The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
18th of October, 2014

BlogFight: In (Fideistic) Defence of the Self-Attesting Scripture

I think his point is that God can—and, by all accounts, did—reveal what the books of the Bible are, and he did so by faith. In other words, I would know what they are, even if no Roman Catholics had lived. After all, the first of those who knew of the canon did so without the benefit of a pre-existing canon or pre-existing councils. Aren’t you just trying to shift the question to “are Councils self-attesting?”

Why do you want to solve this question of the canon as though it is a question of Euclidean geometry? May all who teach others to do these things be accursed.

[interlocutor], you say: "You wouldn't know what the canon was [if there was no preceding canon or council]."

Do you see the slippery slope you are headed to? Do you see that, if you are correct that I would not know the canon without the benefit of the councils and what-not, then we have no canon even now? That is nonsense, of course, since I know my canon. Find another line of reasoning.

You say: "... and even if you "did", your neighbor would have a different canon than you."

Yes, but was this about my neighbour, or me? After all, even given the councils, the Protestants and Catholics disagree about the canon. Having an authority to decide the canon does not remove the possibility of divergence, since we will then just diverge on who the correct authority is. This is what happens when you try to solve matters of faith as though they are matters of Aristotelian logic; may all who teach this to others be accursed,.

You say "Or perhaps in that scenario he wouldn't have the true faith? So either we tend toward Gnosticism or relativism."

He would have true faith, if he believes that he is justified before God by putting his faith in Christ apart from works of the Law. Unlike Catholics, I do not believe that uniformity is a necessity for one to be a believer in the Gospel. Which, after all, is why the letters to the Churches were so different in Revelation. It wasn't one church. Roman Catholicism, with roots in heady European politics, is as obsessed with uniformity in thought as a European king would be. I should note that Roman Catholics recognise Muslims as people who worship the same God as them; however, they disagree on the canon in a most-fundamental way. Yet Protestants seem to be the over-riding obsession.

You say "2) The first of those who knew of the canon also disagreed on what the canon was."

Do you proof-read your comments? How can they know the canon, if they also disagree on what it is?

You say "So, we again arrive at either Gnosticism or relativism without the Church."

You failed to get my point. My point is that we disagree on what the "Church" is. How are you going to solve that? By breaking out your theorem provers once again? How will you correct the Muslims on their canon? By threatening them with Gnosticism or relativism? How will you resolve disagreement about who the authority on canon is? More Aristotelian logic? May all who teach others to treat matters of faith as though they are matters of philosophy be accursed.

Hello, [interlocutor]; You say: “It is interesting that you keep worrying about Aristoelian logic when you ignore all the other Eastern Catholics who don't rely on that like the Roman Catholics do.”

I do not ignore them any more or less than I do Roman Catholics. —Or, for that matter, non Catholics who act like reason is the language of Heaven.

You say: “It was to point out that nobody actually "knew" the canon in such a solid way as you seem to claim.”

But I know the canon in the solid way I seem to claim! Or are you disputing this? —As in, disputing that I know my canon very well?

You say: “All you seem to be advocating is the typical "me and my Bible sitting under a tree, being my own pope." It simply does not work.”

You say it as though it is a bad thing. It works, and Catholics are actually required to do it regarding the councils. No council tells Catholics which councils to adhere to. Or which encyclicals to adhere to, or how to interpret them. No encyclical is interpreted by any other encyclical—and these are all more-complex than Romans. It works, and all believers are in the state of “me and my God sitting on this Earth, being my own believer”. For all these things, it is each Catholic being an authority unto himself. Is this a bad thing? Is the Catholic Church wrong on this? You seem to fail to grasp that it is an inescapable end. Why is the Pope the only Christian allowed to formulate thoughts on canons? This is an old and relentless assault against the beauty and glory of child-like faith, where it is now dishonourable to believe for yourself. May all who teach others these things be accursed.

You say: “The reasons that Protestants disagree about the canon is that they rejected the councils. That is awfully convenient.”

“Au contraire”, the Protestants will insist, “it is the Catholics who agreed with the wrong councils and rejected sound teaching.“ How to resolve that? Another council, another promulgation? Do you see where you are headed yet?

[Interlocutor], you say: “One of the most glaring problems within Protestantism is on the authority of the Bible: how do we know which Books are sacred Scripture? How can a Christian possibly know which Books belong in the Christian Holy Book without learning this from the Christian Church?”

You are merely shifting the problem to deciding which the correct Authority is. Even if I agreed that we can only know the Bible by relying on an Authority, then I would still contend with you and insist that you are wrong (as, in fact, I do), because we do not agree on who the Authority is. Why do you want to solve questions of faith using Aristotelian logic? May all who teach others to subject God to logic be accursed.

Christopher, you say: “I understood that to reject the Church's authority was simply to accept my own authority - which made no sense.”

Did you rely on the authority of Church to point out that you should accept the authority of the Church? Why do you treat a question of God as though it is a question of geometry? All those who teach others to privilege the mind of man and the working of logics over the voice of God and the working of faith, may they be accursed.

“And where has the appeal to "the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit" produced a single, unified canon of Scripture? The Mormons claim to use this method, and their canon obviously differs from both of our own.”

Why do you even know about the Mormon canon, let alone refer to it to support your position in a Christian debate? You assume that the internal testimony of the Spirit didn’t produce a unified canon; is this because you say (perhaps as a Roman Catholic) that Mormons, like Protestants, are both equally guided by the Holy Spirit, both Prot and Mormon, and yet end up on two different canons?

You expect a “single unified canon”, while in fact scripture was a reality—as the self-attesting word of God—even in the time of only the Old Testament. People recognised that canon, of that time, such that even Jesus simply referred to the scriptures as primary sources on God and doctrine. The reason they did is the same reason the Protestants today do—and the same reason the Synod of Hippo, among others, did—which is the same way anybody can believe the self-attesting “Thus says the Lord” that is everywhere in the scriptures.

By faith, from first to last, just as it is written: the just one shall live by faith.

“When you say that Catholics and Evangelicals have no disagreement on what is in the NT canon, that's true only because Evangelicals accept the Catholic Church's determination (Luther, in contrast, did not, and rejected the canonicity of four of the New Testament Books).”

You don’t even know the history you want to teach. Luther’s Bible includes even the Deuterocanonical books. He had his opinions on them, but he is also not considered among Lutherans like you consider the popes among you.

The RCC never decided the canon. If it had concluded otherwise, it would be wrong. Since the New Testament itself already refers to the scriptures, they were already know when the RCC was not yet here. We accept the RCC because they accept the right canon (among a few other things); we do not accept the words of God because a bunch of men, however pious (or, as is the case, however perverse) have said we should. God doesn’t need your approval.

“After all, it wasn't like the Church separately defined the OT and NT canon.”

The Church never defined the canon. They didn’t have any other choice. Either they agreed with the canon we have, or they would have been heretics. We accept the canon because of the testimony of God; we accept as orthodox those who accept the orthodox canon; we do not accept the canon because of the people we accept. The canon was known before, and the Synod of Hippo was only careful not to veer from what had been known before as canon, not to set anything new. Anyway, for you Roman Catholics, every other encyclical and bull is legitimately regarded as scripture. (As a result, in fact, you follow sola scriptura without knowing it.)

“The internal appeal of the Holy Spirit is a sub-point of a sub-point for our argument about the self-attestation of Scripture. You treat it like it is the main crux of our argument. So like I said, check out the book, you'll enjoy it!”

That book cannot possibly be the final word for Reformed scripturology, since it apparently differs from (or extends) the position of the Three Forms of Unity. In Reformed scripturology, as you can see from the Belgic Confession, the sole way in which we know canon is by the testimony of the Spirit. If the testimony of the Spirit is just one of many ways to know canon, that is not quite the Reformed position in its bare expression (which, as it goes, is sufficient).

Unlike the Roman Catholics, we do not rely on men who apparently have more of the Spirit (or whose persons God respects more or whatever) to give us permission to treat the word of God as such. That position is heretical, especially since they admit that the scriptures predate them, but that the acceptance of them should not; it is heresy to teach that the Word of God requires men to line up behind it before it is legitimately treated as such. (Clearly, it is recognised as scripture from the very day it is sent forth. “Thus saith the Lord.”)

“God speaks through his word about his word. For example 2 Tim 3:16-17 What are some of these things?”

In appealing to the Scriptures to prove your point about the Scriptures, you prove that it has to be by faith—having pre-accepted the scriptures, apart from any of these proofs—that anybody will ever accept these points in the first place. Your Roman Catholic interlocutors are the kind who subject the testimony of the New Testament to whatever bull or encyclical may come out on the topic, so it is expected that they will disregard this 2 Timothy thing as “private interpretation”, and they are quite justified in it from their position.

This shows what we Reformed know, that there is no way to turn the reprobate. (And if God doesn’t set some pots up for wrongness, how shall His glory on us, who are correct, be seen? God has chosen the weak things—like simple, child-like faith—to shame the strong; that none may boast.) If you prove from the Bible, they can always prove from their non-Bible. This is not a problem; eternal life is not about logic, but about election by grace. They will remain comfortable with the mythos they’ve constructed about the scriptures (“we decided on what the word of God is! we are the greatest in the kingdom!”), proud of their confidence in flesh, and suspicious of faith, unless God gives them his quickening Spirit, and consequently the radically-new scripturology that faith by the Spirit gives.

“Plus it is no more circular than a secularist appealing to self sufficient reason using reason, or a Catholic using the Church's authority to establish God's authority.”

Now you get it. Everything about God is going to be by faith. Everybody else is lying. This is how everything—even justification—has to go.

I must say, also, that I have always found it funny that Roman Catholics use and use and use (as in the blog banner here) 1 Tim 3: “… the church is the pillar and foundation of truth …” And yet they never see that Scripture is what they base on, so they should say “Scripture is the foundation of the pillar and foundation of truth.” Or, at least, they act like it.

By faith, people. By faith.