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Thursday, September 06, 2012

There are a few of you who are open to learning more about the Catholic Church and its claim to be the Church Christ founded. I want you to know exactly what I myself read in coming to that conclusion.

1. Upon This Rock, Steve Ray.
2. The Lamb's Supper, Scott Hahn
3. A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Scott Hahn
4. The Russian Church and the Papacy, Vladimir Soloviev.
5. The Early Papacy, Adrian Fortescue.
6. The Faith of the Early Fathers, William Jurgens. (vol. 1)

If you read these 6 books, you will have a good chance to understand the claim being made, and you will see the evidence upon which that claim is based. It is very true that a group claiming to be the One True Church without any evidence would be a band of schismatics, trying to charm people with whatever allure existed in the way they did things. But that isn't what's happening here. In fact, I should say that you won't take any other rival claimants very seriously at all, once you understand the challenge being made, and the fullness of the evidence for it. Books 4 and 5 deal primarily with the Orthodox dissent and counter-claim. But as I got into it, I realized that if that counter-claim of the Orthodox were true, I would have to become Orthodox. It wouldn't do to use the mere existence of dissent to disprove the Catholic claim, or to remain in another schism based on that dissent.

At that point, I landed back at Sola Scriptura, because what I came to wrestle with is the issue of continuity. Were I to dismiss the evidence pointing to a visible Church in favor of a "fits and starts" view of how truth was apprehended, my own authority to determine when and where that truth was found and lost came into question. That doesn't sound like Sola Scriptura, but it is. Who is the final arbiter of what Scripture says? Why would my determinations be any less ad hoc than anyone else's? Is there any sense in using my own hermeneutic to jaw at the Church of Rome when I cannot even prove my position among other brethren? It's not the same cheap shot as saying, "Look at all your divisions! How stupid! Come with us!" It's actually taking each one of those positions and taking them seriously in themselves, but asking, "Do any of these have more explanatory power than the others? Is there any way that I could hold this, and this alone, as probably true?" If not, how can I charge the Catholic Church with failing to hold "what Scripture teaches"? How do I know what Scripture teaches? This is the, "we can't all be right" argument. Or put it in terms of the Law of Non-Contradiction, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention cannot both be correct in their particular critiques of Catholic doctrine in the same way at the same time. It doesn't mean one of them/us isn't. That is true. But it will murder the rah-rah BS of false ecumenism among Protestants, and especially the kind that is based almost entirely in anti-Catholicism. For example, Pastor Mark Dever of Washington, DC believes it is a sin to baptize one's infant children. It's totally fair to ask him to prove it. Many disagree, of course. But let's stop pretending that this disagreement is a minor one. Oh, well. At least we're not Catholic. Really? That's what we're going with? We're actually united in the essential belief that Catholicism sucks? Good to know. At least that's something. Or is it?

Keith Mathison's book, "The Shape of Sola Scriptura" really changed my life. I picked this book up in the hope that he could answer my grave and growing doubts about Sola Scriptura, and answer what was a gathering storm in the form of the Catholic claim. After all, that's why the book was written. I won't spoil the fun. Read it yourself. But let me put it this way: Every Catholic apologist from here to Rome itself should own this book. And Mathison doesn't even understand why.

I'm not overly bothered these days if someone says, "You know what, the Bible says X, so that's what I'm going with." Because that is a principled position. It might be naive, but it's consistent. But I will spend my days arguing the point that creedal Protestantism is a contradiction. The ecumenical councils were and are a naked invocation of ecclesiastical authority. To pretend otherwise is a willful self-deception. Make your choice: Either interpret the Bible for yourself, or have someone else do it for you. But let's murder the delusion of "derivative authority."

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