Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And speaking of continuity...

Someone at Beggars All suggests that Catholic doctrine rules out a certain class of argument that a Protestant might use in arguing with JWs. Fair enough. I suppose one sort of response would be that to abandon truth for the sake of an argument is not an honorable strategy (on the other hand, it seems that the LDS disagrees with me; clearly what they're interested in isn't truth at all, with those tactics). I'm not saying that the author at Beggars is dishonorable, but that there would be no honor in a Catholic forsaking the Faith on specific points just because his beliefs rule out certain methods of persuasion. In short - who cares if we can't use Protestant arguments?

But - tit for tat. There are arguments that Protestants can't credibly use with JWs either. One that comes readily to mind in view of recent posts here: the Protestant can't reasonably claim that his distinctive views are those of the whole Church throughout the ages. The JW can with perfect justice reply to the Protestant that his views are barely less novel than the Protestant's own, historically speaking (and to the extent that they are Arian, he can make a much more credible defense of his distinctives: all the way back to the fourth century). On the other hand the Catholic can with justice assert that the Church is the one that Christ founded, and not a scintilla of the Gospel had to be "rediscovered" at all.

I submit that this is a much more powerful argument than a quibble over the usage of a particular Greek word.

10 comments:

Interlocutor said...

"not a scintilla of the Gospel had to be "rediscovered" at all."
and previously:
"If God did not preserve the Church from error from the beginning until now, there is absolutely no reason why we should believe that the Holy Spirit has guided Protestant eyes to the truth."

Do you believe that many of the views of soteriology and grace (and the gospel) taught in the centuries leading up to Trent, by those in communion with Rome and the hierarchy, were erroneous, and even harmful to the soul? McGrath and Pelikan (in his Lutheran days) say Luther's view could be seen as an acceptable option and extension of some of the competing and incompatible views within the wide spectrum of thought encompassing Catholic regions, and if you would agree with that, then it seems you would affirm that there was erroneous teaching leading various flocks astray for perhaps centuries (to what extent various regions and peoples were affected by particular theories/positions, I'm not sure we could know). This is further buttressed by the various opposing positions advocated amongst the RC figures and bishops leading into Trent and during its sessions - there was no consensus on Tridentine soteriology; or the common argument that Luther was simply overexposed to nominalism and via moderna and Biel's Pelagian leanings, which afaik were never censured by Rome. In that regard, the gospel was "rediscovered" in a sense at Trent, as then it officially affirmed and negated some aspects that are now taken as central to the gospel (just as the Reformation confessions did) as the "official" teachings touching on grace/soteriology were quite lacking and vague in comparison to what Trent defined.

Rhology said...

Hi there Reginald,

I think you're the first RC commenter to (mostly) get it, and I appreciate that and mean it without any sarcasm.
A few things to comment on here:

I'm not saying that the author at Beggars is dishonorable, but that there would be no honor in a Catholic forsaking the Faith on specific points just because his beliefs rule out certain methods of persuasion. In short - who cares if we can't use Protestant arguments?I agree 110%. I in fact specifically said this:
This is not to say that the RC has no useful or valid arguments against the Watchtower. I'm just pointing out that RC dogma and apologetic practice prevents them from using this argument.

Hopefully that clears it up. I wasn't saying, by any means, that RCs would be better off converting to JW-ism. Not at all. A JW would be far better off converting to RCC and yet better off going all the way to Jesus with us Calvinists.



who cares if we can't use Protestant arguments?Many do, actually. It would leave y'all in the lurch an awful lot of the time.



the Protestant can't reasonably claim that his distinctive views are those of the whole Church throughout the ages. Any knowledgeable JW could easily respond to that as well, just as we do all the time over at Beggars All.
Further, what do you mean by "distinctive"? Distinctive between RC and Prot-ism isn't the same as Prot-ism and JW-ism, you know.



and to the extent that they are Arian, he can make a much more credible defense of his distinctives: all the way back to the fourth centuryWhat a bizarre statement! I thought you were just saying that the RC would be better off here. RCs and Reformed Prots hold to the same Christology, you know, and the same doctrine of the Trinity. So this argument either cuts us both or cuts neither of us. I'd argue that it doesn't, of course - the deity of Christ comes out of the Scripture, and that's the earliest record and witness of apostolic doctrine we have. Among other things.



not a scintilla of the Gospel had to be "rediscovered" at all.Since I don't think that JWs believe in sola fide, why would that even enter into the discussion?
I recommend you do some serious rethinking about your post here.


Peace,
Rhology

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Rhology,

Thanks for the kind words. I apologize for being tardy in reply; circumstances conspired to keep me away from the computer for a few days.

I wasn't saying, by any means, that RCs would be better off converting to JW-ism.I did not think that you were saying that. Perhaps I was mistaken, but my sense at the time I wrote the post was that you were implying that Catholics are generally in a worse position to argue against JWs than Protestants are, and my reply to that was this post. Perhaps that was an invalid inference on my part rather than something you meant to imply. :-)

Many do, actually. It would leave y'all in the lurchI've never said, nor do I believe, that Protestants are 100% in error in all they believe. If they believe the truth in various respects, and if their arguments are good and valid in various respects, I have no problem acknowledging the fact. The truth is the truth wherever it is found.

You quoted me thus: the Protestant can't reasonably claim that his distinctive views are those of the whole Church throughout the ages.... and replied thus:

Any knowledgeable JW could easily respond to that as well, just as we do all the time over at Beggars All.That's as may be. But the sentence you quoted was really the lead-in for the next one:

The JW can with perfect justice reply to the Protestant that his views are barely less novel than the Protestant's own, historically speaking (and to the extent that they are Arian, he can make a much more credible defense of his distinctives: all the way back to the fourth century).In other words: the issue I was addressing was that the Protestant is hamstrung by the historical novelty of his own distinctives in such a way that he can't justifiably make the "historical novelty" argument against the distinctives of JWs (whereas we Catholics certainly can make that argument against them). On the other hand, to the extent that he is Arian, it seems to me that the JW can say that his views date to the 4th century, thereby trumping Protestants in the "historical novelty" department on at least one issue.

Does that make things clearer?

RCs and Reformed Prots hold to the same Christology, you know, and the same doctrine of the Trinity. So this argument either cuts us both or cuts neither of us. Yes, and my point wasn't to compare Protestant Christology to JW Christology, but to say that there is at least one JW distinctive (to the extent that they are Arian) where they are "less historically novel" than some Protestant distinctives might be.

Sorry for the confusion!

Since I don't think that JWs believe in sola fide, why would that even enter into the discussion?Well, I'm no JW whiz, having never examined their views particularly closely. Underlying the thought to which you replied here was the supposition that JWs follow the LDS in claiming that the Church had become corrupt over the centuries, and that the truth had to be rediscovered by them. If my supposition was incorrect, then that part of my post is botched. If you can clarify that for me, I'd be grateful. Thanks.

Peace,

RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Interlocutor,

Thanks for commenting, and the same apologies to you as to Rhology earlier.

Unfortunately there's not much I can do in the way of interacting with your comments. I haven't read the particular authors (or, in the case of Pelikan, the particular work) you mention.

Speaking generally, however, the quotations you pulled from this blog have more to do with denying the supposition that Luther (or others) "got right" what the Catholic Church "lost" over the ages than anything else. Due to my own limitations this blog is not the place for fruitful discussions of what compatibility exists (or doesn't exist) between Luther's views and those of the Church.

--RdP

Rhology said...

Hi Reginald,

My wife and I are weird and name our cars. My car is named Reginald. You picked Reginald as your Internet handle. Coincidence?
...
Yeah, it is. :-D

You said:
-my sense at the time I wrote the post was that you were implying that Catholics are generally in a worse position to argue against JWs than Protestants are-

Yes, I DO think that is true (b/c this argument is not available to RCs), but that is not the same as saying that Romanists would be better off in the Watchtower!


-the Protestant is hamstrung by the historical novelty of his own distinctives-

The premise is flawed, however, given that Sola Scriptura is not only the view of the earliest Christians, as recorded in the NT itself, but also the view of the majority of the early church after the NT. Further, sola fide is the NT teaching and those are the earliest Christian teaching. Much of Protestantism is chiliastic (though I'm not necessarily). Scripture (again, the record of the earliest church) teaches very clearly God's preservation of the saints. Etc.
By contrast, the JW eschatology is a recent invention. Arianism is certainly not the teaching of Scr, nor is it nearly as early as the orthodox Christology. Their soteriology is (I understand) fairly similar to Rome's, and therefore is more novel than the earliest church. Their authority structure is very much like Rome's and is therefore novel. So I don't agree with this statement at all.


-it seems to me that the JW can say that his views date to the 4th century, thereby trumping Protestants in the "historical novelty" department on at least one issue.-

This is a very weird statement, I'm sorry. Prot Christology and RC Christology are identical and so precede Arianism. Therefore, the JW holds no such trump. I think you've unwittingly made a category error.



-RdP had said: not a scintilla of the Gospel had to be "rediscovered" at all.
Rhology: Since I don't think that JWs believe in sola fide, why would that even enter into the discussion?
RdP said: Underlying the thought to which you replied here was the supposition that JWs follow the LDS in claiming that the Church had become corrupt over the centuries, and that the truth had to be rediscovered by them.
-

Yeah, I think that's probably true. I'm less knowledgeable about JW than about LDS, to be sure.
But the thing is, since the heart of the Gospel is justification by grace alone thru faith alone and the JWs don't believe that, then I don't see how that would be a JW claim. That's all I meant.

Talk to you later!

Peace,
Rhology

Interlocutor said...

Hi RdP,
No worries, just fyi, the works I was referring to are McGrath's "Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation" and Pelikan's "The Riddle of Roman Catholicism".

"Speaking generally, however, the quotations you pulled from this blog have more to do with denying the supposition that Luther (or others) "got right" what the Catholic Church "lost" over the ages than anything else."

Right, my question is not really even centered necessarily on Luther, but rather simply did the Catholic Church "lose" (or never have) what was to eventually be defined in Trent to a large degree in certain regions for periods of time, and if so, what does that mean for "[preservation of] the Church from error". Obviously it couldn't have ever lost it completely everywhere, or Trent would have just come out of thin air, but I think it might be the case that much of the flock were under the influence of teaching by the hierarchy that directly went against (or was a very deficient version) of what Trent came to define. But I understand if you do not think you could address this sufficiently, obviously I cannot either or I would not be asking for your thoughts!

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Rhology,

But how do you know it is a coincidence? ;-) Maybe you know me in real life.

(Then again...probably not)

Yes, I DO think that is true (b/c this argument is not available to RCs), but that is not the same as saying that Romanists would be better off in the Watchtower!Obviously we disagree about who is in a better position for dealing with JWs.

I do not understand why you have repeated the "that is not the same as saying that Romanists would be better off in the Watchtower" bit though, since I have never believed that to be your point. If you're insisting (again) that in your opinion the Catholic Church isn't as bad as the JWs...well, that's not exactly likely to make me feel better about your opinion of the Catholic Church, is it?

The premise is flawed, however, given that Sola Scriptura is not only the view of the earliest Christians, as recorded in the NT itselfThis is not the post for getting into a discussion about specific Protestant distinctives, but your assertions here (and following) about them are false. Properly understood, the Bible doesn't teach Sola Scriptura, sola fide (the Protestant construction thereof), nor any other Protestant distinctive. Indeed, the fact that Protestants of different theological traditions have no difficulty discovering their (at times) mutually contradictory views in the Bible tells me that one's theological tradition has a lot more to do with what one finds there than the bare text of Scripture itself. Consequently it ought to be obvious that SS is fundamentally worthless in principle. This is not to say that truth can't be found in the Bible, mind you. And Protestants get many things right. But it is to say that they do this in spite of the principle of SS, not because of it. And the fact that Protestants successfully wrench the occasional Protestant-seeming sound bite from the ECF doesn't for a minute suggest that the ECF were proto-Protestants at all.

Please, let's neither of us go off on various specifics in this combox, where it's not exactly on-topic.

This is a very weird statement, I'm sorry. Prot Christology and RC Christology are identical and so precede Arianism. Therefore, the JW holds no such trump. I think you've unwittingly made a category error.Maybe, maybe not. It wouldn't be the first time I've made an error, sadly :-)

However, it appears that at the very least I'm having trouble communicating. I already said before (in my last comment) Yes, and my point wasn't to compare Protestant Christology to JW Christology. Rather, the point was to compare a JW distinctive not to the cognate Protestant view (which in the case of christology happens to be at least nearly the same as the Catholic one, usually) but rather to Protestant distinctives. Christology is of course not a Protestant distinctive, to the extent that it conforms to the historic teaching of the Church. In reviewing the post, however, I see that perhaps I wasn't entirely clear that I intended the comparison to be between Protestant and JW distinctives as historical novelties.

Peace,

RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Interlocutor,

Thanks for understanding, and I'm sorry I can't do better for you - not at this time, at any rate. My personal and professional interests do not intersect in any way, and consequently the time I have for filling in the gaps in my education are very limited. :-(

I don't know if this is along the lines of what you are interested in, but it's at least implicit in what I've said elsewhere (most recently here and here) that the fact of error in some areas - as when various Eastern patriarchs were monophysite or Arian or Nestorian or whatever - isn't really a valid measure as to the content of the Faith, nor whether it was being faithfully taught (even if not formally defined) elsewhere. As has been said by others better than I, doctrinal development often/usually occurs in response to error; the fact that less specificity or clarity of expression might be evident at times shouldn't be construed, as far as I can tell, as suggesting that the truth was unknown at all.

FWIW this seems to be consistent with what Aquinas and Gregory the Great have said about doctrinal development.

And that's about all the wits I've got for this subject at this stage in my formation. I hope it helps.

Peace,

RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...

I apologize for the shoddy formatting of some of my comments; the preview seems to have lied to me :-(

-- RdP

Rhology said...

Hi RdP,

-in your opinion the Catholic Church isn't as bad as the JWs-

OK, sorry that I apparently misunderstood your statement.

As far as the Prot distinctives vs JW novelties, *you* brought it up. But yeah, I'm happy to leave it here.


-I see that perhaps I wasn't entirely clear that I intended the comparison to be between Protestant and JW distinctives as historical novelties.-

I guess I don't get the point, then. JW dogma is not wrong b/c it's novel but b/c it's wrong. There are numerous RC dogmas that are "novel" (using your definition), such as the assumption of Mary, transsubstantiation, papal infallibility, sola ecclesia, etc. There are Prot distinctives that, while derived from the Scr, weren't fleshed out in as much detail back then. And there are things that many Prots believe that are indeed novel, such as p├Ždobaptism and the continuation of the prophetic and glossolalia gifts of the Spirit, the idea that one can lose one's justification, etc.

And as for the formatting, Blogger has apparently changed a setting. Putting - hyphens before and after an italicised line, as you'll see I've been doing, seems to correct it.

Peace,
Rhology