IF we are right about X, then Y is not a problem.

      That said, Scripture does not and can not support Sola Scriptura. The closest thing is "all scripture is God-breathed and *profitable* for....that the man of God may be equipped for every good work." Nowhere here is implied the *sole* authority of Scripture, that is an unsupported Protestant axiom. Clearly it is profitable and helpful, and one could argue even necessary or perhaps sufficient. That does not imply that it is the only source of infallible divine truth. This is completely leaving aside the need to recognize true epistles and reject false ones, a task with which Scripture cannot help you. You need some known-good starting point, after all.

      Scripture does, actually point to tradition as another source of teaching many times. Just one example is 1 Corinthians 11:2, in which Paul commends the Corinthians for holding fast to the traditions which he had transmitted to them. Another is that we know from the Gospel of John that Christ taught His Apostles many things that weren't written down. This is the Apostolic Tradition, attested to by Scripture.

      With respect to Peter, the idea that his refusing to eat with Gentiles is a "theological" mistake is an assumption common among Protestants eager to refute papal infallibility. Papal infallibility only covers ex cathedra teachings, not personal practice. Paul absolutely and rightly condemned Peter for his personal sinful practice, but abided by and transmitted Peter's judgment that Gentiles need not be circumcised. Further, Christ uses the singular form of 'you' - there can be no question that in Matthew 16 he is exclusively talking to Peter.

      I would ask you, given that Scripture has neither a table of contents, nor does it claim to be the sole authority on faith and morals, what reason is there to believe that it is the sole authority on faith and morals, or that you aren't missing books, or have a few that aren't truly inspired?

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    10. I'm not begging the question, I'm pointing out that IF we are right about X, then Y is not a problem.

      No, I get that! But "Why should we believe you're right about X, rather than someone else?" is the part I'm arguing with. I will happily agree that, once one accepts Catholic theology (crucially, that their tradition is entirely correct), knowing who is right theologically becomes trivial.

      (If we assume that ANY view of theology is entirely correct, resolving personal disagreements becomes trivial - the one who agrees with the entirely-correct-theology is right! But that's not a particularly helpful tautology.)

      That said, Scripture does not and can not support Sola Scriptura.

      Whose definition of Sola Scriptura are we going by, here? Some of those presented above don't need to be defended, because I wouldn't assent to them.

      But what Scripture absolutely does is speak of itself in terms that make it clear it is sufficient for salvation: "My word shall not return to Me empty." The claim that Scripture is insufficient - that is, that we need tradition, in order to be saved or to live righteously - is absolutely counter to its stated function.

      (I by no means imply here that tradition cannot be useful - only that a doctrine which cannot be found in Scripture is an unnecessary doctrine.)

      Scripture does, actually point to tradition as another source of teaching many times. Just one example is 1 Corinthians 11:2, in which Paul commends the Corinthians for holding fast to the traditions which he had transmitted to them.

      Paul commends them for holding to what he had taught them, yes. A sunday school teacher might say the same - it doesn't make his lessons infallible.

      Another is that we know from the Gospel of John that Christ taught His Apostles many things that weren't written down. This is the Apostolic Tradition, attested to by Scripture.

      And there's the jump: that Christ taught his apostles things they didn't write (on the one hand) and that these teachings are now your traditions (on the other) is an unsupported inference.

      With respect to Peter, the idea that his refusing to eat with Gentiles is a "theological" mistake is an assumption common among Protestants eager to refute papal infallibility. Papal infallibility only covers ex cathedra teachings, not personal practice.

      I'm aware of the difference between ex cathedra and other speakings of the pope. It provides an excellent defense against the fact that popes have denied papal infallibility.

      But to say this error is not a theological one is to draw the circle of "theology" so tight as to render it an irrelevant topic. Paul claims that Peter forced the Gentiles to hold to Jewish customs; he further notes Peter acted in such a way as to lead Barnabas astray. Peter was absolutely teaching - by his actions, at a bare minimum - a false doctrine.

      What we do not find anywhere in Scripture is the idea that Peter was treated as any more than a respected elder of the faith, or that Peter was (say) leader of the church in Rome, or that he passed some authority on to later leaders of the church in Rome.

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    12. I would ask you, given that Scripture has neither a table of contents, nor does it claim to be the sole authority on faith and morals, what reason is there to believe that it is the sole authority on faith and morals, or that you aren't missing books, or have a few that aren't truly inspired?

      Scripture hangs of a piece, with each of its parts reinforcing the others: the authors acknowledge each others' writings as Scripture (as Peter does to Paul in 2 Peter 3: "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures," emphasis mine, or when Paul affords similar status to Luke in 1 Timothy 5:18). Thus do we hold that all are inspired. To hold that none are missing, we again claim Scripture: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away."

      We further recognize that, to borrow from J.D. Greear, the Word of God always precedes the people of God. That is, Scripture exists apart from us and is, in a sense, more real than us. The canon of Scripture exists as it does, not because we recognize it, but because these are the pieces of the world containing the Word of God. We have no power to add or delete from it; rather, we are God's people because we have recognized it for what it is.

      To be blunt: coming from this view, it sometimes appears that the Catholic Church has seized for itself this reality, claimed not just equality with but primacy over Scripture: "The Scriptures say what we tell you they say." Our complaint is that this is the Pharisaic error yet again of mistaking the map of tradition for the territory of God's actual commands.

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    13. The error of your argument is that you are assuming that "Word of God" means "text of Scripture" and only "text of Scripture" which is simply not true. Scripture is only part of the Word of God, the deposit of faith left to his people. While some parts of Scripture attest other parts of Scripture, sometimes weakly and sometimes strongly, that still requires a starting point outside of Scripture. If A calls B true, and B calls C true, and C calls A true (a much denser graph than the epistles testimony to each other), you still have to a priori accept one of those as true. That starting point is from Tradition alone.

      Further, I don't know where you're getting Peter forcing Gentiles to hold to Jewish customs, and Galatians calls out Peter's conduct as having lead people astray. It's absurd to make no distinction between doctrine and practice, I might as well say you are dressing rather non-Trinitarian today.

      Finally, you and I have a different canon of Scriptures. Whose is the true one? Certainly, no one may add or delete from the true one. But whose is it? The Catholic canon was formally accepted since at least 393A.D. before Trent, which merely reaffirmed the canon as a rejection of the novel errors of the Reformers. In fact, the Protestant canon lacks the Deuterocanonical books because Luther removed them, perceiving apparent contradictions with the rest of Scripture and the new Protestant ideas. You know what else he tried to do to harmonize sola fide? He interpolated "alone" is his translation of Romans, and tried to do away with James, Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation, but failed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther%27s_canon#Hebrews.2C_James.2C_Jude_and_Revelation) Which should I believe? The canon accepted and received by the Church since ancient times, or the half-finished result of Luther's hatchet job on those ancient Scriptures?

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    14. That starting point is from Tradition alone.

      That's precisely the part that I take issue with: you're putting the Tradition first, and Scripture second. You don't derive your authority from it; rather, it derives its authority from you.

      I mean, this very clearly isn't "equality of Scripture and Tradition!" If "that starting point is from Tradition alone," then tradition is primary.

      And that's entirely backwards - Christ condemns the Pharisees for this exact error! The church acknowledged the canon - but the canon was before that. The thing that sets it apart, uniquely, is that it is the Word of God.

      Again: throughout history, which comes first: God's word to his people, or a people who can say they are his? Which derives authority from the other, in the case of Abraham or Moses or the prophets?

      Further, I don't know where you're getting Peter forcing Gentiles to hold to Jewish customs,

      From Paul in verse 14, actually: "When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'"

      It's absurd to make no distinction between doctrine and practice,

      It's equally absurd to say that your practice does not indicate the doctrine you actually believe. To go colloquial: Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks. When Peter refused to sit with the Gentile Christians, that was as much a statement about what he believed about them as if he'd denounced them from the pulpit.

      (Consider that Paul calls Peter out publicly - not in private, per Paul's own rules for dealing with individual sin, but "in front of them all." Peter's actions are leading the church astray - he is, by his actions, teaching them false doctrine - and so he has to be corrected in front of the church.)

      The Catholic canon was formally accepted since at least 393A.D.

      That's... iffy, given that even Jerome rejects them. Other reasons for skepticism exist: the Jews rejected them as canon; Christ makes an "A to Z" reference that covers Genesis through Chronicles, the last OT book in the Jewish ordering, but omits the Apocrypha; etc.

      Given that somebody has to be wrong here, if we're going to appeal to the oldest opinions the Jews win out.

      Which should I believe? The canon accepted and received by the Church since ancient times, or the half-finished result of Luther's hatchet job on those ancient Scriptures?

      The one that is the Word.

      See, the thing is, I don't have to agree with or even like Luther, because Luther is just a guy. He's not infallible. So, sure, he screwed up there! And then that error got caught, because God preserves his own Word as such.

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    15. Here's my question, in return:

      Your tradition contains some kind of appalling things. It includes, for instance, excommunications followed by saintings (in the case of Joan of Arc), some really shockingly political decisions to excommunicate or not (Joan again, Elizabeth I, Frederick II, etc.), the use of torture against heretics (in Ad extirpanda) and Jews (in Portugal), the selling of spiritual benefits (Leo X, to sponsors of St. Peter's Basilica), instances of mutual excommunication among popes (and anti-popes), some... kinda weird sexual hang-ups, etc., etc.

      So does mine, of course! There's bad people doing bad things in every church's backstory, because the church is made up of sinful people.

      But I don't believe that my traditions through history are infallible. How do you? How do you justify, for instance, papal decrees authorizing torture of heretics as part of an infallible tradition?

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    16. Tradition (capital t) is the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church on faith and morals based on what was handed on by the Apostles. tradition (lower-case t) is the practices and way things are done, and general acts of the Church. This is why we sometimes refer to the "Apostolic Tradition" instead of Tradition. We make a distinction, and if you cannot or will not acknowledge that, I cannot have a discussion with you about it. Tradition != the history of the Church. To determine if a papal decree is considered an ex cathedra exercise of the infallible office, check these rules here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility#Conditions_for_teachings_being_declared_infallible)

      The Jewish canon is not really a thing you can talk about in a monolithic sense. The Pharisees had one canon, the Sadducees another, the Essenes another still, the Alexandrian Jews another, etc. It is historical nonsense to talk about a single "Jewish" canon of the old testament, and the Pharisee-school of Jews didn't even close their canon until after Christ. Further, Jerome's so-called "rejection" of the Deuterocanon is not nearly as clear-cut as you present. (http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2010/06/st-jerome-on-deuterocanon.html) and St. Augustine defended it.

      By "starting point from Tradition alone" you mistake my meaning. What I am saying is that the reason you accept Scripture as Scripture, and not the Gnostic Gospels isn't because of the text of the books, but because of the testimony of the Church that these texts are what was handed down. I could also point to the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation and say "God preserved His Scriptures" and be no less justified than you.

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    17. We make a distinction, and if you cannot or will not acknowledge that, I cannot have a discussion with you about it. Tradition != the history of the Church.

      *nods* I'm, in broad strokes, aware of the distinction, and the RCC can obviously set its own definitions any way it likes.

      But consulting the article, there doesn't seem to be any definitive list of what actually is the Apostolic Tradition - which is puzzling, since that seems like a relatively straightforward task, given the point-by-point definition.

      If we take this as such a list, that would seem to be a pretty limited set of topics on which even the Church claims to be authoritative. Is the excommunication of Luther not authoritative - might he still have been a Catholic in good standing? Is the canonization you've appealed to potentially flawed? Is Trent not infallible? These would seem to follow from the above definition!

      And if so - if these things lack the strength of ex cathedra infallibility - then we're back to, "Why should they inherently weigh more than anything else?"

      It is historical nonsense to talk about a single "Jewish" canon of the old testament

      Wikipedia would seem to disagree, though I'll freely admit I'm not well-versed in this field.

      Further, Jerome's so-called "rejection" of the Deuterocanon is not nearly as clear-cut as you present.

      Jerome certainly does acknowledge himself as a minority position, as the article notes - yet he still holds to that position, and for a millenium afterwards the Bible was organized in a way that acknowledged uncertainty as to their status.

      and St. Augustine defended it.

      Augustine said a lot of things that were not entirely sound, in hindsight - but per your comments above, it doesn't really matter what he said, because he's not authoritative, right?

      By "starting point from Tradition alone" you mistake my meaning. What I am saying is that the reason you accept Scripture as Scripture, and not the Gnostic Gospels isn't because of the text of the books, but because of the testimony of the Church that these texts are what was handed down.

      Yes. And what I'm saying is that I repudiate that claim - I do grant Scripture its authority on account of itself, and not primarily on the testimony of an external source.

      (Similarly, I reject the Gnostic Gospels on account of their selves, because their selves are crazypants.)

      The testimony of the early church is useful in this regard, certainly! But Scripture would continue to be Scripture without them.

      I could also point to the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation and say "God preserved His Scriptures" and be no less justified than you.

      Yep! And if we acknowledge that we have equal justification on that point - that neither Catholic nor Protestant claims are inherently more right than the other, there - then we can start to actually look at the Deuterocanon to decide between 'em.

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    18. Reflecting, I'm not happy with my defense of Scripture, above.

      So let me turn this around, a bit: I'm arguing for Scripture-as-its-own-defense in the position of primacy. You're arguing for Tradition-as-the-defense-of-Scripture in the prime position.

      On what grounds do you accept Tradition, then? Why do you believe it, and (in particular) why do you believe what it has to say about Scripture?

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    19. I'll get back with a reply later. Quick points: the infallibility of the Church is not limited to papal infallibility. You were referring a lot to papal decrees, so I referred you to the papal infallibility definition. In addition to ex cathedra papal pronouncements, ecumenical councils (the body of the bishops together with their head, the bishop of Rome) may teach infallibly. Trent falls under this. Excommunications are a matter of ecclesial law, and not faith and morals, and are thus not specially protected by the charism of infallibility granted to the Church. Interestingly, canonizations are a matter of faith, and papal pronouncements of such are considered infallible.

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    20. In addition to ex cathedra papal pronouncements, ecumenical councils (the body of the bishops together with their head, the bishop of Rome) may teach infallibly.

      To be clear: is some of what some ecumenical councils say infallible, or is everything any ecumenical council says infallible?

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    21. My apologies for my extended absence: conference deadlines ate my life.

      The object of infallibility, whether of popes or councils, is always the same: truths directly touching faith and morals, and those truths intimately connected with faith and morals. This teaching infallibility may be exercised by ex cathedra statements by the pope, or exercised by the declarations of a council that reasonably represents the bishops of the world together with their head, the bishop of Rome. Further, the infallible teaching office is also exercised when *all* bishops separately define teaching on faith and morals in their dioceses throughout the world.

      Why do I believe the Apostolic Tradition? It’s sort of the supernatural analogue to history. Why do I believe in the Napoleonic Wars or the existence of Julius Caesar? Because accounts of these events and persons have been reliably handed down. There are history books, and writings from the times, and they might have the ring of truth to them, but the reason I know beyond a reasonable doubt is because reliable historians told me, who were told by other reliable historians, dating back to the days of the Little Corporeal or the Gallic Wars. The Apostolic Tradition is largely the same thing. Jesus told the apostles things. Some of this was inspirationally written down in what became Scripture, and some of it was handed on by word of mouth and individual teaching as the apostles appointed bishops and successors to lead the Church after them, and hand on and preserve that teaching. The written and unwritten deposit of faith serves as the ‘theological data’ and the infallibility of the Church serves as the interpreter and expounder of that data. It is through this that Christ has guaranteed his Church, and through this that I can be certain of my canon of Scripture.

      Without such table-of-contents verification, one must fall back to such self-attestation arguments that you employed. Such arguments may be fine for some particularly eloquent books: certainly one might conclude, merely based on reading them, that Romans or the Epistles of Peter obviously stand on their own as Scripture. However, what about Jude? Or Revelation? Revelation sounds kind of crazy at times, and there were lots of apocalyptic literature that didn’t make the cut. The Apocalypse of Peter is relatively sane, and has strong parallels to 2 Peter. If each book of the canon is not either A) attested to by a clearly Scriptural book (Suppose Peter’s epistles are considered such, then Paul’s must also be scripture) B) clearly scriptural in and of itself, over and above other apocryphal claimants, then one is stuck with R.C. Sproul’s fallible canon of infallible books. However, with an infallible Church as guide, one can reasonably acknowledge that only some of the NT is really obviously self-attesting, and yet have perfect surety that the canonical table of contents if complete and correct. Jude is Scripture because it is God-breathed. We know it is God-breathed because the Church of Christ recognized it as such under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as promised.

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    22. The object of infallibility, whether of popes or councils, is always the same: truths directly touching faith and morals, and those truths intimately connected with faith and morals. This teaching infallibility may be exercised by ex cathedra statements by the pope, or exercised by the declarations of a council that reasonably represents the bishops of the world together with their head, the bishop of Rome. Further, the infallible teaching office is also exercised when *all* bishops separately define teaching on faith and morals in their dioceses throughout the world.

      Okay. But that's starting to get more than a little fuzzy, particularly relative to that these-exact-words list earlier. What's required for a council to "reasonably represent" the bishops of the world? How close do you have to be to be "intimately connected" to faith and morals? (What does a church announcement disconnected from "faith" or "morals" even look like?)

      It would seem to be absolutely essential that these are hard categories - a statement is either infallible or it's not, right? If so, it should be pretty straightforward to address the questions I asked in the preceding posts: what's the full set of infallibly-declared truths to which we have access? (I can offer a fairly simple list, for my part: it's the canon of Scripture.) What's the full list of exactly which councils qualify, under which conditions?

      Because absent such a list, I can't argue with the infallible tradition because it's a phantom: there's nothing there to aim at.

      If each book of the canon is not either A) attested to by a clearly Scriptural book (Suppose Peter’s epistles are considered such, then Paul’s must also be scripture) B) clearly scriptural in and of itself, over and above other apocryphal claimants, then one is stuck with R.C. Sproul’s fallible canon of infallible books. However, with an infallible Church as guide...

      There's an ultimate problem with "with an infallible church as guide," and it's the same one LadyArkham pointed out back at the top: there's always an interpretational layer. Always. Unavoidably.

      We both have [a thing] that we accept as infallible. We both are, however, fallible beings; that is, although we can both point to significant evidence for that thing being infallible, all of that evidence ultimately boils down to, "This makes good sense to me."

      For you, the thing is the Church. For me, it's Scripture. But in both cases, we have a fallible acceptance of infallible truth. Indeed, this must be a point that is only fallibly understood, even among Christians, because at least one of us has it wrong.

      Which is to say, the claim of Apostolic tradition cannot give one more surety than the alternative. It flatly can't, because in your case or mine, surety is bounded by our human fallibility.

      Now, if you're correct, you can claim more information than I have - obviously, because you're claiming additional infallible data points. But the implication that only Catholics can have "perfect surety" in Scripture is unsustainable. Perfect surety is impossible in anything that begins with "I fallibly believe that..."; it makes no difference to surety whether the statement continues "Scripture is infallible" or "the Church is infallible, and thus its definition of Scripture is correct."

      Jude is Scripture because it is God-breathed. We know it is God-breathed because the Church of Christ recognized it as such under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as promised.

      That's a fine reason. But it's not the only or the necessary reason - which returns to your challenge to me, and my original answer to it: I do not accept the Scripture as such on the grounds that the church has recognized it.

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    23. Which takes me back full circle to my original question to Scott, actually: on what grounds is anything listed here as a problem of Protestantism not also a problem for Catholicism?

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