Friday, January 15, 2021

On the road to doubt. . .

So often sola Scriptura ends up being questioned and challenged by the folks who grew up in denominations in which it was preached and taught.  It is as if these folks got off the farm and went into the city and got a little taste of modern education and values and then ended up looking back at sola Scriptura as if it were the creation of small minds and the heralded doctrine of the uninformed and superstitious.  So the story goes, the one day Bible critic was brought up in conservative, fundamentalist, Bible believing church and Sunday school.  Then education and more knowledge from the skeptics caused the belief in a literal, inerrant Scripture to fade away until hardly anything in the Bible was considered literal and historical and everything was symbolic, mythological, and moralistic -- true in its application but not in its words.  Like the Bart Ehrman story.

Certainly the roots of Biblical criticism and challenges to the historicity of the Bible have come more recently (1700s on) and more typically from Protestants.  There are many stories like Ehrman's story and many who followed the path from the Scriptures are true to the Scriptures are symbolic stories without much historical truth in them.  But Rome has its own history in this.  Oddly enough, the higher criticism that was challenged by Protestant conservatives in the various Battles for the Bible has become normative in Roman academic settings and among doctrinal theologians.  

So one Roman Catholic convert and blogger wrote:  

that sola Scriptura created an atmosphere in which the Bible was the only authority in all matters. One went to the Bible to find the answers. If it was in the Bible it had to be 100% true, word for word, no room for human error, mistakes or historical discrepant

He not only credits sola Scriptura with the cause of Biblical skepticism that leads to discounting any history in the Bible, he makes it antithetical to the very message of the Scriptures:

sola Scriptura is a false, man made doctrine that has done more harm to the true interpretation of Scripture over the last 500 years than anything else. Second, if this is true, then while we hold to the canon of Scripture as the rule for doctrine and authoritative liturgy, we also read with interest all the other literature from the early church. Third, we assume that the earlier the literature–canonical and non-canonical–is the more it is in touch with the historical foundation of the stories being told. Fourth, although we assume there is a historical foundation to the stories we needn’t take a strictly fundamentalist, word for word accuracy for the stories. We can allow for human error in transmission. We can allow for elaboration of the stories over time. We can allow for theological agendas to have informed the selection of the stories and the way the stories are related.ancies. Sola Scriptura became a monolithic, all encompassing worldview. It had to be watertight and defended rigorously or the whole house of cards would come tumbling down.

What is so strange is that the very thing he discredits with regard to Scripture, he and all Roman Catholics accord to a man, or should I say a succession of men -- the occupants of the Chair of St. Peter over the years.  Papal infallibility is essential dogma in the Roman Catholic Church, in which, it is claimed, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the pope, when appealing to his highest authority, is preserved from the possibility of error on doctrine "initially given to the apostolic Church and handed down in Scripture and tradition".  And the sufficiency of the Pope, any Pope, to guarantee and to elucidate that faith goes with it. 

According to Catholic Answers:

infallibility also belongs to the body of bishops as a whole, when, in doctrinal unity with the pope, they solemnly teach a doctrine as true. We have this from Jesus himself, who promised the apostles and their successors the bishops, the magisterium of the Church: “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16).

Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.”

Let me be more specific.  This dogma was proclaimed by the first Vatican council in 1870, where it was affirmed that the Pope cannot err or teach error when he speaks on matters of faith and morals ex cathedra, or “from the chair” of the Apostle St. Peter.  However, Rome is very careful to suggest that:

The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine that was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility that has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 (“Feed my sheep . . . ”), Luke 22:32 (“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”), and Matthew 16:18 (“You are Peter . . . ”).

My point is this.  Is it less of a stretch to believe that Jesus who affirms the unchanging message of the Law, the Prophets, and the writings, who insists the Word of the Lord endures forever, and the witness of St. Paul and St. Peter that this Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness than it is to believe that the Pope, any Pope, when he speaks from the authority of his office is inerrant or infallible?

And then there is this.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats the affirmation of Vatican II:

The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures” (CCC 107, quoting the Vatican II document Dei Verbum 11).

Sola Scriptura may be hijacked by certain people on a mission and those who oppose it may hijack the same thing on their mission.  The end result is the same.  Instead of trusting the Word to say what it means and do what it says, somebody ends up saying they know better and just trust them.


Daniel G. said...

Good pastor,

"Rome", as you put it, trusts that the Word means what it says and does what He says (the Word is a person, no?). What "Rome" does not trust, and you know it, is the unadulterated interpretation that is given to the scriptures by those "who can read the scriptures for themselves" as you also like to put it. What "Rome" trusts is interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition going back to the Apostles and Sacred History. This, too ,I know you know. What has happened since the Reformation (really revolution) with everyone reading and interpreting the Scriptures for themselves, and you know it, are the many thousands of competing denominations that claim the Bible as their final authority. You would think that such people would agree on all doctrine since they all claim it as their final authority. But alas. and as you well know, they cannot agree on even the most basic tenets of Christianity such as the Trinity. Think Jehovah's Witness, Oneness Pentecostalism, Mormons and the many more that will break or splinter from a certain "church" body because they don't like a particular interpretation of Sacred Scripture by their self-appointed "pastors."

I don't assume, for a second, that you will ever agree with "Rome" but do not be disingenuous in your assessment of "Rome." After all, much of what Lutherans believe was taught to them by Luther and HIS interpretation of Holy Writ and Sacred History. I would dare say that he is your pope but I digress.

God bless

Samual said...

Ah, Daniel G. That (your post) is downright funny!!

Let's start at the end of your post and work backwards. You say, "much of what Lutherans believe was taught to them by Luther and HIS interpretation of Holy Writ and Sacred History. I would dare say that he is your pope but I digress." Do you recall that Luther was an Augustian, an RC professor of theology? If it were as you say, would he not have taught all Lutherans good RC theology?

But there is another major problem. As a matter of RC dogma, the pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra; what he says must be believed. I've never met any non-RC Christian, Lutheran or otherwise, who thought that Luther had to be believed.

The only reason the Romans don't argue over the interpretation of Holy Scripture is that they consider it irrelevant. The have all their "tradition" to quibble over, such as whether the BVM really appeared at such and such a place and time. For the RCs, that's what counts, not what the Bible says. I know very few RCs who have a clue what the Bible says, even what the words on the page are, let alone what they mean.

Any way, Daniel G., by all means, carry on. You are so cute when you explode like that.

Anglican Priest

Daniel G. said...

LOL, coming from an Anglican whose church doesn't know what it believes, I'll take what you said with a grain of salt. Same old BS.