Saturday, December 29, 2007

Faith in Christ precedes Trust in the Bible

Over on becominghinged, there is a discussion regarding whether or not the CCC contradicts Trent on sin and punishment. While I find that discussion interesting, I was challenged because I wrote that Trent and the CCC apparently contradict on the matter of temporal and eternal punishment. The challenge was

I’ve seen non-Christians use the same argument against the apparent contradictions in scripture. What do we say to them that won’t sound like the same kind of “nuancing” that you accuse the Catholic Church of?

My response was

Regarding what atheists say about the scriptures–I don’t think the Holy Scriptures are meant to be read as a strict history text, but as a proclamation through the writers by God of Jesus Christ. So, I start with Christ and then believe the Bible, I don’t start with the Bible and then extrapolate what it tells me of God. Or, the Bible is true because Christ is true, and Christ has known me, and I him, from my Baptism.

(Here is my stop loss-when I say the Bible should not be read as a strict history text, I meant that questions like how many women were present at Christ's tomb are of no interest to me, because the Gospels are not detailed histories of every event they record, but they are none the less true).

Dr. Liccione responded to this by saying

Your brand of Protestantism is quite problematic even by Protestant standards. You say: “I start with Christ and then believe the Bible, I don’t start with the Bible and then extrapolate what it tells me of God. Or, the Bible is true because Christ is true, and Christ has known me, and I him, from my Baptism.” Well, if your knowledge of and faith in Christ is thus epistemically prior to the Bible, then sola scriptura is out for you, and you claim knowledge of the deposit of faith through a Tradition that is epistemically, and presumably temporally, prior to the Bible. But by whose account of Tradition? Whatever the answer, what authority can they claim? Do you claim to know which ecclesial authority, if any, speaks with the infallible authority of Christ? If so, why? And if none does, at least according to you, then how can you distinguish your faith from mere personal opinion? Even apart from any specifically Catholic-Protestant issue, these are very serious questions for you.

Here is what I mean by "I start with Christ and then believe the Bible, I don’t start with the Bible and then extrapolate what it tells me of God." I believed Christ before I believed the Bible, it is as simple as that. Dr. Liccone says that therefore my knowledge of Christ is before the Bible. I never said anything about knowledge in an intellectual sense, I said I start with Christ before I believed in the Bible. And when I said that I do not then go forth and extrapolate doctrines, I mean that I did not read the Bible, decide it was true, and then decide to believe certain things about Christ--that is a Baptist/Evangelical way of doing things, I am Lutheran and we do not do things that way, we depend on the things Christ provided to the Church to make Christians, Baptism, Holy Communion and the verbal proclamation of the Gospel. So Dr. Liccione is jumping to conclusions here, giant leaps in fact. Sorry, but Sola Scriptura is not out for me, and I think Dr. Liccione's question has a misunderstanding embedded into it. Lutherans believe the Scriptures because they point to Christ, they have Christ as their center, not man. Traditions, infallible "ecclesial authority" or what ever else the RC apologist can throw at me has man at its center, not Christ. Just look at the arguments typically made, or look at Dr. Liccione's statement above; I am to see what authority the ecclesial authority I choose has based on my determination as to whether it speaks with Christ's infallible voice. I am at the center, not Christ, because I decide.

Instead of this, I proclaim that Christ himself baptized me and made me his own, so he knew me and I know him--though not intellectually--more like how an infant knows his mother and father. The "ecclesialogical authority" gives me Jesus' body and blood, and proclaims his love for me and what he did. It is infallible becausse Christ made promises, and he never lies, the infallibility is centered on Christ and not on man. If an "ecclesial authority" can provide people with the things Christ promised, it "works" as an "ecclesial authority", though it may sow tares of false traditions among the wheat of the Sacraments and Gospel preaching, and therefore may destroy trust in the promises of Christ. And we also therefore don't need detailed formulations about exactly when the infallible "ecclesiological authority" is infallible or not--because the Sacraments are infallible, because Christ himself made promised regarding what he does in and through them.

As for Sola Scriptura, I know this is true because God tells me so in his word, the Bible, which proclaims Christ, how he gives himself to us in Baptism and Holy Communion, and in the absolution I receive from the ordained minister in the Church I attend. I don't think it is too hard to grasp.

Now, I suppose Dr. Liccione or another RC apologist might say "How do you know what the Bible tells you about Christ without an infallible "ecclesial authority?" But I am not too interested in elaborate, abstract ideas of authority, in which one must make apologetic arguments to determine which part of what document under which circumstances constitutes an infallible statement. I want Christ where he promised to be, and he says where he will be in his word. I find him in Baptism, Holy Communion and the preaching of the Gospel. He does not lie, and I believe him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find the comment of yours "I start with Christ and then I believed in the Bible" to be similar to (or compatible with) my thoughts.

Of course, I learned about Christ through the Gospels, but I did not necessarily believe in scripture until that point, nor believe in Christ until I read them and was convinced by them. It was from that point that I accepted the Gospels and rest of scripture as reflecting Truth of the Divine, and by extension of THAT, I accepted the church.

Which church though? That is problematic for everyone, we are left to our own devices, it seems.

I could go on and on about how we choose a church, the marks of the church and all of that, but it is meat for another grinder.

I guess that's why we spend so much time reading and posting.

Oh well...


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