Does presup lead to Rome?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Craig, Jul 8, 2007.

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  1. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    I'm working through this right now...but I'm not terribly philosophical...I'm rather a sloppy thinker.

    Does the "by what standard" mantra work against a presup affirming sola scriptura? After all, by what standard of authority does your interpretation of scripture measure or make itself binding on anyone?

    Before I waste my time on this, I'd like to see if anyone knows of an internal critique having been done along those lines...any links or reference to men like Van Til or Bahnsen would be great...
  2. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I'm don't understand what the Roman Catholic argument from presuppositionalism is.
  3. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    I don't know if a Romanist would argue from presuppositionalism...but a friend of mine said presup was partly what led him to Rome. He constantly asked others "by what standard" when pushing them to see how their worldview failed an internal critique...he said he failed to ask himself "by what standard" when he came to doctrinal conclusions from private interpretation of scripture...he says that he realized that there wasn't any authority to his interpretation, that any unbeliever, if they thought of it, could have easily disarmed him by saying his views weren't binding given he had no authority to speak by. Lots of people affirm sola scriptura, yet we all seem to come to a million different conclusions...why is my view any more authoritative than someone else's given we say our starting point is the same, but our conclusions are different.

    Ultimately, he says Rome stands the test as Rome has interpretive authority.
  4. crhoades

    crhoades Puritan Board Graduate

    Your friend shouldn't adopt solo scriptura and treat it like sola scriptura. I would argue that a thomistic natural theology would more likely lead you to Rome - at least that's what Van Til argued in nearly every book.

    Get this book. Check out the TOC. It's backed up exegetically and confessionally.

    edit: as a second thought. Your friend would've spent better time instead of going around asking everyone "By What Standard" and sat down and read the Institutes.
  5. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    He's read Rushdoony's you mean those or Calvin's? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding sola scriptura...his question seems valid. Whether or not we believe the proper understanding of Scripture comes through the church/preaching, the argument still remains that we don't claim infallability, and there are a dozen other denoms that hold sola scriptura, but have drastically different doctrine.

    I don't buy into Romanism, but I'm trying to see if there is a good argument to debunk their claims to authority.

    Have you read that book, btw? Does anything stick out from that book, that you can remember, that would apply here?

  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    A. Where has Rome infallibly defined and exegeted any text of Scripture? This would include those related to Petrine primacy.

    B. Where and how did Ancient Church define Petrine primacy? There are multiple views in the Fathers on this subject. Which is definitive for the others?

    C. Does Rome today credobaptize by immersion by thrice dipping?

    D. What about the Marian dogmas? Please explain the Gelasian Decree.
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Well Craig, as I've noted in other threads, your friend would only come to that conclusion if he had a faulty view of Sola Scriptura. Solo Scriptura is a "me and the Bible" view. It may be common among those who call themselves Reformed but this is not the view of Sola Scriptura that the Reformers upheld nor is it in our Confessions.

    Of course, the problem with your friend is that the Confessions were likely no good for him. He probably preferred a "me and my Bible" stance and instead of submitting to the proper bounds of Church authority granted by God's Word, he chose to embrace an Institution that ascribes to itself much more than the Scriptures grant the ministerial authority of the Church. He ought to have been uncomfortable with being a "Pope in himself" to infallibly interpret Scripture. He probably got tired of the job and decided to let Rome be Pope for him. Either way, he's not content to let the Word be properly ministerially interpreted.

    It is one thing to affirm that the Church has interpretive authority. The Confessions grant that. It is a perversion to insist that the Church has infallible interpretive authority or that her tradition is canonical itself.

    Thus a proper Presuppositionalism has to be grounded in the Word - and that includes the Word's teaching on what authority the Church does and does not have. Our Confessions agree with the Word that Synods and Councils settle disputes but that our Confessions are not themselves canonical. They merely affirm what the One authority teaches.
  8. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    they engage in circular reasoning. e.g., the Roman church believes what the historic church taught. The historic church has always believed what the Roman church teaches. etc, etc.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    As has been noted by many, if Rome has the corpus of the "infallible interpretation" of the Bible then why don't they simply publish it? As noted, there is a wider variety of theological opinion among orders in the RCC than there are among Conservative Evangelicals.

    The reason why they don't publish such a thing is that they would then be unable to create new doctrines out of whole cloth.

    I was listening to one guy tell James White recently that one of his RCC theology profs was telling him that Paul didn't even understand the theology he was imparting when he wrote his Epistles. He understood the "surface level" theology to be sure but not all the deeper meanings yet to be revealed by the Holy Spirit.
  10. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Okay. Why is Rome's view any more authoritative than someone else's?
  11. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    No wonder they're soft on Charismatic gifts! They got no room to talk!
  12. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Rome's tradition is not bound to Scripture but allows extra-biblical and even anti-biblical dogma. Protestant tradition is self-consciously bound to Scriptural interpretation and application.
  13. sotzo

    sotzo Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here is the short cannot escape the job of interpretation. Whether you take Scripture as final authority or Rome, one still must interpret what the source is saying. For instance, one cannot simply read the proceedings of a papal encyclical and be of one mind with the Pope simply because he/she read it. A person still must interpret what the Pope said and sort through how it applies to their life. This is why there are canon lawyers in the RC church. Canon lawyers go about interpreting and applying what the Pope is said to infallibly decree.

    By inserting the Pope, one does not get a ticket out of their subjective self, like plugging into some sort of Matrix that communicates truth via osmosis. Ask your friend whether he has gone without having to interpret his Bible now that the Pope has assured him its infallbile. You see, he is no further along than where he was.

    Yes there could possibly be a million interpretations of the Bible, everyone suiting it to his own whim. This is precisely what the super-apostles did with revelation in the early Church. The response then is the same as it should be hold fast to the confession that was laid down once for all on the Apostolic foundation. It is not "me interpreting my Bible alone" (solo Scriptura) is "me interpreting my Bible within the context of a relationship with the Church" (sola Scriptura).

    Does this mean there will never be differences among people doing interpretation within the context of such a relationship with the Church? Of course not. Acts 15 shows that such differences are nothing new. However, inserting Rome as an answer to this reality is like trying to illuminate the sun with a flashlight.
  14. AV1611

    AV1611 Puritan Board Senior

    Being an Anglican I have read some of the Tractarians and Newman's The Development of Christian Doctrine is excellent especially in regards to his interpretive gymnastics.

    The RCC, because they allow unwritten Traditions to interpret Scripture, err greatly.
  15. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    That has been exactly my approach...and it seems like I've gotten nowhere with it...although, I don't believe he's really grappled with's his response to such an argument (and notice, he certainly misunderstands sola scriptura):

    "The Church does not say that the faithful are not to read the Scriptures and to pray for the Spirit's light in understanding them. Quite the contrary. In fact, the Douay-Rheims that I read from begins with three enclyclicals dealing with that very issue and it strongly encourages private study and devotion. So the difference is not so much over private reading but over a final court of appeals over matters of dispute among private readers.

    It should be granted that the "me, the Holy Ghost, and my Bible" approach that is held by the majority of Protestants has led to theological, moral, and ecclesiological pluralism. This is beyond dispute, really. The reason for this is that, for the Protestant, there is no person or thing that can declare which "me" has properly interpreted the "Bible" with the supposed assistance of the Holy Ghost. Each holds what he believes to be true, each has his verses, each has his answers, each says he prayed for the Holy Ghost's lights, and each insists that their belief is "Bible based."

    This is highly problematic and the Protestant, in his heart of hearts, knows this. Now everyone is right, this is obvious. But how are we to know who is right? The Protestant insists that we must see which one is most in tune with the Scriptures. The problem is that each one has already made their mind up and each of them believes with all of their being that they are right, that their view is Biblical, and that the Holy Ghost helped them. Here is the vicious circle.

    What we insist upon is a final court of appeals that lays to rest disputes on matters of faith and morals. The Protestant will insist that we need an interpretation of the interpretation. But this is not so. This is not how it works in any other field. Let us take a court as an example. Two people come to court with two differing views of an account. They lay forth their case. In the end, a judge gives a verdict. That verdict is binding. It hold authoritative weight because of the office held by the one giving the verdict.

    Once the case is done and over with, who would insist that we need an interpreter of the verdict? The verdict laid to rest the dispute. One account was tossed to the side, another was upheld. As with the Ethiopian eunuch, he was given an interpretation of something that was mysterious and difficult to understand, yet he never said to Philip, "Yeah, that is the interpretation, but how do I interpret your interpretation?" Once something was interpreted, it was laid to rest.

    When all is said and done, the Church does not deny the right of the people to read the Scriptures, to search their depths, or to apply them to their lives. Instead, the Church gives its rulings in those instances and on those matters that are under dispute. The rulings give a framework that the faithful can work from when attempting to understand other portions of the Scriptures. Nothing more, nothing less. We have a framework which has a place for he who hold the keys, those who diligently study to show themselves approved, as well as the need for someone to interpret. Sounds awfully Biblical to me.

    btw- Watch out, presuppositionalism is a road to Rome. Trust me"
  16. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The point of tension is that of subjectivity against objectivity. If everything stands upon his presuppositions, then he can't get around his own sense of subjectivity in his own interpretations. He can cut anyone's belief system down to size by merely saying, "Well, that's your interpretation." and does not see the self-contradiction in such an observation.

    That's not the Reformed approach to the Bible. The Reformed state in their confessions what the Bible objectively teaches. These doctrines are not built upon personal presuppositions, but upon the objective Word of God.

    So he clearly has misunderstood the teaching of the Bible, as well as of the Reformed Church. He finds no way out of the subjectiveness of personal interpretation; but the Reformed Church is the only Church to offer it.
  17. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    It sounds like your friend decided that the Church of Rome should be the final standard. Since many say the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture, then it's only a matter of which Church. Once you start requiring a final authority that is not Scripture, then you must look to the Church, and then all you need to decided is which Church seems to have to greatest claim to authority.

    The idea of private interpretation is not that men must subject themselves (by implicit faith) to the rulings of the church (this is exactly what the Church of Rome teaches to justify itself as the final authority on the meaning of Scripture), but that the meaning of Scripture is one - the truths are the same for all men, and are not a matter of private interpretation.

    The modern equivalent to "private interpretation" is the view that the Bible speaks a personal message to me that may be different than it speaks to you - that some verses can say different things to different people.

    The rejection of private interpretation implies that if what you think Scripture says is very different that what other brothers (especially elders) are saying, then one of you is wrong. It doesn't say the elder brother is necessarily right -or that the church is right. A church, and an elder can be wrong, but you and the church can not both be right.

    If these are brothers who have always agreed with Scripture before, then you should ask them to help you see where you may be wrong. But always remember that the teachings of any person or church must conform to Scripture, and not the other way around. You must be convinced by the Word and Holy Spirit, and never by the "authority" of men or church.

    One of the signs that the Holy Spirit has guided us (individually) to a right understanding is the vast agreement we have on the meaning of the Word in basic and fundamental doctrines of faith. The fact is, the divisions in Reformed Churches are not great. And there are more fractions in the Roman Church. The appearance of unity in the Church of Rome is due to is hierarchical structure. And the problem with this structure is that errors of the few are forced upon the many. The Presbyterian system allows for a diversity of positions, but by it's nature, errors by a small group can not be forced upon the many - and the many can act to correct the errors of the few. (This is ideally how it works).

    The Scripture is the final authority, but the individual still must be convinced himself of what Scripture says. The standards and the churches are always secondary. As reformed Presbyterians, we will often rest on the standards (WCF) because we agree that the standards convey the meaning of the Scriptures. But we can not rest on the churches or standards if we believe Scripture say otherwise. We must be convinced by Scripture that the church and the standards are correct. To bind the conscience of men against the Word would be a violation of conscience and Christian liberty and is why Luther said he can only go where the Scriptures took him - not the church or any other man.

    We look to our elders for guidance in understanding what Scripture says. And the elders work with each other to try to settle questions of doctrine, to see if they are in accord to the Standards (and thus Scripture). But we always place Scripture as the final authority on determining if the churches are correct. Sometimes churches become apostate - and if not for the Scriptures as the final authority, the churches would take us all with them.

    So please never say the "Church" has final authority over the meaning of Scripture. That places the church over the Word of God. The churches can never tell a man to believe against what he himself believes that Scripture says. The Scriptures themselves have to be the final authority. The Scriptures themselves are inerrant, not the churches. But we can be thankful that the unity of belief in the basic doctrines of the Reformed Faith (i.e. the Westminster Confession of Faith) demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has directed us to the fundamental truths of Scripture.
  18. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Majority does not equal truth. There is a great diversity of churches under Protestantism, but we need to consider a few issues:

    First, the majority of Protestant churches (PCUSA for instance) are apostate.

    Also, not all Protestant churches believe in Sola Scriptura. Most apostate churches have rejected Sola Scripture, including the Church of Rome. So if we divided the churches that teach Sola Scriptura and those that don't - I think we will find the majority of apostate churches reject Sola Scriptura. And the diversity of these is much greater than those that do not.

    And finally, if we consider just the Reformed Churches (not Arminian, who uphold the WCF and the five solas) and we look at the doctrinal diversity therein, while we do find there are many denominations, and some are quite small, yet there there is quite a bit more unity in basic doctrines of faith than found in just the one denomination called the Church of Rome.

    So I think the diversity of beliefs being a product of sola scriptura is actually false. In truth, I think there is a more basic unity of doctrinal basics found within those churches that uphold sola scriptura. That the problem is not sola scripture, but the rejection of sola scriptura. Giving churches authority over Scripture has led to the fragmentation of the churches, and to apostasy in churches.
  19. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I do not have the time to respond at all your friend has charged, but I will address the following comment...
    Rome has not consistently held this position. Today Rome realizes that she can't forbid what she could once forbid successfully. Since Rome can't beat her enemy, she has tried to some extent to join them in presently permitting the reading of Scripture. The Roman communion via Trent did, in fact, not only prohibit the reading of Holy Scripture, but prohibited the possession of it in one own [vernacular] language as well. Here is the precise language of Trent...
    Moreover, Pope Leo XII called the Protestant Bible the “Gospel of the Devil” in an encyclical letter of 1824. Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) railed “against the publication, distribution, reading, and possession of books of the holy Scriptures translated into the vulgar tongue.” And Pope Leo XII, in January 1850, condemned the Bible Societies and admitted the fact that the distribution of Scripture has “long been condemned by the holy chair.”

    Rome's present day position is due to the realization that she can no longer successfully prohibit the Bible from folk without looking very bad.

  20. Dieter Schneider

    Dieter Schneider Puritan Board Sophomore

    PB may be familiar with John Murray - Tradition: Romish And Protestant (1947), click here . Calvin's '1547 Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote' is also relevant and has been listed on my blog
  21. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I wanted to take the time to respond to another claim of your disputant. He said...
    Leaving aside for the moment the fact of disagreements which have led to "theological, moral, and ecclesiological pluralism" among Romanists themselves, the differences that exist among Protestants today are not results of the Reformation. The fact is that differences of opinion over the interpretation of Holy Scripture have always existed, and for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is due to the noetic effects of sin, spiritual blindness, and human wickedness. The early church fathers themselves testify profusely to this reality. So the picture of pristine unity, which the Romanist desires to assume without proof or warrant, is a desire for which there has been been no precedent in the history of the church. Notice the testimony of Basil of Caesarea on the state of the church as it existed in his day...

    Notice it is was the light of Holy Scripture itself in which Basil found the solution to his confusion.

    Basil then goes on to point out from many Scriptural passages the solution to this discord from both the Old and New Testaments how to restore unity. Among other things he says: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and members of member’—that is, the one and only true Head which is Christ exercises dominion over and unites the members, each with the other, unto harmonious accord.’ (p. 41)

    On p. 48 in this same work, commenting on Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 10:4-6, he says: “Here, also, one who examines each word minutely can gain a very accurate knowledge of the meaning of the Holy Scripture, so that there is no excuse of any of us being led astray into the snare of sin by an erroneous belief that some sins are punished, while others may be committed with impunity.” Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9, Preface on the Judgment of God (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1950), p. 48.

    Your friend's "beatific vision" of hermeneutical uniformity has never existed. I am emphasizing the word "uniformity" for the distinct reason that there can be true unity in the presence of much diversity.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 9, 2007
  22. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    WCF, Ch. I
    I wouldn't know where he gets his idea of what a Reformed church is. It wouldn't be from the Reformed Church.
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