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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Blind Followers, Inconsistencies, Double Standards and More Confusion

Roman Catholics often assert that Protestantism operates under the principle that Scripture is open to private interpretation because Protestants deny the need for an infallible magisterium to interpret Scripture. Is historic Protestantism really a religion of "me and my Bible?" Do the tenets of historical Protestantism really deny 2 Peter 1:20, which informs that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation?

An honest and informed Roman Catholic understands that Protestants do not think that Scripture has no need for an interpreter.
1. An honest and informed Roman Catholic understands and will gladly concede that historic Protestantism affirms that Scripture is the interpreter of Scripture. This is often referred to as the analogy of Scripture.
2. Even for the Roman Catholic, Scripture interprets Scripture with respect to the magisterium's basis for Christian doctrine. In turn the magisterium is to relay its interpretation of Scripture to the laity. Even Marian doctrines are alleged to be derived from Scripture.
3. Even when a Roman Catholic lay person offers an argument from Scripture, say to reconcile James with Paul, they too operate under the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture. At the very least, won’t a Roman Catholic appeal to Scripture’s interpretation of Scripture to derive and offer proof of Rome's doctrine for an infallible magisterium?  Rarely does one find a Roman Catholic assert “the pope has said so and that settles it.”
Roman Catholics not only often impugn Protestantism unjustly; they maintain a double standard in the process. I am not suggesting ill intent. I'm just pointing out what is commonplace.
More inconsistencies, double standards and confusion
Another common objection levied against the perspicuity and sufficiency of Scripture is that since there are so many denominations that hold conflicting views we simply cannot know what Scripture teaches without an infallible magisterium.  An easy refutation of this argument is that Christ held the Jews responsible to know the Scriptures even in spite of the error of the teaching magisterium of his day. Moreover, there is no Old Testament precedent for the need or establishment of an infallible magisterium. In fact, those that would set themselves above Scripture were often to be disregarded utterly and completely. If the New Testament abrogates this principle then it should be demonstrable from Scripture, which of course would undermine the absolute need for an infallible magisterium. In any case, allowing for the premise that Peter was the first pope (and all that entails), how does one reach the grand conclusion of an unbroken lineage of infallible popes that would reside in Rome?
Indeed, the doctrines that exist within the entire set of Protestant denominations cannot all be correct given that contradictory doctrines exist within Protestantism. Yet that’s a far cry from  substantiating the need for an infallible magisterium, especially in light of Old Testament precedence as noted above. Nor do conflicting Protestant denominations imply that Rome has true doctrine.
A Fresh Polemic?

Although in one sense Rome has a greater chance of being correct than any given set of conflicting doctrines, Roman Catholics are not able to argue successfully that Roman Catholicism has any more chance of being correct than any particular denomination that has not contradicted itself. Rome likes to compare herself with the whole of Protestantism rather than with a single Confession that is internally consistent with itself, like the Westminster standards.
Coming at this from a non-Trinitarian unbelieving perspective, we can just as easily lump Roman Catholicism in with all other Trinitarian denominations making the set even more inclusive. Given such a cataloging of Trinitarian denominations and by employing the Roman Catholic's way of reasoning, one may just as easily ask in the spirit of Roman Catholic skepticism how truth can be known given all the opposing doctrines within Trinitarian theology (Roman Catholicism included). In other words, Roman Catholic apologists often point to conflicting doctrines within the whole of Protestantism to create need for Romanism, the supposed arbiter of truth. Yet if we lump Rome in with all the rest of Christianity (and apply her reasoning) then her disagreements with the Westminster standards, for instance, makes her doctrine as questionable as all the Protestant denominations she would cast doubt upon. In response to this Roman Catholics might say that Rome claims infallibility whereas Protestant denominations don't. But how does the claim of infallibility establish actual infallibility any more than it points to absolute delusion?!

In Conclusion

If Scripture does not inform the Roman Catholic magisterium about what Scripture has to say, then who or what does? To deny that the popes affirm the analogy of Scripture for the magisterium is to reduce Scripture to brute particulars that have no  discernible coherence, which would mean that the magisterium with respect to interpreting Scripture must be making things up as they go along and that any appeal to Scripture is disingenuous at best. Therefore, it’s not that Rome so much denies the intelligibility of Scripture. Rather, Rome would have us believe that Scripture is only intelligible to the magisterium. Consequently, individual Roman Catholics should not appeal to Scripture to justify the Roman Catholic communion and the church's need for the popes. Rather, Roman Catholics should be consistent by simply pointing to the authority of the popes to defend the claims of the popes. That's viscously circular. And, it's an admission of being a blind follower of something other than Scripture, which is an embarrassment for Roman Catholics yet a necessary implication of their view of the church and Scripture.

As soon as a Roman Catholic argues from Scripture he denies the need for an infallible magisterium. Once he points to Rome apart from Scripture, he shows himself to be a blind follower of Rome in the face of Scripture.
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3 comments:

Nick said...

I think there are two extremes that need to be avoided. On one end, Catholics should not say the Bible is unintelligible, for this contradicts the fact the Church Fathers and great Saints quoted lots of Scripture and commented upon it. On the other end, Protestants should not say that Scripture is clear on all essential matters, even if it is clear on most essential matters, since the existence of denominations cannot agree as to the parameters of orthodoxy.

Reformed Apologist said...

The Westminster Confession of Faith address this in 1.7:

"All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: 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."

As true as that is, Rome still rejects the good news of salvation.

Armigerous said...

An "infallible magisterium"?...says who?...the alleged "infallible" Bishop of Rome?...that is nothing but a dried out imperial Roman conceit with no scriptural authority whatsoever