Monday, February 11, 2008

Eight Ways in Which Protestants Trust Tradition Not One Iota Less Than Catholics

Without further qualification:

1. Divinity of Christ (to include two natures, one being etc…)
2. The full doctrine of the Trinity
3. The canon of Scripture
4. The prohibition against polygamy
5. Celebrating Sunday as the new Sabbath

6. That all the apostles save John suffered martyrdom
7. That Peter was crucified upside down
8. That Paul was executed in Rome

Part of me says 'hats off to you Protestants' and the other part says 'but why don't you trust the rest?"


Danny Garland Jr. said...

Also, that Private Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Oh thats a good one. Thanks for the addition.

Chad Toney said...

That one must be baptized before receiving communion.

That the great commission is something for all Christians not just the apostles. (I think I could find a lot of similar ones like this...things we just *assume* only apostles could do or things any Christian could do).

Tim A. Troutman said...

I should have named it 8 ways and counting...

Thos said...

There are Protestant arguments "from Scripture" for some of these. I won't defend them that way, but we should keep it in mind. I have heard, for example, a lengthy textual New Testament argument in defense of Sabbath observance being moved to Sunday. To me, the line of criticism then tracks this way: are these post hoc rationalizations or now? This defense came from an all-from-Scripture Calvinist and not from a can't-conflict-with-Scripture Lutheran. Post hoc is key, but unfortunately is sounds too fancy and complex to win anyone over. People want clean arguments. "Protestants rely on tradition too!" Once that argument bounces back and forth two or three times (with rebuttal and counters), the typical Christian will, I fear, give up and go with the status quo.

Peace in Christ,

Tim A. Troutman said...

You can make strong Scriptural arguments against all of those as well.

William Lane Craig is among the best Christian debaters I know of. In every debate I've heard him in versus atheists etc.. he usually has the opponent in a proverbial choke-hold throughout the debate.

I only saw him stumbling back and fighting to stay on his feet once. That was when he debated a Muslim scholar on the divinity of Christ. The Muslim used almost exclusively New Testament Christian Scriptures to argue against him. I think Craig won the debate but just barely - and it was because of his debating skills - not the upper hand - that made him win I think.

Of course, the Trinity would be easy to argue against Scripturally and rejecting the prohibition against polygamy would be child's play from a Scripture-only stand point.

Celebrating mass on Sunday is mentioned in the New Testament but so was celebrating on Saturday and keeping Sabbath. Paul remarks in a nut shell "don't argue about it".

At any rate, I am fully aware that there are bad arguments against my point and that the average Joe may be inclined to be deceived by them. I'm not interested in bad arguments though, only good ones.

Trying to prove those points out of Scripture only is poor reasoning and I think we all know that.

Thos said...


"Trying to prove those points out of Scripture only is poor reasoning and I think we all know that."

Specifically, it may be post hoc rationalization. Protestants take presuppositions, combine them with the doctrine of sola Scriptura, and rationalize any contrary conclusions post hoc. Presuppositionalism and post hoc rationalism are perhaps the most stinging criticisms of the fruits of the Reformation.

If you presuppose that Sunday is the Lord's Day, and you're willing to rationalize it post hoc through the use of Scripture, you will never give even-keeled consideration to whether the Saturday Sabbath arguments *from Scripture* are better. Again, the status quo will prevail (hence, I've been feeling quite pessimistic of late).

Peace in Christ,

Tim A. Troutman said...

What I'm hearing you say is that you agree that those arguments don't work but that they tend to prevail in people's minds (hence the pessimism).

I don't know how to address people who cannot grasp these concepts without much further qualification. For me, from the very second that the question of the canon entered my head at the ripe old age of 16 years old, I could not shake it. It haunted me until I found the answer.

So to me this is all as plain as looking at sunset and knowing it's beautiful (supposing I could actually make a rational argument for why it is). I wouldn't know how to approach someone who didn't already know it was beautiful.

Likewise, it's hard for me to imagine how to approach someone who doesn't immediately agree with this point. Danny & Chad immediately knew and agreed with me. But they're both Catholic of course. But if someone had given me these arguments 4 years before becoming Catholic I can say without hesitation that I would have agreed immediately. I think they are intrinsically good and I would have recognized the fallacy of my belief system (which I already did... I just didn't know the answer).

Now I know the answer and can better understand the question. Yet I don't know how to present it to someone who doesn't already recognize the problems.

Thos said...


Thanks. You do hear me right. I probably shouldn't come here and cry in *your* beer about why people can't shake their presuppositions... or think objectively. I should just cry in my own beer.

You said, "...if someone had given me these arguments 4 years before becoming Catholic... I would have agreed immediately."

My deep investment in my own status quo made an immediate acceptance of alternate views impossible. But more, my deep trust in the status quo had me believing that the various scholars from my camp *must* have had the right answers -- so there was no need to buy alternate views immediately. While I was curious enough to check my scholars answers out, I bet most presuppositional protestants will not get past the point of trusting their status quo.

Peace in Christ,

Tim A. Troutman said...

Right - I guess I should clarify that a little. I don't mean that I would instantly become Catholic I meant that I would instantly agree with what the person was saying (immediately) i.e. I wouldn't start arguing out of the Scriptures for those things.

I looked to my own scholars for a long time but kept hearing the same answers over and over. The only answers I ever heard that seemed well grounded were either Catholic ones or from Protestants who were highly sympathetic towards Catholicism.

I remember one dinner conversation with a friend (who is among the smartest people I know, and a fellow Presbyterian) say that "you know we Protestants criticize the Catholics for trusting in the infallibility of the pope but we have the same level of trust for the councils who put together the bible". That was one of the earliest points where I started thinking of Catholicism. I must have still been a teenager at that point.

I haven't talked to him in years though he's in England now working on his doctorate or maybe has it by now I don't know. At any rate - I wouldn't be surprised in the least to find him a Catholic next time we meet.

Phil Snider said...

I'm not sure about why you're surpised at this. Most Protestants (except for the radical Anabaptist wing) never intended to reject all the catholic tradition and, indeed, regarded themselves as catholics even after the split. Much of the polemics by both Lutherans and Calvinists about the nature of the church understood this.

Remember that the initial issues of the Reformers was around abuses of the sacramental system and church discipline. Many of these were dealt with at Trent (not quite all, but many), but, by then, the real battles shifted to the ecclesiological battle about how authority is diffused in the church. That tended to centre on the Papacy, but conciliarism (and thus, the seven ecumenical councils) remained an understood part of the faith.

This also means that, except for the radical edge of the Anabaptists and Spiritualists, the Reformation simply did not concern itself with the Trinity or even with the Creeds. Most groups accepted them as they were and didn't worry about it. Other groups created 'Confessions', but these 'Confessions' usually affirmed implicitly these core doctrines.

My point in this is that a sharp division between Protestant and Catholic theology shouldn't be expected on most of the major Patristic issues. We have a common background, after all, so should be surprised if we don't assume pretty much the same thing a lot of the time.