Tuesday, March 25, 2014

World Vision, Part II: If It Happens Slow Enough...

You could easily convince yourself that the real issue is not the individualism at the heart of Sola Scriptura and its conception of the invisible Church. People in large groups don't change their minds that fast. But without divine preservation (which this ecclesiology doesn't allow) it's just a matter of time. I believe my old community will be sanctioning gay unions within 20 years. Regardless if it's faith or morals, though, communities do change. But if "real" Christians do not approve of x, y, and z, and if those norms have a reality as something more than the political preferences of the people in question, the dogmatic epistemology in a specific ecclesial context will be relevant. Frankly, you can only go one of two directions: You can forthrightly pursue the means by which the real classic Christian orthodoxy was forged, unwilling to believe that the Council of Nicea just happened to get it right and agree with your reading of Scripture--and, God-willing, you're not ready to discard it--(become Catholic) or, you may be just intelligent enough and arrogant enough to believe that the whole of Christian orthodoxy and the contours of the still-invisible Church depend on you and your intellect. I won't name any names, but it rhymes with "Peter Leithart."

Sola Scriptura is a failure, mainly because in the end, there is no way to distinguish my opinion from divine revelation. There is no way to take our fundamental posture as Christians in response to divine revelation: that of a receiver. I'm sure Fr. Ryland enjoyed arguing everything under the sun in those younger days as a Protestant at Union Theological Seminary, but even a genius asks the question: "Surely what has been revealed by Jesus Christ is not at the mercy of clever theologians?"

Food for thought.


Jamie Stober said...

Jason, your argument is compelling, but you always overstate it based on some erroneous assumptions. The most obvious one is that nothing can be known without infallibility undergirding the reasoning process. The Bible is not so opaque that in every case a wide gulf presents itself between what the Scriptures say according to us and what they say according to themselves. The fact that there are enough places in Scripture and the Christian tradition where disagreement exists shows forth the possibility of the distinction. The other false assumption you make is to have doctrinal conviction in Protestantism depend on autonomous intellect. Our consciences are not formed exclusively by taste, cultural convention, convenience, or what have you. Even if we do not invest our communities with dogmatic infallibility, what we receive from our communities is the greatest determining factor in what we come to believe. Every Christian stands in the position of a receiver of divine revelation. It's a matter of whether what we have received is indeed what God has said. It's impossible to be the arbiter of every aspect of revelation because learning simply doesn't work that way.

Jason said...

I agree that the Bible is not opaque. I also agree that most Christians are not making decisions on personal preference, etc. at a conscious level. I am arguing that it becomes impossible to tell the difference, in the end. I do argue that the guardian of that "Christian tradition" is the Catholic Church. As I said before, "Both the fool and the Catholic would accuse you of being ad hoc, and they would be right."