Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sola Scriptura - A Fish Out of Water

This is a new thread continuing our discussion sparked by my recent post on Lutheran ministers marching in a gay pride parade. The subject was originally sola scriptura and how this doctrine has failed to address problems with the branch of Christianity that adheres to it in the same capacity that the magisterium has handled those same problems within the ranks of the Church.

Phil, It is true, almost all of what I argue against in Protestantism is not even true Protestantism - a distortion beyond what the reformers intended. Many of the early reformers would probably be shunned by most Protestant communities now because they were too "Catholic".

But I can't base my arguments on the exceptions rather than the rule. These pockets of Protestantism which are faithful in most everything are much closer to Rome than many of them want to admit.

Rome condemns certain doctrines - (like sola fide) and Calvin reformed Luther's idea of sola fide to fit with Scriptures. As a result, he created something very near what the Church has always maintained. Therefore he just reworked the heresy until it resembled orthodoxy enough to be difficult to argue against.

Sola Scriptura is not too terribly different. Even if sola scriptura were true - the Church would be the one to authoritatively interpret it. Orthodox Protestants might say they agree - but they've made the mistake of redefining 'Church' (Calvin did). So who cares if 'the Church' interprets Scripture if no one can point to "the Church" and say "here is what the Church interprets this to mean"? It's completely pointless.

Similarly, "Scripture interprets Scripture" is true enough and you are right to point out that the fathers taught this. But they didn't teach it in the capacity which it is often used today in Protestant apologetics. Scripture interpreting Scripture doesn't mean that any individual with a bible in their hand suddenly becomes a qualified theologian - ready and armed to challenge the bishop of Rome, it just means that you can't remove Scripture from its greater context.

Finally, the "Holy Spirit interprets Scripture" argument also fails for a number of obvious reasons. It is unintelligible to imagine that the Holy Spirit's interpretation so abruptly began in the 1500s - leaving the prior Christians shrouded in ever-growing spiritual darkness (even if incomplete; that is, no one disagrees with everything or even most of what the Catholic Church teaches). I will return to this point momentarily.

It is therefore most reasonable to interpret Scriptures not merely by using other Scriptures and not merely by proclaiming that the Holy Spirit agrees with your interpretation and certainly not by redefining 'Church' and then claim to be interpreting Scriptures with the authority of the Church as your guide.

No matter how much you'd like it to be, a fish out of water will never be the same as it once was. If you don't put it back into the water, it will die and become rotten. (If you want an illustration of this, see the original post - Lutheran ministers in the gay pride parade). The water is sacred tradition and the magisterium. Both are needed for the fullness of truth. What separates the faithful Protestants from the others is that they are dipping the fish in the water from time to time as they remain close to the source. More and more of their contemporaries say "we don't need to keep dipping the fish in the water, the [fish alone] suffices" and they move away from the life giving water. (This is hyper-sola scriptura) Their fish quickly dies and rots. There is no use returning it to the water at this point. So yes, you can believe in a version of sola scriptura that works, as long as you keep your fish close to the water and draw from the fathers and from the eternal truth which is found from its very own pillar and foundation (the Church - 1 Timothy 3:15) .

Now you have to ask yourself, is it really worth keeping your fish out of the water in the first place? Scripture belongs nestled in sacred tradition - yes interpreted by Scriptures - yes interpreted by the Holy Spirit and the single test to know whether you really are interpreting Scripture by Scripture and by the Holy Spirit is whether or not your interpretations match the 2,000 year old tradition which the Church herself has perpetuated originating from none other than Christ and His apostles.

How can you obey the Husband if you think you know better than his wife? The mother preserves the words of the Husband while He is away, the children must obey her and not their own intuition and not their own opinions of His words.

Now I said I would come back to the point about the first 1500 years of Christianity being shrouded in darkness. When I look at Islam I must ask myself, why was God (or supposedly Allah) so silent for all those years before Mohamed? (Nevermind the poor historical work that says Jesus & Abraham were Muslims). Every Protestant must ask themselves the same question. Why was the Holy Spirit so silent for the first 1500 years of Christianity? Most Protestants answer in their mind - the Holy Spirit was not silent, He was moving in many different people in the collective "church" (again using the anachronistic 16th century redefinition of the word) but humanity being corrupt, gradually departed from the simplicity of the original [sola scriptura - sola fide] 1st century group of believers until drastic reform was necessary.

Now, like Islam there are no historical documents to back this up and again like Islam, the historical documents we have paint us a portrait of a very - very different early Church. But for the sake of the argument let's assume that is correct. Let us assume that the apostles believed in something similar to the reformed doctrines - a believable version of sola scriptura and a sola fide that worked within the confines of James chapter 2. Ok. We still have one problem; one that is absolutely key - it's the same thing that tipped me over the edge and caused me to drop my pride and convert to Christ's original Church -

Transubstantiation. Not Consubstantiation and not merely "where two or more are gathered" but 1500 years of Christianity universally affirming that these substances which are (apparently) bread and wine are literally the sacred Body and Blood Soul and Divinity of our God - Christ. We say it is the very blood of the God of the universe since we believe in but One. If the Catholic Church went wrong on this point (and all Protestants say we did) then - damn did she ever go wrong. That would be no small error; it would be in the order of idolatry. Therefore the Church that Christ started immediately fell into apostasy and worshiped the created rather than the Creator.

The Mormons believe this openly as do the Muslims. But Protestants won't admit it because they can't fathom the world in which Christ would let all of Christianity slip into such error and be entirely uncorrected or even challenged until Wycliffe came along in the 14th century. Therefore the Protestants say "the Church didn't really believe that" or "the version of Real Presences they believed was..." fill in the blank.

When I start discussing these things with Protestants, the conversation always turns to - "Yea but the Eastern Orthodox..." "Yea but Mary was..." "Yea but indulgences..." "Yea but the saints are dead" etc... Those things are seen as errors because of the Protestant tradition (remind yourself as often as you need to how young it is). Just like the secular scholars all have but one thing in common - they disbelieve Christ - so do Protestants from Luther to Dobson all have but one thing in common - they disbelieve in the Catholic Church. There is no common ground on which to deny it. If you attack Luther's doctrine - every Protestant washes their hand - "I disagree with Luther too". If you point out Calvin's errors, same thing. Now each man is "his own pope".

But what if the very premise of Catholicism were true? How easy it is to accept almost everything the Church teaches! You can't accept the Catholic Church's authority by debating or by studying or by reading a blog (certainly not mine). You can accept it by cooperating with God's grace. Intellect can and will certainly pull you towards the Church - but she (intellect) will always offer you an excuse as well.

Look at which Protestant communities are the most faithful, are they close to Rome? Or are they the ones farthest away? If Rome is wrong in general (which is conceivable) then how is she so consistently close even while being so big and so old? (That to me is inconceivable).

It was sola scriptura which actually led me to the Church. Because of the doctrine of sola scriptura - I studied the Scriptures myself and found my own faith tradition (PCA) to be lacking. Although I saw it was good, and the best that I could find; I knew it wasn't complete. I therefore, like so many others, became a denomination unto myself. And finally, when I saw that my objections weren't mine at all but had been around since the beginning of the Reformation and my questions concerning Scripture which Protestants could never answer had all been answered many hundreds of years ago by the Church fathers (which were silently considered a taboo to read) then I began to suspiciously eye the Catholic Church.

I wish you could have seen my jaw hit the floor when upon reading certain Church fathers on the Eucharist the light bulb finally went off. Christ did start a Church! The Holy Spirit does keep her from error! The same Church found in Acts 15 is still alive and well to this day!!!

My imagination is a romantic one - that this Church still exists and in tangible - visible form. Christianity itself is a romantic religion - that our God loved us so much that He came and died for us. Though we are mocked, we believe that one day we will be vindicated. It is in this same capacity that I trust in His Church only I believe that history has been and continues to be her perpetual vindication. There is still just one universal Church. We have not strayed nor will we.

It may not be enough to convince some Protestants, but it's enough to convince this simple fiddler. Whether you agree with me or not, just do us all a favor - keep your fish close to the water.


Anonymous said...

I am more and more impressed by your writing everytime. I certainly agree with your points.

Long ago when I was pondering my Faith I gave protestanism a look and at the time I had many thoughts which would be considered protestant (I am who interprets the Bible for me) and things like that. But soon after giving careful thought to my point of view it just dawned on me that such a thing would call us to disunity and even worst rebelion towards God and his message.

Today I hold firm in knowing that if The Church is lying then I would not be Christian and that Jesus was a false prophet.

"I would not believe the Gospel were it not tought by the Catholic Church." St. Augustine

Tiber Jumper said...

Great post you simple fiddler,

from a simple dulcimer player!

Thos said...

Reading your comments in light of Calvin's Institutes, Book IV (The External Means Or Aids By Which God Invites Us Into The Society Of Christ And Holds Us Therein), which I've been reading over the last two days, was fascinating and prescient. How incredible to understand the drift from Calvin's vision, to understand that Calvin appreciated the Pandora's Box that may have been opened. Calvin writes with incredible respect for the God-ordained role of "pastor" in preaching the word (i.e., he sets the normative standard for Scripture's meaning). He writes with boldness on the need for submission to whatever is a properly constituted church (which he defines as any one that preaches the word and attends to Christ's instituted sacraments). I get the impression from his writing that if you found yourself in, say a Lutheran church, but had Calvinistic inclinations, you would have to remain under the Lutheran preacher's authority. At any rate, his main basis for dismissing the Catholic Church as not fitting his two-part rule above is that it: 1) is led by anti-Christ (a conclusion he reaches from Dan. 9:27 and II Thess. 2:24), and 2) practices transubstantiation, the "greatest sacrilege".

He reaches the conclusion about Christ's promise to sustain his church that it was either in vain (if "Rome" is right - because of their contamination with "idolatry, superstition, and ungodly doctrine"), or else it is not in vain and church must be viewed as Calvin views it.

I wonder what he would have thought of things today...

Anonymous said...

I am often of the thought that the "protestant reformers" were well aware of what could (and actually happened) if they did what they eventually did.

It like knowing that if you continue to swim without a life jacket you will drown and they still chose to continue swiming.

May be in Calvin's case he was a victim of his own doctrine of pre-destination.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thos, I've only skimmed portions of his institutes (I guess I wasn't a good Calvinist after all) and most of my reading on Calvin was done post-conversion.

You can boil Calvin's ideas of 'church', 'ordination' (and subsequently 'authority') down to their very subjective roots and easily see the relativistic theory which spawned his branch of Protestantism. Most Protestants today seem to adopt his concepts as their own, I suspect that most of them haven't put a great deal of thought into them because I personally feel that following them out to their logical conclusions can only end with brick walls. (I'm talking philosophy here not doctrine).

What is a real church? Any church that preaches the word. What is the word? The bible (errr 66 of the books anyhow). Who decides who is really preaching it or not? The church...???

What is ordination in Protestant circles? One group of lay men pronouncing another lay man (or woman these days) a 'preacher'. Since they believe in neither Holy Orders nor Apostolic Succession, they admit by their own doctrine that their preachers are merely individuals chosen to put a churchly spin on contemporary morality for 30 minutes every Sunday.

His idea that if you find yourself in a 'Lutheran church' for example you are bound by their authority since they 'preach the word' etc... is also a little silly. It may have been more applicable during his day - due to mere logistics, but these days - one does not simply 'find' one's self in a church. You have plenty to choose from. So regardless of which church building you walk into, you are immediately bound by their authority so long as they 'preach the word'?

Mormons preach the word. If I stumble into theirs am I subject to their authority? Oh they preach a different gospel? By what standard shall I measure it? 'The Bible'? They believe in the Bible as well! Who will make the decision on this one? Wait, let me guess... the Holy Spirit!

And what power does his concept of 'church' have? The WCF and Calvin himself (any good reformed Protestant will tell you) incorporates verbiage in the order of their 'churches' having the ability to excommunicate people as well.

They only mimic the Church. No schismatic group or heretical group can excommunicate. Excommunicate from what?! From your four walls? Fine, I'll cross the street to the Second Presbyterian Church.

During Calvin's day, Pope Leo X was in power. He was a greedy pope and Rome was in dark days. But as my friend who is an elder in the PCA remarked to me recently "Despite the corruption, the Catholic Church during the time of the reformation was doctrinally, a better church than the Protestant church is today". He was right.

As my Catholic friend pointed out recently, a bad pope proves nothing. Look at King Saul anointed by God, look at all the bad kings in the Davidic line - the line that would bring Christ Himself! Look at Judas Iscariot. "God's grace is greater than our weakness" and nothing paints for us a better picture of that than Israel and the new Israel (the Catholic Church).

Luther's original intent to reform the Church was admirable (in so far as he wanted to rid the Church of abuse). The Church was in no need of doctrinal reform and to this day she hasn't in the slightest. She's never needed to. She never will. Protestants don't seem to be able to grasp just how fantastic this fact is.

Getting back on topic, in spite of the corruption of the pope at that time, to call the Church one led by 'anti-Christ' shows just how shallow Calvin's grasp on history and doctrine really were. He did not view the Church from a historical perspective, he saw that the pope in his lifetime was corrupt and there were a lot of problems - therefore the 'Church' had become corrupted. But any of her problems were actually corrected by the 'Catholic Reformation' certainly not by the heresy of Luther & Calvin.

So history ended up vindicating the Catholic Church and doing the very opposite for Calvin - as so many Protestants are continuing to find out as it becomes increasingly obvious in these days of widespread Protestant apostasy.

By Calvin blaspheming the Blessed Sacrament, he nails his own coffin. Luther also called the mass 'idolatry' so let's be clear: this ecumenism stuff is BS, either we're idolaters or we're the real Church.

If it is idolatry, as Calvin & Luther believed - then the ENTIRE CHRISTIAN FAITH for at least 1300 years must be objectively referred to as a false religion. This leaves Protestant historical credibility on the level with Islam. It simply isn't a feasible concept of God's redemptive plan.

Calvin also rejected the Ignatian epistles. He could not conceive of a 100 AD Church which was thoroughly sacramental, believed in Transubstantiation, had visions of the dead saints praying for Christians on earth and employed a hierarchal system of Church government identical to that of the contemporary Catholic Church.

Unfortunately for Calvin and company, his scholarly efforts were in vain as he had limited resources in the 16th century. No reputable scholar now doubts the authenticity nor the date of these epistles - written by a direct disciple of Saint Peter himself.

Thos said...

Fiddler, thanks for your thoughtful… thoughts.

You note that most Protestants haven’t put a great deal of thought into the logical conclusion of Protestantism. My wife regularly notes that we are where we are, the Reformation happened (cats out of the bag, so to speak), so who are we to go back? I say that run-of-the-mill Catholics have put no more thought into where they stand than have run-of-the-mill Protestants. The vitriol levels are just higher when one speaks of the other. As C.S. Lewis said (paraphrase), ‘the closer we are to the heart of our respective positions, the closer we are to each other.’

This morning I read Calvin’s section on ordination (wow!), which you touched on in your reply. He believed that the holy spirit worked a grace through it, but it was a ceremony only (not a sacrament for some reason). He noted that the precept for the ceremony was unclear, but the biblical testimony of the practice by the apostles is so strong that it serves as justification for the practice IN LIEU OF a known precept (for why we do it).

Calvin determined that the selection of pastors was to be by the people, based on his reading of Acts 14:23. I have to be careful here, since some people forcefully defend his view, but I’m not convinced by his reading. The Greek verb ‘cheirotoneO’ (“hand-stretching”) is usually translated in English as ordaining or appointing, but was translated by Calvin as “voting”. See I don’t fully get the argument, since the “they” that stretched hands were Paul and Barnabas, and not a congregation. Other scriptural uses of this Greek word indicate a stamp of authority – sent by those able to ordain and send. Anyway, it interested me greatly that so much of Presbyterianism hangs on this reading of one word in the Book of Acts. To read it otherwise (that Paul and not a congregation could choose human authority, that the stretching of hands was not up to vote, but out to bless and ordain) would be a challenge indeed! Exegetically, here we don’t follow an ordinary reading of Scripture interpreting Scripture. I’ve read a persuasive Catholic comment on this verse/word that noted it would be odd for new believers, so ill formed (still on milk, no doubt) to choose their leaders. Besides all this, if I choose my authorities (as I do in America, in our great experiment with civil covenants) I am my own authority. I decide whether or not to vote for someone who might, e.g., interpret the no-divorce adultery exception as in or out of use.

By your example, history is no supporter of the Protestant view either – God used his Prophet, NOT the people (who were known to bow before golden calves) to select (or announce) the first king of the Jews. The first governor of California, a lawyer and Catholic convert (Peter H. Burnett), made an excellent rebuttal argument about corrupt offices, that the corruption of an officer cannot abolish the office. We would have a small Senate if it could. We’d have had a vacant White House long ago. Your point on the corrupt kings preceding the lineage of Christ is well taken, especially in that light.

Calvin called the Pope “anti-Christ”. He also called Luther “Apostle”. I respectfully find the latter, given those times, more of a stretch of the mind than the former.

Ecumenism is a hard spot. I’ll leave it alone. I probably agree with you (that it’s BS), but admire the work of R.C. Sproul, Fr. Richard Neuhaus, and the like. I hope they continue.

I’m just getting into Calvin’s section on his understanding of early church history – why it more resembles his view of the church than the Catholic view. I can let you know how this section comes out. I did not know of Calvin’s rejection of the Ignatian epistles, nor do I know much about them. I’ll dig, thanks.

Last thought: you noted that Protestants have to resort to the likes of "Yeah, but Mary..." I've fallen into this habit, and will say this in its defense - As Sherlock Holmes noted, "Watson, as I have said, whenever all other possibilities have been ruled out, the improbable, however unlikely, must be the truth. I must say that this case is surely singular in all my experience, however." I apply an inverse view of this logic to the Catholic Question. When all arguments work in Catholicism's favor but one, if that one is clearly wrong, Catholicism must be wrong. It must mean I've been mistaken about everything else (?).

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thos - this topic is super interesting to me (being a convert from Calvinism/Presbyterianism to Roman Catholicism). My brother in law told me I should read Calvin's Institutes. Now I can say I don't have to, my new friend Thos is reading it for me!

In all seriousness, I don't mean to paint a picture of Calvinists (or even mainstream evangelicals) as Christians who don't 'think' about their faith (at least not any less than Catholics). People in general don't think about stuff - especially when it comes to religion. I have a friend who said once "People put on their stupid caps when they walk into church". That goes for Catholics & Protestants.

To be frank, I think Calvinists are disproportionately passionate "thinkers". Maybe I'm biased, but I'd say if you took every Christian on the planet (Catholics included) I strongly believe that the Reformed/Calvinists would be right at the top (if not the very top) of the list of highest percentage of "thinking" Christians (if one could quantify such a thing). What I mean to say is, Calvinists don't typically seem to be the types who thoughtlessly interact with their Christianity.

What I meant to say was (and I probably did a poor job of conveying it), that I suspect many of them haven't carried out the finer details to their logical ends. I can't grasp how an such intelligent people can believe in an authoritative 'church' when 'church' is non-existent for all practical purposes etc... It seems to me painfully obvious that the resulting logical conclusions of many of the fundamental Protestant ideas cannot be logically hashed out for any lengthy thought process before running into a brick wall. Yet there are so many highly intelligent Calvinists... My own conclusion - they haven't put enough thought into it and or are unwilling to drop their pride and or are afraid of their entire theological construct being found illicit. (It's a scary thing, and the intellect does itself a disservice trying to protect the ego - never underestimate your own mind's power to trick you. Just ask an addict).

Good point about new Christians selecting the pastors would make no sense.

About Luther being an apostle - you're absolutely right about the ridiculousness of that. If truth be told, his atrocities were much worse than the abuses which occurred during the Inquisition and certainly worse than what Pope Leo X was guilty of. Luther himself ordered the massacre of over 100,000 peasants during a revolt. (See Protestant Historian Bruce Shelley and his book on Church History for a brief mention of this less-than-glorious moment). Now of course, we don't judge Protestantism by his personal sins, but by the evidence of their own objective errors when held to the light of Scripture, sacred tradition and the infallible teachings of the Magisterium which all three contradict Protestant beliefs.

On ecumenism - I don't mean to sound too harsh. I'm not saying we need to go around bashing each other but there comes a point where the truth needs to be said. We're talking about eternal souls here, it's not a game. I am the sole Catholic in my entire extended family - the rest being Protestant. I love them all dearly and know many of them are devout Christians. But they follow a heresy (not that they are heretics themselves) but the Protestant "reformation" can only be called so illicitly. It was no reformation at all. The Church did not reform. They were not schismatics either like the Eastern Orthodox. They were guilty of heresy. I have to (as always) note that Catholics do not call modern Protestants heretics since you have to actually leave the Church to be a heretic. Those who were born into Protestantism are not heretics in the proper sense of the word but they do follow a heretical version of Christianity. (That doesn't mean they worship Satan. The Arians were Christians also. They loved and 'followed' Christ as they saw fit. A small number of them exist to this day. However, their doctrine is false. The Protestant doctrines are as well.)

I'm all for ecumenism as long as it doesn't involve falsity. We cannot deny that we are the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Protestants simply are not. Pope Benedict had to remind the world of this recently to keep certain ecumenists from getting carried away. (For onlookers I will remind everyone that this doesn't mean that we teach that they're not going to heaven.)

On your last remark - I have to say I can understand what you're saying all too well. As I began to study Catholicism, I found that with minimal effort, each piece of evidence seemed skewed highly in favor of Catholicism with (to me) one exception - Mariology. I struggled for some time with this and still have some left over bias from my Protestant upbringing I'm sure. But here's how I look at it:

Let's suppose that God revealed to us that there is at least one individual on this planet right now out of 6.X billion people who just so happened to reach every correct conclusion on the planet. Everything this guy or gal believes is 100% correct. (Funny thing is all of us believe this silly thing and what's worse; we think that person just so happens to be ourselves!) But let's say I find this guy or gal by chance and sit down over coffee. What are the odds that I will have arrived at all the same conclusions by myself? What are the odds that I wouldn't have at least one or two strong disagreements? The answer is of course approaching 0%.

So assume that the same thing could be said of an institution (which we do say so regarding the Catholic Church). We say, that the Catholic Church just so happened (not as by chance but by God's grace) arrived at every single doctrinal judgment with an accuracy rate of no less than 100%. We say she is not, never has been and never will be wrong about any doctrinal issue.

Now many Protestants reject this a-priori simply because of their theological framework (much like a Muslim may reject Christianity a-priori because of his theological framework which is incompatible with the Christian concept of God).

But ignore that for a second, and assume that there could be one institution founded by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit that never missed the mark in the area of theology. What a grand institution she would be indeed. And if she existed, what are the odds that she would teach everything in perfect harmony with your own personal interpretations of Scripture, History and philosophy? Not so high I would assume. At least that's what I found for myself.

I didn't arrive at all the conclusions that the Church did on my own. Many of them I got painfully wrong. On my own, I determined that Calvinism was correct. I was shaken when I found out that the Church rejected it. I didn't reject the Church because she rejected Calvinism though (even though I STRONGLY believed in predestination) I rejected Calvinism because the Church rejected it. Now it seems painfully obvious to me that the Church was right anyway.

Surprise, surprise, the Church was right not me. Anyhow, sorry to ramble but thanks for the input very interesting stuff. Keep em' coming!

Phil Snider said...

Hi God Fearin'

I really don't want to make this into a Catholic-Protestant polemical contest, largely because I know those tend to spin in circles and because I honestly do respect the catholic tradition too much to get into the traditional Protestant polemical mode. I have the same opinon as Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, when asked recently why he wasn't a Catholic (he is very Anglo-Catholic) answered that he thought that teh Reformation asked the right questions concerning how we as God's people receive grace. I might also note that they asked good questions about the relationship of tradition and scripture too.

Yet, I do have to point out a couple of things.

First, on your implication that the Protestant churches which are closer to Rome are more faithful, it rather depends on how you want to define faithful. If you mean, they avoid the kind of actions as the Lutheran ministers in your first post, then the Anglicans should be the most resistant to ordaining homosexuals, to abortion, and similar things (and the Anglo-Catholics doubly so). The truth is the opposite, as we both know.

The groups that are keeping away from these kinds of practices the most successfully in the Protestant world are, in fact, the groups which are furthest from Rome and who take sola scriptura seriously: that is, the evangelicals. The reason for this is that the principle of sola scriptura would tend to resist the world's ideologies just as successfully as the tradition based approaches of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy because it rejects the world's values in favour of the prophetic and apostolic teachings which formed all churches. The mainline denominations have lost touch with both tradtion and Scripture and, as a result, tend to drift along with the culture.

My point here is not to defend a naive sola scriptura, but, rather to suggest that it, too, can serve to strengthen faith and practice as effectively as tradition does in the Roman Catholic Church.

Second, it strikes me that, if you aren't arguing against true Protestantism, we're arguing at cross purposes. My own inclination is to recognize my Protestantism and see how it affects how I theologize and read the Fathers, which means I really do have to understand my own traditions. That means, it is a concern that I understand what the Reformers were actually saying, as opposed to the distortions which have grown up, just as I would expect a good Catholic to look to the core of the Catholic teachings, not the odd superstitions which have grown up among the rank and file. My own intent is argue from that position, recognizing the distortions as incorrect and, hence, not worth defending. If you wish to continue, please realize that I'm not going to defend practices that are distortions of what I think the Protestant tradition teaches.

Second, coming back to an earlier comment I made about not being convinced that what you are critisizing in the Lutheran ministers in Sweeden was sola scriptura, I finally figured out what I was driving at. Strictly speaking, many in the mainline churches including the Lutherans have long since abandoned anything resembling Scripture as the authortative basis of our faith, so what these ministers are probably basing their decisions on is NOT sola scriptura, but rather sola experentia, that is, they base their faith on their own experience (i.e. I know gay people. They are nice. They must be good. So, the Bible is wrong to condemn homosexuality). This particular heresy is the one that you should be striking at, not sola scriptura

sola scriptura has its own set of problems, of course, and you have set out some of them. Indeed, even evangelicals are realizing some of these difficulties and I think it helps explain why some evangelicals (including me) have turned to the Fathers to iron out some of these problems. Still, many of us who have done that have no interest in abandoning Protestantism at all. In fact, if you want to see more of my reasoning on this score, slip over to my blog and see my most recent entry on creating a Protestant patrology.

I think that is it for me.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Phil - I'm having a hard time responding in charity. I had a lengthy response but a quick word count turned up:

7 counts of the word "heresy"
26 exclamation points
37% letters in all caps
and 2 counts of the phrase "YOU STUPID PROTESTANT"

I'm Just KIDDING. Seriously, my response was probably just going to lead us in a circle. I'll head over to your place and respond there.

Phil Snider said...

Fair enough, God Fearin'. Please do understand I'm not trying to argue you out of Catholicism, but rather to clarify my own tradition in both of our minds.

I look forward to your comments on my post.