Friday, September 01, 2006

Private Interpretation - Part 2

Continued from Part 1...

I would like to know where the doctrine of infallibility is taught separate and distinct from the doctrine of inspiration. I don't see in any of the evidence that you have presented that such passages are speaking about the doctrine of infallibility only, but rather, infallibility by virtue of inspiration. In other words, what passage says, "Infallibility may be obtained separate and apart from being inspired of the Holy Spirit."

I think we're running into a problem here. I believe that pretty much any time the scriptures mention the Holy Spirit, a CoC person will attach "inspiration" to it, without necessarily being aware of it. So while I'm presenting scriptures that mention the Holy Spirit, and aren't necessarily talking about inspiration, the CoC person is mentally attaching "inspiration" to that scripture, and is then thinking, "But all these are talking about inspiration!" because they have read their interpretation into the text.

Another problem is, again, the Catholic Church doesn't claim that the scriptures explicitly explain every teaching...that's why we have the Church! But because the bible is the only authority for the CoC member, they expect to have BCV (Bible/Chapter/Verse) for any and every doctrine, not only supporting the doctrine or mentioning it in passing, but explaining it specifically. Unfortunately, since the bible was not meant to be an encyclopedia of doctrinal practices and beliefs, that's not always possible. But that's the point, that's why we have the Church.

Now, onto some of the verses mentioned...

Matthew 28:18-20 doesn't teach that.

'Kay, let me simplify...Christ said all authority was His, He then passed on some of that authority, giving his apostles the authority to make disciples of all nations and teach that which He had told them, promising He would be with them even until the end of the world, presumably to protect them from error in this teaching. Now...if he were just saying this to the apostles and not to their successors, I'm not sure why He would mention the "end of the world" part, as He surely knew they'd be gone long before the end of the world. So, infallibly is implied in this verse.

Matthew 16:18 doesn't teach that.

The gates of hell will not prevail. If Christians are led into anything but "all truth," the gates of hell will have prevailed.

John 14-16 certainly don't teach that as those are chapters that clearly discuss inspiration.

It doesn't have to be a dichotomy, you know, inspiration and infallibility are related by the Holy Spirit, so it makes sense they would both be talked about. Certainly he explains the Comfortor (the Holy Spirit) will come and teach them truth, but He also says that Comfortor, the Spirit of TRUTH will be with them FOREVER. If it weren't for that, certainly we could say He was speaking of initial inspiration and revelation, but it seems this would also include infallibility, as this too is an act of the Holy Spirit. How could we say the Spirit of Truth was with the Church forever and maintain that the truth of God's Word is left in the hands of fallible interpreters? That would be completely contradictory.

1 Timothy 3:14-15 we've already discussed don't have anything to do with infallibility

Hmm...the Church is the pillar and ground of truth. I don't know how much clearer it can get. If the Church can't promise to produce infallible truth (through the protection of the Holy Spirit), how in the world could this claim be made? The very FOUNDATION of truth, it says She is! That's something quite remarkable, and certainly quite unattainable by humans alone.

and Acts 15:28 is speaking of inspiration of the apostles by the Holy Spirit.

Here they're deciding matters of discipline, and implying these decisions are as much the Holy Spirit's as they are theirs. So, granted, this one may be more easily taken as referring simply to infallibility attached to inspiration (as the CoC understands it) rather than showing that infallibility will continue through the ages.

Let me put it another way. I see plenty of passages that speak of inspiration. But I don't see any passages that speak of infallibility apart from inspiration.

Well, let me put it another way. I know CoC members don't believe in modern day inspiration. How, then, can such promises be made unto the end of the world and forever? Certainly, this is not a reference to the bible alone, as he is speaking to persons here, indicating the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will be with them forever, not the scriptures.

By the way, it's not going to do to suggest that we can't know which scriptures are inspired without the authority of the church. The internal evidences of the scriptures speak to their own inspiration.

It's interesting to me that you say this, and follow it up with an attempt at showing a logical fallacy on my part.

Here's a good explanation of why this won't work:
Internal evidence is not enough

(a) Because the Scriptures themselves assert that they are incomplete, and send us to the Church. "Many other signs also did Jesus…which are not written" (John 20:30). "Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?"…"How can I, unless some man show me" (Acts 8:30-31).
(d) No internal evidence could prove inspiration, because inspiration is essentially a supernatural fact. It is objective, not subjective. It is simply that God said this thing in this way. It may not appeal to me personally - parts of it may not be meant especially for me - but God wished to say it for some person or time.

(e) Therefore, the inspiration can only be known upon some authority sent from God: the only possible competent authority would be either Christ or his apostles or the successors of the apostles - that is to say, Christ's Church.

(f) All Christians appeal in fact to some authority behind the Bible (e.g. Luther claimed to alter the canon of Scripture, and Lutherans accepted this on his authority).
Here is another argument that begs the question. "How do you know the scriptures are inspired? The church says so. How do you know the church is right? The church is infallible. How do you know the church is infallible? Because the inspired scriptures say so. How do you know the scriptures are inspired again?" You must see the fallacy in this circular reasoning.

If this was indeed the reasoning used to prove the infallibility of the Church and the inspiration of the scriptures, Mr. Cauley would be quite right. However, as the Church recognizes the problems with this reasoning, She does not use it, and is careful to explain as such. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In order to prevent misconception and thereby to anticipate a common popular objection which is wholly based on a misconception it should be premised that when we appeal to the Scriptures for proof of the Church's infallible authority we appeal to them merely as reliable historical sources, and abstract altogether from their inspiration. Even considered as purely human documents they furnish us, we maintain, with a trustworthy report of Christ's sayings and promises; and, taking it to be a fact that Christ said what is attributed to Him in the Gospels, we further maintain that Christ's promises to the Apostles and their successors in the teaching office include the promise of such guidance and assistance as clearly implies infallibility. Having thus used the Scriptures as mere historical sources to prove that Christ endowed the Church with infallible teaching authority it is no vicious circle, but a perfectly legitimate iogical procedure, to rely on the Church's authority for proof of what writings are inspired.
Some small side issues:
See Indulgences: History It is a historical fact that indulgences were authorized by the Pope to raise money to build cathedrals. That is what I am referring to when I talk about selling indulgences. If there were abuses, those abuses were authorized by the Pope.

No, you misunderstand. The Church authorized, among many other things, that charitable donations, since they were a charitable act, could receive an indulgence. (That is, it could act as a penance to take away temporal punishment for our sins.) However, some people in the Church abused this idea, and acted as if one could "buy" an indulgence. It has to do with the intention of the act. As it was easy to confuse, the Church decided to stop that to prevent further abuse.
Nonetheless, the Pope authorized indulgences for "donations." You can call it what you will, but it is historically what it is. All I got to say about that is read Acts 8:18-23. By the way, why didn't that infallibility thing kick in and prevent the Pope from doing that to begin with? I mean, if it caused so many problems that the Pope had to put a stop to it, why didn't his infallibility prevent it to begin with?

Again, there is a difference between "selling" indulgences, and allowing charitable contributions to the Church to count as an act worthy of an indulgence. Yes, when abused, it becomes simony.

The "infallibility thing" didn't "kick in" because this is not a matter of faith and morals, nor was there any official infallible teaching being proclaimed, nor was the practice itself even wrong when done was just easily abused. Humans make mistakes in actions, in practice. Where we claim infallibility "kicks in" is on official teachings, not actions.

The implication of this is that individuals are not responsible for properly interpreting and applying God's word to their lives and such cannot be true given the fact that each individual will be judged by God as an individual (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Of course we are judged individually, we all choose whether or not to follow God's word. That has nothing to do with how we receive that word.
This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Perhaps you could elaborate upon the difference between what it means to follow God's word versus what it means to receive that word.

I think we're using the word "receive" differently. I just mean that if we receive the Word from a source that is fallible and we receive an imperfect variation of it, if we believe it is God's Word completely and followed it, our intentions will be taken into consideration on judgement day. I also meant that while I don't believe it's up to individuals to interpret the Word, I do believe it's up to them to follow it. Those are two separate and distinct things.

If we are to be judged based upon what we do, and if we act based upon what we believe (Matthew 12:35), and if we believe based upon God's word (Romans 10:17),

Notice this verse says faith comes by "hearing," not by "reading."
So I must hear the word orally taught in order to believe? I can't just believe the word of God by reading the Bible alone?

I just said this because so many people don't even realize what the verse says. I know I didn't! They are so used to thinking "Bible only!!" that they don't even stop and think that if someone is "hearing" they aren't "reading." This implies a teacher who is passing on the teachings orally. And this is true even for non-Catholic Christians...after all, before children can read, they are taught orally. People learn from the preachers and teachers orally, it's rare anyone picks up a bible without any outside influences already having told them what it means, interpreting it for them. Of course I'm not saying one can't learn from reading the scriptures, but we always need an interpreter to make sure we are being truly guided into "all truth" when reading them. Of course, while Catholics (and even many Protestants) readily admit they look to an authority to interpret for them, the CoC often remains in denial, and acts as if there's no need for an interpreter, and that the scriptures are so "plain and simple" that any child can understand them fully. Quite a claim!! It also tends to result in an air of arrogance.

then it is necessary that we interpret God's word for ourselves as individuals and not allow someone else to tell us what we are supposed to believe about God's word (Acts 17:11).

I agree with all your ifs, it's the "then" I disagree with, and in fact I believe the scriptures directly refute this when they say they are not to be interpreted privately. Certainly I don't believe we should just allow "someone else" to tell us what to believe, that's why I believe God gave us the Church, the pillar and ground of truth, who is authorized to hand down God's Word, both oral and written (as I've tried to show), and that Christ promised He would protect them from error when doing so.
Acts 17:11 says that the Beroeans didn't accept Paul's inspired teaching without first searching the word. That suggests that they had to interpret it for themselves.

No, not exactly, quite the opposite. See here:

Why did the Bereans search the Scriptures? Because they were the sole source of revelation and authority? No, but to see if Paul was in line with what they already knew—to confirm additional revelation. They would not submit blindly to his apostolic teaching and oral tradition, but, once they accepted the credibility of Paul’s teaching as the oral word of God, they put it on a par with Scripture and recognized its binding authority. After that, like the converts who believed in Thessalonica, they espoused apostolic Tradition and the Old Testament equally as God’s word (see 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:16). Therefore they accepted apostolic authority, which means that the determinations of Peter in the first Church council, reported in Acts 15, would have been binding on these new Gentile converts.

By contrast, the Jews of Thessalonica would have condemned Peter’s biblical exegesis at the Council of Jerusalem. They would have scoffed at the Church’s having authority over them—the Torah was all they needed. Those who held to sola scriptura rejected Paul because he claimed to be the voice of "additional revelation."

Luke makes it plain that those who were willing to accept apostolic Tradition as binding were more noble-minded. The Bereans passage, therefore, is hardly a proof text for those who espouse sola scriptura. This text proves too much for Fundamentalists. Anti-Catholics love to associate themselves with the Bereans, but the example of the Bereans actually condemns their exegesis. Luke’s praise of the Bereans cannot be applied to Fundamentalist Protestants, who resemble rather the Thessalonians, who held to sola scriptura and rejected the oral word of God contained in Tradition and in the teaching authority of the Church.
1 John 4:1 tells us that we are to "try the spirits" to see whether the things that they teach (orally) are actually from God. How do we do this? We have to interpret the written word for ourselves.

It's a bit of a leap to go from testing the spirits, to see if people are of God or not, to privately interpreting scripture. I don't see anywhere that mentions scripture in that passage. In fact, the passage itself tells us HOW to "test the spirits." It says, "This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God,and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God." Simple enough, and no mention of interpreting scripture.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 teach that the scriptures are profitable that the man of God may be completely furnished to every good work. How can he be completely furnished to every good work without interpreting the scriptures for himself?

The fact that it says scripture is profitable doesn't mean we don't need an infallible interpreter of scripture to properly understand it.

2 Timothy 2:15 says "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." What are we to study to show ourselves approved to God if not the written word of God? And how can we "rightly divide" the word if we can't interpret it?

First I'd like to point out the fact that if a the Word can be "rightly" divided, it must also be able to be "wrongly" divided. And how are we to know if we have rightly or wrongly divided it? Well...we have an infallible interpreter. And we can study Church teaching, along with the scriptures, to ensure that we understand the scriptures correctly.

Now...the question that needs an answer is, are the scriptures really "plain and simple" like the CoC teaches? Enough so that any number of people could read them sincerely looking for truth and all come to the same conclusions? Well, why don't we look to the scriptures again to see what they have to say...

Acts 8:30-31:
And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
Here, we have an example of someone saying he can't understand what he reads unless someone explains, or interprets, for him. This shows exactly the point, that scripture is not always "plain and simple," that it does, indeed, need an interpreter.

Taken from this site.
2 Peter 3:15-17 warns of those who misinterpret the Scriptures:

And account the longsuffering of our Lord, salvation: as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, brethren, knowing these things before, take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness.
Let's make sure we understand what's being said here: the Sacred Scriptures contain some things hard to understand. Those who are not learned and who are unstable twist these things, as they do the other Scriptures, and they do so to their own destruction. What are Christians to do? Are they to listen to these self-appointed, unlearned men? No, instead, St. Peter warns them not to do so, but to instead hold fast the Gospel (cf. 2 Thess 2:15) received from the Apostles, who have a mandate from Christ to do so (Matthew 28:19-20), and who therefore hold authority in these matters, "let being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness."

Obviously, God knew how we humans would mess things up, as we inevitably do, and sent us a safeguard. He sent us His Church to be our interpreter, to be our teacher, and promised He would guide Her infallibly by the power of the Holy Spirit.


mizznicole said...

Hi stephanie! Thanks for sharing so openly on your blog. We just moved from Austin to FL (I go to Ave Maria) - but I wish I could have met you before we left. We attended St. Mary's Cathedral and are part of the Schoenstatt Movement there. We love Austin very much! It's good to know you are there. God bless you.

Stephanie said...

How cool! We attend the cathedral ourselves, I LOVE it! My inlaws live in Florida, so we visit there about once a year. It's a pleasure to "meet" you, thanks for visiting! :-)

Cheryl S. said...


Just a comment to say how interesting - and I mean that in a good way :) - it's been reading the discourse you've posted here.

Hope to see you again soon. Been too long! :(

Stephanie said...

Hey girl, thanks =) I hope to see you at the get together next month! It has been a while!