Thursday, June 06, 2013

A Few More Thoughts


I guess I'd have to cop to it, you know. James White is always accusing his favorite friendly neighborhood Catholic apologist of being committed to Sola Ecclesia instead of Sola Scriptura.


I've thought it over, and I think it's true. Worse still--or maybe better still--I'm not mad about it. After all, what is the Church? Is it not the supernatural communion of love between God and man, and men with each other? What else do you need besides that? Luckily, unlike Mr. White, there is no dichotomy or unnatural juxtaposition between the Scripture and the community vivified by God's own Spirit for me. This is also the answer to the question of why Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture cannot contradict one another. In both forms, God has communicated a testimony to the necessity and the reality of communion with Him. As I am constantly and perhaps needlessly reminded, many Protestants would not object to the statement, "Scripture must be interpreted in the Church and by the Church." It is only the fact of the equivocation on the term that requires me to continue arguing the point. The true final interpretive authority under the regime of Sola Scriptura destroys any and all potential mediation as realized or embodied in visible communities. That final interpretive authority, vested in the individual, is the trump card that destroys the whole ecclesiology, because the believer is never at any time simply a receiver of divine truth, to which the only proper response is submission. We ought to know that something of the divine perfection is and must be part of the Church however conceived, if only because Christ promised his own protection of it in Matthew 16:18.

So, on a personal level, I was instinctively inclined to accept instead that the Church was fundamentally visible, and in some manner infallible, because anything else fails to take account of the promise, or provide a context in which the Scripture is rightly heard.

Looking back, the most terrifying and incomprehensible aspect of the whole journey was the assertion that somehow, God was protecting an invisible concept as the sign to the world of communion with himself, but one person could not know and ought not ask the contours and the content of the theology that is that communion. It is though the entire confidence of the Christian was entirely eschatological, entirely of hope, and not of faith, and only of love to the extent allowed by our extrinsic and non-participatory soteriology.

Some people claim that Catholics possess and over-realized eschatology. I might say in reply that on these terms, you have an under-realized one. The claim that to know doctrine more specifically than on the terms indicated by our imperfect unity somehow is an improper desire for certainty is in fact cutting off the very branch upon which one is standing. The one who proposes doctrines knows specifically what he proposes, and presumably has taken care to define them in contradistinction to other possible theological systems. We can easily conclude that he knows them in their particularity, and in fact believes the distinctions to be important and beneficial to make. It seems ironic that he would retreat to a theological agnosticism at precisely the point where his authority to articulate the doctrine of God is challenged. In short, if he knows enough to object to the theology on offer, he is able to know enough to be wrong in what he proposes.

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