Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Begging The Question

What are "heresy," "orthodoxy," and "church," anyway? If you think we need to go back to the early Church, you are unwittingly saying, "I want everyone to be members of the Catholic Church." Otherwise, you are imposing ecclesiastical authority and the doctrines they articulated in an ad hoc fashion. Realize what a unique situation this creates: you might even know the Catholic Church is the source of these truths, but refuse the rest (and the jurisdiction). To be blunt about it, such a person could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium, 14)

Most people can't be said to knowingly, willfully reject Christ and the Church in this way. They either dispute the Church's claim to be uniquely founded by Christ based on a false notion, or the data which would make the claim reasonable are presented inaccurately or incompletely.

In the most simple terms, my axioms can be summarized by two things: the faith must be received, and it must be infallible. Sola Scriptura violates both, because you can't know whether what you seem to submit to in Scripture is from the Holy Spirit, or from yourself. Or, shorter: whether you received or created the faith you profess. Infallibility is a unique characteristic of divine supernatural revelation: God cannot err, or lie. To surrender infallibility is to consent to atheism; the uniqueness of God's nature reflected in speech-acts distinguishes whatever is said from merely human opinion.

Yet wishing to preserve infallibility given Protestant assumptions (Sola Scriptura, perspicuity) causes some version of our beloved Noltie Conundrum: either my opponent (and the interpretive tradition he comes from) is not "saved," or God the Holy Spirit is lying/confused. One could intuitively decide that whatever we can't agree on isn't that important, anyway, but in that case, it isn't dogma. And practically, this is insane. This sounds good when the Papal Borg Cube is bearing down, but sooner or later, something has to matter to your eternal soul.

If "conservative" Protestantism is the selective application of Catholic authority and doctrine, then atheism is the logical end of "liberal" Protestantism's use of the human dimension to cast doubt on the divine origin of dogma.


Timothy R. Butler said...

Two problems: (1) good historical research disagrees with your assertion about the Early Church and (2) I don't know any normal Protestant theologian who accepts either the Spirit is confused or those who disagree with me are wrong. That's simply not the way it works.

Jason said...

1) You can find a historian to say anything; that's not material to the question. Christian faith is not subject to the vagaries of human opinion. 2) The fact that non-Catholics do not accept the logical implications of their own premises does not mean those implications aren't real. Newman said, "Protestantism, viewed in its more Catholic aspect, is doctrine without active principle; viewed in its heretical, it is active principle without doctrine. Many of its speakers, for instance, use eloquent and glowing language about the Church and its characteristics: some of them do not realize what they say, but use high words and general statements about 'the faith,' and 'primitive truth,' and 'schism,' and 'heresy,' to which they attach no definite meaning; while others speak of 'unity,' 'universality,' and 'Catholicity,' and use the words in their own sense and for their own ideas." (Essay on Development, 182)