Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Seventh Inning Stretch

Hi all!

Since it's that busy Advent Season, Jacob has decided that we should take a break from our debate. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Jacob stated that he will give a thorough point-by-point reply to my arguments, so to make it easier for him, I wanted to take a moment during a lull in things over at To Die is Gain to take stock of where we are in the debate, and how well everything has been responded to, and whether everything in fact has been responded to. The reason for this is simple enough, in my mind. The Debate is attempting to discuss the two Pillars of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. Since we are trying to tackle two related but very distinct topics at the same time, it can be very difficult to stay on topic. This is compounded by the fact that these two issues are so immense, that it is easy to get lost. From the beginning that is why I committed to reposting the debate here, and to replying by copy-pasting everything that Jacob put forward as an argument, and then replying to it point-by-point, specifically so that I did not miss anything.

Jacob, for his part, started out trying to do that, but then claimed that time constraints caused him to only select "pertinent parts" to tackle and respond to. This is okay as far as it goes--I did it too, in the comments on his blog; but I always made sure I went back and replied to everything else, as well. The problem comes in what are viewed to be "pertinent parts", since they are "pertinent" to Jacob, specifically. Moreover, he has still not gone back and given a full and thorough reply to my entire arguments.

This makes the debate somewhat more challenging and less enjoyable than it otherwise would be. It also makes things much more confusing, because out of 7 parts here at Three Nails, 4 are labelled "interludes" because they were replies to the "pertinent parts" that Jacob picked out to reply to (one of those 4 was actually a response to another person, David, who had some concerns about the nature of Catholic Ecclesiology, but even so, that's clear half of the debate so far that is "interlude"). Moreover, instead of then going back and dealing more fully with the arguments for and against Sola Scriptura, Jacob has moved on to post about Sola Fide, the secod topic, to which I have thoroughly replied here in Part 7.

The debate began with Sola Scriptura, which is obvious, since it is the basis for what Protestants believe. It is their authority. Catholics operate under a different system, including not just Scripture, but Apostolic Tradition and the Magesterium of the Church.

In Part One, Jacob posted his initial argument for Sola Scriptura. I replied here, replying to each point that Jacob made in the first part.

From there, we moved on to Part 2, Jacob gave his formal response to my reply.

In his original post, and in my reply, the issue of motive came up when discussing the Pharisaical Traditions that Jacob compared Catholic Apostolic Tradition to. The Pharisees made traditions to suit their dishonest and impure motives. Thus, I said, it is a fallacy to compare those traditions with Apostolic Tradition, because Jacob was overlooking the motivating aspect. When I made a point of it, Jacob never replied to the question of motive at all. Maybe it seemed like a minor point to him, but I hinged a large argument in my reply based on that question.

When it came to the Corban Rule specifically being discussed, for example, Jacob made the point that the reason their tradition was false was because, or a result of, them setting it up as equal to Scripture. To that I replied by saying that its authoritative weight did not make the tradition wrong, but the motives that originated that tradition. In other words, the tradition would still be wrong if they still considered it secondary to Scripture, because it out and out contradicted Scripture. The tradition was not a result of the leading of the Holy Spirit or of studied application of the Law, but a result of their greedy motives. Yet Jacob does not utter one word in reply.

He moves on to quoting the proposed burden of proof, without contesting it, so I assume he desires to prove it, and then replies to my statement that he is trying to prove point A--that SS is taught in the Bible.

Jacob makes the point that Sola Scriptura is implicitly taught in Scripture--that if you compile texts that allude to it, you'll come up with a fully-developed conclusion, just like with the Trinity. However, he doesn't provide even the implicit texts that could be used to support that fact, but instead moves on from there.

When it came to my statement that if the Bible mentions tradition positively (since Jacob was picking on texts that refer to corrupt human traditions) then Sola Scriptura can't hold, since it claims that the Bible Alone, and no tradition (human or otherwise) is authoritative. To this, Jacob made a blanket statement that Tradition must submit to Scripture, and that the Bible is talking about traditions that receive their authority from Scripture. But again, he never proved that assumption, just assumed it.

When it comes to my reply to Jacob's use of Colossians 2:8-10, again Jacob's reply is a blanket claim with no support from Scripture, that tradition must line up with Scripture and is not itself authoritative. Since this is a) not backed up with Scripture, and b) believed by Catholics that this is the case anyway (that Tradition does not contradict Scripture), it's not much of an argument at all.

Jacob then quotes 2 Thess 2:15, which proves my point admirably well, and Jacob even admits that it does. So when I said so, he replied that this tradition is valid only because it comes from Paul, who is an apostle authorised to do so. But this fails as a defence because a) that's why we call Tradition "Apostolic Tradition", and b) it's still a non-Scriptural tradition that he is referring to! He makes no reply to the fact that we believe that our tradition comes to us from the Apostles through the Fathers and leaders of the Church, and instead just assumes that we cannot know what those traditions were. This doesn't work because on the one hand, the Early Church Fathers claimed their teachings were passed down from the Apostles, and second, the Bible is still referring to some tradition or other (whether it be Catholic or not) that is equal to it, thus debunking SS. So his response here is at best incomplete, and at worst, not responding to my argument at all.

That is all the, in my opinion, incomplete parts of Jacob's Part 2. I replied to it here, in my Part 2.

From here, it gets really confusing, because Jacob's Part 3 is not even a response to me! A thorough, point-by-point reply to my Part 2 has never materialised, but his Part 4 replied to one point that I made in part 2. Even then, it went off on an entirely different subject that hardly relates to Catholicism vs. Protestantism at all, but is something that Catholics agree with many different forms of Protestantism about, but Jacob doesn't. As such, unless Jacob wants to make the debate "Was (or is) the Southern Baptist Convention Necessary?" his argument in his Part 4 is one giant non-sequitur. Nonetheless, I replied thoroughly here in my Part 5.

Part 3 is my response to Jacob's response to Jon, and Part 4 is my reply to David. Part 4 is a dead debate, because Jacob isn't interested in it per se, and David has said he won't be able to reply.

In Jacob's Part 5, he is replying to my Part 5, replying to his huge non sequitur argument. Since I don't think that it is especially relevant to our debate (since it is a divisive issue among Protestantism itself, and not specifically a Catholic-Protestant issue) I won't bother going through any inadequacies in his reply to my reply. However, I will say that my Part 6 is a thorough response to his Part 5.

Maybe he understood that his argument wasn't a valid disproof of Catholic Tradition, because he never went back to it, but instead moved on to his Part 6. Does he go back to where he left off, namely, my reply to Part 2? No. Rather, he begins discussing the second issue, "Faith Alone". I thoroughly responded with my Part 7.

That brings my brief summary to a conclusion. Where does that leave us? I would say that Jacob needs to return to here and adequately defend his position of Sola Scriptura. Specifically, he needs to meet the requirements of the Burden of Proof:
...The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible, b) why the Church somehow missed this teaching for nearly 1500 years, if indeed it is so clear in the Bible, and c) that it is in fact a workable theory in the promotion of Christian truth and unity, despite the glaring evidences to the contrary.
Jacob has not even successfully demonstrated A) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible. This is important because if Sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible, then by its own definition it is contradictory and thus not true. Now, I'm willing to accept that it is implicitly taught in the Bible--after all, many Catholic doctrines like the Trinity, the 2 Natures of Christ, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, Purgatory, and many others are so taught. So I obviously am not ruling out SS for not being explicit. But Jacob has not demonstrated even an implicit teaching. If he does so, it still would have to stand up to a cross-examination from me, withstand that scrutiny (such as the explicit statements in the Bible in support of Tradition, such as 1 Thess 2:13, which calls such, "The Word of God.").

Of course, that would only lead to the conclusion that Sola Scriptura is a possible interpretation of what the Bible says, which leads to Point B) Why did none of the Early Church Fathers believe it? Why did no Christian in history follow it until Martin Luther came along? The reason why this is important is because it tests the validity of Jacob's interpretation of the Scripture. He would have to demonstrate either that the earliest Christians did in fact teach and believe Sola Scriptura, or explain how or why they could have missed it. If he could manage to do that, then he still comes to the third part.

C) Jacob would have to show that Sola Scriptura is an effective doctrine for preserving and maintaining the Unity of the Church. Since the Unity of the Church is something that is commanded by the Bible itself (and we mean especially doctrinal as well as visible unity), and since it is the opinion of myself, most Catholic scholars, and many Protestant Scholars (including Luther and Calvin themselves, notably) that Sola Scriptura has led to the myriad of divisions in Protestantism, Jacob must demonstrate that other reasons than SS have led to divisions, and at the same time demonstrate how SS has led to greater unity among Christians.

Now in my mind, "A" is extremely unlikely, and "B" and "C" are nigh impossible. When I applied these tests to Sola Scriptura in my journey to Catholicism, it failed miserably.

As for the interludes, in my mind we could pursue them or not. They relate indirectly to the whole discussion, but are more specifically about Catholicism than about Protestantism. Since the debate is why the Reformation is allegedly necessary, and not why Catholicism is allegedly wrong, then it is necessary to demonstrate the truth of Protestantism, not the error of Catholicism. Even if you could demonstrate the error of Catholicism, it still would not prove that the Reformation was or is necessary, since the Reformation could be equally wrong. Thus attacking Catholicism does not further the debate at all, except only incidentally. If Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide can be proven true, then there is no point in disproving specific points of Catholicism, since those points are the essential places where we differ. On the other hand, if those same points cannot be proven true, then Protestantism is at least as in error as Catholicism, and therefore cannot be considered a "necessary" solution to Catholicism's supposed errors.

All that is to say, I will defend my faith as well as I can, but the interludes have not added to the discussion.

Finally, when we come to the second topic, Sola Fide, again, for it to be true, it must be demonstrated to be taught in Scripture. Now, it could be true even if Sola Scriptura is proven wrong (or at any rate, left unproven), but then the added requirement of proving it according to the Tradition of the Church comes into place.

In my mind, proving (or disproving) Sola Fide is a more straightforward matter. Does the Bible teach faith alone saves, or that Grace alone saves us, and we respond to it with the salutary acts of Faith and Good Works, that are empowered by that Grace? In other words, to put it in similar terms as the Sola Scriptura thesis:
The Burden of Proof is on you A) to demonstrate that the Bible teaches that faith, by itself and independent of any work on our part, gains salvation--that is, i) that the Bible teaches affirmatively that faith is necessary for salvation, and ii) that the Bible never teaches affirmatively that works are necessary for salvation; and B) to either explain that this was believed by the Early Church Fathers, or to explain why it was not.
In my mind, while in the Sola Scriptura burden, A is most likely, and B and C are next to impossible, here I would suggest that A is exceedingly unlikely, but B (if A is true) should be easy enough!

Either way, providing a positive proof for these doctrines is an uphill battle, which is why I converted, and why many Protestants simply assume that these things are true and instead attack specific things in Catholicism. Hopefully the remainder of this debate, in the New Year, will be an exception to this trend. All I ask is that my responses be thoroughly dealt with, in a point-by-point fashion. I might write on and on, but that is mainly because I do not think that anything that I have said is irrelevant. (I honestly do try to write concisely, and to condense things when I am finished!) If you want to know which of my points are most pertinent in my arguments, simply look for the ones coloured blue on this blog!

God bless
Merry Christmas!


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