Monday, April 18, 2016

Ted Said A Bunch Of Stuff. My Answer: Dogma

The Catholic Church is offensive. Jesus was, too, as I'm sure you know. Ted was saying that it's inappropriate for one Christian (Catholic) to tell another Christian (Reformed) that he hasn't fully accepted the gospel. Well, you don't accept Mary's perpetual virginity, do you? You've denied the gospel. That scares people, because granted, I don't think the finer points of Marian dogma would make it into my 2 minute elevator speech about "the gospel." But it doesn't mean those things don't matter. I think the greatest damage the Protestant revolt did--because Sola Scriptura wreaks its havoc within Protestantism, also--was that it made people talk more about their feelings about truths of divine faith, more than the truths themselves.

It's a function of Western evangelicalism, but also of indifferentism produced by necessity from the individualizing principle of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura strips away the power from the ecclesial communities that operate under it. Consider this: once you lose the power to tell people credibly that they must repent (of doctrines or of conduct) or face the fires of Hell, you actually lose the battle to defend dogma itself. Once the Reformation-era communities realized that they could not agree dogmatically, they adopted the concept of an invisible Church, and indifferentism was born. In truth, Sola Scriptura itself did it. If you say that there is no special protection for the Catholic Church in the definition and promulgation of revealed truth, that same principle will eventually undermine any other ecclesiastical authority that takes its place. Pomp and godly fear may make it happen slower in the PCA or the SBC, but it will happen. Call it the Leithart Anomaly: You will never convince a man who believes his interpretations are "biblical" that he is even possibly damnably wrong. The best you can do is convince him to trade his interpretations for yours. How good are yours?

By all means, appeal to an ecumenical Council, and its creed, or "symbol," in the patristic language. Yet realize that a creed cannot usefully function secondarily at all. Protestantism makes all creeds secondary, in the sense that they are appealed to insofar as they agree with "Scripture." Scripture according to whom?

One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time. Or, you cannot deny holy mother Church, and utterly rely on her authority (coherently) at the same time. It really is Catholic or bust, in the end.

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