Monday, January 15, 2007

"Private Interpretation" as a rhetorical tool

This is a slightly modified post I made on TWeb, a theology discussion forum. Here are some tactics I see among RC and EO apologists. Not all of them, but I see these as a tend, and I think they are illegitimate:

Just because you believe your church is "the" Church, doesn't mean others agree

You will not get anywhere if you just assume you are correct, that your choice of a church is correct without even acknowledging that others make the same claim about their church, often using exactly the same types of arguments you do--e.g. Apostolic Succession. You are entitled to believe your interpretation of the Scriptures, or that of the church you chose, or that of Charles Taze Russel is the correct one. What you are not entitled to is to expect me to agree with your interpretation based on the fact your church is "the" Church, nor can you expect me to accept your own self description as following "the" Church while everyone else is not. I do not believe the RCC is "the" Church, I do not believe the EO churches are "the" Church, and I am not alone--since those two are not even in communion with each other.

Just because Luther said it, doesn't mean we believe it

We are not bound by everything Luther believed. You are free to find something within the Lutheran dogmatic corpus to refute me on that, but you are not entitled to assume that we are so bound in the face of Lutherans' statements otherwise without some kind of evidence. Luther said a lot of things, as did the Fathers, as has the pope. Are you bound by every single statement by any of the popes, of the Fathers? If not, don't expect me to be bound by every word Luther wrote, and for many of the same reasons you would not want to be bound by every statement by any pope. We are bound to Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.

Yes, you are a denomination too

Every church is a denomination, and the way the RC/EO apologists use the term is another example of an attempt to steal a base, so to speak. It is a neat rhetorical trick to put someone else on the defensive by asserting "we are the Church while you are merely a denomination". It just happens not to work very well with me as I am familiar with this stratagem. It is a false argument, and when too many false arguments are advanced it should make one wonder about the truthfulness of the thing being argued.

Mere assertion proves nothing

So, do you have anything besides your choice to follow the teachings of the pope or the "consensus of the Church", or will you merely say our use of Scripture is by definition "private interpretation" because we don't follow your authority--which you privately determined to follow I might add-- so you really don't have to deal with the substance of what we believe?

Words have meaning

What the Scriptures, the Fathers, or any other writings or speeches say has meaning. Words are not play dough to be conformed to what "the" Church says they mean, God did not give us a cipher text, nor does he deal with us in obscure language when he wants us to know something. If God's wrath is really the experience of God's love by the ungodly, he would have said so.

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