Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Eisegeted Verses, An Introduction

I have decided to begin a new series of posts dealing with the common proof-texts that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox apologists put forth to prove their doctrines. I’m all too used to visiting websites or blogs where these Scriptures are put forward as the “final word” proofs for Catholic and Orthodox dogma.

I’ll seek to accomplish this by doing a lengthy book review of Dave Armstrong’s work, The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants, since it is a book that lists nearly all of the most common proof-texts that Roman Catholic (RC from now on) and Eastern Orthodox (EO from now on) use. Thus, this series of posts shall be called “The Eisegeted Verses”.

As I’ve begun to read through Mr. Armstrong’s book, I’ve noticed several fallacies in his attempt at exegesis of the Biblical text. It’s not that I haven’t noticed many of these errors before in my past dialogues with Roman Catholics. It’s just that when Mr. Armstrong tries to give a commentary on these verses, the underlying presuppositions and exegetical errors come bubbling to the surface. Sadly though, unlike in the past, many Protestants today aren’t exegetically trained to any degree, and thus, they easily fall prey to the use of these fallacies. So, I’d think it would be helpful to give a list of the more common fallacies I have noticed:

Common Fallacies:

a.) Anachronism: This is a fallacy of history in which one imports a modern or later concept or definition back into a belief or word of a previous age. For instance, it is all too common for a Roman Catholic apologist to see the word, “church,” in the Biblical text and say that it is referring to the clergy, i.e. the priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and the Pope. However, in the New Testament, the word, “church,” Greek: ecclesia, simply meant “congregation” which referred to the entire people of God, the laity and the clergy. [It should also be noted that, in the New Testament, the distinction between laity and clergy is one of degree, not of kind, but this is a point that will be argued elsewhere.] Thus, this anachronism results in giving more power to the clerical authority that would and should be given to all the people of God.

b.) Straw-Man: A straw-man is a logical fallacy in which one debate disputant will misrepresent the other debater’s position in order to more easily defeat his opponent’s “position” (which isn’t really his) and give the illusion that the latter was refuted. This typically occurs, for instance, when the RC and Protestant are debating John 6, and the RC accuses the Protestant of being inconsistent in his exegesis because he is not interpreting Jesus’ words ‘literally’. Except for hyper-dispensationalists, this is a misrepresentation of the Protestant method of interpretation, the grammatico-historical method or GHM. GHM does not mean that everything should be taken ‘literally’ but that a Biblical text should be interpreted in light of its surrounding context, culture, language, etc. Thus, some passages and sayings should be taken ‘literally’ and some metaphorically or figuratively all depending on the context.

c.) False Antithesis: A false antithesis is when a debater sets up a situation in which either position ‘A’ is the case (which happens to be the debater’s position) or position ‘B’ is the case and argues that since the facts are definitely not in favor of ‘B’, then ‘A’ must be the case even though his opponent’s position is neither ‘A’ nor ‘B’ but some other position ‘C’. Thus, just because ‘B’ is eliminated as being true doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘A’ is true since there is still the possibility that ‘C’ is true. This is also called the “either-or” fallacy.
This happens when discussing James 2:24. A Roman Catholic will assert that the “faith” spoken of in James is the same as the “faith” spoken of in Paul’s letters, and thus, they say, faith is simply an assent to truth which we must add good works in order to attain the expiation of sin. To them, faith is an assent to truth and there is no other possible Biblical definition of “faith”. However, the Protestant Reformers made a distinction between three different kinds of knowledge or faith: noticia, assensus, and fiducia. Noticia is simple understanding of the truth, assensus is an assent to the truth, and fiducia is a trusting commitment to this knowledge or a ‘living’ faith. Thus, the Protestant would say that James is speaking of (and condemning) a simple assent to the truth (assensus) while Paul is speaking of a ‘living’ faith (which includes repentance), fiducia, which alone results in justification.

d.) Straw-Man + False Antithesis: A more common fallacy that happens in these Roman Catholic/Protestant dialogues occurs when the previous two fallacies are combined. This can happen when, for example, a Roman Catholic says that either meritorious good-works are necessary for the Christian (the RC position) or good works aren’t necessary at all for the Christian (a misrepresentation or “straw-man” of the Protestant position). They will then point to passages such as Matthew 7:21-23, John 5:29, Hebrews 12:14, or James 2:24 and say that since the “Protestant” position (again, a straw-man of it) is not the case, then the Roman Catholic position must be the case. Of course, since that is not the Protestant position, and the real Protestant position falls in between the two extremes presented (holding that good works are *descriptive* of a true Christian but not prescriptive to be saved as the RC holds), the RC argument does not follow.

e.) Fallacy of Equivocation: This is a logical fallacy which occurs when one definition of a word or phrase is imported into that same word which, from the context, does not bear the same meaning or connotation.
An example of that would be the same example used in the fallacy of anachronism (a.) in which a modern definition of the word, “church,” is imported into a first century text. Thus, the RC argument actually utilizes both an anachronism and an equivocation of terms.
Another example would be when RC’s say that the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) teaches sola gratia, salvation by “grace alone,” just as Protestants do. However, what a Roman Catholic means by that and what an historic Protestant means by that are two totally different things. The RCC means that grace is *necessary* for salvation but positive human effort must be added (which, they say, is itself moved by grace). The Protestant, however, holds that sola gratia means that, not only is grace necessary, it is *sufficient* to save the sinner. Thus, while in RC theology, a person can be given saving grace and yet fail to be saved, in Protestant theology, a person who is given saving grace cannot fail to be saved.

f.) Text Isolation: This is an exegetical (i.e. interpretive) fallacy. This occurs when an interpreter takes a verse, ignores the surrounding context, and (since the verse, phrase, or word is without context) imports a meaning or interpretation into the passage. This is an extremely common fallacy in Roman Catholic apologetics, and Dave Armstrong uses it on the majority of the verses that he cites. Thus, we will see this often.

g.) Over-extended Conclusion: This is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion to the argument is more than that which can be supplied by the premises. For instance, if one has the premises:

A ---> B (If A is the case, then B is also the case.)
and
A (A is the case.)

the maximum conclusion that can be had from these premises is that B is the case since B flows from the conditional. An over-extended conclusion is where one would (falsely) conclude from the above premises that B+C+D+E are also the case. C, D, and E weren’t even in any of the premises, and so, it is impossible for them to be in the conclusion.
One case of this in Roman Catholic apologetics is in their interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19, the alleged proof of Papal Primacy. Even if the “rock” of verse 18 refers to Peter, and he has the power to “bind” and “loose” in the sense of Roman Catholic dogma, it does not at all follow that this power was passed on to his “successors” as bishops of Rome. The word ‘successor’ or any variant of it is not even mentioned in the text and neither is there any suggestion of such a concept.

h.) Infinite Regress: This is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion of the premises results in an endless necessity of preconditions. The classic case of an infinite regress is the example of Indian cosmogony.
According to Indian cosmogony, the earth must sit on the back of an elephant, otherwise, it would fall. When asked what the elephant sits on (since, according to the same logic used in the premise, it would also fall), the Indian cosmogonist replies that it sits on the back of a turtle. When asked what the turtle sits on (otherwise, it too would fall), the Indian cosmogonist thinks a little bit longer and says, “Another turtle.” When asked what *this* turtle sits on (yet again: otherwise, it would fall), the cosmogonist replies with yet another turtle (or if he’s smarter than that, he’d realize the problem). Under the assumption that the world requires something to sit on lest it fall, it would require an infinite number of things to sit on each other lest they fall as well with no end in sight since it simply pushes the problem one step back each time. Thus, Bertrand Russell called the infinite regress “Turtles all the way down.”
The simplest way to solve this is to deny the premise. In this case, either one of those turtles must rest on nothing but be suspended by its own power, or (since the entire premise for the world resting on something is denied) the world rests on nothing but is suspended by itself. In the latter case, there would be no need for any elephants or turtles.
The extremely common case of an infinite regress in the Roman Catholic/Protestant dialogues is when the RC states that in order to know the right theology with certainty, one must know (with certainty) what books should be in the Bible (true), and according to the RC, the only way to know what books should be in the Bible is for an infallible authority to give us infallible knowledge of which books should be included in the Bible. This authority, they say, is the Roman Catholic Church. Subtly assumed in this argument is the presupposition that for someone to have any knowledge with certainty, one must have *infallible* knowledge.
Other than the fact that this is an overextended conclusion (why not fill that answer with the Mormon prophet or the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society or some cult leader receiving “revelations”?), it commits the infinite regress. When asked how *they* know with infallible certainty that that allegedly infallible authority is indeed infallible, they must either invent another infallible authority (like another turtle which would further push the problem backward, yet again) or say that this infallible authority is authenticated through weighing the facts (i.e. historical research, other empirical data, etc.) without the need of infallible knowledge from another source (like a turtle resting on nothing but suspended on its own power). Of course, to say that something can be authenticated through fallible means (and thus, fallible knowledge) is to deny the premise put forward at the beginning, and then, this begs the obvious question: why can’t the canon of Scripture be determined in the same fashion (like the world resting on nothing but suspended in space by itself)? Thus, we would not need an infallible authority to tell us what Scripture is since we can do so through historical research.
Since God alone possesses infallible knowledge, we fallible human beings are always going to be limited to fallibility no matter which point we start at. Whether it is Scripture or the allegedly infallible Church, there must be a terminus. One does not have to have infallible knowledge in order to have any knowledge, but rather, one must have *reliable* (though fallible) knowledge in order to have certainty.

i.) Superficial Reading: This is an exegetical fallacy in which the interpreter finds a passage of Scripture that sounds like their theology’s position and conclude that that passage must be teaching that peculiar doctrine. It is usually combined with the fallacy of text isolation. This occurs when the Roman Catholic points to the term, “disqualified” [from receiving the reward], in 1 Corinthians 9:27 to “prove” the concept of mortal sin (i.e. the loss of the “reward” of eternal life). However, the reason why it sounds like (i.e. superficially) his theology is because he ignored the surrounding context and ended up seeing what he wanted to see. The passage starts in verse 1 and has as its context (by verse 23) the reward for preaching the gospel. Although he has the right to certain things (vv.1-14), if Paul does anything that will allow his opponents to bring disrepute upon him and his message (i.e. by making it look like he was in it for the money; vv.3, 6-15, 18, 26), then he will be “disqualified” (using Greek game terminology) in the eyes of his hearers from his gospel proclamation being successful (v.27). If this happens, then he will not receive the reward that he normally would have if his message was successful (vv.16-18). The passage has absolutely nothing to do with the loss of salvation.

21 comments:

Carrie said...

Sounds like a great series!

I have noticed you don't post often but I hope you will continue with this series.

kmerian said...

You do realize, that with this post you are committing a logical fallacy as well? That of "poisoning the well". You are laying out your perceived errors of Catholicism before you layout any proof in an effort to discredit your opponent.

Tim said...

I'm looking forward to the series!

On point f, Text Isolation, you said it's an extremely common fallacy in Roman Catholic apologetics. I would just want to add that it's an extremely common fallacy, period. I like Greg Koukl's treatment in Never Read A Bible Verse.

orthodox said...

S&S: Subtly assumed in this argument is the presupposition that for someone to have any knowledge with certainty, one must have *infallible* knowledge.

O: So you're taking a different position to the other protestant bloggers who say that you DON'T in fact have certainty, all you have is better probability?

I would think it is not a presupposition, but rather a logical conclusion, that to have certainty you must have a certain source of truth (aka infallible). To claim certainty with an uncertain source of information sounds odd to me.

S&S: When asked how *they* know with infallible certainty that that allegedly infallible authority is indeed infallible, they must either invent another infallible authority (like another turtle which would further push the problem backward, yet again) or say that this infallible authority is authenticated through weighing the facts (i.e. historical research, other empirical data, etc.) without the need of infallible knowledge from another source (like a turtle resting on nothing but suspended on its own power).

O: According to this argument, God himself can't tell you anything infallibly, since who will tell you God is infallible?

Most people see the argument differently. Jesus is God, as a Christian you believe he is God. Jesus set up a church, and the church is the officially designated pillar for the truth. A traceable link from God, through official channels to you, the believer.

To equate the problem of identifying the official channel for the truth with the possibility that there is no existing channel at all which can tell you the canon, is to confuse problems of an entirely different nature.

You may as well say scripture can't help us because it is just another claim to infallibility that you have to fallibly assess as to its divine nature, and therefore should be rejected. That would not be a Christian point of view and rightly so.

S&S: this begs the obvious question: why can’t the canon of Scripture be determined in the same fashion

O: Because you are equating knowledge of where the infallible source is that can tell you something with the knowledge that the infallible source can give you. If you equate the two, then scripture ceases to be infallible.

Posing the problem of knowing which church is infallible in answering such a question is less of an epistemological problem that saying that nobody in the history of the world has had the authority to answer such a question. The former is a problem of elimination. The latter means that potentially nobody has an answer.

In the case of canon, God has never laid out his criteria for a written work being scripture. Defacto, what is scripture is the consensus of belief of the true people of God. To use history, is to apply a discipline to criteria that doesn't exist. You may as well apply history to ask what God's favourite colour is. You cannot get an answer from that source.

If you think Luke is infallible scripture, who told you? You can fall back on the burning in the bosom I suppose, which is a conversation ender, that's about it.

S&S: One does not have to have infallible knowledge in order to have any knowledge, but rather, one must have *reliable* (though fallible) knowledge in order to have certainty.

O: In my world, reliable and certain are similes.

If you think you have reliable knowledge of the canon, I'd like to know what that reliable source is and where I can consult it.

Saint and Sinner said...

kmerian,

"You do realize, that with this post you are committing a logical fallacy as well? That of "poisoning the well". You are laying out your perceived errors of Catholicism before you layout any proof in an effort to discredit your opponent."

That's because I haven't even begun the series yet. These are common examples of logical fallacies that I've noticed and have been thrown at me before. The first post should be soon.

Orthodox,

"So you're taking a different position to the other protestant bloggers who say that you DON'T in fact have certainty, all you have is better probability?"

There are degrees of certainty, and since all humans possess synthetic knowledge, all epistemology is necessarily fallible no matter where you start.

"I would think it is not a presupposition, but rather a logical conclusion, that to have certainty you must have a certain source of truth (aka infallible). To claim certainty with an uncertain source of information sounds odd to me."

Again, the regressive fallacy. I do possess an infallible authority, the Bible. However, how I know that that infallible authority is true comes through fallible reasoning and faith. Likewise, someone who starts with another infallible authority, the Church, for instance, comes to believe in that authority through fallible means as well (and faith).

"According to this argument, God himself can't tell you anything infallibly, since who will tell you God is infallible?"

That's not the argument. Rather, I'm saying that the regress must have a terminus, a.k.a. a starting point, a.k.a. an axiom that is ultimately taken on fallible human knowledge + faith.

"You may as well say scripture can't help us because it is just another claim to infallibility that you have to fallibly assess as to its divine nature, and therefore should be rejected."

I never said it should be rejected, but rather, I'm saying that the *necessity* of an infallible interpreter does not follow.

It could indeed be the case that there is an infallible interpreter. However, to use possible worlds terminology, there is a possible world in which Scripture does not need one. Whether that world is the actual world is debatable.

"In the case of canon, God has never laid out his criteria for a written work being scripture. Defacto, what is scripture is the consensus of belief of the true people of God. To use history, is to apply a discipline to criteria that doesn't exist. You may as well apply history to ask what God's favourite colour is. You cannot get an answer from that source.
If you think Luke is infallible scripture, who told you? You can fall back on the burning in the bosom I suppose, which is a conversation ender, that's about it."

We've been over this at Triablogue. Simply pick up an Introduction to the New Testament, and it will tell you how the early fathers determined Scripture. They didn't need an infallible council, and sometimes they went against the consensus view in determining the canon. They used historical facts.

Rhology said...

Looking forward to this!

You said the infall interper thing better than I did. Poodles to you. I mean kudos.

kmerian said...

Saint and Sinner, you said:
That's because I haven't even begun the series yet. These are common examples of logical fallacies that I've noticed and have been thrown at me before. The first post should be soon.

If, that is your point, then fine. It should be a seperate posting, not a litany of errors you expect to find. If you are pointing out the logical errors in Armstrongs book, such a list belongs in your conclusion, not the introduction. As I said, otherwise, it is "poisoning the well"

Saint and Sinner said...

kmerian,

"If, that is your point, then fine. It should be a seperate posting, not a litany of errors you expect to find. If you are pointing out the logical errors in Armstrongs book, such a list belongs in your conclusion, not the introduction. As I said, otherwise, it is "poisoning the well"

I've begun to read through DA's work and have already found many of these errors. So, I'm not "poisoning the well".

I've already seen fallacies a-d, I've seen him commit e on the internet (with that exact example), 90% of the texts he cites in TCV commits f, every RC apologist I ever read/heard/conversed with has committed g (with that exact example), and he commits h and g in TCV.

So, yes, he has committed all of those, and that will be shown in later posts.

Dave Armstrong said...

I look forward to seeing if you have any legitimate criticisms:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/10/anti-catholic-critique-of-catholic.html

I contend that it is quite likely that you won't be able to back up what you have already stated.

Give it your best shot, though.

James Swan said...

I was going to post this comment on DA's blog, but it would simply thrust him further into "Martyr mode":

"Dave, ask yourself ONE question: Why are you spending so many words talking about James White, when it is a completely different human being writing about your book?"

So, I didn't post it on his blog, but he'll see the question, i'm sure.

This is one of the aspects of DA that are truly annoying. He cannot focus.

note this review

http://josiahconcept.org/2007/09/29/difficulties-in-replying-to-da/

"There are several notable difficulties in replying to Dave Armstrong, not the least of which being his uncanny ability to ramble on and on about nothing in particular. The fluff in his posts is absolutely unreal."

I figured this out years ago as well in responding to DA on Luther's Mariology:

"...totally irrelevant were quotes from Armstrong about Heinrich Bullinger and information about the content of Zwingli’s Marian piety. My paper was not about whether or not the early Protestants had a unified Marian piety, nor was my paper about Heinrich Bullinger’s Mariology or Zwingli’s observation of Marian feasts. My paper admits that Luther had a Mariology and wishes to explore the basic tenets of that Mariology. While I find Mr. Armstrong’s research interesting, it is an unnecessary digression from the focus of my paper."

http://www.ntrmin.org/Respone%20to%20Armstrong%20on%20Luther%20and%20Mary.htm#cc

orthodox said...

S&S: There are degrees of certainty

O: Sounds like degrees of pregnancy to me.

To talk of degrees of certainty is to really say you are uncertain. Let's be clear about that.

S&S: I do possess an infallible authority, the Bible. However, how I know that that infallible authority is true comes through fallible reasoning and faith. Likewise, someone who starts with another infallible authority, the Church, for instance, comes to believe in that authority through fallible means as well (and faith).

O: There's obfuscation going on here. Since we believe the Church is infallible, and it is the means of supplying truth, then it doesn't come to us via only fallible means. If what you really mean is that we are fallible in discerning it, that's a different issue that pertains to all knowledge. But we don't disregard the usefulness of the infallible source (scripture or church) because of our own fallibility.

S&S: I never said it should be rejected, but rather, I'm saying that the *necessity* of an infallible interpreter does not follow.

O: Hang on, now we've shifted from infallible knowledge of the canon to infallible interpretation.

S&S: We've been over this at Triablogue. Simply pick up an Introduction to the New Testament, and it will tell you how the early fathers determined Scripture. They didn't need an infallible council, and sometimes they went against the consensus view in determining the canon. They used historical facts.

O: If we've been over it at Triablogue, it didn't help you since you still have no idea of the Orthodox position.

No, we don't need an infallible council. Nor did I ever claim that.

Concerning the "historical facts" the early church fathers used:

1) The "fact" of who wrote a book does not tell you if it is scripture and God-breathed. Show me the "fact" that Luke is God breathed.

2) "Facts" in the early church were not historical facts in an historical sense. The tradition of the church said Paul wrote a certain book, ergo the church believes it. Not because there is any eyewitness to the fact.

3: "Facts" were only one method the early church fathers used. The main method used was whether the book was read in existing churches and how many churches it was read in. This is tradition in its purest form, not facts. You can't honestly use a different methodology as the Fathers to fix the canon and still come up with the same canon. Until you acknowledge tradition as authoritative in this matter, you are deluding yourself that it is a provable historical fact that there are precisely 27 books in the new testament.

As I've said before, not all churches believe there are 27, so you're going to have to hook your wagon train to a particular church's tradition.

L P Cruz said...

S&S: There are degrees of certainty

O: Sounds like degrees of pregnancy to me.

That is your fallacy of analogy.


LPC

pilgrim said...

I've encountered all of thos fallacies in a variety of situations. But the RC examples are true. I have encountered each one of them. There is also the ad hominem attack.

Unfortunately Protestants use these fallacies as well. But that doesn't make it okay.

I'm looking forward to teh rest.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

S&S—

I am looking forward to this series, and commend you for writing it; however, some of your comments to orthodox seem to bely a view of epistemology which will make your life rather difficult if you continue the discussion you're having with him.

Namely, you state that accepting Scripture as infallible is necessarily a fallible decision made on faith. I don't believe this is the case; I believe that accepting Scripture as the word of God is epistemically necessary, and requires no further authority than Scripture itself. The only worldview which is rationally sustainable is the one which starts with the first principle that the Bible is the word of God. Since this is epistemically necessary, no uncertainty exists, and taking the Bible as infallible is itself an infallible decision (because logic is infallible, even if we are not).

Leading on from this, there is then no uncertainty in the Protestant position. If there was, this would be a significant problem. If one is to have "degrees of certainty", then one must have a "certainty scale" against which to judge these. What scale do you suggest? If you had it, would not you already have certainty, rendering the degrees moot?

What I mean is, you seem to be saying that we can have a certain probability (no doubt a high one) that the Bible is infallible, or whatever. But probability is measured with a numerator and a denominator—and these cannot be determined probabilistically themselves without degenerating into the infinite regress that you so rightly disparage. Somewhere, if you are to have any justification for belief (ie, any certainty), there must be a knowably infallible starting point.

I don't want to go on at too great a length here. None of this can be briefly explained; but, if you are interested in a more lengthy explication, may I recommend chapter 2, the first part of chapter 3, and the middle two parts of chapter 4 of my book, The Wisdom Of God (available in PDF or ODT at no cost)?

Regards,
Dominic Bnonn Tennant

L P Cruz said...

Dominic,

You do have a point I believe and your starting point is I believe also valid. Scripture is your own authority and that is an epistemic starting point. Our friend Orthodox is also has a starting point which is the Church.

My starting point is Christ, Christ says the Scripture is infallible, it can not be broken.

If some one says how I know Jesus is the Christ, the Church agrees with the Bible that He is and I believe this witnesses. The one I believe in says the Scripture can not be broken.

If I am ask what these Scriptures are, then the question is not being asked of me, it is being asked of Jesus - so I'd say go argue with him.

LPC

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

L P Cruz—

A "starting point" in epistemology is known as a first principle. A first principle must contain within it sufficient information from which to deduce the entirety of the worldview it is supposed to support (including itself).

How is the Church, or Christ, a valid first principle, given this fact? I dismiss the Church outright as being self-evidently a nonsense first principle. And Christ cannot be taken as a first principle, epistemically speaking, because we only know of him infallibly through Scripture (which gives Scripture logical priority). Although you might say that Christ is the starting point of knowledge and reality, ontologically speaking (Col 2:3; John 1:3), he is not the starting point when constructing a human epistemology. We must not conflate epistemology with metaphysics, despite the fact that the one relies on the other. There is an important distinction to be made between chronological and logical priority.

Regards,
Bnonn

L P Cruz said...

Dominic,

My point is that it is not anyone who gives scripture authority - it is the Christ. The Church does not give authority to Scripture, it is the Lord who does, he testifies to it. So here I believe I am not engaging in circular reasoning.

On your method, how do you support the notion that your starting point is reliable? I need to visit your blog and read.

Of course I deny that the Church has to be infallible in order to witness to an infallible Bible. I reject that because by observation someone does not have to be infallible to witness to the truth.

LPC

orthodox said...

DBT: The only worldview which is rationally sustainable is the one which starts with the first principle that the Bible is the word of God.

O: What bible? Protestant? Catholic? Orthodox? Non-Chalcedoneon? Ethiopian? Mormon?

What are you actually advocating here? Is it full blown Mormon burning in the bosom that the protestant canon is the REAL bible and thus the real word of God, because you feel it is?

If so, I give you full marks for having a consistent and unassailable position. But poor marks in that it is equally defensible as an epistemological starting point as believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

I think in reality, it's not your starting point at all, but you want to convince yourself it is a starting point because it makes things seem really easy. By pretending this is the starting point and cutting short the debate.

orthodox said...

DBT: And Christ cannot be taken as a first principle, epistemically speaking, because we only know of him infallibly through Scripture (which gives Scripture logical priority).

O: Who told you that you can only know of Christ infallibly through scripture? Scripture says no such thing. The historical church says no such thing. Sounds to me like YOU are your epistemological starting point.

And I might also add, that having scripture as THE epistemological starting point for being a Christian certainly didn't work in the pre-enscripturation Christian church, and didn't work very well afterwards either, what with disagreements over the canon, and heretical sects promoting their apocryphal works.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

orthodox—

If you take the time to examine the linked material I have written, you can see for yourself that your arguments are without merit. You appear to have a bad habit of assuming that everything your opponent knows is encapsulated in what he has said to you, and then assuming on this basis that he is a moron, that you are far better equipped than he to comment on the matter at hand; after which you go right ahead and over-simplify his position and triumphantly show how childish it is.

Perhaps you find that effective for drawing people into arguments, but I have neither the time nor the inclination. I posted for the benefit of S&S; not to defend my own position, which I have quite adequately done elsewhere. Blog comboxes are not the ideal place to explicate complex topics and engage in lengthy debates.

Regards,
Bnonn

orthodox said...

Not having another place DBT, I respond here. If you want to suggest another place to discuss, feel free.

To summarise your book:

1) Only Christianity has a defensible world view. Ok as far as it goes I suppose, but doesn't help sort out the dispute at hand.

2) Therefore the bible is the first principle of epistemology.

FAILURE. Sola scripture is not the only theory that upholds a Christian world view. Thus assuming what you have to prove at the outset: that YOUR Christian world view (aka the sola scriptura tradition) is the right one.

FAILURE #2. You still don't know what canon of scripture, all of which have a "Christian world view" is the correct one.

3) You can't evaluate tradition at all without presupposing the bible is the word of God.

FAILURE. The pre-New Testament church evaluated the apostolic teaching which was at that time extra-scriptural.

FAILURE #2. Nobody for hundreds of years knew the full canon of scripture. WIthout such a knowledge of canon, nobody could know if there was a divine book somewhere that flatly contradicts sola scriptura.

4) To make tradition the first principle would give it primacy over scripture.

FAILURE: Scripture is part of tradition. (2th 2:15). To set up a false dichotomy between parts of tradition is to make a strawman.

5) Tradition presupposes that its authority comes from the word of God.

FAILURE. No it doesn't. And again, all tradition is the word of God. And the word of God is all tradition. So this has category confusion.

6) Tradition relies on propositions (like God as creator) that are not found in tradition except as derived from scripture.

FAILURE: Again, scripture is part of tradition, so the whole false dichotomy fails.

FAILURE #2: Assuming that non-scriptural tradition derives from scriptural tradition for its truths. And yet for Christocentric truths not found in the OT, we know they were taught by the apostles at a time that predated the New Testament. So the Christians who were taught by the apostles didn't have your epistemology.

7) Of the contested books: Supposedly they can all be proven not to be scriptural.

FAILURE: Books in the protestant canon were (and still are) rejected by some churches (e.g. Non-Chalcedoneon) for just these reasons.

FAILURE #2: The criteria are nonsense.

(a) Contradictions? We've all seen lists of biblical contradictions. Even if we find a "genuine" one, (e.g. 1Ki 4:26 and 2Ch 9:25), it can be caused by textual corruption.

(b) Association with a prophet? I don't remember mere "association" with a prophet being a criteria. Chapter and verse please? And then you assume a-priori I guess who is a prophet? But a prophet is one who writes scripture, so you have a circle.

(c) Testifying to Christ? Tough for Esther since it doesn't mention God let alone Christ. But many of the deutero-canonicals have been pressed into service very successfully on Christological issues.

(d) Acceptance without contest in the church. Then throw out Revelation, 2 Peter, James, 2John and 3 John because the non-Chalcedoneon churches never accepted them. And aren't you setting up "acceptance" as a first principle?

(e) Accepted as canonical by the Jews: There is no proof of this, and are you now setting up the Jews as the first principle? And what of Esther which was usually not listed by the early Jews? How does that fit with your uncontested criteria?


And its all downhill from there due to these foundational problems. But if you removed certain errors: the false dichotomy of scripture and non-scriptural teaches as two forms of tradition, and your already referencing "acceptance" as an ingredient of knowing the truth, then you stumble onto Eastern Orthodox epistemology. And that eliminates glaring problems in your logic AND it works for the early church too, who had no NT scripture.