Saturday, June 02, 2007

400 Million "Popes": Protestant First Principles on Authority Are Inevitably Arbitrary, Unbiblical, and Viciously Self-Contradictory (vs. Ken Temple)

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I've made this argument maybe a dozen times by now. As I recall, the most concentrated versions of it are in these papers (if you have to choose, pick one or more of the first three):
Protestant Ecclesiology and Epistemology is Always Ultimately Self-Defeating


The Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture

Fictional Dialogue on Sola Scriptura ("Bible Alone")

Dialogue on the Alleged "Perspicuous Apostolic Message" as a Proof of the Quasi-Protestantism of the Early Church (vs. Eric Svendsen and James White)

The Problem of Authority: Luther, Calvin, and Protestantism (+ Part II) (vs. Kevin Johnson)

The Logical Circularity and Hidden Premises of Sola Scriptura and Private Judgment (with Brent Arias)

Why Sola Scriptura is Self-Defeating and False if it Isn't in the Bible (vs. Kevin Johnson)
Now, I am going through the same process with my friend, Southern Baptist pastor and amateur apologist Ken Temple. First, I'll present the short version (his words will be in blue):

Yours is the traditions of man, mine is the proper Biblical exegesis and attention to context and grammar and the author's intended meaning.

And by what authority do you make this claim?

The Bible and the normal rules of grammar, context, words, and the authors intended meaning.

As interpreted by whom?


Of course I and all human beings are interpreters. Every time someone communicates or writes or listens, they are automatically interpreting.

Exactly. So you're saying the interpretation in this instance strictly comes from yourself? That gets back to the authority question again. Unless you have an authoritative interpretive / theological tradition backing you up, there is no more reason to accept the validity of your interpretation (or mine), than the man in the moon's. So do you not appeal to any authority outside of yourself?

[no direct response]

Are you through with answering my hard questions and simply into preaching mode now? If not, please pick up where we left off . . . Thanks!
* * * * *

But that was far from all that was written back-and-forth. Now I'll present the longer version (originally concerning points of soteriology), without, however, Ken's usual long digressions into preaching forays against the evils and stupidities of Catholicism. If anyone wants to fully follow that wild goose chase, they can always read the exchanges in the original threads in two different places (here and here). Aren't links wonderful? But here I want to get right down to brass tacks, and so am editing Ken's replies in order to pass over his polemics against Catholics. The topic at the moment is Protestant first premises on authority and how they determine and "know" what is true in theology.

* * *

Your Protestant dichotomous, "either/or" mentality cannot comprehend how things can be at the same time both (primarily) God's and (secondarily) our actions. Yet this is a thoroughly biblical belief (e.g., 1 Cor 3:8-9, 15:10; 2 Cor 6:1; Eph 2:10; Phil 1:6, 2:12-13; 2 Pet 1:10). But since you haven't grasped that, you have to unbiblically collapse the categories and "options" into:
1) God does it (therefore man isn't and can't be doing it AT ALL).

2) Man does it (therefore God hasn't done it, and it necessarily becomes Pelagianism and works salvation).
Catholics say, on the other hand:
God enables it and works His work in the person who receives the divine grace and enabling power. The person freely receives and cooperates with this grace, as a "fellow laborer" [Paul] with God. He no more gets any credit for that in the end than a prisoner gets by cooperating with the governor's pardon and walking out of the prison.

We only choose God because He first chose us and worked that grace in our hearts first.

Thanks for the kindergarten soteriological advice. What would we ignorant Pelagian Catholics do without you, Ken?


So, overall, the only verse in your list that involves the initial point of regeneration, conversion, faith and repentance, or justification

Mine was an argument not solely about the "initial" point, but an analogical one regarding God and man working together, so much ado about nothing.

I pointed out that your presuppositional error is what causes you to overlook all of this scriptural evidence. In this area, you are more bound and shackled to and blinded by false traditions of men than what the Bible in its totality reveals to us.

How did I overlook anything when I went through every verse you supplied, and noted the context ?

I also supplied you with the verses that actually DO deal with the issue of the initial point of regeneration or awakening or repentance and faith when someone hears the gospel presented to them.

Yours is the traditions of man, mine is the proper Biblical exegesis and attention to context and grammar and the author's intended meaning.

And by what authority do you make this claim?

The Bible and the normal rules of grammar, context, words, and the authors intended meaning.
Don't need any pope or magisterium or Middle Ages analogical 4th layer of possilby [sic] intepretation to give me a feeling of security that because I can think and read, that somehow that is prideful . . . Because the Word of God is written down and written down for us to read, hear, understand, and believe and obey, it follows inherently that there is an inherent authority given to us to interpret it according to the normal rules of grammar and communication.

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ". . . have you not read what God has spoken to you . . . ? Matthew 22:31

By the way, that was a great point made by James White many times over in his debates with RCs. The elders and teachers and pastors help us, (I Timothy 3, Titus 1, Ephesians 4:11) in the local church, but they are not infallible.

[The Bible] As interpreted by whom?

[see also Ben's and Matthew's very helpful elaborations interjected here]

Matthew and Ben elaborated upon the difficulties.

And I answered them.
 
But almost always, when the discussion gets to this deeper level of analysis, it breaks down (or the Protestant will try to switch topics and attack Catholic tenets -- real or imagined),

It is necessary to mention them by way of illustration and argumentation. Why are you afraid of me mentioning them? This proves my point. You want to keep everything to the philosophical and epistemological and theoretical level and avoid your "tenets",

In this instance, yes, because it is absolutely crucial that we all examine our first premises. I find that Protestants rarely do that. They assume their own premises without proof (biblical or otherwise). But once they are scrutinized, they are shown to be groundless and arbitrary. You are no different. I would maintain that any Protestant position reduces to bald, unproven axioms that have no more reason to be accepted than anything else.

The Catholic position, however, rests on the Bible, and reasonable tradition that is passed down and has a concrete reality and authority: itself grounded in the Bible.

Because I am examining your fallacious first premises, it is irrelevant for you to switch the topic over to mine (which I have defended many times and can assuredly defend anytime, anywhere). This is your time to show how your first premises on authority are more reasonable and biblical than ours. I say you can't do it. And, like all Protestants, that is why you are squirming and resorting to desperate measures in reply at this very moment.

Again, it always comes down to this with Protestants, if one can get them to consider the epistemological / authority question long enough to actually get somewhere.

so that if a person will just kill his mind on the arrogance and epistemological issue, then once one surrenders to that, then submitting to those incredulous tenets that contradict the Bible and reason can be sneaked in under the radar screen; all in the name of humility and godly submission to authority and church unity.
 
There you go again with the contra-Catholic rants,

Just calling argumentation as a “rant” is itself a “rant”; and of course “contra-Catholic” doctrine has to be done in argumentation, just as your is “contra-Protestant doctrine”. This is not an argument, and is just your emotional reaction.

trying to evade your own insuperable difficulties.

Not at all, I don’t see how I am evading anything. Using examples and illustrations of your bad interpretations, dogmas, and practices is good argument.

I'm not trying to murder anyone's mind, much less my own.

But you are, in reality, “shooting your brains”, because in order to believe those things about Mary and indulgences and Papal authority, one has to first buy into the presupposition that,

1. All interpretation contrary to RCC and confidence in one’s own interpretation is arrogance.

That is not true and it is possible to be confident and humble.

2. There is an inherent need for a human infallible interpreter on earth, therefore that presupposition makes it true.

It does not and it is illogical, unfounded, and not based on Scripture or reason.

To the contrary, I am demanding [i.e., by force of reasonable argument] that you use your mind and not push it down, in how you deal with this supremely important issue of Christian authority.

Submit yourself to the Lord and His word, and a local church that actually preaches the Bible and the gospel, and live holy and godly and you have the authority intended by Christ from the beginning.

I'm the last person in the world who wants to kill anyone's mind or urge them on to blind faith. I've never believed any of that irrational rotgut.

But blind faith is what you are calling for in those areas -- like Ignatius Loyala [sic] said, "If we say it is white, you must believe it is white, even if it appears to your eyes to be black."

That is exactly what you and the RCC does when you feel weak within yourselves to interpret some passages and see that they are interpreted against reason in history and submit to a church dogma that was not announced until 1870 and then proclaimed it was there was the beginning, when it was not -- one of the most "brain killing" things a person can do. No wonder Dollinger objected to it.

* * *
. . . because the Protestant sees that he cannot defend his own premises.

Not at all, I can and did defend them, in my opinion.
I responded to the subject and stayed on subject.
 
Great. Then surely you can do so now, without mentioning any Catholic beliefs, while we are examining yours. We've only just gotten started, believe me.

Then finish the argument with a paper that proves those presuppositions without examples from the Bible and without talking about Protestant problems of dis-unity and who will tell us if Calvinism or Arminianism is right or if baptismal regeneration is right or contraception. You cannot use any of those examples in your argumentation, because you said I could not use any examples of Catholic tenets in my argumentation.

I'm challenging you on your presuppositions. I've defended all this stuff already! What planet do you live on?

What, in your understanding, are exactly my very bottom line premises and presuppositions?

I've stated them over and over again. Just read them in my recent comments. I have to repeat them endlessly because you will either ignore it or change the subject back to Catholicism again (the classic Protestant switch-the-topic routine, when cornered).

* * *
I have now over 1600 papers (all free) and 14 books (even one of those is free as an e-book). Go read them if you want to know what I believe. I am challenging you, and you (with all due respect) are doing a lousy job defending your presuppositions and spectacularly illustrating exactly what I am saying.

I understand it. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes, trying to defend the indefensible and irrational first premises that all Protestants must accept to even be who they are. When I was confronted with the absurd irrationalities involved, I got out and became consistent. So I never sat there defending sheer nonsense, as you are doing (i.e., the starting premises; I'm not saying all Protestant beliefs are nonsense; there is a great deal of truth too).
* * *
Watch very closely what happens now . . . a non-response or a non sequitur reply speaks a thousand words . . .
In my humble opinion, my reply was good and logical and on subject and followed reason and logic; and exposes your underlying premises of attempting to be for humility, and unity and submission to authority, but it is not, as was shown.


This seems to be the trick or linchpin of all RCC apologetics, to appeal to doubt over a passage, because to be confident of an interpretation is counted by you guys as ‘arrogant”. I reject that. I think that we can be humble and confident; . . . I felt that my interpretation is the better one that follows rules of grammar and language and context and the author’s intended meaning, whereas your Pope and your catechism has ignored all those clear verses and rules of interpretation.
[responding to someone else] Your methods of skepticism make it impossible for anyone to be sure about anything! You destroy all thinking, because any amount of thinking for oneself (based on evidence and normal rules of grammar and communication) is considered arrogant by you. You have someone like your Magisterium Papal system that, I guess, to you guys, gives you some kind of emotional comfort . . . I just don’t have that struggle when I look at the Scriptures and compare them to the issues that divide Protestantism from Roman Catholicism.
You may not, but plenty of your Protestant comrades do, which is why they can't figure out what is true doctrine in many many areas of theology (baptism being the classic example that I always cite).

That uncertainty is understandable on issues like one’s view of the Millennium, and the Tribulation and Anti-Christ, but not on any of the issues you and your church want us to believe and accept that they were part of the original deposit.
[The Bible] As interpreted by whom?

Of course I and all human beings are interpreters. Every time someone communicates or writes or listens, they are automatically interpreting. . . . Bottom line, one has shoot his brains on those 8-11 issues that the Pope says, "the buck stops here."

Exactly. So you're saying the interpretation in this instance strictly comes from yourself? That gets back to the authority question again. Unless you have an authoritative interpretive / theological tradition backing you up, there is no more reason to accept the validity of your interpretation (or mine), than the man in the moon's. So do you not appeal to any authority outside of yourself?

* * *

The RCC at the time of Luther had obscured and killed the gospel . . .

Are you through with answering my hard questions and simply into preaching mode now? If not, please pick up where we left off: my comment above, at my comments of 4:07 and 4:08 PM on 6-1-07. Thanks!

How can you believe that the Catholic Church is Christian if it killed the Gospel in the 16th century and if all of its believers must commit intellectual suicide in order to be Catholics?

Looks to me like you truly are an anti-Catholic after all, or else radically self-contradictory on that score, as Luther and Calvin were.


But I will say that the exercise of discussion and debating with you guys is helping me think.

(except for the part about being dead wrong; I think you are dead wrong, but a very smart person, on most issues; except you "killed your brains" by blind submission to the Magisterium on those 8-20 issues ? (depending on how you count them). RCC seems to give comfort to those overly bothered by human uncertainty over what to believe on the issues that Christians disagree over. You mentioned that lots of people are bothered by the different interpretations, etc. and choose to swim the Tiber. So? Many thousands of people go to Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland meetings and they are some of the goofiest heretics of the 20 -21 Centuries!

So you either rely on yourself as your own pope or you rely on fallible men like Luther who believed a number of outrageous things, according to you. Either way, it is absurd.

If you appeal to yourself as the final court of appeal of Bible interpretation, that is obviously a fallacious way to arrive at theological certainty.

If you appeal to men like Luther and Calvin, inevitably, they will be "wrong" (i.e., according to Pope Temple) at some point and you will arbitrarily decide who is right or wrong, thus assuming to yourself the papal role again.

If we challenge you to tell us how you know Luther was wrong and Calvin right on Issue A (or vice versa) then it again becomes arbitrary: the one who is right is right because he agrees with Pope Temple. It always comes back to you, and arbitrariness and irrationality and inevitable self-contradiction. And we are murdering our minds?

I'm still waiting to see if I am unregenerate and therefore cannot understand spiritual things, anyway. If so, why bother talking to me or any Catholic at all? You can't create regeneration and spiritual understanding in us. Only God can do that.

I have exposed your presuppositions, that

1. being confident in one's ability to interpret Scripture is arrogance.
2. there has to be a human infallible interpreter on earth to tell us the right interpretation.

You have not defended them on reason or logic or Scripture, you have only assumed them, and that was only possible after 1870, and then indirectly taught them, and used John Henry Newman's idea of actually leaving the evidence of history and just assuming that 1870 was there from the beginning. He actually went against Vincent of Lerin’s dictim, and wrote that “asking the primitive centuries for their testimony”, that it “is hardly available now, or effective of any satisfactory result the solution it offers is as difficult as the original problem.”

Development of Doctrine, Newman, p. 27

You also seem to be afraid of argumentation that mentions the problems with specific RCC dogmas and doctrines and practices, claiming that they cloud the issue.

I still don't understand what exactly your understanding of my beginning presuppositions are in an organized point by point form.

It may be there in our many discussions, but you have not written them out in a organized propositional form, as I have of yours.

[at this point I made the summary that I presented near the top of this paper as the "short version" of this discussion]

* * *

Ben M.: "So how do you know Luther got anything right?"

Just read and meditate and pray on the words of Scripture.

Of course. That's what Protestants have done for 500 years and we know the marvelous unity that they have on all doctrines.

On those issues, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, and against indulgences, Luther's interpretation to the clear mind seems good.

Alright. So since he got those right (and you presuppose that he was right and the Church of 1500 years wrong, just like he did), then, by implication we can trust him on his other heresies.

It is only the Presupposition of an infallible Papal interpreter that blocks one from seeing those things;

That's right: we believe in a pope and so we are blinded to things (sola fide) that no one saw for 1500 years (according to [Protestant scholars] Alister McGrath and Norman Geisler). [see Ken's counter-reply on these scholars]

along with just the regular sinfulness of the mind.

Yes, of course. You must throw that in, too. The only problem is: now every Protestant (or Catholic) who disagrees with you on anything, must do so because of sin, not honest disagreement.

I am not saying that as an insult, but as a fact that we all must deal with the noetic (of the mind, from the Greek noos) effects of sin on the mind and understanding. You throw in that “who disagrees with you on anything ”, and that is not what I said or mean.

So when Luther and Calvin disagree, who is the unregenerate sinner? Neither one could see the "obvious" truth of adult, believer's baptism, and they advocated killing those who did. You would have been killed by the early Lutherans and Calvinists far quicker than I would have been. You derive your doctrines from folks who would have drowned you without mercy? That's odd . . .

I did not live back then, so the point is moot, in terms of what is right or wrong or the right interpretation. I recognize the reality of history and the stranglehold that infant baptism had on all the European culture from Roman Catholicism from the 4th or 5th Century onward. They inherited that thinking. That idea is tangled up in the idea of a state church and political issues. We just happened to be blessed to have been born in a time and a country (USA) that benefited from all the struggles of the church/state issues and got free from the bad stuff and came up with a pretty good solution for this governing in this world. It seems to be the best yet, in a practical sense.

* * *

On the Bondage of the Will, the first time I read it, I did not agree, and wrote a paper on it; at that time, I was not a Calvinist. But years later, after struggle and process, I have come to see the truth of it -- John 8:34, Acts 16:14, John 6:44, Romans 8:7, John 8:43 --

My sympathies.

[citing Scripture] Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word."

Am I blinded, too, or am I regenerate (because I was once a Protestant) and just dense and stupid, so that I can't see these obvious truths of Scripture?

So, his interpretations on those issues make sense.

According to Pope Temple III . . .

God gives us a brain and responsibility to think.

So Catholics who disagree with Protestants are either stupid and brainless or utterly evil, not being regenerated and "saved." But actually, the first flows from the second: Total Depravity necessitates that you view Catholics in this way. That's the sad thing. A nice guy like you gets taken in by this unbiblical hogwash of viewing everyone who doesn't agree with Baptist theology as unregenerate pagans who supposedly can't receive or comprehend obvious spiritual truths.


By accepting your dogmas (those specific issues that Evangelicals disagree with RCC), it seems like one has to shoot his brain in order to accept them.

And 10,000 internal contradictions in Protestantism do not suggest any intellectual problems at all. Everyone should just become a good Baptist and all such inconsistencies would be cleared up.

-bowing down to the concecrated host

Luther did that, at least earlier in his life. [not just when he was a Catholic, but for years after he had left the Church].


-indulgences
-treasury of merit
-praying to Mary
-that she is a co-mediator - a direct violation of 1 Tim. 2:5
-praying in front of pictures, statues, lighting candles for them, etc.
-penance rather than repentance
-that Mary is a perpetual virgin, a contradiction of Matthew 1:25 and 12:47 and 13:55-56

Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the English "reformers", all believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

-baptismal regeneration - a contradiction of so many verses that one is saved and justified by faith

Luther's view on this matter was even stronger than the Catholic position. How, then, could he believe in both justification by faith alone and regenerative baptism? And if that was a huge mistake, how can he be trusted for faith alone? You put your "theological trust" in people who can't even get basic things right?

My trust is not in people, but in Christ and His word, and it seems that they (Calvin and Luther) got some things really right, but were also wrong on some things.

Besides, Baptists and Presbyterians are friends for the most part, and disagree over infant baptism in a brother[ly] way. (see James White’s debate with Pete Sisko and John MacArthur’s debate with R.C. Sproul on infant baptism issues.)

* * *

Colossians 2:11-12 "by faith in the power of God who raised Him from the dead."

[later: "
You could not deal with that verse, so you skipped it."]

-sinlessness and immaculate conception of Mary - a contradiction of Romans 3:9-23 and Luke 1:28 and 1:47

Luther believed in this, too. So if he was so wrong on baptism, perpetual virginity of Mary, and the Immaculate Conception, and believed in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, how can he possibly be trusted on sola fide and sola Scriptura?

Why does it have to be either/or with you on this? What planet do you live on? They were right on some things, and wrong on some things, I humbly submit.

You have put your trust in oh-so-fallible and sinful man

As you do with your Pope.

and man's traditions

No, yours are the traditions of men.

that contradict God's apostolic tradition,

No way, apostolic tradition is in the canonical scriptures and we base everything on that Scripture.

passed down from Jesus and the apostles to the Church.


Yes, the early church was great, but they, like the Galatians, began very quickly to add and corrupt some things and later in history, it got worse and worse until Wycliff, Hus, and Luther started questioning things.

This is your fundamental error. You have made yourself your own pope, without a shred of biblical justification to do so. Thanks for making it so obvious where your fundamental problems lie.

There is no such thing as a “pope” in the first place in the Scriptures or in the earliest church history, as defined by 1870 Vatican I. Cyprian spoke against the idea, as early as 250-258 AD. So I reject your imputing me with the appellation of “Pope Temple III” etc. and I reject Randy’s charge of arrogance. It just does not follow that humble confidence about an interpretation is arrogance.

* * *

As of the time of this writing, Ken (bless his heart, and I love his zeal) has digressed and obfuscated enough to avoid answering the fundamental difficulties of his position, so I will ask the question yet again (and post it in the Open Forum again, hoping that Ken has a "moment of courage" and will directly answer this crucial question):
So you're saying the interpretation in this instance strictly comes from yourself? That gets back to the authority question again. Unless you have an authoritative interpretive / theological tradition backing you up, there is no more reason to accept the validity of your interpretation (or mine), than the man in the moon's. So do you not appeal to any authority outside of yourself?

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