Friday, September 01, 2006

Private Interpretation - Part 1

Ok, I'm down to the last post directed at me from the Preacher's Files.

I hope you don't mind if I set aside the issue of miracles for now, in consideration of saving time, as I think it's rather a side issue, and I'd like to try to focus on the main point.

That's fine, but I don't believe it to be a side issue. It is, in fact, a critical issue. The Bible teaches in several places that the purpose of miracles was to confirm the spoken word. If that's the case, then miracles ought to confirm oral tradition as well. This makes miraculous confirmation of the word indispensable to your case, for if it was done for orally inspired teaching, why would it not be done for orally preserved teaching?

Well, it is a side issue because I don't agree that we need miracles today to confirm oral tradition. That was done in the first centuries, and then people accepted the Church's authority, and simply followed Church teaching. But that's not to say miracles don't still happen, I just don't believe they are needed to confirm teaching today as they were at the beginning of Christianity. So I'll move on.

When we look at scripture, it's clear that when God wanted to communicate His will, He did so by inspiration (i.e. "Thus saith the Lord"), not tradition (2 Peter 1:20-21).

This verse [technically] only discusses prophecy in the Old Testament [though I could be wrong on that, it's not all that important to my point anyway], and says that it is not for private interpretation, and that it came from God. This does not negate the possibility of there being ways for God to protect His Truth once given, because it is not speaking of that.

I'm going to address the issue of "private interpretation" later on. Consider, however, that in verse 19, Peter says that we (that is, Christians) have a more sure word of prophecy. So the passage doesn't just discuss prophecy in the Old Testament. Instead, Peter's argument is this: If prophecy in the Old Testament came by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and we have a more sure word of prophecy, then the word of prophecy that we have today is in some way more sure than inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How can that be so? It is as Peter discusses in previous verses, namely, through the confirmatory works of God in the life of Jesus and in particular, the transfiguration of Jesus that Peter references in verse 16-17. So, God communicates by inspiration, and when he wants it to be more sure, He confirms with miraculous signs such as the transfiguration.

Let me just say here, I disagree with that...(wait for it)...interpretation of these verses.

Anything less, however, can't be said to be the word of God because it is neither 1) confirmed by sign or 2) inspired of the Holy Spirit.

Well, I think #2 is exactly the dispute we've been discussing, and #1 is something I disagree with.

Now as to "private interpretation" Peter isn't discussing the interpretation of the reader, but rather, the origination of the message by the prophet, for so he says in the next verse. No prophecy of scripture is, therefore, of private origination. Or it may be understood, "No prophecy of scripture originates with private interpretation." That's the meaning of this verse, not that no one has the right to interpret scripture privately for themselves. That's certainly not what is being said in the context.

Once again, I disagree. And by now...if I didn't read closely...I would have completely forgotten the point I was making, because it was completely sidestepped! How clever! Let's see again what I said...but first let's review the argument that was being made. Mr. Cauley was trying to make the point that God transmits His Will through inspiration, not through Tradition. Then he provided some verses in an attempt to back that up...and while those verses may show God certainly initially revealed His Will through inspiration, my point was that this doesn't negate the idea that He sent the Holy Spirit to continue to protect His Word through the Church. That's the point...the two are not mutually exclusive, in fact we see them as completely complementary.

This sets directly inspired scripture above any effort that uninspired men make to teach and preach the gospel.

Certainly, however, I believe there's another category you're leaving out. (Infallibility)
That would be fine if we found in the New Testament the association of the doctrine of infallibility with the preservation of oral tradition. But what scripture teaches that? Several scriptures you've given teach that Christians need to obey the inspired teachings of the apostles. But what do they say about guaranteeing that the church would infallibly preserve the oral traditions? There are none.

I believe I've covered this issue, in my last post. But just to recap, Christ promised the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. If that didn't mean infallible truth, what's the point? That certainly wouldn't be "all" truth, then. Further, He didn't promise this to us individually, He promised it to His Church, since without that visible institution we couldn't know who had the truth and who didn't when disputes arose. Everyone would claim individual infallibility, and split upon split would happen...oh wait, that's already happened. So no, there's not a verse explicitly explaining infallibility and how it works, but that's ok, because Catholics don't see the bible as a manual or a rule book. We have the Church to be explicit about the teachings, but we can see this teaching implicitly in the scriptures as well.

Hence, anything less than inspiration is simply originated by man.

And this is where I believe you're missing infallibility. To a point, you must believe in infallibility yourself...otherwise, you would never trust that you knew God's truth better than a Baptist or a Methodist or any flavor of Protestant. (I use Protestantism as they, like you, claim the Bible as their only authority.) How do you know your interpretation is any more correct than theirs? Certainly you earnestly search the word and study it diligently, but so, too, do many Protestants. On some level, you must believe that you have somehow been guided into truth, while they have other words, you must believe your interpretation is correct, inerrant, and infallible.
No, I don't believe that I am infallible. But I do believe that I can be correct without being guaranteed to be infallible. The Catholic church teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. I also teach the doctrine of the Trinity.

Right...but if I had to choose between believing a Church who claims the authority to teach this doctrine infallibly, and believing some guy who admits he is completely fallible, why would I listen to one guy's admittedly fallible interpretation? That's not very reassuring! And it certainly doesn't sound like I'm guaranteed to be led into "all truth" this way, when at least with the Catholic claim it makes sense that there will be no doubt of what is truth and what isn't (if it's true the Church is lead infallibly.)

So we agree on this doctrine. However, do I have to be infallible to teach the truth on the doctrine of the Trinity? No. I simply have to support the things that I say on that subject with both reason and revelation. Truth can be adduced via both and as such can be known to be true even without the doctrine of infallibility.
Well, this is a nice idea, and one that's necessary for the CoC house of cards to stand, but it's not very practical, and certainly not biblical. Again, we're getting into the idea that scripture does not need an interpreter, that any person can look at the bible and "reason" their way into the correct interpretation. Certainly our reason is a valuable tool, but I don't believe it's sufficient. If we could rely completely on reason, we would not need faith, and even more dangerously, we start to rely on ourselves rather than God to find truth. Here's an excellent quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia explaining how reliance on our own reason can undermine faith in God:

Again, it is illogical to base faith upon the private interpretation of a book. For faith consists in submitting; private interpretation consists in judging. In faith by hearing the last word rests with the teacher; in private judgment it rests with the reader, who submits the dead text of Scripture to a kind of post-mortem examination and delivers a verdict without appeal: he believes in himself rather than in any higher authority. But such trust in one's own light is not faith.Private judgment is fatal to the theological virtue of faith.
Where absolute reliance on God's word, proclaimed by his accredited ambassadors, is wanting, i.e. where there is not the virtue of faith, there can be no unity of Church. It stands to reason, and Protestant history confirms it. The "unhappy divisions", not only between sect and sect but within the same sect, have become a byword. They are due to the pride of private intellect, and they can only be healed by humble submission to a Divine authority.

Back to the discussion at hand...

Again, you seem to have the understanding that because the Catholic Church says men in the Church today are not inspired, then the Holy Spirit must not be involved. But you're forgetting that we believe in a separate and distinct function of the Holy Spirit, and that is the charism of infallibility.

And what scriptures teach "the charism of infallibility" aside from either a miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit or inspiration?

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