Monday, August 6, 2007

The Incoherence of the Protestant Method

If the Protestant is honest, he will agree that the sacraments matter. Well - even if he doesn't functionally think very highly of the Eucharist, a high opinion of the value of Baptism is pretty-near universal among them (and this is a good thing).

However, if the Protestant is honest, he will also have to agree that he and his fellow Protestants have radical disagreements about the sacraments. We need not rehearse these disagreements here, having done so in other posts; besides, these are fairly well known.

A question arises on account of these disagreements among Protestants over things that (as they agree) matter: how reliable is their method for arriving at certainty about what God has revealed, if it does not result in agreement among them about things that (as they agree) definitely are matters of importance? It's one thing if there is disagreement about food and drink, as may be argued from Romans 14. It's quite another when there is disagreement (as there certainly is) about things that certainly do matter, like the sacraments (for example).

The first observation that I'd like to make here is that if their method for extracting truth from the Bible fails so badly that they do not and cannot agree about important things like the sacraments, then it is an inherently unsafe method. We need to know beyond question what it is that God would have us believe and do when it comes to matters of importance like the sacraments. Because the Protestant method does not deliver this certainty to us, it cannot be correct. It is a false method.

The second observation I'd like to make is that if their method demonstrably fails in these areas where their disagreements are embarrassingly obvious, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that the same method has been successful in those areas where they happen to agree. After all, if it fails to provide certainty in the one case, and the same method is used in the other, we have to concede - unless the truth is a matter of majority vote! - that it cannot provide certainty in any case. At any rate, on their own terms they have no basis for knowing whether it has successfully delivered the actual truth (unless the truth is a matter of majority vote!).

Actually, if the Protestant could demonstrate (using this same method) that the two cases actually are different in some significant way, then he could perhaps save the case where they all agree. But I see no way that this could actually be possible: there will be no way for them to demonstrate, without question-begging, that the case where they all agree is actually different from the case where they disagree.

For these reasons it is an incoherent (and therefore invalid and false) method, which does not and cannot deliver certainty.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Hello RdP,

You stated the following in this post:

The first observation that I'd like to make here is that if their method for extracting truth from the Bible fails so badly that they do not and cannot agree about important things like the sacraments, then it is an inherently unsafe method.

I have a question for you. A Catholic church I know does not distribute the wine to the laity during the mass. It is reserved for the priest. Although some Catholic churches I know do distribute it.

Is that first (or the second for that matter) church I mentioned in error?

If you say this church IS NOT in error, then it would seem there is a problem in dealing with the interpretation of John 6. In this case, this church would clearly be violating the Catholic notion about the literal eating and drinking and would be potentially depriving the souls of its people.

On the other hand, if this church IS in error, then you must address how the "one true church" can get such a central tenet of its theology wrong?

With respect and unless I'm missing something, it would appear that even your church cannot agree on its own fundamentals.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Jeff,

First off, I'd say that your comment is not responsive to the issue I've presented, and is merely an attempt at a tu quoque. This does not address the issue for Protestantism.

With respect and unless I'm missing something, it would appear that even your church cannot agree on its own fundamentals.

I'm afraid that you seem to be missing something. The Catholic doctrine is that it is perfectly acceptable to receive the Body and Blood or just the Body: CCC 1390. Hence nothing erroneous is being done in the parish of which you speak, according to your report of their Eucharistic celebration. This is because Christ is present under both species, as the CCC says. No offense, but your interpretation of John 6 is really not relevant to the question of Catholic doctrine.

And of course the problem remains for Protestantism, as described in the post.

Peace,

RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

No offense, but your interpretation of John 6 is really not relevant to the question of Catholic doctrine.

I will expand on this. I'm not sure in exactly what spirit you are offering your interpretation of John 6. Unless you are Lutheran or some orthodox stripe of Anglican, it's unlikely that you interpret that chapter in anything like a literal fashion, and so I'm unsure why you would be attempting to press me with a particular literal interpretation of it. Do you accept the Real Presence?

There are some critics of the Catholic Church who like to tell us how we ought to formulate or define our doctrines (Salmon comes to mind: he thought that the Church ought to have a certain formulation of papal infallibility). Perhaps you are attempting to suggest to me how we "ought" to view the issue of Communion in both species. But what you think we "ought" to believe has no essential bearing on what we actually do believe in this regard. No offense, but Catholics are not beholden to Protestants to specify for us the parameters according to which our doctrine is formulated :-)

Peace,

RdP