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Monday, November 18, 2013

A Book Doesn't Answer Follow-Up Questions

That's the other thing. Even if you completely ignore the "arbiter/receiver" problem, (at your peril) the Catholic interpretive paradigm is superior on its face. That is, it claims and does more stuff. Whether it's true is something you have to seek out yourself. But if the Christian quest is to distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation and human opinion, we'd have to admit, the Catholic IP actually does it.

This wouldn't mean anything in itself, but for the fact that the Reformers claimed that the new way of finding and receiving doctrine would be clearer. The failure of the Protestant IP (Sola Scriptura) to deliver on its own terms is the reason why Newman says the burden of proof is there, not on the Catholic Church.

Every Christian desires to know the will of God, and do it. The Protestant communities have no way to tell anyone what it is. Their authority is contingent upon the consent of the individual, and their concurrence with him. If he doesn't agree, he just leaves. The communities themselves have not ever decided whether "heresy" means, "You don't agree with us" or "You have no part with Christ." And they can't, because an invisible Church is a(n) hypothesis to deal with a difficulty: the difficulty of the fact that the individual is the final arbiter of orthodoxy. This is the reason why Leithart was found not guilty, and no other. He held the trump card, and he played it. The prosecution stated up front that they would not attempt to prove the truth of the Westminster Standards. Leithart called their bluff, and dared them to try. How did I phrase it last week? "Prove to me from the Bible (according to me) that I'm wrong!" He figured out what everyone should already know: Your community and its purported authority is a paper tiger. Disagree with the Westminster Standards, or your presbytery's version of them? Big deal. Whoop-de-doo. Disagree with the Council of Nicea? You're risking Hell. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, TE Johnny-Bob would rather plagiarize and rely on the authority of the Catholic Church in that case--no matter what else he says--than not have it be there at all. If he's an honest man, he'll begin to wonder why he's so ad hoc about it all. If not, well...

At bottom, all the separations between Christians boil down to a liturgical dispute. God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, desires to bring us into deeper communion with Him and with each other. There is but one "reasonable service" that can be offered in response. That's liturgy. That's even the exact word. We either 1) don't agree precisely on what He said, or 2) what to do about it. That's why unity for unity's sake is stupid: it violates the freedom and conscience of people. But that's also why "Who sent you?" is exactly the right question to ask in terms of authority. The various communities of Christians are liturgical societies in conflict, and that's to be expected. But we may find that many should not exist at all. Food for thought.

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